Blog Post

What to Do When a Librarian Stuffs the Parish Library with New Age Books

TS asks: "I am a volunteer in our Parish Library and am causing trouble by respectfully and carefully questioning why we allow certain authors in our 'Catholic' library.  The librarian is a very recent convert and has said that if the Vatican has not excommunicated the authors, then their books must be OK.  And the pastor is very liberal and was a good friend of the 'centering prayer' priest, Fr. Menninger.  I've researched to try to find something that lists specific books because the librarian will only believe that. She says which of the books and I say all, but she won't go for that.  I am concerned about Matthew Fox, Anthony DeMello, etc., but especially the new age believers like Joyce Rupp, Joan C.... and those.  What should I do?"

I'm all too familiar with those who demand a Vatican statement on anything and everything before they'll agree to stop pursuing something questionable. In my experience, I have found that even if you do produce documentation, they'll find a reason not to accept it because what they're really doing is using it as an excuse to continue believing what they want to believe without feeling like they're dissenting. Their rationale is too often, "As long as it isn't written down anywhere, I can do it without guilt."

Not so. The Church expects us to do our part in learning the faith by reading Scripture and the Catechism so that we are able to discern what is good and holy and what is not.

In the case of Anthony DeMello, his opinions were formally condemned in 1998 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote:

“His works, which almost always take the form of brief stories, contain some valid elements of oriental wisdom. These can be helpful in achieving self-mastery, in breaking the bonds and feelings that keep us from being free, and in approaching with serenity the various vicissitudes of life. Especially in his early writings, Father de Mello, while revealing the influence of Buddhist and Taoist spiritual currents, remained within the lines of Christian spirituality...

“But already in certain passages in these early works and to a greater degree in his later publications, one notices a progressive distancing from the essential contents of the Christian faith. . . . In these later writings, Father de Mello had gradually arrived at concepts of God, revelation, Christ, the final destiny of the human person, etc., which cannot be reconciled with the doctrine of the Church. Since many of his books do not take the form of discursive teaching, but are collections of short tales which are often quite clever, the underlying ideas can easily pass unnoticed.”

You might want to show this statement from the CDC to the librarian.

About Matthew Fox, he was dismissed from the Dominican order because of his outlandish writings and teachings. He is now a practicing Episcopalian priest. It's worth noting that a priest is not dismissed lightly from a religious order so the librarian can be quite sure that his writing do not belong in a Catholic library.

As for Centering Prayer, the Catechism specifically states that any method of prayer that stresses blanking the mind is "erroneous" (this is what Centering Prayer does because it's based on TM).

Nor does the Vatican need to make statements on Joyce Rupp and Joan Chittister. Both women have spoken out in support of women's ordination (among other things), which the Church has roundly condemned.

So you see, the problem isn't with you, or the Church's lack of official positions - it's with the librarian. What a shame to see a library that could be full of all the literary genius of the Church - from Thomas Aquinas and St. John Paul II to G. K. Chesterton and Fulton Sheen and so many popular (and faithful) writers such as  Scott Hahn, Bishop Robert Barron, and Peter Kreeft - stocked with the writings of people who have a distorted understanding of the Faith. Your parish would be better off with no library at all!

The only way to counter something like this is to make a list of all the questionable books in this library and report it to the bishop. You might also consider getting together some friends and making a donation of good books to the library - at least you'd get some good titles in there!

In the meantime, pray, because with God, all things are possible.

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