SIR,-According to press reports, the Holy Father has stated in his latest Encyclical on Biblical Studies: " The sole remedy for the war and its evils is a return to Christ, and Christ reveals Himself in the Scriptures. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ," I wonder will a Catholic newspaper, with a view to these words, have the courage to draw the attention of the Catholic public to one of the greatest scandals in the history of Catholic publishing?
A report recently published by the London British and Foreign Bible Society says that although the Society's premises were badly bombed during the 1940 raids, the work for which over 125 years ago that Society was established was carried on. Over eight million copies of the Bible and portions of the Bible in 1,055 languages have been spread during the past year, including 200,000 Bibles to prisoners of war in
Germany, MO pulpit Bibles to the
American Army in Britain, and 30 tons of Scripture to China.
What have we Catholics to say to this report? We all know that English translations of the Catholic Bible are practically Unobtainable. The only edition of the Douay Bible which is at present " available " is procured in the following way : It is printed in Germanoccupied Belgium, sent in Sheets to Lisbon, from where a few copies are Sent to these countries-via America. Latin Bibles, except for odd secondhand copies (extremely rare and expensive), are virtually off the market.
Since the Bible stocks of the Catholic firms in London were blitzed, hundreds of story hooks, fiction, private compilations of devotions, etc., have been published by Catholic firms in England and Ireland. Over a million copies of Mr. Werfel's Song of Bernadette were sold within a few weeks; I suppose fifty per cent. of the copies of this " Lourdesbest-seller " (as a Catholic weekly has delightfully put it) were beught by Catholics. There is no sign of a Bible. At the same time, the Hibernian Bible Society, for instance, distributed free of charge or at a nominal fee ten thousands of Bibles in Ireland.
Will we seriously claim that this anomaly, to put it mildly, is due to wartime conditions? In the 'nineties of the last century a Catholic Bible was published at Dublin (I believe the only complete Catholic Bible ever published in these countries), but shortly before the outbreak of the war the printing plates were destroyed. There was 50 little demand.
Unfortunately, or rather fortunately, there exist no statistics concerning the number of Catholic families who own a Bible. Certainly, essential portions of the Bible are enshrined in the liturgy. However, a great number of passages and even whole books of the Bible are never read in the liturgy. Perhaps one twelfth of the Bible is read in the Missal, but I do not think that more than 10 per cent. of the laity have been able to secure a complete Missal, 50 per cent of these actually use the Missal, 10 per cent. of them know the Lessons and Gospels of week-day Masses, the Prophecies of Holy Saturday and Whitsun Eve, etc. I know we have the Rosary and we have the Faith, and we profess that the Bible is the Word of God. Yet, is the Bible not for most of us-a " Protestant " book?