Throwing the Bible in the garbage simply doesn’t feel right.
Many own a Bible and on occasion, it will begin to wear out because of use or old age. In a certain sense this is a good problem to have, as it means the Bible is being used on a regular basis.
However, what is to be done when a Bible is completely worn out and ceases to have any utility? Is it okay to simply throw it in the trash?
Bibles are to be treated with great respect and reverence in the Catholic Church because the words of scripture contain the presence of God.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “Through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single Word, his one Utterance in whom he expresses himself completely … For this reason, the Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord’s Body” (CCC 102-103).
This connects the words of Sacred Scripture to the holy Eucharist, where Jesus himself is truly present under the appearances of bread and wine. It makes sense, then, that Catholics can treat the Bible with similar care and attention that the priest handles the consecrated Host at Mass.
At the same time, the physical Bible remains a book and has not been officially consecrated by the Church or set-aside for any liturgical function. It is part of a person’s personal property and can be used in a number of ways that are not regulated by the Church. It is primarily the words of scripture that are holy and reveal the presence of God, and not the physical pages.
Yet, sometimes throwing away the Bible doesn’t feel “right.” What should a person do?
In the case of sacramentals (devotional items blessed by a priest), Catholics are instructed to dispose of old sacramentals in a way that shows due reverence. All sacramentals can be either burned or buried in order to properly dispose of them. This type of disposal honors their sacred purpose and returns them to the earth in a dignified way. If a person is unable to do either, the sacramental may be dropped off at the parish office and someone on staff can take care of it.
Bibles could be disposed of in a similar way, acknowledging the sacred text that it contains. However, it is up to the person’s conscience to dispose of a Bible as it is generally not considered a sacramental because there does not exist a specific blessing for it. However, if the Bible has been blessed in any way (making it into a sacramental), then the above guidelines should be followed. In all other cases, it is up to the person to decide how the Bible is disposed. God won’t send down a lighting bolt if you do the “wrong” thing, but it is worthwhile making a careful decision as to how we treat our Bibles.