Published: July 24, 2011 Updated: July 25, 2011 11:02 a.m.

Saint Schuller's would be sinful

By FRANK MICKADEIT / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER


The Crystal Cathedral, while neither crystal nor a cathedral, is a dazzling, glorious piece of work: 10,000 panes of glass piercing 128 feet heavenward, visible for miles around, one of O.C.'s few architectural icons. It is testimony to the vision of one amazing man, and is culturally significant as the region's first megachurch. No doubt many congregants have been inspired and led better lives because of their connection to it. It is an important symbol of religiosity in America.

And it is about as Catholic as a Koran.


Before the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange buys the Crystal Cathedral for $50 million, as it offered to on Friday, it should really step back and talk to the laity. Not just the high-rolling, fundraising laity that can get Bishop Tod Brown on the phone, but the average, put-$20-in-the-envelope-every-Sunday kind of Catholic who makes up the majority of the 1.2 million faithful in O.C.

Take this comment written by "Claire" under the online Catholic News Agency story about Brown's interest in buying the C.C. "The Crystal Cathedral is architecturally beautiful but so are the pyramids of Giza and Chichen Itza. I hope Bishop Brown considers the suitableness of Catholic worship in the building. Would his people be able to worship God with Catholic piety in the building ...?"

I'll put it another way: casting this bastion of bling as a center of Catholic culture is like casting Kim Kardashian as Mother Teresa.

But the inherent lack of a Catholic vibe in the structure is not the only big problem with the Crystal Cathedral. The other is that it will always be known as the place Robert Schuller built – and then lost into bankruptcy. St. Schuller's. Our Lady of Perpetual Debt.

The best argument for the pro-C.C. crowd is that $50 million is a bargain over spending $100 million on a planned new cathedral in Santa Ana. But that's like saying you saved $350 because you bought the Jimmy Choo's at Nordy's Rack for $400 rather than for $750 when they were in season. It's a false dichotomy.

If you really want to find out what the laity thinks, conduct a poll of O.C. Catholics by an independent pollster. Adam Probolsky tells me that solid, statistically valid survey would require polling between 300 and 500 Catholics in at least three languages and cost between $20,000 and $50,000.

But I doubt diocesan leaders want to really know. No, what we O.C. Catholics could really use in our hour of need is a Protestant megachurch leader to outbid us – a dynamo in his own right who wants to create, say, a Mariner's Inland or a Saddleback North. Rick Warren, save us from ourselves.


Note: This photo WAS NOT published with the Orange County Register article. Actually, the photo showed up in our mailbag today as well as did the link to the Register article.

Since the type in the photo is small, it says, “Good Bye Sheila God loves you and so do we.” The photo in the marquee is Archbishop Tod Brown. At the bottom of the marque replacing the chrome letters “Crystal Cathedral,” are the words, “Our Lady of Perpetual Debt.”

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