An elderly West Hills Catholic named Laly Dobener has a two-story high cross in her yard, flecked with paint to symbolize Christ’s blood and a plaque that reads “Jesus I Trust In You.” Neighbours have contacted city officials and the Department of Building and Safety to complain about the thing.
“I don’t understand what my neighbors are so upset about,” Dobener said in an interview. “This cross isn’t hurting anyone.
“It is my way of expressing my love to God and to the world … to bring God’s love to everyone.”
Dobener’s neighbors on Hyannis Drive, however, are not feeling the love.
“When you turn down our cul-de-sac it looks like there is a church on our street,” said neighbor Laurie Biener.
“It’s bad enough how property values are these days. Then you have something like this affecting them even more … It’s like she’s making a statement for the whole neighborhood, and that is just not right.”
I expect she thinks she’s doing a good deed and saving her neighbours from hell in the process. She’s been a follower of an unrecognized Catholic splinter group called “Cross of Love.” It’s a movement that started in the 1980s in France with a claim that God insists that the building of these crosses that “must be 24 feet tall and painted blue and white” with 9 foot arms facing east and west, are the way to guarantee salvation.
A hunt for more about this gets me a Wikipedia entry about the Glorious Cross of Dozulé, which must have been the first of these. It was put up in the late ’70s after a woman there claimed Jesus had come by for a chat on 49 occasions. Priests and others claim they saw it happen so it must be true.
The ambition of the group is to convert the world “to avoid a material and spiritual catastrophe” but finding an actual number of people who’ve converted already has proven difficult.
There is at least one in Saskatoon. A woman dealing with some unnamed medical illness survived her high fever and courses of antibiotics and came out of the experience convinced she needed to build one of these things in her yard. A priest came and blessed it and held a mass in her garage, too. She notes there’s another of these crosses in Ponteix, Saskatchewan. It was erected in 2002 and greets everyone coming into town, although isn’t on town property. It was also blessed by a priest at the time.
For Dobener, the main problem is not tackiness, but zoning laws, and whether or not the thing is in compliance.
The issue centers on whether the cross is deemed a sign or a structure, since different zoning rules apply to each.
Stories about residents erecting large crosses on their properties have been reported in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Local officials in those cases ordered residents to remove the crosses, citing zoning rules.
However, both are expected to end up in court, where many believe they could be used as test cases of religious rights.
Not sure about the PA story, but Livingston, NJ, rewrote zoning codes after dealing with Patrick Racaniello and his wooden erection. It was only a small cross nailed to a tree but they felt it violated their rules about attracting too much public attention on private property. Racaniello hired the big dogs, the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund (a Christian group of lawyers), and the city caved rather than deal with major legal expenses. Can’t really say I blame them.
Hard to know if this Cross of Love will cause a similar stir. Wait and see, I guess.