June 14, 2016

50 years ago today: the Vatican abolished its List of Prohibited Books.

"The 20th and final edition appeared in 1948, and the Index [Librorum Prohibitorum] was formally abolished on 14 June 1966 by Pope Paul VI...."
The aim of the list was to protect the faith and morals of the faithful by preventing the reading of heretical and immoral books....

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 intellectual figures on the Index include Jean-Paul Sartre, Montaigne, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Victor Hugo, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, André Gide, Emanuel Swedenborg, Baruch Spinoza, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, René Descartes, Francis Bacon, Thomas Browne, John Milton, John Locke, Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Blaise Pascal, and Hugo Grotius. Charles Darwin's works were never included.
More of the list here, along with some discussion of what was not included:
Not on the Index were Aristophanes, Juvenal, John Cleland, James Joyce and D. H. Lawrence. According to Wallace et al., this was because the primary criterion for banning the work was anticlericalism, blasphemy and heresy.

22 comments:

David Begley said...

Sartre was assigned reading at my Jesuit high school.

robother said...

Jean-Paul Sarte. That's one I happen to agree with. Well I guess even a blind squirrel stumbles across a walnut (or a wall-eyed nut) occasionally.

LYNNDH said...

What irony! Now all these books are banned on college campuses because they are all Old White Men.

buwaya puti said...

It was a good idea at the time, and probably a better one today. Though it would have to be updated and expanded greatly across the media space.
Cultural warfare is a necessary and legitimate conflict for a church.

The Drill SGT said...

I detect Francophobia in the list

buwaya puti said...

Sartre was a very large part of a required philosophy class at my Catholic college. A great error.
Looking back though, and at what passes for the liberal arts in the University of California, even the serious class (though a "gut" class for engineers) we had with the execrable Sartre would have been a great improvement. Standards are that bad.

robother said...

"Execrable Sartre." Exactly. Remember how seriously everyone's college professors in the 60s took "existentialism?" Looking back, especially on Sartre, it was purely copping an attitude. And then of course, he converted to Catholicism on his death bed, as sincere in his atheism as he was in his Resistance to Nazi occupation. (Near as I could tell, his resistance consisted entirely of smoking Gauloises in the bistros of Paris, shooting dark looks and under the breath imprecations at the SS guys at the tables with the pretty girls.)

traditionalguy said...

The Roman Catholic World Governance system was in a defensive posture at the time the censorship was started. Their loss of power to govern in England, then Scotland and Ireland was a tragedy for the Papal guys who kept trying to get them back, but the worst blow to their Clerical Quasi-Empire was the loss of France in the Revolution followed by Napoleon's running with it and taking the rest or Europe.

The European Union is a weaker secular version of that Holy Roman Empire style of governance, and it is not long to contuinue.

coupe said...

My favorite movie as a young adult, was seeing Baby Doll. It was listed as the most obscene movie ever made.

But I did not find it obscene. Of course the movie poster with a woman in a crib sucking her thumb might have been a bad idea, the movie was more than that. If looking beautiful was obscene, I would question the Bishop.

It was as good as any Flannery O'Connor short story, which I've always loved to read and think about. Flannery's language is no longer politically correct, but in the pre-civil rights days of the south, it was an honest dialog.

damikesc said...

Islam's list of banned books, no doubt, is still alive and healthy.

Well, of the tiny number of books translated into Arabic...

Farmer said...

You don't need to troll us, Althouse.

We love you. And we're not going to stop loving you when you lash out at us.

T J Sawyer said...

Based on my experience trying to work my way through the "condemned" movies I couldn't see in my youth,I suspect the Index was created to spare readers from acute boredom.

traditionalguy said...

A War of Ideas works better when authorities are not suppressing new ideas. But our Jacksonian Democracy invented that experiment in tolerance. Most of the other world's Governments have never trusted it, but for France.

Sydney said...

Several of those authors are on there because they offended the Jesuits who held power at the time - Galileo, Copernicus, Pascal.

jimbino said...

I'd like to see the list of people detained and interviewed by the FBI. Probably just as illustrious.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

A fond memory of Catholic elementary school was browsing the bulletin board near principal Sister Paul Gerard's office for the Catholic Legion of Decency film ratings. The only one I can clearly remember was "The Americanization of Emily" with Julie Andrews and James Garner, which was banned. I wondered at the time what it took to get banned, but I assumed it must be very, very dirty.

Paul Snively said...

Of course Kepler's on the list, being a devout Lutheran. The surprise is that I don't see Leibniz (a Lutheran who never set foot in a church), Newton (an Anglican who set foot in church as often as possible), etc. on the list.

YoungHegelian said...

Notice this paragraph from the Wikipedia page:

The Index was enforceable within the Papal States, but elsewhere only if adopted by the civil powers, as happened in several Italian states.[47] Other areas adopted their own lists of forbidden books. In the Holy Roman Empire book censorship, which preceded publication of the Index, came under control of the Jesuits at the end of the 16th century, but had little effect, since the German princes within the empire set up their own systems.[48] In France it was French officials who decided what books were banned[48] and the Church's Index was not recognized.[49] Spain had its own Index Librorum Prohibitorum, which corresponded largely to the Church's,[50] but also included a list of books that were allowed once the forbidden part (sometimes a single sentence) was removed or "expurgated".

In other words, for most of the years the Index was in effect, it was states not the Church that not only banned books (remember "banned in Boston"?), but had the enforcement mechanisms to make those bans stick. Outside of the Papal States, there was really no way to enforce the bans, except at Catholic educational establishments. Even there, if you were a a scholar, you could routinely get dispensation to study a book on the Index. While the Church may not have given guys like Joseph Marechal their proper honor in their lifetime, it wasn't like they were shut down, either.

The Church's real problem wasn't the Index. The real problem was the awful state of Catholic theology on the ground from about 1775 until Vatican II, dependent as it was on a "codified" Thomism that filtered down to the clergy & laity as "Manuals". Yes, there were many bright stars in those times, but it didn't filter down. Historico-critical Biblical scholarship, for example, was an all-Protestant affair until basically Vatican II.

Now, we've got the opposite problem, where you can't even assume a knowledge of the basics of the faith among the faithful, & sadly, even the clergy. Too bad we can't have a world where folks know the Thomistic manual basics, yet are pointed to what more can be done.

mockturtle said...

Was glad to see that two of my favorite writers, Aristophanes and D.H. Lawrence, were deemed OK. I'm not a Catholic but I will agree that heresy is more dangerous than sex.

mockturtle said...

I would add that my idea of heresy does not mesh with that of the RCC.

@ traditional man: The European Union is a weaker secular version of that Holy Roman Empire style of governance, and it is not long to contuinue.

MUCH weaker!!! And, no, it won't last another five years.

rcocean said...

"Remember how seriously everyone's college professors in the 60s took "existentialism?"

I tried to read Sartre and couldn't make heads or tails of it. What was the point? I couldn't make the connection between the mountain of words and reality.

Now, nobody even knows who Sartre is. So, I feel like I was ahead of the curve.

mockturtle said...

I had to read Sartre in French! :-(