Catholic Library World
When humorist Tommy Tighe tweeted that he is “so Catholic I bury old parish bulletins instead of throwing them out whenever I clean out the van, just in case,”1 many on #CatholicTwitter felt a twinge of recognition. In addition to the human tendency to accumulate material things, there is also legitimate concern in a Catholic context about discarding materials associated with the practice of faith. The parish bulletin is an extreme example; we can safely relegate that to the recycle bin once we have read about the ladies’ breakfast and the Christmas wreath fundraiser. In the routine practice of the faith, sacramentals such as palms from Palm Sunday and broken rosaries are examples of materials that ought to be appropriately destroyed or repurposed.
The Catholic Church provides specific canon law and commentary about the treatment of “sacred objects,” as well as historical directives for how to dispose of altar vessels and other liturgical objects. But there are also materials of popular devotion that raise questions; we simply cannot know how every item has been used by its previous owners. The sacred nature of some objects is not determined exclusively by what they are but also by how they have been used.
The 1964 Collectio rituum literally contains a “blessing of anything” or “blessing for all things” at the end of its section of blessings of objects for ordinary use, meaning that just about anything in a Catholic library collection may have been blessed.2 In Catholic cultural heritage institutions, we need to take into account library best practice and standards for deaccessioning, weeding, discarding—even, rarely, destroying—Catholic objects. At the same time, we need the freedom to make responsible decisions about what does not belong in our collections.
Copyright © 2020, the Authors
Catholic Library Association
Library collections, deaccessioning, weeding
Sarah Burke Cahalan and Kayla Harris (0000-0002-1672-3022) (2020).
Mary, Undoer of Knots: Unraveling Best Practices for Unwanted Donations and Deaccessioned Collection Items in a Catholic Library. Catholic Library World.