I keep thinking we’re done with this story for a season, but it keeps exploding out in a variety of different dimensions, and we haven’t even begun to consider the importance of churches exercising fiscal responsibility. That’s the lesson that must not be missed here.
However, in reviewing the various online sources on the story, I came across Southfield, Michigan’s Kathy Schiffer, who reminded me that I need to consider that the Catholic perspective on the story might be refreshingly different. In an article boldly titled, Crystal Cathedral: Was The Holy Spirit The Highest Bidder? she offers this insight about 3/4ths of the way in; but you really need to read the whole article.
The Schuller family’s friendly relationship with the Catholic Church
Robert H. Schuller spoke often about how he was influenced by the great Gothic cathedrals of Europe. Unable to find a similar worship space in Orange County, California, he set out to build one—and he enlisted the help of modernist architect Philip Johnson to reinterpret the strong vertical elements of Catholic cathedrals utilizing modern materials such as glass.
Schuller was always respectful of the Catholic Church, saying that the Roman Catholic Church is “the mother church.” He professed, “You are the church that has been here since the Resurrection, and you will be here 100 years from now.”
On several occasions, Schuller invited Bishop Fulton J. Sheen to speak at his church. A bronze statue of Bishop Sheen stands at the Crystal Cathedral, commemorating his visit and serving as a reminder of Schuller’s friendly respect. Roman Catholic theologian Henry Nouwen also preached from their pulpit.
There is a story of how Bishop Sheen, after speaking at the Crystal Cathedral, was being led through a roped-off passageway by Robert Schuller, as devoted fans reached out to touch him. As he passed this area heading toward the car, one elderly woman handed him a note, which he tucked into his pocket. Once inside the car, the bishop opened and read the note and asked Schuller, “Do you know where this trailer park is?” Schuller did know; and he agreed to take Bishop Sheen to the trailer park, just a few miles away, before they ate lunch. Once there, Bishop Sheen knocked at the door of one trailer, where the elderly woman received him with a shocked expression. After a few minutes he came out again, returned to the car, and said, “Now she’s ready for living—in this life and the next.” I suppose he had heard the woman’s confession.
After Robert H. Schuller’s 1,000th broadcast of the “Hour of Power,” leaders from many faiths stepped up to congratulate him. One of the congratulatory messages was from Mother Teresa.
…Schuller himself gave his blessing to the sale. “I could not abide the thought,” the 85-year-old minister wrote in a letter to the court, “that Chapman might someday use the cathedral for nonreligious purposes.” Catholic leaders had promised that they would “take on your calling of proclaiming Christ’s message to humanity” and “care for the campus like the treasure it is.”