01 January 2013

Book Burning

Well, not exactly.

My parents' parish church is the oldest Catholic church in town, and it definitely has a library to match... most of the books are quite old, many sadly outdated, and all covered with a couple decades' worth of dust. Unfortunately, a disproportionately high number of them are also icky dissent-laden messes from the '70s and '80s.

Apparently someone on their parish council volunteered my siblings and /or me to sort through the library for them and toss anything that didn't belong. We're talking floor-to-ceiling bookshelves lining two sides of the room. Not exactly a job I wanted to tackle on my own with Little Bear, so I decided to wait until my siblings got home from college.

We finally had time to wade into it a couple of days ago. I think "discombobulating" might be an apropos word for the experience... I found titles like Eros Rediscovered: Restoring Sex to Humanity and Ancient Wisdom for Today: How Past Lives, Dreams, and Soul Travel Help You Find God mixed in with biographies of Padre Pio and late-1800s exhortations on virginity. Of course, there were also the expected (and quickly trashed) volumes purporting to explain why artificial birth control is acceptable and how the Church needs to revise her stance on remarried divorcees and reception of Holy Communion.

A parish councilman who shall remain unnamed popped in while we were working, and asked if we would rather just sort them with a match and gasoline. As I was in the middle of flipping through the second volume of a series purporting to explain the Second Vatican Council, penned in the early '70s by K√ľng et al, the offer was tempting!

But then I would have missed some pleasant surprises, like the slim volume with a hideous fluorescent-polyester-orange cover, written in 1974, which thoroughly upheld and explained the Church's teachings on homosexuality. Or the little booklet entitled Daughter Zion, whose felt-banner-style Modernist cover belied its solid Marian teaching by then-Cardinal Ratzinger.

There was a small part of me, a scholarly part, that wondered if some of the more blatantly dissent-filled books penned during and shortly after Vatican II might not be helpful for those of us who didn't live through those days and struggle to understand how things went so wrong. One questionable set was allowed to remain for the time being on those grounds, but I worry about allowing books to remain which could seriously malform consciences if a person picked one up without knowing that it was not faithful to Church teaching.

There is a good deal yet to do; we spent more than four hours sorting, and I doubt we made it through more than a quarter of the books. Hopefully we will make it back there a time or two before my siblings head back to school, but if not, I suppose Little Bear and I can keep stopping in occasionally when we have free time to pick away at it.

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