From “Crystal Cathedral” to “Christ Cathedral”

I think the name change is perfect – memorable, catchy, thoroughly Catholic, respectful of what went before. What do you think?



  1. Definitely, who can argue with Christ Cathedral, named after our Savior?
    Oh, I shouldn’t have asked that, I’m sure someone will.

    1. Well I suspect the Diocese sees some money in the Christ (Crystal) Cathedral as a tourist attraction. Why not make it as easy as possible for tourists to continue to locate the place? Why alienate any potential tourists who have memories of the TV show?

      Remember the Bishop has always maintained that this makes financial sense.

  2. “Christ Cathedral” is a kindly nod to the former congregation; I hope they’re happy not to have their history obliterated. But “thoroughly Catholic”? I believe that “Christ Church” is almost exclusively Anglican. In my experience American Latin Rite Catholics rarely name their churches after Jesus–with some exceptions, like “Christ the King” under the influence of Pius XI, or the Italian parish Holy Redeemer in St. Paul. Please don’t be scandalized, Kim Rodgers, but I endorse that prevailing custom: I don’t think churches should be given names that rob them of distinctiveness, as Jesus names tend to do. I envied churches that had patron saints while I was growing up in a Church of the Resurrection. Every parish is that! Same with a Church of the Holy Spirit near me now; every Christian church is a church of the Holy Spirit.
    True, the mother churches of both the East (Holy Wisdom) and the West (the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior) are officially named after Jesus. But just try to get a cabbie in Rome to take you to “la Arcibasilica del Santissimo Salvatore.” Gloss that with “San Giovanni in Laterano,” however, and you’re on your way, right?
    Jackie Gleason used to tell the story of a priest of the Church of England, in New York on church business, who got into a cab and asked the driver to take him to Christ Church. The driver, who was Irish, headed uptown on Fifth Avenue past Fiftieth Street and pulled to the curb in front of an imposing Gothic edifice. “I beg your pardon,” said his puzzled passenger. “This is St. Patrick’s Cathedral. This isn’t Christ Church.” “Don’t you worry, sir,” replied the cabbie. “If he’s in town, this is where he’ll be.”

    1. The cathedral in San Salvador, El Salvador, is named after Jesus as “the divine Savior of the world.” The nation celebrates its patronal feast on August 6, the Transfiguration. From a cursory internet search it looks like they refer to it as the “metropolitan cathedral.”

    2. Paul stated on June 11, 9:10: “Please don’t be scandalized, Kim Rodgers”
      I’m not, but I think your nitpicking.

      Using a cabbie in Rome to determine what to name a church is not a strong argument for many reasons especially when they stiff you with the cab fee knowing you’re an American tourist. Not very Christian of them.

    3. I believe that “Christ Church” is almost exclusively Anglican.
      It isn’t an uncommon title for Lutheran and Methodist churches.

    4. St, Mary Church in New Haven, CT, the birthplace of the Knights of Columbus was originally called “Christ Church” until a mid 19th century fire destroyed it. The rebuilt church was then renamed “St. Mary” because by that point the near-by Christ Church (Episcopal/Anglo-Catholic) church had been formed.

    1. Since Christ Cathedral will be taking it’s place amidst other notable attractions in the area, Knotts Berry Farm and Disneyland, it’s only fitting bishop Todd Brown should develop an appropriate liturgy for these august precincts. By maintaining the spirit of Dr. Schuller, he could, on occasion, make a grand entrance in the tradition of Schuller’s late friend, archbishop Fulton Sheen.

      In keeping with the spirit of Hollywood past, bishop Brown might wish to take a few ideas from Douglas Fairbanks Sr. famous silent film, “The Thief of Baghdad”, and come flying through the girders and rays of light pouring through the vast expanse of glass aboard his flying carpet. Bedecked in purple tights wearing a five foot golden miter. Instead of
      “Ecce Sacerdos Magnus”, perhaps a rousing chorus of “On Eagle’s Wings”?

  3. Those who were challenged by a name that sounds “Anglican” could remember where Anglican names come from in the first place.

  4. Is it not so that “Christ Church” was originally at least in Great Britain and Ireland a way of speaking of a church that was officially titled as “Holy Trinity”?

  5. I’m curious about the reasons why the original congregation was unable to sustain this flagship church. Is the purchase of this church by the RC diocese evidence of a growing diocese compared to a mainline denomination in demographic decline? What is happening within the Reformed Church that might contribute to decline? Giving the regular mention of Catholic conservatism on certain issues on this blog, where is the RCA’s teaching on contraception, traditional marriage, or women in ministry different than Rome’s? Does their progressivism on some of these issues amid demographic decline have anything to suggest to Catholics?

    1. Ultimately, it appears that Crystal Cathedral Ministries no longer could support the building as a result of massive debt and financial mismanagement.

      Additionally, as I far as I understand, the Crystal Cathedral, although it had official ties to the Reformed Church in America (RCA), kind of did their own thing, especially considering that they broadcast the “Hour of Power” television program. This probably made the tone of their ministry more in line with conservative evangelicalism, although arguably the RCA is one of the more conservative mainline churches. The RCA is, on the one hand, in full communion with the more liberal Presbyterian Church (USA), Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, United Church of Christ and, on the other hand, RCA churches can freely exchange ministers with the more conservative Christian Reformed Church. So I don’t think that it can be a poster-child for a critique of how progressive churches are declining.

      Still, as an ecumenically minded Roman Catholic, I don’t think it’s a good line of argumentation to judge the truth of a church’s faith and morals based on numbers. This is because this argument may come back to bite the Roman Catholic Church in the West, at least! The fact of the matter is that most mainline Protestant churches—conservative and progressive alike—are in decline.

      To get back to the point at hand, I think that Christ Cathedral is a fine name. Don’t overthink it, I say!

    2. The decline of Crystal Cathedral Ministries, which produced The Hour of Power was tightly bound to Robert H Schuller and his family. Since The Hour of Power was the source of the money that kept the CC afloat, turmoil within the family led to the bankruptcy and sale. I doubt that broader movements in the Reformed Church had much to do with it.

      Orange County is expanding, fueled by immigration, so this was an excellent opportunity for them. (I thought the most interesting fact in the 2008 ARIS data was that 37% of California identifies themselves as Catholics, compared to 29% in 1990. This dadta set is the basis for our recent discussion of Gen-X.)

  6. ” I don’t think churches should be given names that rob them of distinctiveness, as Jesus names tend to do. ”

    With all due respect-both to the saints chosen for ecclesiastical appellation and to Paul-I would throw another name into this discussion about distinctiveness-Mary!

    But you may add my Episcopal chuckle to the St. Patrick’s story. And I agree with Anthony’s clear and cogent assessment.

  7. I like the new name too and think it is perfect for the building. I saw it this past January and was impressed with the outside, although the inside is busy and distracting and looks like one is under scaffolding. It will be interesting to see how this space will be made into a space for Mass and the other sacraments. I suspect there are ways to reduce the “scaffolding look” with architectural designs. What is most impressive though is the actual property it sits on, the sculptures that surround the grounds, its garden-like appeal, its cemetery (where I suspect a few who are buried there are turning in their graves along with their living relatives who purchased plots there). There are also very nice ancillary buildings that will be put to good use.
    I think the whole thing is rather exciting and ironic on many levels but I understand the elder Dr. Schuller endorses the transition.

    1. I can understand why the elder Dr. Schuller (a very conventional Dutch Reformed minister) would endorse this transition. He had great admiration for archbishop Fulton Sheen, and had him as a guest preacher there. They remained good friends until Sheen’s death.

  8. IIRC, the tragically troubled music minister at Crystal Cathedral committed suicide on the premises…I can’t recall ever reading whether extraordinary prayers or rituals were or should be undertaken under such circumstances when a space is dedicated. Anyone?

    1. There is a rite for the reconcilliation of a desecrated church (info here), but in this case, as it is not technically a Catholic church yet, the requisite ritual would be the blessing/consecration of the church that takes place when the Catholic community takes posession.

    2. I have no idea about liturgical responses, but there have been at least two suicides in the CC. The music director killed himself after an extended standoff in 2004, and a homeless man in 2009 walked to the foot of the cross and shot himself.
      Perhaps the memory of these two may help the CC focus on the homeless and those with mental illness. These often get lost in suburban communities like Orange County. (though it is a very urban suburbia)

  9. I like Christ Cathedral because it DOES have a slight Anglican ring to it. And I say this as an Anglican Use Catholic of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter.

    Too, I disagree strongly with those who find churches under the patronage of someone other than our Lord, his Mother, or some aspect of the Holy Trinity more satisfying than churches that are. Against what is there possibly to object? Could one aspire to an any more treasured patron and namesake? (This is not meant to slight the saints, who DO get their just [if not more than their just] due.)

    Also, for whoever suggested it above: Christ church is a mediaeval English shortening of Christ the King, not of the Trinity.

    And, while we are on the subject: churches named after saints are not just ‘named after’ them, but are under their patronage and should be properly called St Helen’s Catholic Church, not St Helen Catholic Church as has become too common in recent years. This is something that Anglicans get right… even Methodists and Presbyterians. Only Catholics have adopted this rather dumb and clueless style. Being under the patonage of St Jerome a church is St Jerome’s church. Another aspect of our culture which is kept alive mostly in Anglican churches is the annual patronal festival on the patron’s feast day, which should be a day of great celebration, marked by a joyful parish dinner after a special mass celebrated with all possible solemnities.

    1. Your points are interesting especially about the apostrophe and the removal of such from the names of Catholic Churches with Saints’ names, although I do know of some Episcopal Churches which have done the same thing (as have we at St. Joseph Church!) But I would like to know more about this trend and should we go back to the older usage. Your point is well taken about being under the patronage…

      Also I believe an Anglican Ordinariate parish in Maryland recently came “over” as it were and maintained its name of “Calvary Church” which I believe is an extremely unusual name in Catholic circles.

      1. Apostrophes:
        I don’t disagree with Jackson’s point. But I think lots of it is just how it sounds coming of your mouth.
        I prefer St. James Catholic Church to St. James’s Catholic Church.
        I prefer St. Matthew’s Catholic Chuch to St. Matthew Catholic Church.

    2. I am surprised that Christ the King is a mediaeval title given explicitly and then so shortened in church ‘titles’ as Christ Church. Certainly rood crucifixes, mostly from before the year 1100AD, show Jesus reigning on the Cross with a King’s crown on his head. But I do not think the ‘title’ itself had much currency before the time of Pope Pius XI when he established the feast. It was also a ‘battle cry’ in Mexico at about the same time. There is also the “Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat!” which is much older.

      1. PS –
        Your observation about the roods with a crowned Jesus in high priestly garb is astute. This portrayal, called Christus Rex, was almost universal until quite late in the mediaeval era when it was gradually replaced by the now-familiar crucifix. I have always had a particular attachment to the Christus Rex, which remains not-uncommon in Anglicanism and rarely encountered in the Catholic Church of modern times.

  10. It’s not the first.
    After undergraduate studies (at St. John’s), I worshipped at Christ Church in St. Cloud, MN. It is the Catholic Newman Center at St. Cloud State University, a nod to Cardinal Newman’s Christ Church at Oxford. (It still sounds odd to say “Blessed Henry Newman.”)
    I’m sure there are others.

    And to the topic of parishes dedicated to saints, or Jesus or ideas or even Old Testament Patriarchs, and which is best patron for a church: I think that just speaks to the beauty of catholicity of the Catholic Church!
    (My only “beef” tends to be the “Our Lady of the _____” where the blank is “mountain” or “rock” or “lake,” I get “Star of the Sea” or other ancient Marian titles. When does Our Lady of the Runestone in Kensington, MN celebrate its parish feast day!)

  11. As an addendum to what I wrote above:
    In the matter of patronal feasts, I believe that a parish’s patronal feast day does have the rank of Solemnity. I stand to be corrected on this.

    I do know that, at our Lady of Walsingham, in Houston, our patronal feast day (the Annunciation) was given the rank of Solemnity for us at our founding.

    And, Fr Allan, your observation about Calvary Church in Maryland is true. Though extremely rare, there are Episcopal churches whose titles are rather at odds with Catholic custom. To wit: in Houston there is Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church across Main Street from Rice University. Very high liturgy… very liberal otherwise. It was built in the 20’s by a wealthy lady whose brother drowned in the act of saving someone else. It is, architecturally, a copy of a church in Venice, complete with sanctuary and altar about six or eight steps above the nave because it is thus in the Venetian church to accomodate a canal that runs beneath!

    1. Local patronal feasts are ranked as solemnities, although they would be “trumped” by (e.g.) days of Holy Week, the Octave of Easter, and the like. As solemnities go, local patronal celebrations are the lowest, but they are given precedence over Sundays in OT (although not the Feasts of the Lord in Ordinary Time).

  12. I went to a Catholic high school named “Elk County Christian High School.” That name was fine for decades but recently it was changed to “Elk County Catholic High School.” This school is not located in an urban area so there was no concern that this school would be mistaken for a Protestant school. It just seems that in the current atmosphere it is more important that a school be Catholic than “merely” Christian. Perhaps it should be called the “Catholic Cathedral” so there is no doubt of who controls it.

    1. For a Catholic school named Elk County, yes I believe is *is* desirable to specify it is Catholic. So many free standing evangelical Bible churches and their schools (for example) have suburban type names: Elk Grove Baptist Church, Sandy Ridge Christian School, etc. Even if the locale does not present any issue to locals, those at a distance would not have a clue. The Catholic schools named for geography rather than patrons around here all specify Catholic in their name.

  13. I have some practical questions about turning Crystal Cathedral into Christ Cathedral. Christ Cathedral doesn’t strike me as a good starting point for a Catholic cathedral. Then again, the architectural style isn’t that far away from the new cathedrals in LA, Oakland, and Saskatoon. Even so, a good amount of renovation might be needed to install the necessities of a Catholic cathedral (sanctuary, altar, ambo/pulpit, baptistery, pews). Unlike the previous cases mentioned, Christ Cathedral was not designed ground-up to be a Catholic cathedral.

    From my memories of watching Hour of Power as a kid and seeing recent interior shots of Crystal Cathedral, I suspect that the “cathedral” was not designed to be a functional church in either the Catholic or Reformed traditions, but rather a massive TV stage for Rev. Schuller’s worship service and sermon. It’s was clear to me earlier and now that the the pew chairs, dais, musical instruments etc., are all positioned for maximum camera angle advantage. It’s not surprising, then, that a large raised walkway divides the pews from the central dais, as the TV show required quick transport of Rev. Schuller, his worship team, and guests to and from the main dais. As the cathedral stands, there are no aisles which would allow the faithful to receive the eucharist or even move about the nave/worship space easily.

    It a renovation of Christ Cathedral for Catholic use a sound financial move? Is the current Orange County Calif. cathedral not large enough for current diocesan liturgies? Or, is this a prestige project designed to resignificate an area landmark? This project might prove more costly and challenging than initially anticipated.

    1. The current cathedral in Orange is the tiniest space. I believe when the diocese was established, it was only parish in the not-so-big town of Orange. (Did you even know there was a town named Orange in Orange County?) Holy Family Cathedral is almost never used for diocesan events. There are many large suburban parishes in this all-suburban diocese who host all of these events. Holy Family Cathedral in Orange is basically the cathedral in name only.

      They have been planning a new cathedral for a while (California’s “Cathedra Envy”) There actually was a different parish established about 3 years ago that was supposed to be the new cathedral parish. I wonder what’s going to become of that parish.

      PS. Why does a new Catholic Cathedral need pews?

      1. re: Chuck Middendorf on June 13, 2012 – 10:58 am

        Certainly, no church needs pews. Pews are a relatively modern invention often installed as a revenue generator (e.g. pew rents). I don’t have any problem with movable and re-arrangeable chairs. Regardless of seating design used, the Christ Cathedral assembly will need greater freedom of movement than is allowed by Rev. Schuller’s floor plan.

      2. “Pews” covers seats, too, which have the ability to accommodate kneeling as is required during the Catholic liturgy. Sure, people can kneel on the hard floor, if given enough room but it’s surely not hospitable for a variety of rather obvious reasons. We’re not the Orthodox (if we were, we’d be doing prostrations during liturgies at various points).

      3. There are many large suburban parishes in this all-suburban diocese who host all of these events. Holy Family Cathedral in Orange is basically the cathedral in name only.
        This is true for a lot of dioceses. Ever visit Sacred Heart
        Cathedral in Raleigh North Carolina. I think it still holds the honor of being the nation’s smallest. I’ve been in larger eucharistic chapels than Sacred Heart. Fortunately, the Diocese of Raleigh is in the throes of building a pretty good size cathedral to replace it.

  14. JZ –
    ‘…designed to “resignificate” an area landmark?’
    I do believe that you have coined a neo-logism!
    And, it is either magisterial or clumsy.
    I can’t decide which.

    And CM –
    Your point about how the apostrophied title rolls off the tongue is well taken. I think, though, that equally at work here is linguistic habit as well as the English usage that one was taught. Many of us, for example, would never write St Charles’s, nor say St Charlez,z: we would write and say St Charles’. I have noticed, however, that many of us do the opposite. So, I suspect that you are correct in that speech habits and perceived euphony are influential in this matter. It is still a great pity that the reasoning and thought (and theology?) behind the humble apostrophy gets lost, and a significant part of our culture along with it.

    1. re: M. Jackson Osborn on June 12, 2012 – 10:07 pm

      “to resignificate”, as a verbal form of the abstract noun “resignification”, is merely an example of bad and lazy pseudointellectual English. I am guilty as charged. “to resignify” is a better choice, but not by much. The best choice is to simply explain. Neologism is an important part of language formation, but only when the term coined clearly follows from previous ideas and vocabulary.

      It will be difficult to make the once-“Crystal”, now “Christ Cathedral” Catholic. I can’t see how the bishop could simply install his cathedra and begin liturgical services soon. Much renovation, and perhaps even reconstruction, might be necessary to create a place where Catholic liturgy can take place.

      1. Hollywood is close by. You’d think the bishop would want to consult some of the clever movie set designers and leading interior designers who operate in LA. There are ways to make the interior welcoming and an inspiring house of worship without turning it into a set for “Ben Hur”.

        My fear is that a building of this nature will discourage innovation and boldness in coming up with an inviting, memorable interior. Another post modernist serious of statements with blocks and cubes should be studiously avoided. Been there, done that etc.

  15. JZ –
    You have laid bare some serious problems attendant on making this building in to a truly Catholic sacred space. One thing, though, we needn’t worry about, namely, that it contains a fine and worthy organ. If the interior can be successfully ‘Catholicised’ it will, indeed be worthy of being called Christ Cathedral…..
    maybe even (tee-hee) Christ Church Cathedral!

  16. I think that there is much to be admired here.

    1. The name, to me, seems to embrace ‘inculturation’ in the sense that is an expression of northern European Christianity in general, and English-speaking Christendom in particular, whose roots lie in England and the English influence in early America. (on the other hand, it ignores the Spanish missions.)

    2. No matter how grand the cathedra, it will be dwarfed by the building, which is common in medieval Europe–the medievals had that right–the building, pointing to God is much more important than the men leading worship from their chairs, unfortunately lost in smaller American cathedrals and parish churches since VII, which elevates them beyond their function, especially when they face the people directly.

    3. What will they do with the priestly celebrants’ chair? Will they make it a grand throne, as so often has happened in the re-ordered churches after VII? (The pre-VII churches had the advantage of having the priest’s chair, the sedilia, off to the unobtrusive side, instead of the new clericalism and grandiosity of the post-VII church, which often puts the priest’s chair on a par with the altar.)

    4. Even in the Pope’s cathedral, with the cathedra at the top of the apse, has the advantage of the Ciborum Magnum (sp?) which dwarfs his throne, blocking his view from the people, leaving the focus on the altar. The laymen can’t even see the Pope at certain points: how refreshing! It will be interesting to see how Bishop Brown makes this place worthy of Catholic worship. Will his cathedra be the focus or will the Altar of Sacrifice? And let’s hope that the ‘presidents’ chair’ is off to the side, downplaying the Oprah and Phil Donanhue aspects of the Novus Ordo as practiced.

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