One Book One Church

Amy Welborn is a columnist for Our Sunday Visitor and Catholic News Service and a regular contributer to the Living Faith quarterly devotional.

As you recall, the inspiration for this ministry was a program sponsored by the city of Chicago called “One Book, One City.” During the course of a year, all in the city would be encouraged to read one book, then gather to discuss the work in churches, schools and book clubs, uniting the city in an exchange of ideas rooted in a common foundation. The first book chosen, for the year 2001 was To Kill a Mockingbird.

The program was so successful that other cities adopted it, and our own Archbishop Biblios determined that the program would be an intriguing one for our diocese as well. The Archbishop has for many years been deeply distressed by the divisions within the diocese, and thought that the experience of joining to read and discuss a single book would be a creative way to catechize and deepen the bonds of affection we should, as brothers and sisters in Christ, readily share.

In accordance with the Diocesan decision-making process as laid out in the Discernment Flow Chart (1997 Version), the idea was first passed through the Commissions on Women, Ecumenism, Justice and Peace, and Sexual and Ethnic Diversity, respectively. At that point, the various Chancery Offices could step in, giving their approval. Finally, last month, only one year after Archbishop Biblios first presented his idea to the Presbyteral and Diocesan Pastoral Councils, the Office of Worship pronounced the idea “liturgically correct,” so we may now proceed with our planning.

As you know, over the last month I have circulated a list of suggested books to all of you via e-mail. The process has been a bit more challenging than I expected. Following the lead of Chicago, we thought a work of fiction would be a natural choice for the “One Book, One Diocese” program here in Dystopia. Perhaps we were mistaken, as your collected comments on the suggested writers show:

1) Evelyn Waugh, Muriel Spark, Graham Greene, Francois Mauriac, George Bernanos: Far too nostalgically Eurocentric, irrelevant to the Spirit as it breathes through contemporary experience of Dystopian Catholic Christians.

2) Flannery O’Connor: Ministries to African Americans and Displaced Persons strongly object.

3) Walker Percy: Profanity detected, as well as satire. Unacceptable.

4) Shusaku Endo. Who?

Since consensus could not be reached among Diocesan ministers in regard to a fiction writer, it was suggested that non-fiction works be considered:

5) G.K. Chesterton, Frank Sheed and Fulton Sheen: Catechetics Office fears these writers would promote unnuanced, rigid views, insensitive to the presence of the Spirit in other faith traditions.

6) Thomas Merton: Surprisingly popular choice, except for strong objections from Catholics Appalled at Modernity, who threaten embarrassing protests if “that pantheistic heretic God electrocuted” is selected.

7) Therese of Lisieux: Women’s Commission objects, suggests Joan Chittister instead.

8) Dorothy Day: Justice and Peace, Respect Life are all for her. Worship Office skeptical, fearing impact of Day’s devotion to rosary.

Last week, since none of the committee-proposed authors seemed to meet the diverse needs of our diocese, I threw the process open, welcoming other suggestions. Here is what came in:

Youth Ministry: Joshua

Catechesis: The Bhagavad Gita or the Koran

Stewardship: The Giving Tree

At this point, to my great distress, the Catholic leadership of the Dystopian Diocese have been unable to find a single Catholic author acceptable to all. Let us continue this conversation, guided by the Spirit, in hopes that we might come to some agreement.

In Christ,

Semper Iratus, P.O.D.

Update: After completing this letter, I met Archbishop Biblios in the elevator and expressed my frustration with him. In response, the Archbishop offered his own suggestion. However, I’ve not heard of this work and cannot tell if he was being serious. Your help in discerning his purpose is appreciated: Death Comes for the Archbishop. Anyone heard of this one?

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