Crystal cathedral to Catholic cathedral?

I harbor doubts about a trend I have seen in some church architecture.  Am I wrong, or has there been an uptick in the use of Eastern or Byzantine elements in the design or the redecoration of Latin Church churches?   Assuming for a moment that I am right, it seems to me that Latin Church Christians have their own fine tradition of architecture and ornament.  Yes, in some places there is a fusion such as in Venice.  It may be that in our laudable efforts finally to recover a sense of the transcendent and sacred in our churches, we Latins have turned to the East.  To compensate for the auto-repair garages or municipal airport terminals we have been building, we have started filling them with icons and so forth.  Please understand that I very much like Eastern churches and their ornaments… especially in Eastern churches.  If Holy Church has two lungs by which we breathe, they don’t have to become confused.

That said, I wonder what people will think about the idea of a Catholic Diocese taking over a vast protestant/evangelical mega-church not just for use as a church, but as the diocesan cathedral.  Byzantine is one thing… but American mega-church?  Can you spell “inculturation”?

From CNA with my emphases and comments.

Orange, Calif., Jul 8, 2011 / 03:04 am (CNA).- The Diocese of Orange says it is potentially interested in buying a 3,000-seat glass church in Southern California that faces bankruptcy.

The diocese announced on July 7 that it’s currently looking for a building to meet the needs of the1.2 million Catholics in Orange County, the 11th largest diocese in the nation.

Although it’s been planning for over 10 years to build a new, 2,500-seat cathedral in Santa Ana, the diocese has only hired an architect for the project and is now considering converting the bankrupt church in Garden Grove into a Catholic cathedral.  [Economic factors must play their part in a time of economic contraction.  ]

“While we continue to develop plans for a cathedral in Santa Ana, it is prudent to evaluate the opportunity to engage in the pending auction of this property and to mitigate the chance that it cease to function as a place of worship,  [sort of] if acquired by others,” Bishop Tod D. Brown said on Tuesday.

The Crystal Cathedral –  an architectural landmark made with over 10,000 panes of glass and designed by the late Philip Johnson – would be an instant solution to the diocese’s building needs and would cost roughly half the $100 million price tag for the planned cathedral.

“I have authorized our advisors to contact the appropriate parties in the proceedings to determine a possible course of action,” Bishop Brown said.

“If the Diocese of Orange can prevent the loss of this important Christian Ministry and what the Crystal Cathedral has represented to so many for so long – and meet its own priorities for a new cathedral, we have a duty to at least review the options.”

At the same time, Bishop Brown cautioned that no official plans have been made.

“This is solely an exploratory consideration, not binding upon any party involved in the proceedings,” he said. “There is no change of course concerning development of the existing Cathedral site or other parishes in the community.”

The Crystal Cathedral, founded by pastor Robert H. Schuller, filed for bankruptcy last October. The church decided to file for Chapter 11 after some of its creditors sued for payment, according to church officials.

Documents from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Santa Ana show that hundreds of creditors could be owed between $50 million and $100 million, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The Diocese of Orange said that Bishop Brown has followed the news of the Crystal Cathedral bankruptcy proceedings with “concern” and is interested in the “landmark church remaining a functional part of the liturgical landscape for the region.”

Construction on the Crystal Cathedral began in 1977 and was completed in 1980 at a cost of $18 million.

Any thoughts?  I am not sure what to make of all this.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Our Catholic Identity and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Ceile De says:

    I work in the diocese of Orange and have received Communion (kneeling, on the tongue) from Bishop Brown but have not met him. It is a strange diocese: he reportedly said, before this plan came up, that he wanted to built a cathedral for the future where tradition and the past would have no place (I am open to correction on his precise words). On the other hand, for a fairly small diocese, we are blssed with choices for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass – six parishes offer it on a weekly basis, I believe.

    Now – the Crystal Cathedral is very much a landmark icon. It wolud save a lot of money. It can be adapted for Catholic use, probably better by the current bishop’s successor (Bishop Brown is 75 this year. Ad multos annos in retirement) than a purpose built new cathedral lacking the hallmarks of a Catholic place of worship could be.

    The only real stumbling block is it could not then be used by the current congregation – some other solutions may allow them to continue there.

    It may even serve as a bridge of sorts to our separated evangelical brethren and sistren.

    So: I’m open to other thoughts but as of now, I’m all for it.

    Oh – one thing. I believe it can only be called a “pro-cathedral” if it was not purpose built as a cathedral. No harm in that – see Dublin, Ireland.

  2. maskaggs says:

    Cheaper, I can understand. But my personal leanings would be toward a pared-down cathedral that looks Catholic instead of a cost-saving structure such as the one in question.

  3. Ceile De says:

    Maskaggs: the choice I understand is adapting this to look Catholic or building a purpose built one that doesn’t look Catholic anyway. See my post above.

  4. Chatto says:

    Might this be a fine opportunity to display contemporary yet traditional stained glass? It’s basically a big blank canvas for that sort of thing.

  5. Felicia says:

    It’s slightly less ugly than the Los Angeles Cathedral….if that’s saying anything.

  6. Gregg the Obscure says:

    The acquisition costs might be lower to obtain Schuller’s building than to build new, but the carrying costs would be substantial and it could promote a misleading impression to the irreligious. While I’m a convert myself and I spent much of the 1980s in OC, I’m not sold on converting this building.

  7. josephx23 says:

    The Romans were able to convert the Pantheon into a fit edifice for the Sacred Liturgy, and that was a place where pagan rites were celebrated, right? I’m not saying that the Crystal Cathedral is comparable to the Pantheon in aesthetic quality, but suggesting that there is a precedent for converting even a profane space into an edifice for sacred use.

  8. frjim4321 says:

    This is an interesting topic. I have not seen the C/C except on television. It is an interesting option but I wonder if not for the Bush recession if they would have been considering it at all?

  9. Tina in Ashburn says:

    Wondering how exactly this building could be changed to reflect Catholicism. I like cruciform churches. This is not. Architecture that does not reflect the Faith lies and does not teach visually the Truth.

    A good book to read on this subject is No Place for God, the denial of the transcendent in modern Church architecture, by Moyra Doorly; published by Ignatius Press. There are many sources that explain Church architecture, this book is a recent one [2007].

  10. Joe Magarac says:

    Having seen what the new cathedrals in Los Angeles and Oakland look like, I shudder to think of what the Diocese of Orange would build if it had the opportunity to create a cathedral from scratch.

    I support buying the Chrystal Cathedral, if only because then there will be an excuse when people ask why it is so ugly and non-Catholic. Maybe in 50 years California will have a bishop who is willing and able to build a Latin-rite Cathedral that looks the part. Until then, build nothing.

  11. traditionalorganist says:

    A glass building is a bad investment.

  12. ipadre says:

    We have such a sacred tradition in Sacred Art that I would find it strange to convert the CC to a RC Cathedral. Better to spend money as an investment in the future. I have watched CC on television when Rev. Robert Schuler was pastor – a very gifted and talented man. With that said, I see no need to preserve the CC as a place of worship. No judgment on the CC or any other denomination, but according to our theology it is not true worship, but rather a praise service. True worship is sacrifice, and has been for thousands of years. On another thought, wouldn’t it be better to allow the incoming bishop the option to build a new cathedral since the current bishop is set to retire shortly? Conventional wisdom tells a new pastor to wait a period of time before making major changes, I would think the same of a Bishop or priest preparing for retirement; it isn’t the time to make major changes unless someone is cleaning up a mess for the new guy, so he has a happy landing.

  13. Conchur says:

    Ughhh, what an eyesore! It’s only marginally less offensive than the Taj Mahoney.

  14. meunke says:

    If they do buy it, I hope the dynamite it and build an actual church on the grounds instead of saying Mass in something that looks like a branch office for Bank of America.

  15. Patti Day says:

    I’ve only seen the cathedral on “Hour of Power” on Sunday night, which I tune in when there’s a rerun or something not of interest on EWTN. I feel sad for Rev. Robert Schuller, who just celebrated 40 years, if I recall correctly, as an ‘ordained’ minister by the laying on of hands of seven elders, including his father, and for his daughter, Sheila, who was tapped to succeed her father, after her brother apparently turned down the position . Rev. Schuller seems to have put his entire life into this glass monument, which while impressive, must be something of a white elephant. Judging by what I have heard discussed on the program, the cost of maintaining it is in partly responsible for their declaring Chapter 11. If you watch, you sometimes see people sitting in the sun in this huge fishbowl, fanning themselves with their programs. And the windows are being cleaned perpetually. I’d love to see it, but I wouldn’t want to own it.
    While it may be laudible, I don’t think the diocese should let eccumenical considerations rule their decision. Yes, it’s a landmark and a place of great importance to evangelicals, but how many beautiful and majestic Catholic churches have been closed for the very reason that they have become economical millstones.
    I don’t care to hear of $50-$100 million dollars being spent on another gymnasium-style Catholic church/cathedral. Maybe the project should be shelved a little longer until the Bishop retires, let the Crystal Cathedral find another owner (are their lots of potential buyers out there?). I think the Crystal Cathedral would forever be known by that name and as the church the Catholics ‘stole on the cheap’.

  16. Causus Omnium Danorum says:

    I have to say, it’s probably better than anything that Bishop Tod (doesn’t that mean ‘death’?) Brown would construct. Plus, from what I recall, the interior could be turned into an actual Catholic space pretty easily, and it would also preserve an architectural landmark. Sounds like a win-win. Remember, there’s no assurance that Bishop Brown will be replaced by an ordinary that truly understands and loves the Catholic liturgy (and even if he was, the Augean Stables out there will take a long time to muck out, as Abp Gomez is undoubtedly realizing).

  17. “Bishop Brown . . . . reportedly said, before this plan came up, that he wanted to built a cathedral for the future where tradition and the past would have no place”

    If so, then I’d think that the Crystal Cathedral would fit the bill. If the Church is to be Protestantized–which is what “tradition and past having no place” says to me–then why not use a Protestant church already built? Why go to the bother and expense of building a genuine Catholic cathedral?

  18. teomatteo says:

    Saving about $50 mill. has gotta make ‘ya think hard about it. What the architect does with the inside would be critical of course but I’d vote for seeing some ideas on paper er… on the computer. Design really makes my heart pound. Check that. Beautiful designs makes my heart pound. (saving gobs of money does too).

  19. SonofMonica says:

    *If* the building can be suitably transformed into a Catholic Church, that’s one aspect to take into consideration. But I’m more concerned with the *reason* the bishop/diocese is considering this place. Is it just to show that Catholicism and Evangelicalism are supposedly equally valid and compatible? That evangelicalism is something essential to God’s Church and should be preserved? That God considers these televangelists on par with his priests?

    Sigh… Seems like the bishops ought to be the ones most hell-bent on preserving and promoting Catholicism. Why do we have to try so hard to keep them from destroying and denying it? Sometimes it’s really hard to keep at this. And I’ve only been Catholic for a little over a year. I’m such a sinner and I have to try really hard at this holiness thing. Situations like this make it really hard for me to keep trying to follow Catholic teaching and keep being faithful.

  20. Titus says:

    It can’t be worse than what they’d build new, so why not save the money?

    Oh – one thing. I believe it can only be called a “pro-cathedral” if it was not purpose built as a cathedral. No harm in that – see Dublin, Ireland.

    Not what the term means: any church structure that has been permanently dedicated as a cathedral is, simply, a cathedral. A pro-cathedral is a structure merely serving as one temporarily. See also proto-cathedral, a church structure that was formerly a cathedral but is no longer.

  21. Mrs. O says:

    Yuck? That is what first comes to mind. If this is financially motivated, maybe they could do a cathedral in stages instead of outright building one. If they do purchase it, don’t throw rocks…

  22. dominic says:

    I don’t know anything about the specifics, but my instinct is that it is wrong for a protestant mega-church to become a Catholic cathedral; at least, without major, very major modification.

    One point is that here in London (UK), the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral (which I apprecaite has a relatively limited reach: services, and even its website are in Ukrainian) is in a (relativelyly substantial) building that was originally a methodist chapel. And in fact it’s not unusual for Catholic churches in England to be in former protestant (methodist/free church) buildings subsequently purchased. Whereas the real, un-Catholic monstrosities are, of course, those purpose-built as Catholic places of worship in the last four deluded decades (including at least two of the English cathedrals, Clifton & Middlesbrough)

    “I believe it can only be called a “pro-cathedral” if it was not purpose built as a cathedral.”

    I don’t think that is quite the case. My understanding of the situation in Dublin was that, at one point, it was hypothetically intended to construct a Cathedral, and the current pro-cathedral’s title indicates its (now long-term) “temporary” status. There were “pro-cathedrals” in London (one of the former St Mary Moorfields, and I think Our Lady of Victories, Kensington) before Westminster was built; and similarly in Bristol before the monstrosity of Clifton Cathedral was built; but I am reasonably cure that some of the other Catholic cathedrals of England and Wales (most obviously Sheffield/Hallam and Swansea/Menevia) were not built as cathedrals, but now enjoy either that title or that of “Cathedral Church”.

  23. Charivari Rob says:

    Ceile De – “I believe it can only be called a “pro-cathedral” if it was not purpose built as a cathedral. No harm in that – see Dublin, Ireland.”

    That may be right, but part of the circumstance of St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral is that the original cathedral was taken and is still used by the Church of Ireland (Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, more commonly known as Christ Church these days).

  24. Pachomius says:

    If this were a consecrated Church, or at the least, say, a 19th century church with some merit behind describing it as a church, I could understand wanting to keep it as a church. But this building looks indistinguishible from a bank, and belongs to an ecclesiology so alien to our own that I can’t possibly understand the idea behind buying it on those grounds.

    As for Easternism… You’re right, Fr., that we risk losing sight of our own tradition of liturgical art and architecture, but I think part of the problem is a deep dislike (or recognition of the flaws in) what seems to have been predominant in the pre-Conciliar period (well, all right: in the pre-War period – we know there was brutalism creeping into the Church even in the ’50s – just look at the photos). Namely, doe-eyed plaster statues of the saints (You know the ones, the either extremely stoned or extremely bored St X, Y, or Z. Actually, the worst offenders are portraits of passionists, and images of the Sacred Heart and the Divine Mercy, unfortunately), or a hideous, glitzy baroque. And when we look to mediaevalising examples, we find a lot of rather sub-par 19th century gothic design, too (unfortunately, not every architect in the style at that time was a Pugin).

  25. Daniel Latinus says:

    What is the state of the current congregation of the Crystal Cathedral? Is the Protestant congregation thriving? Are services well-attended? Are the congregation’s financial problems due to declining participation, or to other factors (e.g. mismanagement, scandal, etc.)?

    If the Crystal Cathedral’s financial troubles are not the result of declining support, then I think it would be a cruel insult to its current congregation for the Diocese of Orange to acquire the property, especially if it leaves the current congregation dispossessed. That is no foundation for the flagship church of a Catholic diocese.

    Another issue is that if the Diocese did acquire the property, would the diocese be inclined to share the space with the current congregation? On one hand, evicting the current members would be unkind in the extreme; but I’m not sure a shared congregation would be such a good idea either.

    IIRC, the Crystal Cathedral complex includes not only said landmark, but also Dr. Schuller’s original church, part of which is still used for office space. Schuller’s churches were designed with “drive-in” seating where worshipers could listen to the service while seated in their cars. (Dr. Schuller’s first church was a drive-in theater; the drive-in theme became a gimmick that carried over as Dr. Schuller’s congregation grew.) I understand there are also “memorial gardens” on the site. Are these gardens for cremated remains, or are these gardens full-service cemeteries? Is anyone already buried there.

    And I can see big problems with a church made of glass in a warm and sunny region that is also earthquake-prone.

    There’s a lot about this acquisition that makes me uneasy, and outside of a look to establish “due diligence”, I hope the Diocese finds it unfeasible.

    Incidentally, I do remember that Abp. Fulton Sheen received an award from Dr. Schuller, and preached at a service at the original church back in the 1970s.

  26. jasoncpetty says:

    It’s on a large, 40-acre campus, right? Buy it, turn it into the greenhouse that will support a nice little community of agrarians and laborers who can support their families while working to build the real cathedral. This is the only way you’ll be remembered as innovative and forward-thinking, Your Excellency, and truly set yourself apart from your episcopal colleagues and inspire your people to radical, Christian action. Buying–not even paying to have designed or built as a true patron–another perverse Philip Johnson glass thingy (I work [’cause that’s the American religion they’re built for] in one in Houston–they are soooo 1980–at least ours has tinted glass, I pity your A/C bill) will get you neither. Think about it!

  27. Centristian says:

    I would opine that the architecture of this structure is wildly inappropriate for a Roman Catholic cathedral church, particularly the interior. However, since the building looks probably exactly like what a newly-built cathedral would look like, anyhow…why not? This, I’m afraid, is what Catholic churches look like these days. In fact, should the diocese spend twice as much money to build a new cathedral, the resulting edifice would likely be even worse. So sure, let them go ahead and buy it; it makes no difference, really.

    I wonder, though, how the Evangelicals who worshipped in this iconic non-denominational temple for decades would react should it suddenly become the seat of popish Romery in Orange. Once Robert Schuller’s chair is replaced by a Catholic bishop’s cathedra and incense starts to float up from the once cherished pulpit that has been transformed into a Roman altar (perhaps with an icon of the Virgin Mary displayed nearby), I can imagine that not a few rocks might be hurled through those “crystal” walls.

  28. sejoga says:

    Frankly, if they’re going to allow people to have some kind of a Crystal Cathedral vs. Not-Yet-Built Cathedral debate, they need to let people see what the architect they’ve been working with has already come up with.

    I really don’t doubt that they’ve actually been planning to throw their money away on something even uglier and less Catholic than what they’ll be getting out of this transaction.

  29. Alice says:

    I posted the article yesterday on Facebook with the comment “Luckily other people are interested.” I suspect it’s nicer and cheaper than the monstrosity the diocese would build as a cathedral if they build new, though.

  30. pseudomodo says:

    It’s not so bad….

    Travelling to Englan I saw many Catholic Cathedrals that were comverted for protestant use. This is just a modern twist to the tale.

    Don’t underestimate a good catholics ability to make do with what is available. A decent (catholic) interior designer can turn ANY space into a sacred space and would welcome the challenge. Modern does not necessarily equal modernist.

  31. pseudomodo says:

    speling bad…finggers not werking so good… not looking at screan..

  32. Patti Day says:

    Those who may not worship with a crystal chalice should not worship in a crystal church.

  33. robkphd says:

    Bishop Brown wants to build a new Cathedral. As a member of that diocese, I fear that it may be something close to what is in LA. I think that this is a better solution than that.

  34. My suspicion is that Bishop Brown wants to leave his mark on the diocese and realizes that his current plans for a cathedral just won’t happen due to the economy and the underwhelming nature of the design.

    I suspect that the Crystal Cathedral would be better for Catholic worship than anything the current architect would plan.

  35. tealady24 says:

    You know there is so much the diocese can do with the inside; it can be completely transformed from that green jungle effect that’s there now. The reflecting pool can go and a BEAUTIFUL, and I mean, beautiful altar can be erected very much in conjunction with a Catholic Cathedral.
    I met Rev. Schuller many years ago at a book-signing and always loved his talks on TV and even some of his books. Over time, however, his positive thinking doesn’t take the place of putting your life in God’s hands entirely and with praying to Mary, all things will be made right for you.
    Funny, how after these struggles between his children (where is son Robert who was head pastor and then demoted), left and founded his own church, Robert H., now in his eighties, should be living through these tough times and seeing his life’s work go up in flames, if you will. Too many egos in the frying pan will do that.

  36. Ralph says:

    “If the Diocese of Orange can prevent the loss of this important Christian Ministry and what the Crystal Cathedral has represented to so many for so long – and meet its own priorities for a new cathedral, we have a duty to at least review the options.”

    Important Christian Ministry?? This is a place of heresy. What Crystal Cathedral has represented for so long is the subjection of the Truth for the popular lies of the flesh.
    I strongly feel that we as Catholics, and our Bishops especially, must avoid falling into the trap of relativism where “one church is as good as another as long as you are happy”. The fullness of Truth rests solely in the Catholic Church. We musn’t be afraid the speak this.

  37. Deacon Nathan Allen says:

    As the new cathedral, it would be the place for the bishop’s cathedra or throne, and ***BAD PUN ALERT*** people who live in glass houses shouldn’t stow thrones!

  38. greg the beachcomber says:

    Having lived in the Diocese of Orange since it was established (and having lived next door to the CC for a few years), I have a pretty good seat for all of this.

    First and foremost, I don’t see where the diocese is crying out for a cathedral in the first place. Bishop Brown has been working toward this for many years, and the plan has always sounded more like a way to spend a lot of money than to fill a pressing need.

    Also, there is a cemetery on the CC grounds, and there was an article in the Sunday Register a week or so ago about how some families are having the remains of loved ones moved because of the uncertainty at the CC. Indian burial grounds would be a deal-killer, but I guess non-denominational Protestant burial grounds are okey-dokey.

    As I understand it, the congregation there has dwindled. Sadly, there is no shortage of non-denominational mega-churches in OC, so I’m sure any remaining members of the congregation could drive the 10 miles or so to Rev. Purpose-Driven Life’s church down the road.

  39. Ef-lover says:

    I had visited the CC some time ago , it’s a light and airy place . It looks more like a church then the box of L.A. I think it can be retro – fitted in a Catholic church with the right architect one can take elements of the many churches which closed and incorperate them into the CC such as altars, altar rails, statues, stained glass windows etc. but the pool down the center needs to go.

  40. Charivari Rob says:

    @ Deacon Nathan Allen – I salute you, sir! Well-punned, thou good and faithful servant!

  41. Cristero says:

    if their new Cathedral is going to be in Garden Grove, CA, would the diocese have to change its name to the diocese of Graden Grove? Does the Diocese take its name from the city in which the Cathedra, the seat of the Bishop, is in? The eparchy of Van Nuys in the past year became the Eparchy of the Holy Protection of Phoenix because the seat of the Bishop is now located in that city.

  42. This is probably better and cheaper than anything that the diocese would build on its own. But the best course now would be not to buy or build anything.

    I do, however, object to the references to Rev. Schuller as an “Evangelical.” He is a Liberal Protestant, and a minister of a mainline liberal denomination, the Reformed Church in America (formally Dutch Reformed). His message is essentially positive thinking, and he explicitly avoids “hard” Christian teachings. If he really were an evangelical, his ministry would probably not be bankrupt.

  43. dominic says:

    “Does the Diocese take its name from the city in which the Cathedra, the seat of the Bishop, is in?”

    Not neccessarily.

    In England, the diocese of Hallam has its seat in Sheffield, that of East Anglia in Norwich
    In Wales, the diocese of Menevia has its seat in Swansea/Abertawe
    In Scotland, the diocese of Dunkeld has its seat in Dundee, that of Argyll and the Isles in Oban, that of Galloway in Ayr (previously in Dumfries)
    (True, these are all post-reformation creations or re-creations)

    But in Ireland, many of the dioceses (which are mostly, if not all, pre-reformation foundations) are not named for the location of the cathedral: eg Down and Connor – Belfast, Cashel and Emly – Thurles, Clogher – Monaghan, Raphoe – Letterkenny, Dromore – Newry, Kilmore – Cavan, and so on…

  44. APX says:

    I pity your A/C bill

    The CC doesn’t have A/C.

    It’s hard to say given that the new cathedral being built in my diocese is an absolute eyesore, that doesn’t resemble a Catholic Church. I think all the glass and the CC magnitude is too big for a Catholic Cathedral.

  45. cwillia1 says:

    I suppose what matters is how the interior of the CC is reworked. With respect to Byzantine iconography, this is the common heritage of both the Latin and Eastern churches. Look at any Western 2-dimensional religious art. The older it is, the more “Byzantine” it seems to be. It would be another thing entirely to construct a Latin church with an iconostas and the same icon scheme that is traditional in Byzantine Rite churches.

  46. robtbrown says:

    Fr Augustine,

    He was also a tireless promoter. In 1979-80, after JPII had wowed the US, Schuller billed himself as a good friend of JPII. There was also an ad in the SF paper, with a photo of JPII with an pre photoshopped image of Schuller standing nearby.

  47. The CC would be better looking than anything Bp Brown would give a yes to. If any of the recent parishes that have been built in the diocese have been an indication (Our Lady of La Vang in Santa Ana, church in the round). I say, no buying CC. I pray the new Bishop will be Liturgically orthodox.

  48. rfox2 says:

    What a horrifically ugly building. I’ve seen pictures of bombed out Catholic churches, post WW2, that look like heaven compared with this Protestant monstrosity. What parts of our soul would we be selling by purchasing a building like this in order to save some cash? No, this is not a good idea.

  49. Banjo pickin girl says:

    I think it would be hard to turn this place into a Catholic church, especially with the “connotations” the building will always have for people due to its past. Schuller’s first church was a drive-in theater. And yes, it is not nondenominational but RCIA (the other RCIA), formerly the Dutch Reform Church, which is still Dutch only in a few places (like northern New Jersey).

    Yes, the reflecting pool would have to go. But the movable wall which opens up could somehow be worked into the Easter vigil I bet by someone really creative! (that is a joke, please).

  50. priests wife says:

    The crystal ‘cathedral’ is so horrid- the LA Cathedral is superior.

    As for the “uptick” in “Eastern” tradition being used in Roman-rite churches, I would be very interested in concrete examples. Unless Fr Z is speaking of Roman-rite devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help (a Byzantine icon), I don’t know what he means. His comment is reminisect of a major orthodox Catholic college not allowing a one-time Byzantine Divine Liturgy on campus to educate their students on the univesal nature of the Church- “can’t those Byzantines leave us alone and do their own thing and we’ll do ours?” (exact quotation)…too bad Bishop John Ireland didn’t have that attitude 100 years ago; maybe the OCA wouldn’t have been formed

  51. Fr_Sotelo says:

    rfox2 and priest’s wife: I have to disagree that the Crystal Cathedral is either horrific or horrid. In fact, when it comes to the LA Cathedral, words cannot be found to “capture” that place. Suffice it to say, for those who haven’t seen it, that it would take a nuclear detonation to bring it down. It is practically immune to the most killer California earthquake. Imagine terrorists kidnapping you and taking you to a bomb shelter. You can’t get more horrid than that. We won’t even get into the weirdness of the exit/entrance of the LA Cathedral and it “altar” to sexual molestation victims.

    The CC, on the other hand, is quite interesting, and the glass gives the impression of completely seeing the sky and landscaping without the negative of being exposed to nature. It is a huge building, with seating already set up for thousands, and although it does not have the traditional cruciform, it would not be difficult at all to rearrange. The worse that can be said of the CC is that it is an open space with no distinct Christian forms (with normal means of entering and exiting). There is nothing weird or discomforting about that, and with a good bishop at the helm, it is a blank slate with which to work (and beautify). Did I forget to mention that it has the most stunning of pipe organs to be found in all of Orange County?

    In light of the “creativity” of the RC hierarchy, and the penchant for the bizarre and shocking in new Catholic cathedrals, I am absolutely delighted at the prospect of the purchase of the CC. And for that balmy southern Cali weather, I know for a fact that the air conditioning works fine also.

  52. Alice says:

    Priest’s Wife,
    I don’t think Father Z needs to give too many concrete examples here. My parish has a bunch of loaner icons (not statues or pictures, icons) and my parents’ parish has rather ugly icons that are the worst combination of Byzantine and Roman I can imagine. Oddly enough, the parish that actually has an Eastern priest come for Divine Liturgy once a year for educational purposes has art that is appropriate for the architecture and the rite of the parish. The portable icon screens they use kind of clash with the church, but that’s OK because it gives Father an excuse to say “come visit my parish” about 100x during the sermon.

    My homeschool program did next to nothing with art and I didn’t take any visual art history in college, so I can hardly tell a modern icon from something based on ancient Western art. Personally I think statues and prints of the great Western masterpieces tend to clash more than icons when a parish built in the last 40/50 years is trying to add devotional art so I don’t really mind the current Latin rite obsession with icons. I’ve seen a couple of examples of rather ugly churches transformed by well-placed and well-executed icons. I’ve also seen fairly traditional priests with a poor eye for art make their parishes look worse when trying to redecorate with traditional statues.

  53. Pachomius says:

    “Travelling to Englan I saw many Catholic Cathedrals that were comverted for protestant use. This is just a modern twist to the tale.”

    This is true, but have you seen most our Catholic cathedrals in this country? Clifton Cathedral looks like a ’70s municipal car park, inside and out.

    Having looked at “Our Lady of the Angels” in LA on google images, it seems to have been built on exactly the same lines as Clifton – even down to the ridiculous “collapsing jenga” exterior.

    Having also now looked at the interior of the “Crystal Cathedral”, it looks wholly inappropriate to me. Maybe a building for the American Senate-in-Exile… on Mars. But a fitting home for God? No. I don’t care if it seats 144,000 and comes immune to nuclear attack, fire, and “Shine Jesus Shine”, just… no.

    Why not build one along the lines of the early Roman basilicas? I can see no better way to convey the permanence of the Roman Church than to do this. And it’s not like the peristyle courts that were built in front of the doors wouldn’t be useful to a modern cathedral, for events and doing good works (what better place to have a soup kitchen, for instance?).

  54. Martial Artist says:


    In reply to your comment that

    it’s only marginally less offensive than the Taj Mahoney(,)

    I would respond that you must not be familiar with the work of architect Philip Johnson. Nevertheless, I would personally lean toward constructing a cathedral that is visibly more Catholic, resources permitting.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  55. Centristian says:

    Is there a Saint Crystal, by any chance? I’m just thinking of new names for the place.

    I’m also curious as to what the rubrics for a Solemn Pontifical Hour of Power might entail.

  56. PaterAugustinus says:

    The unsuitability of a building like the Crystal Cathedral for Christian worship should be plain; in answer to one of the above posters, yes the Pantheon was converted… but, the Church found Classical architecture so accomodating to Christian worship, that it has had a prominent place in the Church for the entirety of Her existence. The Romanesque was but a slight variation, and the Gothic is a clear “variation upon a theme,” so to speak. So, the Pantheon’s conversion is not exactly a parallel.

    I’d rather speak to Fr. Z’s comments on the “Byzantinisation” of Latin churches… when has this not been the case? Throughout Church history, the general pattern has been for things to start in the East and spread to the West. In the first millennium, most of the major Feasts of the calendar started East and moved West, and some feasts were even known by the Greek name (such as the “Hypopante Domini,” or “Meeting of the Lord”) in the Latin books. Many feasts, like the Hypopante and the Nativity of the Virgin, have antiphons which are taken straight out of the Byzantine liturgy. The East always influenced the West’s ecclesiastical life.

    When it came to art, it is clear that the Western Church was always trying to imitate and follow the high standard of Byzantine iconography, the only differences being apparent in the occasional difference of colour schemes and, frankly, the quality of the artwork. Often, the West was basically producing “amateur” Byzantine iconography, trying to imitate it while (often) failing to give due attention to the Byzantine guidelines for exact proportions, which were rich in symbolism and spiritual significance. That said, I will cop to liking the less “perfect” style of much Romanesque iconography.

    Church architecture was also very similar between the two in terms of isolated features (i.e., how arches and piers and columns and domes were structured and arranged), though the West did always retain favour for the Basilica, wheras the East liked more square temples with cross branches of equal length. But, the overall architectural effect of a Western temple for most of the Latin Church’s history – high rood or chancel screens adorned with two-dimensional iconography (far outside of just the British Isles), rounded arches and romanesque architecture, a predominance – almost to the point of exclusivity – of frescoes and bas reliefs (as opposed to statuary), a plethora of hanging oil lamps, domed ciboria with suspended curtains, etc., were all reminiscent of, and in some places direct imitation of, Byzantine forms and styles. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that this was the universal Christian patrimony, and not at all a “Byzantine” ethos.

    Rather, the Latin Church began to move away from this Christian patrimony of art and architecture as the Renaissance gave way to later periods and the Counter-Reformation began a genuine ethos of accomodation or conformity to the culture. So, what we see now is not some new and surprising departure from “Latin” tradition, but is actually the logical conclusion to the Latins’ five-century old tradition of building temples in whatever the culture’s poplular style was… Baroque, Neo-Classical, Art Nouveau… and, now, Modern and Post-Modern styles. For centuries, Catholicism has largely followed the culture when it came to art and the decoration of temples (and the music used in those temples, let’s not forget!). For a while, Western culture remained ennobled enough to support art forms that were not utterly blasphemous. But now, though it took Western culture a few centuries to utterly expend the last remnants of its “Christian fossil fuels,” Catholicism, so closely tied to fads in secular art and music, has followed Western art and music into a ditch. So, if Latinity is now trying to rediscover its heritage, it should not be surprising if “Byzantine” themes begin to dominate once more. That’s because what now *seems* Byzantine, simply because the Byzantines remained faithful to it, used rather to be a fairly unified Christian ethos throughout both East and West.

    P.S. Obviously, I’m not saying that there aren’t some distinctly Byzantine elements of Church art and architecture – I think of dangling pendants hanging from IC XC NI KA figures in wrought metal, and the like – but for the most part, the Byzanto-Romanesque style of art and architecture had always been the Christian norm (with some lee-way for the Gothic style) up until the Counter-Reformation in Catholicism. And when it comes specifically to icons, this is even more true than it is of architecture; one need only look to Western iconography from before 1700, to see that the exact themes, even down to the positioning of persons and buildings and objects, etc., was often exactly as it was in Byzantine iconography, even when one is looking at the Anglo-Saxon “Caligula Troper,” and its illuminations of the Ascension and the Dormition of the Virgin, among others.

    P.P.S. – Sorry for the long post; the topic is close to my heart, obviously!

  57. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Pachomius: I agree with you, that it would be far better to build a beautiful Catholic cathedral in California than to purchase the CC. However, if we are to exist in reality, and not on Planet Zenon in a parallel universe, let us face the truth. A new cathedral in California, built by Catholics, will vary from abominable, to hideous, to oh-my-goodness-what-is-this-weird-thing. The ACLU will build a beautiful Roman basilica before the Catholics in California will.

    That being the truth of the situation, I am much more comfortable with the CC than what would rise up from the present mentality of California Catholicism.

  58. Pachomius says:

    Fr Sotelo, I (stupidly) hadn’t picked up on this being in California. I now see what you mean with a horrifying clarity.

  59. MichaelJ says:

    I knew it was Bush’s fault! Thanks for eminding me.

    On a serious note, one of the justifications proposed for purchasing this building – “prevent the loss of this important Christian Ministry” – sets off warning bells. It stinks of syncretism, as if to say that the “Christian Ministry” carried on in the Chrystal Cathedral will be no different if it is purchased by the Catholic Church.

  60. APX says:

    Is there a Saint Crystal, by any chance? I’m just thinking of new names for the place.
    Not a person, no. Saint Crystal is a brand of premium vodka. Perhaps there’s a patron saint of transparent surface technicians it could be named after.

    I’m also curious as to what the rubrics for a Solemn Pontifical Hour of Power might entail.
    Hmm… y’know, given that the inside needs to be reworked anyway, they could just re-design it with the Tabernacle at the front and a high altar, along with altar rails and broadcast a TLM High Mass every Sunday. It’s already designed as a TV studio. Think of the exposure of the TLM! I can’t tell you how many Sundays I watched Hour of Power growing up simply because there was nothing else on TV.

    I’ll give it one kudos for having a chapel area for smaller weddings that has a smaller pipe organ in it. I hate that our new Cathedral the weddings will take place in the small side chapel that has no organ whatsoever.

  61. heway says:

    Wow! Terrific comments. Never saw inside of LA cathedral or CC. But did see Robert Schuller day after Pope JPII arrival in LA. He had to watch a tape of the proceedings because of other commitments, but with tears in his eyes, he described recognizing the Pope as the father of all Christians – I was impressed. As to the cost , etc – almighty God chose a stable for the birthplace of the Divine Savior……….

  62. Sacristymaiden says:

    My first thoughts looking at the picture: “Great heavenly day! Is that thing made of Legos?!”
    I guess it would have its good points though…

  63. KAS says:

    In Bryan TX a really large Baptist church with school wanted to build new outside the town, so their old building was purchased by a local Catholic Church and turned into their high school.

    The Big BAPTIST church made a huge chapel, and transformed into a very Catholic Space surprisingly well. The Crucifix is huge and central, flanked by statues of Mary and Joseph, the tabernacle is centered on it and sits at a level above the platform where the altar stands so that it has a place of prominence and honor. The altar is marble. The atrium is huge and so there is a large table for things liek bulletins, and as you pass on either side as you go in, there is an angel statue holding a bowl of holy water on either side.

    The place has many places for art, and so bit by bit gorgeous Catholic art has been added to the area outside the sanctuary. Inside, in addition to the altar area, the pews have kneelers, there are stations of a cross, and some other lovely Catholic art.

    It is better than a lot of “modern” Catholic buildings, AND if the deanery wishes to do so, all the churches can come together for a joint mass and have room!

    I think that if the Crystal Cathedral is going to sell anyway, turning it into a really gorgeous Catholic Church would be quite do-able.

  64. The Cobbler says:

    Strangely, while I’m sure the “crystal” is technically problematic, the shape is a lot more Cathedral-looking than nine out of ten modern style church buildings. Heck, the mere fact that it _has_ a shape is more Cathedral-looking than half of them. So, not exactly preferable, but possible a step up nonetheless, you know?

  65. The Cobbler says:

    That said, I’d much rather go back and build churches that look like churches out of good old stone again. I pass a stone (at least, it looks like stone from the outside) Greek Orthodox church on my bus a couple times a week. It’s the only church I pass that looks like one, but I try to recognise the Catholic ones even though it’s harder (they’re all across the street from Protestant worship halls that don’t look notably different), just because I’d feel schismatic bowing to Christ in the Orthodox-equivalent-of-a-Tabernacle where He’s with the Orthodox and overlooking him in the four or so Catholic churches I pass. (Obviously, I’d feel plain old doofy passing by Christ in what’s obviously a church, however schismatic its denizens, and not trying to make a little sign of reverence.)

    But as others have pointed out, this is early 21st century planet Earth… stone churches that look like churches aren’t likely to happen again quite yet, at least not on the West Coast. ‘Tis a pity.

  66. JKnott says:

    This may be a stretch, but St. Teresa of Avila in her “Interior Castle” famously compares the soul to a castle made entirely out of a diamond or of very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms, just as in heaven there are many dwelling places.
    And everyone knows many places in Rome where churches have been built over pagan sturctures to celebrate Christ’s victory.
    In aay case, So Cal University is in the recent news for thinking of purchasing it for $46 million.
    I doubt the Church can afford that.

  67. acroat says:

    Bishop Brown will turn 75 later this year so God willing he will be retired soon and a Catholic Cathedral will be built!

  68. Daniel Latinus says:

    I’m also curious as to what the rubrics for a Solemn Pontifical Hour of Power might entail.

    Perhaps an indult can be obtained to make “Haec Dies quam fecit Dominus: exsultemus et laetemur in ea,” the proper introit for every Sunday Mass celebrated in the Crystal Cathedral…

  69. Leonius says:

    It is not right to use Catholic funds to aid non-catholic religious communities first of all.

    Secondly the members aren’t just going to give up their home because Catholics take over, there will almost certainly be some confrontation from people who are attached to the current community.

    Thirdly the inside seems to be constructed more like an arena with a stage and tiered seating and I do not see how that can be adapted to look more like a Catholic Cathedral in the true sense without a major investment in renovation that will total millions of dollars, which leads to to question the idea that there will really be substantial savings to be made.

    Fourthly 70’s architecture is already dreadfully out of date and will never achieve classic status as such modern styles have since been much more perfected.

    Fifthly building what is essentially a giant greenhouse in California for people to spend hours in was a ridiculous idea, the cost of keeping the building a tolerable temperature will be substantial.

    As a Bishop he should consider that he is a steward of the diocese for the benefit our childrens childrens.

    Any parish priest will confirm that paying for maintenance and utilities consumes a substantial part of a parishes budget. As such it would be far better to build a new cathedral with all the benefit of modern building techniques and technologies to keep maintenance and utility bills to a minimum.

    The savings that can be made over the years as energy costs continue to rise higher and higher, if this is done right, can be significant. And the extra benefits upon the community from having that extra surplus of funds each year will be off far greater benefit than any initial one off saving that could be had from buying this building which is only really good for growing tomatoes.

  70. Leonius says:

    $4,946,760.00 for 2007 just to pay upkeep on this greenhouse by the way.

  71. michelelyl says:

    I know Bishop Brown personally and he is a humble, holy and faithful Catholic bishop. He has protected children, encouraged vocations, been a transparent administrator and always taught the truth of the Catholic Church to all people of all faiths in the Diocese of Orange.
    Crystal Cathedral is a beautiful testament to the glory of God and would be a fitting CATHEDRAL for the Glory of God in the Diocese of Orange.
    I applaud this decision.

  72. Maltese says:

    If approved, this will be the most hideous Catholic “cathedral” in the world!

  73. Maltese says:

    “Arguably the greatest Catholic contribution to art, and the one that has undoubtedly and permanently influnced the european landscape, is the medieval cathedral. One art historian recently wrote, ‘The medieval cathedrals of Europe…are the greatest accomplishments of humanity in the whole theatre of art.”…These buildings, monumental in size and scope, are characterized by certain distinguished features, including the flying buttress, the pointed arch, and the ribbed vault. Their combined effect, including the much-admired stained glass of the Gothic tradition, is an extraordinary testament to the supernatural faith of a civilization.” Thomas E. Woods Jr., How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization

    Comparing the “Crystal Cathedral” to one of these monumental beauties is like comparing Cracker Jacks to caviar!

    The Cathedral sometimes took generations to built, with son replacing father in its building. The crystal cathedral is an abomination, and shouldn’t even be called a work or art, but, rather, a modernistic, improvised, meeting place–a concert hall, at best.

    When did the Catholic Church lose it’s artistic inspiration? With a few exceptions Catholic art, after Vatican II, frankly, sucks!

  74. Tantum Ergo says:

    A cathedral is the place of the bishop’s cathedra, right?
    People who worship in glass houses shouldn’t stow thrones.

  75. catholicmidwest says:

    Are you referring to Bishop Tod Brown? Really? ;)

  76. michelelyl says:

    Catholicmidwest-Yes. really. I worked in the Diocese of Orange as a Youth Minster from 1996 through 2005. I’ve maintained my contacts in that Diocese since I moved to the Diocese of Baker in Oregon. Why? Have you worked for or with Bishop Brown? Do you know him personally?
    I also worked closely with Bishop Jaime Soto in Orange, and he is now the Bishop of Sacramento. We were classmates from Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana CA. I have also worked with Bishop Robert Vasa, formerly of the Diocese of Baker and now the new Bishop of Santa Rosa. All of these Bishops are blessings to the Church; holy and devout men dedicated to the authentic teaching of Holy Mother Church. What part do you disagree with? That a prince of the Church who teaches the truth of the Catholic faith is not faithful? And if so, please point out his error.
    Bishop Brown is a wonderful Bishop. I’d love to know what part of holy, humble and faithful is incorrect.

Comments are closed.