Why does the Library publish Eddy’s correspondence?

November 23, 2020

Since opening in 2002, The Mary Baker Eddy Library has published letters written by Mary Baker Eddy that had previously been unavailable to the public.

Questions have come up as to whether making Eddy’s correspondence accessible to patrons is in accordance with provisions in the Church Manual—in particular those letters marked “private.”

Those questions often involve Article XXII, Section 8, “Private Communications.” This states, “A strictly private communication from the Pastor Emeritus to a member of her Church shall not be made public without her written consent.” Authorization to act on Manual By-Laws requiring Eddy’s consent passed to the Christian Science Board of Directors after her death.1

In order to retain the copyright to Eddy’s previously unpublished letters through 2047, the Directors published the majority of these documents in 2002. Otherwise they would have passed unprotected into the public domain.2

Documents that Eddy and her secretaries marked as private or confidential were primarily concerned with time-sensitive plans that have long since been carried out. Biographers over many years have quoted a number of these letters, putting them in a historical context that helps us to better understand the early history of The Church of Christ, Scientist. Letters that have been opened to the public are no longer considered sensitive. A few letters that are still considered sensitive have remained closed to the public. The Christian Science Board of Directors periodically reviews closed documents to determine their continuing status.

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  1. For more on this, see the pamphlet Permanency of The Mother Church and Its Manual, Revised Edition (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1954). https://jsh.christianscience.com/collections/1950s/permanency-of-the-mother-church-and-its-manual-revised-edition.
  2. Stephen I. Danzansky, “Questions and Answers about the Library,” The Christian Science Journal, March 2002. https://journal.christianscience.com/shared/view/9az5c3eufm?s=e.