Crystal Cathedral ponders $50M Catholic Diocese bid

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The Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, CA.

The Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove isn’t really crystal and isn’t really a cathedral – but it’s apparently an attractive piece of property.

Reverend Robert Schuller’s mega-church is up for auction – and its mega-space has prompted hefty bids.

Now the cathedral’s gone from Hour of Power to hour of need. The Protestant church’s board declared bankruptcy last fall. Since then, it’s entertained a number of offers…like one from Chapman University and from a large real estate developer. Most recently, the Diocese of Orange has put $50 million in cash on the table.

"The information I’ve received leads me to believe there is no offer bigger," says Alan Martin, the bankruptcy attorney representing the diocese.

He says if the Crystal Cathedral's board accepts the offer, Reverend Schuller’s church could lease back the space for a period of time. Also, the church’s creditors would be paid in full. The diocese would make changes to the Crystal Cathedral’s interior, but nothing too extreme.

"I suspect to a large extent if someone was to walk by or drive by the Crystal Cathedral, they would see little difference from that perspective," says Martin.

Some local Catholics worry the price tag is too high. Others are concerned that the cathedral’s glassy architecture is too flashy. But many argue a large gathering space is just what Orange County’s 1.2 million Catholics need.

"Right now, we can’t have a large central celebration," says Maria Rullo Schinderle, general counsel for the diocese. "Our high schools use the Bren Center for graduation. If we have ordination, we have to go to a parish. It would really be exactly what the diocese needs right now."

It may not what the Crystal Cathedral board wants, though. The Diocese expects to hear comments and concerns soon. If the board, the bankruptcy court and the Crystal Cathedral’s creditors accept the bid, the deal could be done by the end of the year.

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