Catholics and Censorship?


****I was just Stumbling (for those of you who don’t recognize the term, it’s a very addicting web service which allows you to check off your interests, and when you hit the “stumble” button it will bring you a never-ending supply of related websites) and was taken to a page listing banned books. It brought up a question I’ve always wondered about, and often made me second-guess organized religion.

Rather than avoiding literature or media providing opposing viewpoints, or questionable material (such as racist terms, the depiction of less than wholesome lifestyle, etc…), should we not meet these challenges to our personal views head on? If we refuse to examine them are we not in turn refusing to critically examine ourselves, our fears and insecurities? I’m not talking about material meant to be offensive-I’m talking about those books or media which ask vital questions of human nature, and often show an unfiltered, raw and oftentimes unpleasant reality.

However unpleasant it may be, or however much we may disagree with the premise, isn’t it better to educate ourselves of both what we deem good and evil in the world? How can we expect to become truly strong in our beliefs and morals if we only allow ourselves to see what we’re comfortable with? You must test your boundaries in order to really know yourself-it forces you to address aspects of life and your own nature you may not have examined previously.

Of course, I recognize the validity of parental involvement when children are involved, but for adults/young adults? How do other Catholics feel about the issue of censorship?****


You are way too intelligent and wise for these forums. I agree totally with what you wrote but could never say it as well.


Who is doing the censoring? I’m not aware of any censorship by the Church. So you must be assuming that individuals self-censor.

I personally don’t have a philosophy of “avoiding literature or media providing opposing viewpoints”, but neither do I go out of my way to read opposing viewpoints.
I do read articles in the newspaper and in magazines such as Newsweek to inform myself, but I simply am not interested in spending my time doing in-depth reading and studying to examine opposing viewpoints, as I would rather direct my time and energy reading and studying what I do believe.


I’d have to say that reading about various religions and studying texts as well as having professors with different view points helped, in a very round about way, lead me home to the Catholic Church. At the same time I think that Church institutions shouldn’t bash Church teachings and that those who represent the Church should have a respect for the teachings of the institute they represent. I have to have someone tell me, don’t read that or don’t watch that!

Reading up on the other sides of debates helps us better defend our position. Lately my husband has been thankful for the experience of going to an incredibly heterodox Catholic University because it’s helped him understand the other side of things. It hasn’t necessarily been a pleasant experience, there’s been some ugliness, but he certainly has learned a lot.


I also think one cannot come to appreciate what one has without comparing it to things outside. However, there are an infinite perspectives and beliefs around so sooner or later, we all censor ourselves, hopefully for the better since even adults can be influenced. Then, the question becomes, how much of my time should be devoted to this vs devoted to things in my life that bring fruit to the world even if the world is my place of work and family.
Truthfully, I just started coming to these forums and I have found it a wonderful thing. But being someone always ready for discussion of like and different perspectives and always thirsting for knowledge and mental stimulation, this place is addicting. So, I now limit the time I spend here via the almighty clock. Otherwise my intellect becomes the means of sin through omission of my duties—even though this forum is a good. Same with MORE magazine incidentally, which I finally unsubscribed to - to the delight of my spiritual director.:slight_smile:


As I was reading this I was thinking about the study of theology. When I was in Rome, going to school, we read a great many pieces by theologians, philosophers, historians and scientists on both sides of the Church. I’m talking about the extreme right and left. There was no censorship, even though we were at a very orthodox pontifical university. The idea was very simple. If you were going to be a good theologian, you must know your faith. Theology is faith seeking understanding. To understand our faith, we had to read what was said about our faith by those who taught it and those who attacked it.

One of my favorite books about Jesus Christ was written by Albert Schweitzer, The Quest for the Historical Jesus. Schweitzer concluded that Jesus was the victim of the political wheels of the time. Basically, his conclusion is that Jesus is not truly a martyr for our sins, but a political martyr. The point that I’m making is that Schweitzer’s failure to understand Jesus, helped me understand the Roman’s failure to understand Jesus. After we read the book and finished the discussion, I thought to myself that Pilate must have been thinking that Jesus was a political pawn that could be sacrificed to maintain the status quo between the Jews and the Romans.

Many people would say that one has no business reading Albert Schweitzer’s book in a Catholic Christology class, because he fails to deliver the faith message that Jesus is the eternally begotten Son of God. However, on the other side of that coin, one can see how others completely missed the Divinity of Jesus and his messianic mission. It is this understanding that moves the theologian to write and teach in response to the errors made by such people. If we can’t see how they make the error, because we don’t read how they connect the dots, then we can’t explain an alternative method to approaching the subject.

After reading Schweitzer, I could walk away and say to anyone else, “Your method of doing Christology is faulty, because it’s looking at the events out of the context of the faith of Israel.” Like this, there are many examples of writings that are necessary if you’re going to be an orthodox theologian.

On the other hand, if one is looking for spiritual inspiration, then non Catholic and anti-Catholic literature is not necessary and will only serve to distract and upset. I guess what I’m trying to say is that one must know what one is looking for. If you’re looking to be a theologian, then you have to open all the arguments and analyze them. If you’re going to meditate on the mysteries of faith, then you don’t need anything outside of the Catholic spiritual writers.

I also believe that if one is going to read outside of the Catholic faith, one should do so with good guidance, be it a good professor of theology, spiritual director, catechist, etc.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:


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