I have a shelf of books that I consider heretical. I have notes in the front covers of all of them to warn anyone randomly picking up the book that it is dangerous. What's on that shelf? The Dutch catechism, books by Chardin and other questionable authors, several books by priests who left the Church. One, A Modern Priest Looks at His Outdated Church by James Kavanaugh has a personal connection since the dissenter from Humanae Vitae (who left the priesthood to marry and later divorced) gave a "retreat" at my alma mater, Trinity College in D.C. when I was a Junior or Senior there -- just one of the scandals at that nominally Catholic institution. He was funny, cynical, sometimes outrageous and told a classmate of mine who went to him saying, "I get nothing out of Mass," to stop going. Some retreat, eh?
Why do I keep these books? For reference mostly. I'm not sure what will survive the purge. The question is, what do I do with the books I decide not to keep? Do I pass on Peter Hebblethwaite's The Next Pope or throw it in the trash? Knowing his background as a Jesuit priest who left to marry and then worked for the liberal press for years including the "fishwrap" National Catholic Reporter, I certainly can't recommend him as a source. On the other hand, there is a value to knowing how dissenters think. So I may write a note in the front of the book. "Don't trust this source" with a little bit about his background for anyone who picks up the book.
But if I don't keep it, what to do? To throw away a book is difficult for this bibliophile. But most people today are NOT critical readers. Do I want to, perhaps, inadvertently lead someone into error? I think of some of the serious anti-Catholic books out there, those advancing slanders against Pope Pius XII for example. Without compunction I threw away Hitler's Pope by John Cornwell after buying it off the library's book sale shelf. I had no intention of wasting time reading it, but I couldn't bear to leave it there for others to ingest Cornwell's hate-fest against a holy pope whom I love.
Any suggestions? I guess I will begin my purge with prayers to the Holy Spirit for guidance. Should I read this book, keep it for a reference, give it away, or throw it in the recycle bin?
And now a thought...
Wouldn't this be a great prayer for all of us as we consider appropriate reading materials for the year ahead:
"Help me, Lord, to read only those things you would have me read in 2017 -- whether in hard copy or on the internet. Lead me to those works that will draw me closer to you and to your holy will. Give me the wisdom to choose wisely, through Jesus Christ Our Lord and with the guidance of my guardian angel and patron saints. Oh...and help me turn off the TV and pick up a good book instead."Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us.