Congregation for the Clergy, Letter to the NCCB Concerning the Renovation or Restructuring of Church Buildings, 27 July 2000.
Prot. N. 20001165
Most Rev. Joseph A Fiorenza
President, National Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 Fourth Street
Washington. DC 20017-1194
This Congregation wishes to bring to your attention and seek your assistance, in a matter which it finds to be of growing concern.
Over a number of years, and even more so in recent times, the Dicastery has received protests and recourses from the Faithful with regard to the modification/restructuring of Churches in the United States. While being very cognizant of the fact that the local Ordinary enjoys much latitude in ensuring that the Churches and places of worship, in his ecclesiastical jurisdiction, are in harmony with any norms involved, are in proper repair, and have the support necessary for their maintenance, the numerous reports of the Faithful cannot always be overlooked or immediately dismissed.
These reports are oftentimes accompanied by photographs of Churches which have a certain traditional beauty, and which seem to be in harmony with current liturgical directives, but yet are consigned to major overhaul or even destruction, for reasons that are not always clear. This is not to overlook the fact that many Churches are now to be found in neighborhoods where population shifts or bad repair, require drastic action, however it must he borne in mind that the decisions involved can have a very negative impact on the faith of those whose families have built
those Churches, where they have worshipped for generations and whose practice of the faith has been formed in those sacred environments. The Church constantly teaches and forms the People of God in a particular allegiance to their parish Churches, especially. It is not to be wondered at that the People of God then feel this link in a visceral way and react negatively when the same Church seems to now be saying something different about their Parish or place of worship.
Particular sensibility is also required when disposing of the sacred furnishings that held places of honor in these Churches, especially tabernacles, altars, statues and art work, even when these may not be of great artistic value, their value goes far beyond their intrinsic worth as works of art.
In saving these things, the Congregation would hasten to add that it is in no way attempting to diminish that legitimate authority of the Bishop of Place with regard to modification/restructuring/suppression of Churches or Parishes, but then the expressed concerns of the faithful in this area are constant and not restricted to one geographical area of the United States, neither have they lacked foundation. This being, so, we would simply ask Your Excellency to bring our concerns to your brother Bishops for their reflection, discernment and attention in their respective Dioceses.
I take this opportunity to renew my sentiments of esteem and with every best wish, I remain,
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Csaba Ternyák
Secretary, Congregation for the Clergy
Unpublished NCCB Memo.