From a priest:
When the new missals wit the new translation go into force, what are we supposed to do with all these old missals?
A good question!
This touches on what we are to do with sacred things when they wear out and are no longer useful or worthy for liturgical use for whatever reason. For example, what to do with altar linens and vestments which are worn beyond the point of being fit for use?
The classic solution is that they should be burned and, ideally, the ashes possibly afterward mixed with water and then the mixture put into the earth. They could also be simply buried.
I imagine that a group of priests could pool their old and now superseded editions of the Sacramentary with the superseded ICEL translation and have a discreet book burning. It could be more efficient, and even cheery, to do a large number at once.
While we can happily say “good riddance” to old translation, and perhaps shed a little tear of joy at the reduction of these volumes to ashes, we shouldn’t dispose of them carelessly: they do, after all, contain the Word of God. If the translations were not good, they nevertheless command some respect.
However, if a cold beer is involved as the flames rise higher, I wouldn’t necessarily think that out of place, provided that scandal was avoided.
As I think of it, I believe that it was the practice of the Jews, with their sacred scrolls of the Torah and also prayer shawls, etc., to store them away when they were too worn until such a time as they could be buried. Anything which had more than a few words of Scripture was to be handled with great care, not just thrown into the garbage. This went even for children’s homework
Consider this in regard to missalettes in the pews of parish churches. They also have the Word of God in them. I suspect many or most of them are just tossed. I have never been comfortable with that.
That said, I recommend that if parishes or priests have more than one of these book with the old translation, then one should be preserved as a reference.
The solution of disposal is chiefly for books which are worn out.
In the final analysis, they should not simply be put in the dustbin.
UPDATE 20:32 GMT:
The March-April Newsletter of the USCCB’s Committee on Divine Worship addresses the question.
Here is the text, with my emphases and comments:
How to Dispose of Old Copies of the Sacramentary
The Secretariat of Divine Worship has received a number of timely inquiries regarding the disposition of copies of the current Sacramentary once the new Roman Missal, Third Edition has been implemented.
There is relatively little written about exactly what to do with liturgical books which have been replaced by updated or revised editions, but some related writings, as well as some common sense, can provide some context. The Book of Blessings, no. 1343, indicates that the Sacramentary, the Lectionary, and other liturgical books are counted among those articles used in the Sacred Liturgy which ought to be blessed using the rite provided for that purpose, the Order for the Blessing of Articles for Liturgical Use (nos. 1341-1359). The Latin De Benedictionibus, editio typica, however, does not explicitly mention the Missale among the articles that are properly blessed. [Some of you know my opinion of De Benedictionibus.]
Whether or not the Sacramentary has been blessed by an official rite, it is appropriate to treat it with care as it has been admitted into liturgical use. [And it contains the Word of God as well.] Its disposal should be handled with respect. The Secretariat recommends burying the Sacramentary in an appropriate location on church grounds, or perhaps in a parish cemetery if there is one. Some have even suggested following a custom used in various Eastern Churches whereby liturgical books or Bibles are placed in the coffin of the deceased as a sign of devotion and love for the Liturgy. In lieu of burying old liturgical books, they could be burned, and the ashes placed in the ground in an appropriate location on church grounds. It is advisable to retain a copy of the Sacramentary for parish archives or liturgical libraries. [This sounds to be, in substance, very much like what I answered, other than the interesting point about Eastern practices.]
Looking ahead to the reception of the Roman Missal, Third Edition, the above-mentioned blessing from the Book of Blessings could be used to bless copies of the Missal before their first use on the First Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2011. [On the other hand, using the Rituale Romanum would actually bless the books, which is the whole point.] The blessing could take place during a Mass on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King, at the last weekday Mass prior to the First Sunday of Advent, or outside Mass at a separate gathering of liturgical ministers or other parish leaders.
Many parishes will also replace hymnals and other participation aids (such as hand missals) in light of updated editions corresponding to the new Roman Missal. While the Blessing of Articles for Liturgical Use also mentions hymnals, it might be difficult to appropriately dispose of a large number of copies of such books. After setting aside an appropriate number of copies for archives and libraries, other copies could be stored for use by prayer or study groups in the parish, offered to parishioners for their own private devotional use, or donated to other small communities that could effectively make use of them. Due to copyright agreements, annual hymnals and participation aids should be discarded after their prescribed period of use and cannot be retained for other uses in parishes. [That “discarded” leaves me a little uncomfortable, for reasons explained above.]
I thank the priest commentator who alerted me to the USCCB answer to this burning question.