Diocese still bidding for Crystal Cathedral

Evidently, the deal announced a couple weeks back isn’t a done deal.


The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange has once again increased its offer to buy the Crystal Cathedral — by $1.8 million to $55.4 million.

Alan Martin, an attorney representing the diocese, made the announcement about the cash offer Wednesday in a bankruptcy court hearing that focused on issues that may arise during Monday’s confirmation hearing. The diocese also promised to honor the legacy of Crystal Cathedral founder Robert H. Schuller, maintain a space in the tower for inter-faith worship and preserve the integrity of the Memorial Gardens.

At Monday’s hearing, Judge Robert Kwan is expected to approve one of two proposals to buy the financially ailing cathedral – one by the diocese and a $51.5 million offer by ChapmanUniversity. The main difference between the two proposals is that Chapman is offering a 15-year leaseback plan so the ministry can continue as well as a buyback option so the ministry can purchase core buildings including the iconic glass sanctuary.

Last month, the cathedral’s board pickedChapman as the preferred buyer to purchase the property.

The diocese is offering the option for the ministry to continue operating in the core buildings for a few years and then move to where St. Callistus Catholic Church is currently located – down the street at 12921 S. Lewis St.

Martin told the judge that officials at the diocese have been in discussion with the Schuller family over the last few days to find out more about their needs. Maria Rullo Schinderle, general counsel for the diocese, said if the sale goes through, the diocese will take every step to ensure that the legacy of the Crystal Cathedral is preserved.

The diocese had promised that there will be a library in the Visitor Center dedicated to founder Robert H. Schuller and his wife, Arvella, who began their ministry more than 55 years ago atop the roof of a snack shack in the Orange drive-in theater. The diocese has also promised that a chapel on the top floor of the Tower of Hope will remain untouched as an inter-faith place of worship.

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  1. How energy efficient is it? I like churches of different designs, traditional or modern, but this one might be too much for my taste.

  2. deacon john m. bresnahan says:

    In our city an empty Catholic church was put out for bid. A fundamentalist Protestant group met the bid, but was turned down. It went to court and the archdiocese had to sell the building to the group under anti-discrimination laws. This could become similar.

  3. That’s interesting Dcn., do you have a link or cite for that? Thx, edp.

  4. deacon john m. bresnahan says:

    Sorry-no link. I only know the story because it happened in our city and local Catholics discussed it a lot and the local newspaper had a story or two about it.(Also, it was a few years ago now).

  5. Ok, thx. edp.

  6. I don’t quite understand WHY they would want to do this, esp. to leave an interfaith chapel in a future Catholic Church. Is that allowed? I can understand the naming the library for him, from a historical perspective. But why? Is it really worth it?

  7. Deacon Steve says:

    They can buy a ready made property for $55 million and have all the meeting spaces that they need. Do some renovation in the Sanctuary to bring to our standards and they have a ready made Cathderal for the Diocese. It would cost probably 20x that to build one from scratch. It is a good deal and a good way to get the faithful in Orange County a Cathedral.

  8. This is the Diocese of Orange we’re talking about, where Bishop Brown is well known for, um, idiosyncratic sympathies. Due to submit his resignation (for reasons of age) in less than one week, the man is evidently determined to leave his diocese with a very expensive and unsuitable monument to a career of willful contrariness and hostility to tradition.

  9. It would cost probably 20x that to build one from scratch.

    Hardly. Magnificent structures in traditional designs are going up all over the country, for much less than the staggering sum +Brown is prepared to commit to. It is not hard to find many boutique firms now making national reputations for themselves in traditional sacred architecture. It is simply a question of what’s wanted. In Orange, traditional architecture is not wanted — at least, not by the about-to-be-lame-duck bishop.

  10. Why? Why buy this thing at all. 55 million. wow

  11. They say in the real estate business that the three most important things are “location, location, and location”. The location of this building must be desirable. It doesn’t look like Chartres cathedral, but from the pictures I’ve seen of the outside and interior, it has the vertical dimension and characteristics of sacred space. Add the Catholic touches, and it could be a heavenly looking church. Good thing it’s not here in “hail alley”, though.
    A pretty basic local church was recently built for $11 million-plus. That doesn’t even include stained glass; the idea was for people to give windows for memorials. It’s hard to see how they would get by for any less than $55 million out there by starting from scratch.

  12. The bishop is constrained by Canon Law to have a board of consultors to decide on major purchases. It would be unthinkable that any bishop, maverick or not, would get this far without running into a headwind of opposition to make this proposal if it were not prudent, practical and affordable.
    The ecomenical and or interfaith chapel would be endorsed by HH Benedict XV1 and his predecessor JP11 in their well-received pilgrimage to Assisi with representatives of the Christian Church and major world faiths
    I am presuming that th complete facts and background to this decision are not fully known, and if that is the case, comments about the bishop and his nearing retirement, attributing selfish reasons for this effort are unworthy. We recall that it was the economics of Judas’ complaint that expensive oil be “wasted” on Jesus was made by that apostle who favoured the poor instead.

  13. While not being a cathedral fan but loving real estate deals, I say 55 million is a lot better than Oakland and LA spending hundreds of millions on theirs..

  14. Deacon Eric Stoltz says:

    The proposed cathedral in Raleigh is of the sort of theme-park architecture you refer to as “traditional.” It is estimated to cost up to $90 million. Where is the savings?

  15. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    It’s worth noting that building the new cathedral in Los Angles was estimated to cost $150 million. By the time it was dedicated in 2002, the total price tag was $189 million. A decade later, you can guess what something like that would cost today.

    A more recent example is the co-cathedral in Galveston-Houston, which was dedicated in 2008. Estimated cost: $49 million.

    Another five or six million for an already-completed facility like the Crystal Cathedral might be considered a steal.

  16. Deacon Eric Stoltz says:

    Greg, You are spot on. To imagine that one could build anything, much less a cathedral, in Southern California for less than $50 million is a pipe dream. A light rail station costs more than that.

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