The Catholic Action League of Massachusetts today is calling upon the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office to initiate a hate crime investigation into the vandalism of Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

On Tuesday evening, October 23rd, Michael Patzelt, a 37 year old Attleboro man with a long criminal record, was videotaped by a passerby as he tried to destroy a 150 year old crucifix on the grounds of the cathedral.

Patzelt broke the arms of the crucifix, and then tried to tear the corpus from the cross, swinging back and forth while holding on to the legs.

The crucifix is located on the southwest side of the cathedral, near the corner of Washington Street and Monsignor Reynolds Way. Damage is estimated at $20,000.

This incident is the fourth episode of vandalism directed against a Catholic church in Massachusetts in 2023. Since 2019, there have been 44 attacks on Catholic churches, schools, cemeteries and statues in the Commonwealth.

This is also the second time in recent years that the Cathedral has been targeted.

In September, 2016, a rock was hurled through a stained glass window on the Union Park Street side of the cathedral, causing $3,000 in damages. That crime remains unsolved.

Section 127A of Chapter 266 of the Massachusetts General Laws makes it a crime to destroy, deface, mar or injure a church or synagogue in the state. Since 1994, violations of this chapter have been classified as hate crimes.

The Catholic Action League called the incident “a brazen attack on the center of Catholicism in New England, committed by a criminal with a 17 page rap sheet, in front of multiple witnesses.”

Catholic Action League Executive Director C. J. Doyle made the following comment: “After years of understated responses, from the archdiocese, prosecutors and police, Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden spoke forthrightly and appropriately when he said ‘The level of venom and destructiveness displayed by this individual is difficult to comprehend.

Unlike the spate of unsolved church vandalisms in Boston during 2020 and 2021, in this case, a perpetrator has been identified, arrested and arraigned.

The Archdiocese of Boston must resist its reflexive compulsion to dismiss the offender as a poor soul in need of mental health therapy. After more than 50 unpunished attacks on Catholic churches in the state in the last decade, it is time for someone to go to jail for vandalizing a Catholic church in Boston.

As a matter of reparative justice, Michael Patzelt needs to be held accountable for his crime.”

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