The Catholic community was rocked late last week upon learning that Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles David O’Connell was fatally shot while he was in his home. Just one day later, another threat apparently motivated by religious intolerance was located near a Catholic church in Pennsylvania.
According to reports, an 18-inch pipe bomb was discovered near the house of worship on Sunday afternoon. Fortunately, no one was injured and experts were able to dismantle the explosive device, which had been placed near railroad tracks adjacent to St. Dominic Catholic Church in Holmesburg.
Pipe Bomb found near Philadelphia train tracks sparks conspiracy theories that the incident was somehow linked to recent train derailments. A passerby spotted a PVC pipe with capped ends and an unknown black powder behind St. Dominic Catholic Church in the Holmesburg area. WPVI
— Michael Grossman (@MichaelArt123) February 20, 2023
Although investigators did not immediately release a suspected motive and had not identified a suspect, speculation abounded throughout the community and beyond —, particularly in light of the violent attack on O’Connell the previous day.
Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez issued a statement expressing his “shock” and “sadness” over the death of O’Connell, who had a reputation as a tireless defender of the unborn.
“He was a peacemaker with a heart for the poor and the immigrant, and he had a passion for building a community where the sanctity and dignity of every human life was honored and protected,” Gomez added. “He was also a good friend, and I will miss him greatly.”
Catholic organizations and pro-life advocates in general have been increasingly targeted by political extremists in recent years, especially since the U.S. Supreme Court voted to overturn federal abortion rights last year.
Crisis pregnancy centers in eight states were targeted between March and July, resulting in concerns that federal investigators were not treating the threats seriously. In one case, administrators at a pregnancy center in Buffalo, New York, hired private investigators to probe a firebombing and vandalism at the location after accusing the FBI of “slow-walking” its investigation of the crime.
FBI Director Christopher Wray sought to address such concerns last month by issuing a $25,000 reward for information.
“Today’s announcement reflects the FBI’s commitment to vigorously pursue investigations into crimes against pregnancy resource centers, faith-based organizations, and reproductive health clinics across the country,” he said.
Wray went on to promise that the bureau “will continue to work closely with our national, state, and local law enforcement partners to hold responsible anyone who uses extremist views to justify their criminal actions.”