Art & Architecture
Oakland Cathedral, in the
Progressivist Spirit of Vatican II
Lyle J. Arnold, Jr.
On Thursday, September 25, 2008, a private Mass of consecration and dedication was offered inside the new cathedral for the diocese of Oakland. The next day a free civic interfaith prayer service was held there, with the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir performing.|
Named "Cathedral of Christ the Light" after Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, Lumen Genitum (Light of Nations), the light in question that floods the nave is anything but inspiring. The traditional stained glass window softens the light's rays and invites reflection and contemplation. Conversely, the light of the new cathedral is cold and cobalt-like, giving the sensation of harshness.
A cold, empty spirit pervades the Cathedral of Christ the Light
There is no warmth such as, for instance, what a candle gives. Rather, it is a cold starkness that can be likened to fluorescent-type lighting. Even the wood of the eighty pews gives the impression of coldness, resembling what used to be called "Danish modern."
This new building has inspired such descriptions as "the interior of a cocoon, a woven basket, a beehive, an upside down arc and even a womb." (1) It is the creation of Craig Hartman, a life-long Episcopalian. It is his first church commission, his previous works including the San Francisco Airport’s International Terminal and the new U.S. embassy in Beijing. The cathedral is obviously meant to be a quintessential expression of Vatican II ecumenism. Pari passu, one does not have to search very far for reasons why a non-Catholic architect of ultra modern discipline was chosen to design this edifice. His creation would appear to checkmate all of the modernist buildings of Oakland and elsewhere.
From afar, the building has the appearance of a sports stadium, or perhaps a raised landing field for flying saucers. Once inside, a 58-foot figure of Our Lord is seen behind the sanctuary. Set inside an esoteric, translucent, latticed mirage that looks like it has been outlined with a giant pencil, the figure appears to be squatting. The sanctuary altar resembles a block of granite, something that would have fit better in a movie such as 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The altar: cold and bare
A flying saucer style exterior
A Communist-like chair for the Bishop and priests
In the four "chapels" that adjoin the nave, there is artwork, but it has a museum-like, professional appearance, not anything that invites prayer and devotion. Cold, concrete walls bedeck these chapels, with no kneelers or traditional candle stands. One of the four chapels houses three books that rest on book-stands - with nothing else inside. The trilogy of religious beliefs these three books represent speaks of an ecumenism gone mad. Alone in this chapel with the three books, I had a chilling sensation. It was like being in a cell, locked in with time, insuring the inmate would get the message. The first book was titled "JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh." The second, the Koran. The third, a "Christian" book, as a guide proudly stated. It is the New Testament.
Inside the nave one has the sense of being enclosed by thousands of Venetian blinds. The 136-foot ceiling looks like a series of giant saw blades, or perhaps shark fins, through which the cobalt lighting filters.
A headline in an article celebrating the new building stated "Cathedral expresses faith of the future," (2) yet there is not one single image of Our Lady in the nave proper. One would imagine that a "21,600-square-foot worship space" would find a place for an image of Our Lady. But She was not there. Her absence was presumably planned, in order to eliminate any ecumenical frowns from non-Catholics. But there is no future without Our Lady.
The debasing picture of the Son without His Mother may do a lot for ecumenism. But it speaks of a future without the consoling words of St. Louis de Montfort, who tells us in his book True Devotion to Mary, "The salvation of the world began through Mary and through her it must be accomplished.” He foresaw men and women in our times who, by their devotion to Mary, would prepare the way again for the Reign of Christ through Mary - the Reign of Mary.
"If the Jetsons were Catholic, they would worship here," states the newspaper article. (3) For $190 million, Oakland has a "worship space" with absolutely nothing of the past and a future without Our Lady. It seems doubtful that the Jetsons would even need to profess the Catholic faith to worship in this cathedral of cold, angry light.
1. Contra Costa Times, September 23, 2008, p. A4.
2. The Catholic Voice, September 22, 2008
Posted October 10, 2008
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