Index of Forbidden Books

I know there is no ecclesiastical penalty attached with reading books on the Index, but some online have mentioned its moral force is still intact. But what about people like Antonio Rosmini-Serbati, who is now a Blessed? I’ve read that Schiller had something on the Index (although I don’t know what), so if (hypothetically) his Ode to Joy was on the Index then would that have moral force? How far does this go? :confused:

This is the only thing I found on the Vatican website:

But that doesn’t say you can’t read them, just basically says to be careful.

Pax Christi.

Please, please, please don’t read The History of My Misfortunes by Peter Abelard.

You won’t go to hell because of it. But it’s so whiny!!

God bless, and forgive him for naming his son, Astrolabe…

The modern Church continues to offer guidance to the faithful, but in a positive way (instead of prohibiting certain books, She rather endorses them):

Can. 827 §1. To be published, catechisms and other writings pertaining to catechetical instruction or their translations require the approval of the local ordinary, without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 775, §2.

§2. Books which regard questions pertaining to sacred scripture, theology, canon law, ecclesiastical history, and religious or moral disciplines cannot be used as texts on which instruction is based in elementary, middle, or higher schools unless they have been published with the approval of competent ecclesiastical authority or have been approved by it subsequently.

§3. It is recommended that books dealing with the matters mentioned in §2, although not used as texts in instruction, as well as writings which especially concern religion or good morals are submitted to the judgment of the local ordinary.

§4. Books or other writings dealing with questions of religion or morals cannot be exhibited, sold, or distributed in churches or oratories unless they have been published with the permission of competent ecclesiastical authority or approved by it subsequently.

The modern Church, at least for English-speakers, has also presented a Film Index.

Prior to 2011, the US Bishops (USCCB) offered reviews from a Catholic moral perspective on an astonishing range of films. This role is currently being filled by the Catholic News Service. I took a look at their review for Schindler’s List (1993), and it was rated A-3 (adult), which is comparable to the MPAA rating, R.

Like the original Index, these are guidelines, not actual prohibitions (the original Index was only enforceable within the Papal States).

Interesting stuff!

Like the original Index, these are guidelines, not actual prohibitions (the original Index was only enforceable within the Papal States).

Well maybe it was unenforceable, but technically the penalties would apply prior to its abolition.

I probably should’ve been clearer in my initial post, but basically I’m asking what does the following mean:

the Index remains morally binding, in light of the demands of natural law, in so far as it admonishes the conscience of Christians to be on guard for those writings that can endanger faith and morals. But, at the same time, it no longer has the force of ecclesiastical law with the attached censure.

Is that just saying “be careful and don’t put yourself in an occasion of sin” or does that mean anything on the Index shouldn’t be read (under pain of sin?). Like, (example) would I sin by reading Luther (second interpretation)? Or should I just be cautious reading Luther (first interpretation)?


I think it is just this general principle in the CCC:

2088 The first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it.

So basically the first interpretation is the one I think is correct. The Index itself was never absolute (certain people could be dispensed from it for various purposes). Likewise, things were put on and taken off the Index over the course of centuries given the circumstances–just because a book was on there at one point doesn’t mean the Church was giving a dogmatic judgment on it (Rosmini’s were taken off during his lifetime, for example). It also wasn’t exhaustive: there were plenty of bad books that were never addressed.

Just to add, Rosmini submitted himself to the judgment of the Church. Being wrong is not a sin when you are open to correction from the Church. In fact, his response to his book being placed on there is evidence of his holiness and humility (Rosmini himself was on the Congregation for the Index, so he knew well what it meant and how it’s judgments were to be received). There are other examples like him, such as Bl. Ramon Llull, who had many of his books and propositions condemned as well.

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