Top officials of the U.S. Roman Catholic Church are reexamining the church's stance on religion in the public schools -- a review that may lead to the bishops' taking a position on President Reagan's proposed constitutional amendment to allow voluntary prayer in schools.
The review is being conducted by officials of several offices within the U.S. Catholic Conference, including its general counsel, government liaison and education offices as well as the bishops' ecumenical and Catholic-Jewish relations offices.
Russell Shaw, the conference's secretary for public affairs, said the review will be presented to the 40-member administrative committee of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the U.S. Catholic Conference, the bishops' action arm, when it meets in mid-September.
At present, the bishops have not taken a position on Reagan's proposed constitutional amendment. However, since 1973 the bishops have supported a constitutional amendment that would permit "religious instruction and prayer in public schools and other public institutions" as "vitally important to protect the religious liberty of parents and children."
In their 1973 statement, the bishops' administrative board said a constitutional amendment "limited to allowing prayer would be inadequate to meet the national need. The amendment which is needed must cover prayer and religious instruction."
"There are any number of options," Shaw said of the open-ended review. He said the administrative board "could endorse the president's proposal. They could strongly oppose it. They could simply reaffirm the old position. They could do nothing."