???Religious Opulence???


Guest columnist Steve Dzida, Voice of the Faithful Orange County, California, is an attorney by profession and a reform minded Catholic by desire. Mr Dzida presents some interesting questions in his essay. What do you think about his questions? This is your chance to participate in an international educational forum. Welcome. DrNick
The Diocese of Orange has offered to purchase the Crystal Cathedral property for $50 million.  Secular press reports that the Diocese took this step because it would be a cheaper alternative to spending more than $100 million to build a new cathedral from scratch.  If you’re like us, the newspaper accounts of the Diocese’s offer were the first we heard about the details of Bishop Brown’s grand plan for this property.
 
Remember Bishop Brown’s “Covenant with the Faithful” unveiled with such public fanfare at the height of the clerical abuse scandal?  In that “Covenant” Bishop Brown and the other bishops of the Diocese of Orange promised (among other things):
 
“(4)    We will work collaboratively with all members of the Diocese to promote an atmosphere of openness and trust, and empower them as partners in parochial affairs and thereby create a new era for our Church in Orange County.
 
(5)     We will be open, honest and forthright in our public statements to the media, and consistent and transparent in our communications with the Catholics of our Diocese.
 
(6)     We will restore confidence in our role as Bishops.
 
(7)     We will lead the rededication of the Diocese of Orange as an Ambassador of God’s Love that cares about the welfare of the entire county, especially the disenfranchised and the poor.”
 
We are unaware of ANY efforts undertaken by Bishop Brown to include “all members of the Diocese” in any of the decisions relating to this MAJOR investment of the resources of the People of God in the Church of Orange.  We know only that Bishop Brown has consulted with a small group of potential major donors and Diocesan committee/council members.  If the bishop had invited YOU to “work collaboratively” with him in examining this project, you might have raised a few questions:
 
a)     Why do we need bigger cathedral in the first place?  If we need more room only on a very few occasions each year, don’t we have more pressing priorities for the Diocese, especially in these very difficult economic times?
 
b)    If we decide that we do in fact need a bigger cathedral, isn’t there a way for us to build such a building for WAY less than $100 million?
c)     Can we be sure that the Crystal Cathedral option would truly be cheaper, given that there will certainly be MAJOR renovations and alterations required to make the worship space suitable for Catholic liturgy?
 
d)    Many Catholics have over the years regarded the Crystal Cathedral as an example of “over the top” religious architecture.  Is that really what we want as Catholics for our worship space?  How much will it really cost to reshape the building to suit our very different liturgical needs?
e)     Does the Crystal Cathedral option involve selling off part of the property to private owners or developers?  Can we assure that uses of such property would be consistent with our plans for Church property?  Would the proceeds of any such sale be used solely for Cathedral purposes or would they be made available for the many other pressing needs in our Diocese?
f)      How does this project demonstrate that our Diocese “cares about the welfare of the entire county, especially the disenfranchised and the poor” when the only benefit these people would derive from a new cathedral would be the privilege to find “shelter” in the building during services held there?  Might the “disenfranchised and the poor” not prefer that we use these vast resources to feed, clothe, shelter and educate them instead?
Over the past two decades the Diocese of Orange has been closing Catholic schools and reducing Diocesan staff devoted directly to the service of the “disenfranchised and the poor.”  Parishes serving the “disenfranchised and the poor” regularly get by with ¼ or ½ the paid staff found in the more affluent parishes in our Diocese.  It is certainly not obvious that the pursuit of a new cathedral by any means  (let alone through the purchase of Robert Schuler’s monument) is consistent with Item 7 of the Covenant with the Faithful.  
 
But, even more importantly, it seems quite obvious to us that the process Bishop Brown has followed in pursuit of his cathedral is entirely INCONSISTENT with Items 4, 5 and 6 of the Covenant with the Faithful.  Virtually all of us have been LEFT OUT of the process.  There has been NO “communications with the Catholics of our Diocese” on this HUGE investment of our resources.  Such a closed process UNDERMINES “confidence in our…bishops.”  There is no evidence at all that such a program serves IN ANY MATERIAL WAY “the welfare of the entire county, especially the disenfranchised and the poor.”  All of which leads to the important question:   Has Bishop Brown revoked the Covenant with the Faithful?  And to the even MORE important question:  Are we willing to let him do so while we remain silent?
 
We are the Church.  We are the Body of Christ.  As with St. Francis and many others before us, God is calling us to rebuild God’s Church.  We must listen for the voice of the Spirit in our life as a community of faith.  We must find our own voices and make them one with the Spirit’s voice.  If we remain silent, we are complicit.
 
Whether we support the cathedral project or not, whether we support the Crystal Cathedral acquisition or not, it is critical that we make ourselves heard.  We encourage you to discuss this with others who love our Church as you do.  We urge you to forward this message to those you know who care what kind of Church we hand on to our grandchildren.  We implore you to write Bishop Brown to express your views on this important subject at:  Bishop Tod D. Brown, Bishop of Orange, P. O. Box 14195, Orange, CA 92863-1595.  Let’s make sure Bishop Brown knows that we care about “the welfare of the entire county.”
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One Response to ???Religious Opulence???

  1. Speaking-Up says:

    The present situation of the Roman Catholic Church is bleak with its shortage of vocations to the priesthood and religious orders, empty pews, dwindling attendance, angry parishioners, scandals, civil and criminal law-suits, financial woes, churches becoming museums or historic monuments, property being sold off to private owners or developers etc.

    The question is: Why does the Bishop want to purchase the Crystal Cathedral with its “over the top religious-architecture … a building of majesty and splendor with a need for major renovations and alterations to suit our liturgical needs?” Does he plan to make this a central location for catholic worship, while providing live-transmissions to neighboring houses of prayer? Does he plan to go online? Is he going to reduce administrative-costs by closing down local churches?

    Another question: Who will pay for the up-keep of this building? Will the members of the diocese support this purchase, given that their input was not asked for? Major donors are very important and so are the ‘rank and file’ who open their purses during services and for ‘second collections’. The Diocesan Committee/Council Members are important and so are ALL the General Members, whose voices need to be heard.

    The following extracts from Steve Dzida’s article states: ‘There has been NO “communications with the Catholics of our Diocese” on this HUGE investment of our resources. Such a closed process UNDERMINES “confidence in our…bishops.”

    And again ‘We are unaware of ANY efforts undertaken by Bishop Brown to include “all members of the Diocese” in any of the decisions relating to this MAJOR investment of the resources of the People of God in the Church of Orange. We know only that Bishop Brown has consulted with a small group of potential major donors and Diocesan committee/council members.’ End of the two extracts.

    Perhaps the elegance of the place may fill the pews.

    Perhaps better sermons in modest surroundings is the answer.

    Perhaps the money could be better spent to feed, clothe, shelter and educate the “disenfranchised and the poor”.

    Perhaps there are other answers to this situation.

    However, the crucial issue is the lack of a parochial partnership between the Bishop and the parishioners. In this instance, the Bishop could have worked in collaboration with ALL members of the Diocese on this major purchase, as it involved ‘the people’s money’, whether it was being used for the initial purchase of the property or the maintenance of it.

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