Update, 5:15 pm: According to Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., vice president for mission and ministry, the crucifix was damaged in a minor way, though it did not constitute “desecration,” which is property damage with intent to religiously offend.
“The preliminary investigation indicates … that there was no evidence of desecration, and desecration means property damage with the intent of making religious offense,” he said. “In the investigation we have now … any property damage was not intended to make religious offense. It’s property damage.”
The crucifix fell off of its base, and part of the hand of the crucifix was damaged. Investigators’ best guess is that whoever was inside the chapel knocked it off as he or she was moving around the piano and organ, which was also damaged.
According to University Spokeswoman Rachel Pugh, there will be increased security around the chapel in the coming days.
Original Post: According to an email to students from University President John DeGioia, the Department of Public Safety received a report early this morning that the interior Dahlgren Chapel itself had been vandalized. The Metropolitan Police Department is working along with DPS in the investigation.
According to Travis Richardson (COL ’15), who is active in campus ministry, chairs were vandalized and a mirror was missing from the organ. According to DeGioia’s email, “The preliminary investigation indicates that there was no desecration of the Blessed Sacrament or any religious symbols. The primary damage was to furniture and other fixtures.”
Sam Dulik (SFS ’13), an active member of Georgetown’s Catholic community, said that the chairs were tossed about the room, with some broken. He also also mentioned some windows possibly being broken, as well.
Some reports to Vox also indicated that, contrary to DeGioia’s email, the crucifix used for processionals did sustain damage, but that detail hasn’t been confirmed. The tabernacle, however, was not damaged.
Morning masses have been relocated. Evening masses will proceed as scheduled.
Campus leaders condemned the vandalism, saying that it doesn’t fit with Georgetown’s mutual reverence for diverse religious creeds. “I must underscore that acts of vandalism, especially of sacred places, have no place in our campus community,” DeGioia said. “While we do not know the motivation of the person or persons who committed these acts, nor whether or not they are members of the University community, they are of great concern.”
Dahlgren has been the subject of vandalism before. At about this time last year, Women’s Club Volleyball left condoms, alcohol, and cups strewn along the quad outside. This incident, however, seems to be more serious.
Dulik also mentioned that there was a previous incident of vandalism this semester that went unreported in campus media. Apparently, a student group was found using the interior of the building inappropriately, but, at the time, no further details were offered on the incident. A Jan. 22 DPS crime log entry indicates that chapel wine was reported missing from Dahlgren chapel, but there’s no indication that the two cases are related.
Vox is investigating and we’ll update this post later today if we receive more information.
Photo: Miles Gavin Meng/Georgetown Voice
The windows of the church this morning.