Last week, a bankruptcy judge approved the sale of Garden Grove's Crystal Cathedral campus (which currently houses an evangelical church of the same name) to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange. The glassy Crystal Cathedral building was designed by world-class modern architect Philip Johnson and is one of SoCal's more notable pieces of architecture. And the Vatican apparently hates it. California Catholic Daily reports that "A photo of the Orange diocese’s newly acquired Crystal Cathedral was used by an Italian daily to illustrate a Nov. 21 story about the creation of a new Vatican commission that will 'crack down' on architectural abuses" (and promote singing). The paper, La Stampa, and its Vatican Insider project are said to have strong sources inside the Vatican. Here's what La Stampa had to say:
A team has been set up, to put a stop to garage style churches, boldly shaped structures that risk denaturing modern places for Catholic worship. Its task is also to promote singing that really helps the celebration of mass. The "Liturgical art and sacred music commission" will be established by the Congregation for Divine Worship over the coming weeks. This will not be just any office, but a true and proper team, whose task will be to collaborate with the commissions in charge of evaluating construction projects for churches of various dioceses. The team will also be responsible for the further study of music and singing that accompany the celebration of mass.
Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Benedict XVI, consider this work as "very urgent". The reality is staring everyone in the eyes: in recent decades, churches have been substituted by buildings that resemble multi purpose halls. Too often, architects, even the more famous ones, do not use the Catholic liturgy as a starting point and thus end up producing avant-garde constructions that look like anything but a church. These buildings composed of cement cubes, glass boxes, crazy shapes and confused spaces, remind people of anything but the mystery and sacredness of a church. Tabernacles are semi hidden, leading faithful on a real treasure hunt and sacred images are almost inexistent. The new commission's regulations will be written up over the next few days and will give precise instructions to dioceses. It will only be responsible for liturgical art, not for sacred art in general; and this also goes for liturgical music and singing too. The judicial powers of the Congregation for Divine Worship will have the power to act. The Diocese or Orange has said it will hire "a renowned architect" to ready the Crystal Cathedral's interiors for Catholic worship, but it might take something more like an act of god to rid that building of its glass boxiness.
· "Cement cubes, glass boxes, crazy shapes" [California Catholic Daily]
· New Vatican commission cracks down on church architecture [La Stampa]
· Roman Catholic Diocese Buying Evangelical Crystal Cathedral [Curbed LA]