In November meetings, the U.S. bishops will decide the final form of a new document giving standards for Church buildings, according to Father James Moroney, director of the bishops' Committee on Liturgy.

Many modern churches have been designed to fit standards mentioned in a commentary published by the committee in 1978, Environment and Art in Catholic Worship, asserted architect Duncan Stroik. He said that work includes controversial design solutions such as replacing pews with chairs, locating the tabernacle in a side chapel, and using video projection screens in the sanctuary.

Stroik said the document is used as a guide for many renovations and new church building projects simply due to a lack of any alternative. “It has become a veritable bible,” he said.

But Environment and Art, said Father Moroney, “is not particular law for the U.S. dioceses, but rather a commentary provided by the Committee for the Liturgy.”

Stroik said that the document “is based more on the principles of modernist architecture than on Catholic teaching or the Church's patrimony of sacred architecture.”

The Committee on Liturgy is in the process of drafting the new document which will address design issues for renovations and new church buildings. Father Moroney told the Register that the new document is not a “revision” of Environment and Art but “a completely new document.”

The new document, which has been in the works now for two years and is not yet titled, is slated to be considered by the liturgy committee this month. It will be presented to the full body of bishops in November, and finally voted on in June 2000.

Father Moroney clarified that this new document, unlike Environment and Art, will be issued as a statement from the entire body of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and therefore will carry the authority of a conference document.

“In church architecture, as in so many aspects of the liturgical reform today,” commented Father Moroney, “it is most important to keep in mind a balanced dialogue. What Duncan Stroik and his colleagues at Notre Dame have been doing over the past few years has been an important part of the dialogue necessary to continuing the improvement of our perspectives on sacred art and architecture.”

—Michael S. Rose