Mormon missionaries allegedly damage Colorado Catholic shrine
Parishioners vote to press charges
The Associated Press
Members of a Catholic church in Colorado have voted to seek criminal charges against three LDS missionaries suspected of defacing a shrine.
The Sangre de Christo Roman Catholic Church in San Luis made the decision Sunday, and Costilla County Sheriff Gilbert Martinez said his office would begin its investigation today, The Pueblo Chieftan newspaper reported today.
Possible charges include desecration of a venerated object, criminal trespass, defacing property and bias-motivated crime, according to The Chieftan.
Although the incidents occurred in 2006, they only came to the attention of the parish when they were seen on the Internet site "Photobucket."
Robert Fotheringham, in charge of the LDS church's missionary program in parts of four states, and whose region includes the San Luis Valley, declined to release names of the missionaries. He confirmed the three missionaries seen in the photos, which have been removed from the Internet, were Mormon missionaries. He said they would be disciplined, though he declined to go into detail.
"We're just mortified this has happened. This is not what we're about," he said.
The Internet photos showed the three vandalizing the Shrine of the Mexican Martyrs in 2006 and mocking the Roman Catholic faith.
One missionary was seen holding the severed head of a statue. The head was found and restored.
Another photo showed a missionary appearing to preach from the Book of Mormon inside the Chapel of All Saints. A third photo showed one missionary pretending to sacrifice another on the altar at the Shrine of the Mexican Martyrs.
Members of the parish built the Shrine of the Mexican Martyrs, which has become a tourist attraction. No damage estimate was available.
"What they did was extremely imprudent, extremely uncharitable and inflammatory," the Rev. Pat Valdez told parishioners at a meeting Friday night. "You have worked hard and this whole community has worked hard to build that shrine as an expression of our faith and an expression of our love of God."
Fotheringham, meanwhile, met with parishioners to deliver a written apology from one of the three missionaries, signed by an R. Thompson.
"I realize that my companions and I have made a mockery of that which is most sacred to many of the residents of San Luis and the rest of the world. I should have known better because I have seen many of the same types of blasphemies made against my own church and I have been appalled," the statement said.
In a separate statement, LDS church authorities wrote that "those who were involved in this incident" face church discipline.
LDS church spokesman Scott Trotter said he did not know details about the discipline, whether the three still are serving missions or whether they still are members of the LDS church. Trotter said he also did not know when LDS church leaders first became aware of the pictures or whether the accusations will affect the missionary program.
When asked whether he was aware of any other acts of vandalism by missionaries against religious property, Trotter said, "I'm going to have to decline comment."
LDS church officials wrote in a statement Sunday that they were "deeply saddened" by the reported vandalism.
"It is particularly disturbing that this property was a religious site where people go to worship and find solace," the statement read. "We hope that the actions of these three will not damage our relationships with the citizens of San Luis and with the Catholic Church - relationships that we value so much. We offer our sincere apologies to all who have been affected by this senseless act.
"Those who were involved in this incident are facing Church discipline," the statement said.
-- Salt Lake Tribune reporter Erin Alberty contributed to this article.
Criminal investigation continues in Colorado church vandalism
The Salt Lake Tribune
An investigation into the actions of three Mormon missionaries, who allegedly vandalized religious artifacts and took disrespectful photographs behind a Catholic church altar in Colorado, is ongoing.
The Costilla County Sheriff's Office issued a statement this afternoon saying the August 2006 events, which came to light when photographs appeared on the Internet, are being investigated and may lead to criminal charges, which would be filed by the district attorney.
"At this time it is known that three males are involved and to what level is yet to be determined," the statement says.
The photographs that sparked the investigation were taken at the Stations of the Cross Shrine in San Luis, a small town in Costilla County.
Colorado Catholics forgive Mormon missionaries during Holy Week
Denver, Mar 24, 2008
(CNA).- An investigation that likely would have led to criminal charges against four Mormon missionaries who desecrated a Catholic shrine in 2006, has been stopped by local authorities following a request made during Holy Week by the Catholic community of Costilla County, in the Diocese of Pueblo, Colorado.
Cpl. Scott Powell, the investigating officer in charge of the case, confirmed on Good Friday that the Costilla County Sheriff's Office will not continue looking into the actions of four missionaries who allegedly mocked the Catholic Church and vandalized a holy shrine in San Luis, Colorado's oldest town.
Photographs taken in August 2006 and discovered on the Internet by a Sangre de Cristo parishioner earlier this month, show the Mormon missionaries preaching behind a church altar while waving a Book of Mormon, pretending to sacrifice one another and holding the head of a statue of a Mexican martyr, whom the missionary shown in the picture claimed to have decapitated. The mocking took place at All Saints Chapel and the Shrine of the Mexican Martyrs in San Luis.
Officials with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have publicly apologized to the San Luis community for the actions of the three young men in the photos and announced that all of them have been disciplined.
In an Easter letter released to "The Pueblo Chieftain" last Tuesday, Bishop Tafoya wrote asking that "we as Catholics, who believe in the forgiveness of Christ, will ourselves forgive, and pray for the young men who showed such a lack of tolerance and understanding."
"I especially ask the members of the San Luis community to help the healing process by removing any anger that exists in their hearts. This is the time that we can show our love of Christ by forgiving and loving our neighbors," he wrote.
"To go to heaven -the Bishop added, - we must believe in our Lord Jesus Christ and to do what he has asked us to do. One of the things that he has asked is that we forgive those who have sinned against us."
In response to the Bishop's request, the parish council took a vote and recommended on Thursday afternoon, before celebrating the Mass of the Institution of the Eucharist, that no charges be filed against the young men.
Cpl. Powell said that based on what he was discovering in his investigation, charges "very easily could have been brought" against the young men.
"It's moot at this point," he said. "When that recommendation came from the church, everything stopped."
"We are very, very grateful," said Robert Fotheringham, who is in charge of the Mormon church's missionary program in a four state region that includes the San Luis Valley.
"The people we dealt with are big-spirited, and I'm frankly not surprised," he added.
Mormon Missionary Elder Desecrating a Catholic Chapel.
WORD FAITH INDEX
CATHOLIC CHURCH INDEX