Crystal Cathedral Bidding War Won by Catholic Diocese

A $59 million hail Mary by Chapman University did not overcome the hail Marys of parishoners, clergy and a certain bishop as a bankruptcy judge decided Thursday afternoon that the Crystal Cathedral will be sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange for $57.5 million.

By siding with the Crystal Cathedral board, Judge Robert Kwan legitimized the Holy See's desire to convert the 40-acre Garden Grove property with the iconic glass and steel church structure into the Orange County cathedral long sought by local followers.

In the end, it was a letter from Crystal Cathedral's founder, the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, that may have sealed the deal. He wrote that he could not reconcile with the property some day being used for non-religious purposes by the university.

But that also spells a sooner end for services there by his Protestant congregation. Under the terms of the agreement with the Diocese, Schuller's ministry can lease back the church for three more years before having to move, possibly to the nearby St. Callistus Catholic Church. If the Chapman bid had been accepted, the Schuller church could have stayed for another 15 to 20 years.

That Schuller and his board chose to leave sooner rather than later frosts some Crystal Cathedral churchgoers,reports the Los Angeles Times.

Meanwhile, Bishop Tod D. Brown may have some furious followers at Christ Our Savior Cathedral Parish next to Segerstrom High School in Santa Ana. Church members, many of whom fled St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Costa Mesa over the Norbertine Fathers' mistreatment of a gay couple and their two children enrolled in the elementary school there, have been huddling in a trailer in anticipation of a promised cathedral on the Segerstrom Avenue site.

The Diocese has said it still plans to build a permanent church there but, after laying out nearly $60 million for Orange County's original mega-church property, one wonders when that will be and what kind of resources will be left for it.

Something to pray on.

The most upset of all seems to be Chapman University officials, who offered the highest bid on the eve of Kwan's decision only to be blindsided by Schuller's letter to the court. The university issued this statement last night:

Chapman University learned this evening that the Honorable Robert Kwan, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge, ruled in favor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County's offer to purchase the property and facilities of the Crystal Cathedral Ministries in Garden Grove, California.

Chapman University continues to believe that our good-faith offer would have benefited the community and the ministry. The Crystal Cathedral campus presented an interesting opportunity for the university. This ruling does not alter our plans to consider new academic programs in the health sciences, nor will it slow our exploration of other opportunities that would enhance our curricular offerings in serving our students and community.

While we are disappointed the court did not favor our bid, we wish only the very best to the Roman Catholic Diocese and to the Crystal Cathedral Ministries.

Chapman President Jim Doti reportedly told the Times that while he was disappointed to lose the bidding war, he believes the process was fair.


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