Steven Flusty on Skid Row, by Steven Flusty – Summer 1997: Urban Assault Issue
           
           
   
 
 
 
 
       
         
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Deep in the catacombs of the old cathedral, where an aborted subway line once ran, a congregation of berobed redevelopment officials and real estate financiers stands before an altar decorated with the jewel-encrusted likeness of a high-rise skyline. Behind the altar stands the new cardinal, legs braced and arms upraised preparatory to plunging a blade deep into the heart of the sacrifice…

No, this never occurred. At least not so far as I am aware. But behind the recent debate about whether Saint Vibiana’s cathedral is solid enough, old enough or pretty enough to duck the wrecker’s ball [and the even more incestuous griping about the architectural selection process] lie some less-than-exquisite corpses that even a coercively un-unionized catholic gravedigger would refuse to bury. I display the bodies here as a portfolio of forensic snapshots and (maybe) red herrings, and invite you to sleuth out solutions to the inner mysteries: How much quake damage did St. Vib’s REALLY sustain? What will be the final site of the new cathedral? Will the next Pope be an Angeleno? And just how did the initial request to demolish St. Vib’s manage to sail so easily through the City Council’s inner sanctum, anyway?

Long-running Community Redevelopment Agency activities suggest the intent to link the corporate citadel on Bunker Hill with Little Tokyo by way of developer Iro Yellin’s “gentrification by infusion” at Third & Broadway and the civic center’s southernmost bastion, the Ronald Regan Office Building (or “Fort Ronnie to its occupants) at Third and Spring Streets.

Enthusiasm for such a project was dampened considerably by all those folks sleeping on the sidewalks.

The folk sleeping on the sidewalk were attracted north on Third Street by the presence of the Union Rescue Mission, just below Second on Main Street.

The Union Rescue Mission was one of two occupants on the block, the other being Saint Vibiano’s Cathedral.

Then-Archbishop Mahony often seemed preoccupied with presenting himself in the most favorable light to the Vatican.

The Vatican was (and still is) run by the ultra-conservative John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger (head of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), opponents of liberation theologions mobilizing the impoverished and apologists for gay bashing.

In addtion to protesting abortion rights and the sale of pornographic publications, Mahony oversaw the replacement of Father Olivares at La Placita and Father Boyle at Deloris Mission, in the process eviscerating programs tending to poor adolescents in the projects of Boyle Heights and to Central American refugees.

Mahony was rumored to grouse frequently about his cathedral, how its shabby modesty was unworthy of an archdiocese with the statue of Los Angeles.

For the Pope’s visit to L.A., the archdiocese and such public institutions as the LAPD relocated the homeless into an alley behind the Union Rescue Mission and Saint Vibiano’s, out of sight of his holiness.

Negotiations resulting in the subsidized relocation of the Union Resue Mission were conducted by the Community Redevelopment Agency in conjunction with the archdiocese.

Archbishop Mahony was elevated to cardinal.

Saint Vibiano’s Cathedral now occupies a vacant lot of prime downtown real estate, with largely uninhabited sidewalks.

…the blade strikes home sending the soul of the altar-bound homeless man heavenward and bringing the earthquake liturgy to fruition. The celebrants exalt the impending eradication and palatial reconstruction of their threadbare house of worship while, off in the distant valley, the ground begins to tremble violently.

STEVEN FLUSTY IS A VERBOSE GEOGRAPHER WITH A BAD ATTITUDE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA.

Back to Summer – 1997: Urban Assault Issue Newsletter