The Journal News (www.thejournalnews.com) has issued the following report from Gary Stern:
Word that the date 6/6/06 had nothing to do with any satanic prophesies apparently did not reach the vandal or vandals who spray-painted pentagrams, upside-down crosses and other devilish messages outside St. Joseph's Seminary early yesterday.
Workers who showed up at the historic Catholic seminary about 7 AM were stunned to see the crosses spray-painted in black on two columns in front of the main entrance. When they moved closer, they saw 6s on each of three steps leading up to the landing, where the words "Reign In Blood" were painted in thick, black lines. "Reign In Blood" is the name of the 1986 album by the band SLAYER, whose "National Day of Slayer" was Tuesday.
And right in front of the doors, at just about the spot where Pope John Paul II stood and waved to adoring crowds on Oct. 6, 1995, was painted a large pentagram, often associated in pop culture with the devil.
"I think anyone who promotes the prince of darkness is very misled, very ignorant, very wrong," said Monsignor Peter Finn, the seminary's rector. "I feel sad, sad and disappointed."
The vandalism took place in the wee hours, just after the close of June 6, which was widely marketed as 666, a number associated with the devil. A remake of "The Omen" was released Tuesday, its marketing campaign tied to the date. And several books and concerts with satanic themes were released and held.
The effect of the vandalism on a rainy, gray morning was chilling, as it did not appear to be rushed or haphazardly done. The perpetrator, in fact, left a literate message on the inside of the two columns for seminary faculty members to see when they exited the main doors. On the left column, the graffiti said, "Better To Reign In Hell". And on the right, "Than To Serve In Heaven".
The famous line comes from Book I of John Milton's epic poem, Paradise Lost, in which Satan plots the fall of man.
"This was planned," said Bob Scully, the building manager, who has worked at the seminary for 38 years. "The wording. The spelling. Young kids wouldn't do it. Everything is very centered, thought out."
A statue of Jesus on the front grounds also was defaced. Pentagrams were painted on both sides of the base and an upside-down cross was painted on the base's front, over a dedication to Archbishop Michael Corrigan, the third archbishop of New York and the seminary's founder.
The New Testament's Book of Revelation describes 666 as the mark of the beast — the devil. But there seemed to be little support, outside of the business world, for tying biblical prophecy to June 6. In general, biblical scholars agreed with fundamentalist Christians who read the book as a literal description of an impending apocalypse that the date was not particularly meaningful.
"I believe Revelation, but the mark of the beast has to do with identifying the Antichrist, not a date," said Mark Hitchcock, who has written 14 books about "end times" Bible prophesy.
Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone said officials were aware the incident could have been a prank connected to June 6 but added that police were treating the case as a possible bias incident.
"We have no way of knowing, so we're taking this very seriously, as seriously as we would treat any kind of desecration to any religious institution," Amicone said. "We're leaving no stone unturned. People who do these kinds of things tend to do other stupid things and leave some kind of clue behind that will help lead police to their identity."
Amicone added that anyone who might have seen suspicious activity in the area should call the Yonkers Police Department.
This is a quiet time of the year at St. Joseph's; the academic year ended last month, and seminarians who are training for the priesthood are scattered at parishes across the Archdiocese of New York. The seminary usually has a security guard on duty inside until about 1 AM, but the grounds are very quiet at night.
The vandalism occurred between 3 and 7 AM, police and the seminary said. Police were at the seminary shortly after 7:30 AM. The community affairs and detective divisions are investigating.
Finn said the vandal or vandals should be prosecuted.
"It's important that a strong message be sent out that this is wrong," he said. "It is really an assault on Christianity. I think it's a bias crime, I do. It wasn't done on a mall."
Finn said no one at the seminary could recall hearing about an incident of vandalism at any point in the seminary's 110-year history. He joked that the perpetrators should be sent to him, so he could make them work the seminary grounds.
The vandalism may bring to mind that David Berkowitz, the "Son of Sam," was reported to belong to a satanic cult in Yonkers. Berkowitz insisted in interviews that several of the murders pinned on him were committed by other members of the cult.
Maury Terry, a freelance writer, advanced this idea in his 1987 book, The Ultimate Evil, writing that Berkowitz began his evil ways by sacrificing dogs in a Yonkers park.
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