A first version (the Pauline Index) was promulgated by Pope Paul IV in 1559, and a revised and somewhat relaxed form (the Tridentine Index) was authorized at the Council of Trent. The promulgation of the Index marked the "turning-point in the freedom of enquiry" in the Catholic world.
The avowed aim of the list was to protect the faith and morals of the faithful by preventing the reading of immoral books or works containing theological errors, although it also contained scientific works by leading astronomers such as Johannes Kepler. The various editions also contained the rules of the Church relating to the reading, selling and censorship of books. Manuscripts that passed inspection by official readers were printed with nihil obstat ("nothing forbids") or Imprimatur ("let it be printed") on the title page.
However, some of the scientific works on the Index (e.g. on the foundations of cosmology) are now routinely taught at Catholic universities worldwide. Giordano Bruno, whose works were on the Index, now has a monument in Rome at the place where he was burned alive at the stake. The writings of Maria Valtorta that were on the Index have since received an imprimatur from a Roman Catholic bishop. Mary Faustina Kowalska, who was on the Index, has since been declared a saint. The developments since the abolition of the Index signify "the loss of relevance of the Index in the 21st century."
Early indices (1529—1571)
The first list of the kind was not published in Rome, but in Roman Catholic Netherlands (1529). Venice (1543) and Paris (1551, under the terms of the Edict of Châteaubriant) followed this example. By mid-century, in the tense atmosphere of wars of religion in Germany and France, both Protestant and Catholic authorities reasoned that only control of the press coordinated between Church and State could prevent the spread of heresy.  The first Roman Index, produced in 1559 under the direction of Pope Paul IV (1555-1559), banned the entire works of some 550 authors in addition to the individual proscribed titles: "The Pauline Index felt that the religious convictions of an author contaminated all his writing." The work of the censors was considered too severe and met with much opposition even in Catholic intellectual circles; after the Council of Trent had authorised a revised list prepared under Pope Pius IV, the so-called Tridentine Index was promulgated in 1564; it remained the basis of all later lists until Pope Leo XIII, in 1897, published his Index Leonianus. Until 1571 the lists were the work of the Sacred Congregation of the Inquisition of the Roman Catholic Church, later called the Holy Office, and since 1965 called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The blacklisting of some Protestant scholars even when writing on subjects a modern reader would consider outside the realm of dogma meant that obedient Catholic thinkers were denied access to the botanist Conrad Gesner's Historiae animalium or the botanical works of Otto Brunfels, those of the medical scholar Janus Cornarius, to Christoph Hegendorff or Johann Oldendorp on the theory of law, Protestant geographers and cosmographers like Jacob Ziegler or Sebastian Münster, as well as anything by Protestant theologians like Luther, Calvin or Philipp Melancthon. Among the more counter-intuitive inclusions was the Libri Carolini, a theological work from the 9th century court of Charlemagne, which had only survived in a manuscript in the Vatican Library, before being printed in the 16th century.
Sacred Congregation of the Index (1571—1917)
In 1571 a special congregation was created, the Sacred Congregation of the Index, which had the specific task to investigate those writings that were denounced in Rome as being not exempt of errors, to update the list of Pope Pius IV regularly and also to make lists of corrections in case a writing was not in itself damnable but only in need of correction and put on the list with a mitigating clause (e.g., donec corrigatur (forbidden if not corrected) or donec expurgetur (forbidden if not purged)).
This sometimes resulted in very long lists of corrections, published in the Index Expurgatorius. Prohibitions made by other congregations (mostly the Holy Office) were simply passed on to the Congregation of the Index, where the final decrees were drafted and made public, after approval of the Pope (who always had the possibility to condemn an author personally—only a few examples, such as Lamennais and Hermes). An update to the Index was made by Pope Leo XIII, in the 1897 apostolic constitution Officiorum ac Munerum, known as the "Index Leonianus".
The Congregation of the Index was merged with the Holy Office in 1917, by the Motu Proprio "Alloquentes Proxime" of Pope Benedict XV; the rules on the reading of books were again reelaborated in the new Codex Iuris Canonici. From 1917 on, the Holy Office (again) took care of the Index.
Holy Office (1917—1966)
The Index was regularly updated until the 1948 edition. This 32nd edition contained 4,000 titles censored for various reasons: heresy, moral deficiency, sexual explicitness, and so on. That some atheists, such as Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, were not included was due to the general (Tridentine) rule that heretical works (i.e., works that contradict Catholic dogma) are ipso facto forbidden. Some important works are absent simply because nobody bothered to denounce them. Many actions of the congregations were of a definite political content.
On 7 December 1965, Pope Paul VI issued the Motu Proprio "Integrae servandae" that re-constituted the Holy Office as the "Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith." The Index was not listed as being a part of the newly-constituted Congregation, leading to questioning whether the Index was a part of the new Congregation. This question was put to Cardinal Ottaviani—Pro-Prefect of the Congregation—who responded in the negative. The Cardinal also indicated in his response that there was going to be a change in the Index soon.
The change was formally announced on 15 June 1966 in the Vatican's newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano by way of a document called a "Notification" dated 14 June 1966. By this document and its promulgation under Pope Paul VI, the Index was formally abolished and lost its legal force. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ceased publication of the Index as it was no longer enforced as ecclesiastical positive law under the Code of Canon Law. Some sources list the abolition of the Index as the last step in the Timeline of the Inquisition.
The Notification of 14 June 1966 does not mention the words "abrogate" or "abolish" in relation to the Index of Forbidden Books. Rather, it states that the Index retains "its moral force" (suum vigorem moralem). What this means is not formally defined by the Vatican and at least one theologian (Hans Küng) has acknowledged the ambiguity behind the wording. The official Latin text as given on the Vatican's web site reads, "Notificatio de Indicis librorum prohibitorum conditione" ("Notification on the condition of the Index of Forbidden Books"). The Italian on the same page reads, "Notificazione riguardante l’abolizione dell’Indice dei libri" ("Notification regarding the abolition of the Index of books"). There is no reasoning given for this difference between the Latin and Italian texts. The fact that the Latin language is the official language of the Catholic Church furthers the question as to which text is authoritative.
Scope and impact
Censorship and enforcement
The Index was not simply a reactive work. Roman Catholic authors had the opportunity to defend their writings and could prepare a new edition with the necessary corrections or deletions, either to avoid or to limit a ban. Pre-publication censorship was encouraged.
The effects of the Index were at times felt throughout much of the Roman Catholic world. From Quebec to Poland it was, for many years, very difficult to find copies of banned works, especially outside of major cities. The Index, however, had little effect outside Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland or Bohemia, as it lacked an effective means of enforcement. The inability of the Church in Rome to enforce the banning of works by authors such as Kepler resulted in their availability in northern Europe, allowing Kepler's work to be used as the foundation for Isaac Newton's theory of universal gravitation, which significantly influenced the formation of modern physics.
Some theologians argue that the Index is not repudiated nor condemned, despite its abolition. This view of the remaining moral obligation of not circulating or reading those writings was stated by Cardinal Ottaviani in 1966, in the same document - Notification by Congregation for Doctrine of Faith: "This Congregation for Doctrine of Faith (...) reaffirms that its Index retains its moral value (...) in the sense that it is appealing to the conscience of the faithful (...) to be on their guard against written materials that can put faith and good conduct in danger" - Signed Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani, June 14, 1966).
Cardinal Ottaviani, who signed the decree to suppress the Index, was one of the most conservative members of the College of Cardinals at the time, and had himself previously arranged for a number of works (including those of Saint Faustina Kowalska) to be placed on the Index soon after Pope John XXIII took office in 1959.
In a letter in January 1985 to the Archbishop of Genoa regarding the book Poem of the Man God, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) also stated that the Index still retains some moral value "for the more unprepared faithful".
As its title implies, the Index only dealt with the censorship of printed matter and did not deal with objectionable material in media such as film. As the motion picture industry started to gather momentum in the United States in the 1930s, the Catholic Legion of Decency was formed by American bishops. Its aim was to both warn Catholics about objectionable movies and to impose a form of self-censorship on the movie industry.
Modern day irrelevance
Since the Index was abolished in 1966, the overall number of published books in the world in multiple languages has increased dramatically, and the moral standards by which items were judged has shifted by significant margins.
The Index thus includes a very small fraction of the possibly objectionable material (sexual, scientific or theological) that is available in the multimedia world of the 21st century. For instance, while the Index prohibits the works of a few authors such as D. H. Lawrence on the grounds of sexual offensiveness, that number is truly negligible compared to the huge volume of pornography available at the end of the 20th century.
On the scientific front, the material from some of the books on the Index (e.g. basics of astronomy) are routinely taught at most universities (including Catholic universities) in the world. Hence the ideas which formed part of the charges of heresy (along with many other purely religious ones) for which Giordano Bruno was burned alive at the stake in Campo de' Fiori in Rome in the year 1600 now form part of the foundations of modern cosmology Yet, possibly objectionable material on human cloning is not on the Index. The Index has thus lost scientific relevance in the modern world, as the quest for forbidden knowledge has continued.
From a theological perspective, some of the works that were on the Index have since received imprimaturs from Roman Catholic Bishops. E.g. the works of Maria Valtorta that were put on the Index by Cardinal Ottaviani in 1959 now bear the imprimatur of Bishop Roman Danylak, a Canon of the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.
The Index included a number of authors and intellectuals whose works are widely read today in most leading universities and are now considered as the foundations of science, e.g. Kepler's New Astronomy, his Epitome of Copernican Astronomy, and his World Harmony were quickly placed on the Index after their publication. Other noteworthy intellectuals and religious figures on the Index include Jean Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Victor Hugo, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanual Kant, David Hume, Rene Descartes, Francis Bacon, John Milton, John Locke, Galileo Galilei, Blaise Pascal, Hugo Grotius, and Saint Faustina Kowalska. Charles Darwin's works were notably never included, although a number of works that reconciled evolutionary theory and Catholic theology in ways unacceptable to the Church were included.
These have recently been described as works ".. considered as the foundations of science and literature." The consequent effect on children given a Catholic education from the 1500s to the 1960s must have been considerable.
In one case, a book was added to the Index by the Holy Office during the reign of one Pope after it had reportedly received verbal papal approval from the previous Pope. The book Poem of the Man God received praise from Pope Pius XII's confessor (Augustin Bea), and was presented to Pius XII during a special audience in 1948 in which he reportedly approved it, and the Servite priests present signed an affidavit to that effect. Ten years later, however, the book was added to the Index.
However, some twentieth-century authors whose views are popularly thought to be unacceptable to the Church (e.g. Hitler) were never put on the Index, while several other, less well-known authors (including Saint Faustina Kowalska) were added to the Index in the 20 year period before its abolition. Cardinal Ottaviani remarked in an April 1966 interview with L'Osservatore della Domenica that there was too much contemporary literature and the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith could not keep up with it.
- ↑ Cambridge University on Index.
- ↑ Charles B. Schmitt, et al. The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy (Cambridge University Press, 1991), "Printing and censorship after 1550", p.45ff.
- ↑ Imprimatur for Maria Valtorta 
- ↑ A Saint despite the vatican National Catholic Reporter-August 30, 2002 also 
- ↑ Vatican Webpage on Faustina Kowalska
- ↑ Robert Wilson, 1997 Astronomy Through the Ages ISBN 0748407480
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 Schmitt 1991:45.
- ↑ They included everything by Pietro Aretino, Machiavelli, Erasmus and Rabelais (Schmitt 1991:45).
- ↑ These authors are instanced by Schmitt 1991.
- ↑ http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/motu_proprio/documents/hf_p-vi_motu-proprio_19651207_integrae-servandae_lt.html
- ↑ L'Osservatore della Domenica, 24 April 1966, pg. 10.
- ↑ L'Osservatore Romano, 15 June 1966, Year 106, number 136, page 1
- ↑ This day in history 
- ↑ Matthew Bunson, 2004, Encyclopedia of Catholic History ISBN 1592760260
- ↑ Timeline of the Inquisition not rk/trial96/breu/timelisne.htmle
- ↑ Acta Apostolicae Sedis, Vol. 58, 1966, pg. 445.
- ↑ Hans Küng, My Struggle For Freedom: Memoirs, Continuum Publishing Group, 2004, pg. 432.
- ↑ http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/doc_dis_index.htm
- ↑ http://www.ewtn.com/library/Liturgy/latinvernac.HTM
- ↑ http://www.france24.com/en/20080509-vatican-website-roman-catholic-church-pope-language-latin-internet
- ↑ Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 1966, p. 445 (contributor's translation)
- ↑ The Church and Maria Valtorta 
- ↑ Time Magazine on Legion of Decency 
- ↑ Frank Walsh, 1996 Sin and Censorship: The Catholic Church and the Motion Picture Industry ISBN 0300063733
- ↑ New York Time: How Many Books are Too Many? Sep 7, 2008
- ↑ Daniel R. Heimbach, 2004 True Sexual Morality: Recovering Biblical Standards for a Culture in Crisis ISBN 1581344856
- ↑ David Wong, 1986, Moral Relativity ISBN 0520049772
- ↑ David Copp and Susan Wendel, 1982 Pornography and Censorship ISBN 0879751827
- ↑ New Yorker Magazine, August 25, 2008: The Forbidden World 
- ↑ Roger Shattuck 1997 Forbidden Knowledge: From Prometheus to Pornography ISBN 0156005514
- ↑ Maria Valtorta imprimatur 
- ↑ Project Galileo 
- ↑ Rafael Martinez, professor of the philosophy of science at the Santa Croce Pontifical University in Rome, in speech reported on Catholic Ireland net Accessed 26 May 2009
- ↑ Daily Mail, 28 April 2009, p.48.
- ↑ http://www.ewtn.com/library/scriptur/valtorta.txt
- ↑ Valepic 
- ↑ Fr. Berti's annotations to Maria Valtorta's Libro di Azaria (Book of Azaria), Edizioni Pisani, 1972.
- ↑ L'Osservatore Romano February 27, 1948.
- ↑ Valtorta Publishing 
- ↑ Vatican opens up secrets of Index of Forbidden Books.
- ↑ American Magazine http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=3998
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Index Librorum Prohibitorum|
- Facsimile of the 1559 index
- The complete list of banned books in 1948
- List of famous authors in the index
- "Index of Prohibited Books", The Catholic Encyclopedia (Volume VII, 1910): "The first Roman Index of Prohibited Books (Index librorum prohibitorum), published in 1559 under Paul IV, was very severe, and was therefore mitigated under that pontiff by decree of the Holy Office of 14 June of the same year. It was only in 1909 that this Moderatio Indicis librorum prohibitorum (Mitigation of the Index of Prohibited Books) was rediscovered in Codex Vaticanus lat. 3958, fol. 74, and was published for the first time."
- The ten "tridentine" rules on the censorship of books (English)
- The papal constitution Sollicita ac provida regulating the work of the Congregations of the Holy Office and of the Index (Latin)
- Vatican opens up secrets of Index of Forbidden Books, Dec 22, 2005
- Secrets Behind The Forbidden Books - America (magazine), February 7, 2005
- El Index de la Iglesia - The Roman Church Index: México, 1948.
- An index of prohibited books, by command of the present pope, Gregory XVI in 1835; being the latest specimen of the literary policy of the Church of Rome, Joseph Mendham, London: Duncan and Malcolm, 1840. Also at the Internet Archive. ar:قائمة الكتب المحرمة
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