Index of forbidden books

I heard that in the Index of forbidden books, the church stated ‘Omnes fabulae amatoriae (all love stories)’ were all forbidden

Here is a link that I heard that from, it was a review on Count of Monte Crisco:

So, as I read this for the Index Librorum Liberorum Challenge, why was Dumas banned by the Catholic church? The Catholic Church banned both Dumas père and fils, and the list states that père is prohibited because of ‘Omnes fabulae amatoriae’ which with my rusty GCSE Latin, I translate as ‘all love stories’. I imagine The Count would be part of this, as it is very much a story about love and hate. When reading it I could see why the Church may not like it; the Count is a man who sees himself as a vessel of God, doing His bidding when carrying out his revenge, a twisted view of religion. It also contains scenes of illegitimate birth and extra-marital affairs. It doesn’t seem much of a reason to ban an author, but maybe it was enough in the mid- 1800s.

does this mean that it is a sin to read love stories or make them?

I’m not familiar with this particular example to comment on its veracity, but the Index of Forbidden Books was done away with. There is no penalty of sin tied to writing or reading love stories.

“Love story” is sort of a generic term. If you’re talking about racy romance novels, then there could be sin involved. “The Count of Monte Cristo”, though? I doubt there would be sin involved in reading it, unless an individual’s particular sensibilities makes it likely that such a story would lead them to sin.

Discernment is key.

You can read about the Index of Forbidden Books here.

The moral law behind it always remains.

In the list of forbidden books from the above, is the citation:

“Dumas, Alexander (father and son). All novels, except The Count of Montecristo.”


In regards to tales of ‘love’, here are two quotes that might give some insight as to problems that can occur in that regard:

‘O Ye virgins, I have but a word to say to you. If you look to married life in this life, guard your first love jealously for your husband. It seems to me a miserable fraud to give a husband a worn-out heart, whose love has been frittered away and despoiled of its first bloom instead of a true, whole-hearted love.’

St. Francis de Sales

‘But some one may say, What harm is there in reading romances and profane poetry when they contain nothing immodest? Do you ask what harm? Behold the harm: the reading of such works kindles the concupiscence of the senses, and awakens the passions; these easily gain the consent of the will, or at least render it so weak that when the occasion of any dangerous affection occurs the devil finds the soul already prepared to allow itself to be conquered. A wise author has said that by the reading of such pernicious books heresy has made, and makes every day, great progress; because such reading has given and gives increased strength to libertinism. The poison of these books enters gradually into the soul; it first makes itself master of the understanding, then infects the will, and in the end kills the soul. The devil finds no means more efficacious and secure of sending a young person to perdition than the reading of such poisoned works.’

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

No…but of course one should be careful what stories one reads …there are good ones and not good one…etc

I guess the devil’s weaker than I thought then because I’d sooner go either emo or fuzzy after reading a love story. :stuck_out_tongue:

And frankly, I’d rather read about a cute girl confessing her feelings than some religious exalting the “joys” of the celibate life. At least the former has a chance of either inciting a sense of hope and longing for my own love-life or a grim sense of loneliness and self-pity. The latter? I find that it just makes a mockery of my single status. It’s insulting really. :mad:

has there ever been an “Index” of forbidden music by the church?

Not that I know of.

I think the Church gives us more leeway in the area of discernment than some of us are comfortable in having. It would be convenient to have an infallible list from the Vatican as to what is acceptable and what needs to be avoided. :wink:

I think the Church was very wise to move away from all that. For one, in our modern day, it would be a logistical nightmare. A few centuries ago, there weren’t that many books being churned out. Now, the Church could never keep up with all the media being produced: books, movies, music, blogs, youtube videos, etc., etc.

If you’re interested in what the Church has to say, I recommend looking at some of the documents on social communications, particularly the annual messages for World Communications Day. I have assembled links to as many of them as I could find on my website:

I think we are better off forming our minds and hearts with guidance from the general principles the Church has laid out for us and then using that to discern what is appropriate and what is not rather than simply being told to avoid this and embrace that. It’s the whole “giving a man a fish” vs. “teaching a man to fish” thing. :slight_smile:

You know, I was staring at a certain earlier post, tipping my head in disbelief…
Then I noticed Shin posted it, and eeeeeverything made sense.
But, aside from all that, I’m rather curious…
What, exactly, are the issues with Victor Hugo? Are there any actual explanations as to WHY Les Miserables is considered bad?

If you’ve read it or are familiar with I could guess that perhaps the way Hugo uses the Saintly character of Bishop Myriel to draw a contrast between him any many wordly and corrupt Churchmen might not have gone down a storm. It was also banned in Russia for a fairly long period as it’s depiction of royalty is er, not all that flattering.

That’s only a guess as to why it was on the list but if anyone knows exactly the conditions it was placed on there for let us know. Quite ironic really as it’s one of my favourite works and i read it several times when I was 18 . Zola’s Germinal is also another French work I read at the same time I’d strongly recommend.

Are we still prohibited under pain of sin from reading any of the books on the Index? All I know is that we cannot be excommunicated anymore for reading them.

If it is a sin to read a book on the index, is it a mortal or a venial sin?

“The Index retains its moral force, inasmuch as it warns the Christian conscience to be on guard, as the natural law itself requires, against those writings which can endanger the faith or good morals.”


No, it is not sinful. Like Ed’s quote said, a book’s former inclusion on the list may still be an indication that caution may be in order, but the penalty of sin is no longer attached. (Where did you get that quote from, Ed?)

Dear Joe,

Cordial greetings and a belated happy New Year to you and your dear wife.

The Index of Forbidden Books was surely the Church recognizing that what the faithful read would greatly influence their faith, for good or for bad. The Index continued, in one fashion or another, until in the last century when the prohibition against printing, selling or reading certain books was mitigated and then finally repealed altogether. Whilst it is true that the Church still retains the same concerns for the integrity of our faith, as in times past, the shift is toward a different understanding of the way Church law should reflect that concern. As you say, it is now more a matter of a man using his individual discernment, hopefully informed by the general sweep of Church teaching, and his prudential judgement, if it is not radically defective.

Whilst I appreciate the immense difficulties that would be involved in the implementation of an Index today, I am of the opinion that it was an unfortunate step to remove it, at least totally at any rate. Given that our Church exists to sanctify men, she must needs give them all that is necessary for their eternal salvation and this must needs entail safeguarding them from anything that could possibly hinder it. How can the Church remain indifferent if the members whom she is supposed to be saving are polluting their hearts and minds with culturally unwholesome literature or debased sensory material? Given that multitudes of Catholics have become, and I say this with a truly heavy heart, contaminated by and asimilated to the immoral and godless spirit of the age, can they really be trusted to make the correct prudential judgement? Are their hearts and minds sufficiently informed by their faith to be capable of assertaining what is acceptable and what unacceptable to those professing godliness? Joe, old chap, I have very grave doubts about that when I think of the increasing secularisation of the Church and its attendant Laodicean worldliness.

One only has to think of the controversy and, indeed, uncertainty that surrounds the thorny issues of rock music and the Harry Potter series to realize that some form of censorship by the Church is urgently called for. Men do require some sort of official guidance on these highly controversial areas where there exists so much diversity of opinion and also so much doubt. To ask for such guidance and leadership does seem perfectly reasonable, for if the Church has a divine mandate to teach faith and morals, then clearly it has a correlative duty to ensure that the faithful are not reading unwholesome books or listening to debased forms of music that will effectively undermine that very faith. As St. Paul says, “Evil communications corrupt good manners”, therefore a man’s thoughts will be moulded by his choice of reading, viewing or listening material and sometimes the wrong choices could have eternal consequences. It seems, therefore, very imprudent to leave everything to man’s prudential judgement and discernment, for men are very likely, when it comes to the arts and literature, to be swayed their own personal worldly preferences. Moreover, they can also reassure themselves that something is quite permissible becuase the Church has not issued any official pronouncement on such and such an issue. This would have been considered most unsatisfactory to the Church in former generations, which is why the Index existed in the first place, namely to protect the faithful from making an erroneous judgement that could be harmful to their spiritual well-being.

Therefore whilst I freely admit that there cannot be a list of every prohibited book or film etc., I do believe that a list of some highly contentious books such as the Potter series, for example, need now some official pronouncement, given their world-wide popularity among impressionable youth and the blunt warnings uttered by exorcists like Father Gabreile Amorth respecting them.

Warmest good wishes,



This day in age “Forbidding” things will just make Catholics further look like wackos.

Insted there should be clear guidlines that even the unchurched can find room to agree with, such as what is good for an individual. Certinally novels which boarder on porn should be frowned upon, but fantacy with christian themes isn’t worthy of banning.

Dear SeaShoreGirl,

Cordial greetings and a very warm welcome to CAF.

On the contrary, I think that were the Church to revert to its former position of prohibiting certain unwholesome books, likely to corrupt faith or morals, it would actually win the admiration of the godless world and enhance its credibility status. At least we would be respected for adopting an official standpoint on some hotly disputed topic of the day - especially one which has engendered much controversy and about which there has been so much uncertainty among the faithful. In any event, some men will always think that Catholics have taken leave of their senses for all manner of reasons. Thus, for example, that we continue to disallow artificial means of birth prevention is enough to render us of unsound mind in the eyes of many ‘liberated’ men and women today.

It is all too easy to develop an unhealthy obsession with presenting a very world-affirming, modern image of the Church that soft-pedals the vast differences that exist between it and the world in terms of ideological outlook. Besides, our brief is not to make the Church more appealing or more accessible but to declare with authority God’s truth, even if that truth is unpalatable and unpopular with the masses of unbelievers who are, alas, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is within them. As regards “what is good for the individual”, I rather think that it would be quite difficult to reach a consensus among the “unchurched”, for there would be innumerable opinions and notions about what exactly was ‘good’, many of them at variance with the Church’s doctrinal and moral teaching.

History shows that the Church has always made the greatest impact upon the world when it has been most unlike the world. As the famous Anglican clergyman, Dean Inge, once said, “The Church that marries the spirit of the age will be a widow in the next”.

Once again, welcome aboard.

Warmest good wishes,



Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo. ~H.G. Wells

While we are still “sheep” we are not like we were 100 years ago. People were more or less illeterate and there wasn’t alot out there. People took books for face value and everything as true. Much like Homer Simpson’s motto “The TV said it so it MUST be true.” As a society we have moved beyond that.

Too many people think the Church is about RULES and nothing else. It is not about rules but about loving princibles that guide us. To every “sin” there is almost always an exception. You can kill someone, if your life or country depens on it. You can miss mass if you’re traveling or sick or have a small child. You can lie to save a life, you can be estranged from your parents,…etc. Simply having a bucket list is wrong. Cultural values are important in living IN a culture.

Would you ban Dickens or Austen? Certinally held up to the “moral” standars of the time it’d be banned. And to us, in 2011, that would be a tragedy.


Thank you, as always, for your kind greetings. Even when we disagree, I cannot help but like you. :slight_smile:

You are correct that the only way the Index of Forbidden Books could be implemented today is with the major caveat that it is not a complete list of books that are potentially harmful to the faith. Even with that caveat in place, though, you would still get many people saying that such-and-such book must be okay (or, at least, that the books is not that bad) because “it’s not on the list.”

If the Holy See did bring it back, I think they would have to change the name, though. :stuck_out_tongue: At least here in the U.S., there are so many negative connotations associated with such a phrase (“forbidden books”) that it would put people off. It’s like when the Church wisely chose to change the name of the “Sacred Congregation of the Universal Inquisition” to the “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith”. Sometimes we have to accept that certain words or phrases start to work against us.

I admit, I think it would be interesting to see the Index make a return, but I am skeptical that it would have a positive impact. I can see people like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins competing for bragging rights over who can get the most number of books added to the list. I don’t think that type of publicity would be beneficial to the Church over all. The Church would find herself in the position of either condeming a bad book and giving the author the publicity they were seeking (thereby increasing their sales) or else ignoring a book and having people speculate that it’s not bad. That’s a tough position to be in.

Dear SeaShoreGirl,

Cordial greetings and a very good day.

The illiteracy or credulity of the faithful were not the purpose of having a prohibition index, rather it was because the Church was aware from very early times that she had a sense of duty towards those whom she is commissioned to guide into the way of salvation. The Church wanted to ensure that Catholics were kept free from unwholesome and obscene reading (so there was an assumption that they could read and understand) which could potentially corrupt their faith and morals, perhaps even permanently. Moreover, it was right that she exercised, as mother of all her spiritual children, this wise parental supervision over their spiritual formation.

The Church is very much about the observance of rules, the Ten Commandments being the greatest rules of all. If a man truly loves Christ then he will endeavour to walk worthy of his profession by a life of obedience to the laws of the Church and Sacred Scripture. For that is truly being motivated and moved by love - “If you love me, keep my Commandments”, said our dear Lord. Moreover, if the prevailing cultural ‘values’ are at variance with the the laws of the Church, then clearly the the laws of the Church will always take precedence, for “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5: 29). Indeed, it is the price of being a Christian in a morally bankrupt society that one must be prepared to render obedience to God’s laws and bear the cost of so doing. Incidently, I tend to refrain from using the word ‘values’ as it is frequently employed nowadays to present views destructive of Christian principles under some veil of respectability. One often hears about the ‘changing values’ of the modern age, meaning that conduct considered improper and unacceptable in the days of our forefathers is now regarded as quite permissible and ‘hip’ in our so called enlightened times. As if we had to wait for the 21st century to arrive before we could be told that former generations had it all wrong, but now, fear not, wisdom and insight is in our very midst. The sheer arrogance of it all!

What is more important is that, as far as I am aware, the literary works of Dickens or Austen never appeared on the Index of Forbidden Books, thus one can only assume that they were never deemed likely to corrupt the morals of the faithful, even against the backdrop of Victorian England. Moreover, It is very difficult to see how the books of these classical authors could be seen as morally offensive and inclined to influence the hearts and minds of the faithful in the direction of sin and debauched living. Would reading either of these authors cause our love for God to wane or spoil our true joy and peace? Methinks decidedly not.

Anyway thankyou for taking the time to respond to my posts and do enjoy your time on CAF.

God bless you.

Warmest good wishes,



Dear Joe,

Cordial greetings dear friend and thankyou for the above. Jolly good to hear from you again.

If nothing else we surely do demonstrate that men of the same faith can profoundly disagree with one another without being disagreable. May I say that you have my respect for being able to engage in debate without rancour or by resorting to unpleasant remarks, so very important in public forums such as these.

Any reinstatement of a prohibition index would have to be implemented with the proviso that only highly contested books or films etc., over which debate has raged and which have been the occasion of much controversy in the Church world-wide, be included, if that was deemed appropriate and necessary. At least it would inform the faithful about the mind of the Church on the most controversial books which have engendered much heated discussion within Catholicism (e.g. the Harry Potter series of books).

Yes, the names of certain insitutions will necessarily change over time, especially if, as you say, those names have negative implications which would prove unhelpful to the Church’s mission in the contemporary world.

Whilst I can appreciate your point about heretics attempting to get on the index for publicity purposes, I think that would be a small price to pay if the faithful were not left in any doubt about what the Church thought officially, for example, about very popular works of fiction or controversial films. It would be again giving that maternal guidance so as to ensure that the faith and morals of Catholics are not corrupted nor their love for God diminished.

God bless you always.

Warmest good wishes,



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