DAILY CATHOLIC FRI-SAT-SUN December 3-5, 1999 vol. 10, no. 230
NEWS & VIEWS
U.S. BISHOPS DEBATE CHURCH ARCHITECTURE
"Domus Dei" Will Likely Be Voted on and Promulgated in Fall 2000
WASHINGTON, D.C., DEC 2 (ZENIT).- At their November 15-18 meeting, the U.S. National Council of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) began considerations of an overhaul of the norms for design of churches in the United States. The Committee on Liturgy has produced a draft document entitled "Domus Dei" in response to requests to overhaul "Environment and Art in Catholic Worship" (EACW), which has been the de facto standard since its promulgation in 1978.
While EACW appeals to Vatican II and the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, in many cases, it makes pastoral suggestions that go beyond what is contained in the official documents. However, many liturgists have taken the document as binding.
As a result of EACW, many churches removed all the statues and liturgical art in an effort to make the church building "a shelter or 'skin' for liturgical action" that "does not have to 'look like' anything else, past or present," as suggested in that document. The document further suggested that the tabernacle be removed from the main church, so that the building could be used for other functions than just the Liturgy.
The new document, which is not yet publicly available, as it is only a working copy, is being created to address these concerns. Over 30 Bishops spoke on the matter at the meeting. Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan of Santa Fe reported that the congregation in one parish broke out in applause when he asked them if they would like to have the Blessed Sacrament more present among them.
Not all the reactions to the proposed document have been so positive. In the October 9 issue of "America," Nathan Mitchell, associate director for research at the Center for Pastoral Liturgy at the University of Notre Dame praised EACW, criticizing the new document as being part of a movement "to reassert those ancient beliefs, liturgical rules, and devotional practices that once made Catholicism synonymous with certitude."
Others criticized the document for maintaining a functional understanding of the church -- a place where Liturgy is celebrated, rather than deeply considering the theological ramifications of the church as an image of heaven, the dwelling place of God.
The final document will not come out without a large amount of
discussion, but the effects will be felt in parishes throughout the
country. The vote on the new document should take place at next year's
Bishops' Meeting, in Fall 2000. The National Council of Catholic Bishops
can be contacted at 3211 4th Street, N.E., Washington, DC 20017-1194.
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NEWS & VIEWS