US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Do we really want to have Mass in the Crystal Cathedral?

By Scott Alessi | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

After making an initial bid last month of $50 million to buy the Crystal Cathedral, the Diocese of Orange, Calif. is apparently now getting into a bidding war with a local university over the ornate evangelical church, which recently filed for bankruptcy. The latest reports now say they've upped their bid to $53.6 million and that the battle might continue as a third potential (as yet unnamed) buyer enters the fray.

A spokesman for the Orange diocese told Reuters that the cathedral's high price tag is actually half of what it would cost for the diocese to build a new cathedral of its own, which was the original plan. Bishop Tod Brown has also expressed his respect for the work of the Crystal Cathedral's ministry and its pastor, the Rev. Robert Schuller, and according to his spokesman, Brown "feels very strongly that the Crystal Cathedral should remain a place of worship."

On paper, all of this sounds reasonable--that is, until you actually see the place. Call me old fashioned, but a massive mega-church with glass walls and a fountain running down the center aisle just doesn't feel Catholic enough to be a diocesan cathedral. In a church with such a rich history of beautiful, awe-inspiring architecture in its worship spaces, having the glass giant among its cathedrals would be akin to showing up at a classy black-tie affair wearing something out of Lady Gaga's wardrobe--it might draw some attention, but not the kind you really want.

That's not to say I have a problem with the cathedral itself, and it seems a perfect fit for the ministry it was built for. And of course I have no idea what the Orange diocese might do to transform the building into a home for its faithful. But even if it is the most economical option for the diocese, for my money such a gaudy structure just doesn't provide a reverent atmosphere for celebrating the Eucharist.

So for the sake of Orange's Catholics, hopefully someone else wins the bidding war.