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FEMA Section 106 Notices for Louisiana
Comment on "Public Notice Regarding Historic Review of the St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church, 5500 Paris Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana with linked PDF attachments "
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Name: Peter Finney, III
City: New Orleans, LA
Comments: Before the following comments, I proviso is necessary. I am biased undoubtedly regarding the St. Frances Cabrini situation; I grew up in Cabrini parish, a place where greatly instrumental in my life. That is certainly not information that calls for me to recuse myself from the debate; rather, it makes my opinion more substantive because of my love and association with Cabrini.

But I feel, as a rational human being, that I'm living out some poorly constructed joke, one that may bring a smile but not much more, being so at odds with reality. I mean, FEMA is interpreting Vatican II? This must be some foreign place.

Firstly, a few facts may help. The parishioners of Cabrini--can we call them the "Intimate Friends of Cabrini"--voted unanimously in July to sell the entirety of the property to Holy Cross, with the full understanding that our beloved church would be torn down. In fact, work to remove the sacred objects from the church has already begun; the immense marble altar, for example, has been removed. Secondly, there's the whole Vatican II thing. The church was dedicated in April 1963, after a period of construction and planning. The opening session of the council was in October of the previous year; it was only then that any sense of the council's direction was clarified. Further, a document did not come out until December 1963. How can a church exemplify the spirit of Vatican II when it antedated it? It doesn't take much logic, just a basic understanding of the way construction and time operate. Not knowing the spirit of Vatican II, the church had visible elements that reveal in itself the anachronism of the claim. For instance, if it broke down all spiritual and physical separations between the congregation and the celebrant, then why was there an altar rail. Additionally, the church was planned for a priest to celebrate with his back to the people; when he went around the altar and faced the people--a change in the spirit of Vatican II--large sections of the congregation couldn't even see him because of the columns in the sanctuary. Finally, the true spirit of Vatican II leads us to realize that the church is not an edifice, however modern or aesthetically pleasing; the church is the people of God. Those are the true "Friends of Cabrini Church."

Added to the already sufficiently bizarre set of circumstances, the church is 44 years old. I may be of a younger generation but even I can recognize that four decades doesn't meet the minimum criteria for historical preservation.

And this is all to say nothing of the precedent this would set in the larger rebuilding process. We're dealing with an area--which I have no financial interest in, by the way--that has been devastated. Holy Cross has been something residents have been able to grasp on to as the great hope. Now, we'd be ripping that away from them, giving Holy Cross a chance to leave New Orleans and never look back, allowing us all to have a more difficult time gazing on the world with hope.