Need help by canonist! Urgent!

So I’m studying Law and in Labor Law I have to study unionism, but my teacher is socialist and I believe that the study material him favors this nefarious ideology. So in Decree against Communism by Pio XII excommunicates who read material that favors that ideology. So have any way I can study that material without be excommunicated?
( The test is Thursday!!! )

You can study it. You just can’t promote Communism.

That’s all the Decree against Communism says.

I don’t think so. The Decree:

"Quaesitum est ab hac Suprema Sacra Congregatione:

  1. Utrum licitum sit, partibus communistarum nomen dare vel eisdem favorem praestare;
  2. Utrum licitum sit edere, propagare vel legere libros, periodica, diaria vel folia, qual doctrine vel actioni communistarum patrocinantur, vel in eis scribere;
  3. Utrum Christifideles, qui actus, de quibus in n.1 et 2, scienter et libere posuerint, ad sacramenta admitti possint;
  4. Utrum Christifideles, Qui communistarum doctrinam materialisticam et anti Christianam profitentur, et in primis, Qui eam defendunt vel propagant, ipso facto, tamquan apostatae a fide catholica, incurrant in excommunicationem speciali modo Sedi Apostolicae reservatam.
    Emi ac Revmi Patres, rebus fidei ac morum tutandis praepositi, praehabito RR. DD. Consultorum voto, in consessu plenario feriae III (loco IV), diei 28 Iunii 1949, respondendum decreverunt:
    Ad 1. Negative: Communismus enim est materialisticus et antichristianus; duces autem communistarum autem duces, etsi verbis quandoque profitentur se religionem non oppugnare, re tamen, sive doctrina sive actione, Deo veraeque religioni et Ecclesia Christi sere infensos esse ostendunt;
    Ad 2. Negative: Prohibentur enim ipso iure (cf, CIC, can. 1399);
    Ad 3. Negative, secundum ordinaria principia de sacramentis denegandis iis, qui non sunt dispositi;
    Ad 4. Affirmative.
    Et sequenti feria V, die 30 eiusdem mensis et anni, Ssmus D. N. Pius divina Providentia Papa XII, in solit a audientia Excnio ac Revmo Dno Adsessori S. Officii impertita, relatam Sibi Emorum Patrum resolutionem adprobavit et in Actorum Apostolicae Sedis Commentario Officiali promulgari iussit. Datum Romae, die 1 Iulii 1949."

Since it is the start of the school year, why don’t you just drop the course? In all probability, using a religious excuse won’t get you too far in a secular institution. In all probability the school authorities will say you are just trying to get out of an exam.
I suggest that before you take any action, talk with the Chaplain of the Newman Society/ House on your Campus. Failing that, I would go to the nearest Catholic Rectory and ask to see a priest. Any priest is educated enough in Canon Law that he could give you sound advice in this matter. This could save you not only from embarrassment but it could save you your grade point average.
In any case, I doubt that the Canon Law you cite applies to you in your current situation. College Students in the United States attending secular schools are given wide latitude in what they read in their courses of study. If the Church did not give this latitude, how would any Catholic Lay intellectual be able to refute Socialism unless he had direct knowledge of its source? Any priest can give you an exemption that allows you to read/.study Socialism and other so-called anti-Catholic subjects while you are in University.

Ask Fr. Z?

Or try to call up a canonist?
Let us know what you discover!

My Latin is not great; which part forbids simply reading about Communism? It seems to be against becoming Communist, spreading Communism, profiting from Communist writing… bit not simply reading it.

I would also suggest that the re-casting of Canon Law in 1983 means that this rule, whatever strength it may have had, has been abrogated.

  1. Utrum licitum sit edere, propagare vel legere libros, periodica, diaria vel folia, qual doctrine vel actioni communistarum patrocinantur, vel in eis scribere;

Google translator says: “2. Whether it is lawful to eat, to propagate or read books, periodic, diaries and papers, the quality of teaching or defend the action of the Communist, or write on them;”

I can confirm from my instruction in Latin that “legere libros” means something like “to read books”.
[Simply because I am translating does not mean that I believe this copy of the Decree against Communism is a legitimate copy, nor do I know anything about whether or not it has been repealed by later Canon Law. I have read*** that the Canon Law of 1983 has repealed the Canon law of 1917; I do not know if this is the limit of what the Canon Law of 1983 has changed].
***I have read this about the Canon Law of 1983 here:

I hope the suggestion to drop the course arises simply from pragmatism rather than from a concern about what is right!

I have never heard of the need to seek approval to study anything, let alone a political system.

I am not a cannonist or priest; **to get a real answer to this question, contact one of them.
My research so far indicates:
The portion of the decree that asks whether it is lawful to “to publish, disseminate, or read books, periodicals, newspapers or leaflets which support the teaching or action of Communists, or to write in them” is point number 2 of what “the Sacred Supreme Congregation has been asked”.
The answer to 2 by the fathers who answered is “in the negative: they are prohibited ipso iure”,
where a quick google search says ipso iure means by operation of law

Here are 3 online versions of this decree (none of them from official Vatican websites):

2 of the online versions parenthetically cross reference canon 1399 for this answer; presumably of the 1917 canon law (since this Decree was from before 1983, and that law (canon 1399 of the 1917 code of canon law) itself is relevant (latin versions of which can be found online), and Wikipedia states that there have been only 2 codifications of the canon laws, the 1917 code and the 1983 code.)

If the only law prohibiting the reading of those books is the 1917 canon law 1399, and this decree merely cites or restates that that law exists, and if no new law has been made since then that copies or replaces that law and states the same thing, then the repeal (replacement) of the 1917 code of canon law by the 1983 code of canon law would seem also to have replaced the code of canon law on which answer 2 is based. If this is the only basis for answer 2 in this Decree against Communism, then it would appear that that basis has been removed. This is all reasoning and guesswork, so you need to speak to a priest or canonist if you want to know the answer to this question. I have no authority to answer your question, and nothing I am saying here really matters
So, things to consider:

  1. Did answer 2 of this Decree merely state that the 1917 code of canon law prohibited this, or did it issue a new teaching/law of its own?
  2. Was the only basis for answer 2 of this Decree the 1917 code of canon law?
  3. If so, does the replacement of the 1917 code of canon law with a new code of canon law (the 1983 code) remove the authority of answer 2 of this Decree?
  4. Has a new law been put in place that would still make it illicit for a Catholic to read books favorable to Communism?

Please note that the Decree itself only states (from one of the online translations I’m reading; the geocities one cited above) that those who profess, defend, or propagate the materialist, anti-Christian doctrine of Communists incur “ipso facto” excommunication. (this is seen in answer 4 of the Decree). The Decree does not explicitly state that someone who merely reads the materials supporting the teaching or action of Communist will be “ipso facto” excommunicated. However, the decree does say that someone reading the materials supporting the teaching or action of Communist, under the ‘ordinary principles concerning the refusal of Sacraments’, may not be admitted to the Sacraments.
Of course, this only matters for present purposes if the Decree is still in force…which you will only get a definite answer to if you talk to a priest or canonist. So please, go speak with a priest or canonist.

Where here (foruns) I get help of a canonist urgent, does anyone know?

I do not think you will find a Canonist on this or any other site that will answer your question -largely because of a reason I politely tried to cite in an earlier response. Your query reads like you are just trying to get out of doing an assignment or an exam.
Even if you do get a reply from a self professed Canonist, how will you know he/she is genuine? Because of the anonymity of the internet, anyone can claim they are anything.
This is the second day you are trying for an answer on this site. If you had sought out a priest, you would have had a definitive answer already…or are you just one of those people who wants to debate for its own sake?..and yes, when it comes to Academia, I am a pragmatist. When it comes to a faculty vs. student argument, the student will not only always lose, but will pay a heavy penalty for having the temerity for getting into such a situation in the first place. It is very much like shooting craps with the other guys loaded dice.
Your job is to pass your courses with the best possible grade. If there are questions about the content of a course or a moral question about the legitimacy of some reading material, this is best discussed in private with the professor, Not on the internet!

As I said in an earlier response to you, you do not need anyone’s permission to study a legitimate course. Why on earth shouldn’t you learn something about Unionism and labour laws? Why on earth shouldn’t you learn something about the origins and principles of socialism, or communism for that matter? Why on earth shouldn’t you learn something about capitalism?

Point #2 is the one that affects your decision. The response was that the prohibition was “by operation of the law” (ipso iure)in regard to Canon 1399. Canon 1399 was a prohibition against the publication of private revelation/miracles/visions and was abrogated in 1967, according to this site:

Current Canon 1399 states, “Can. 1399 In addition to the cases established here or in other laws, the external violation of a divine or canonical law can be punished by a just penalty only when the special gravity of the violation demands punishment and there is an urgent need to prevent or repair scandals.”

I am not a Canon Lawyer, but it appears you are free to study Communism/Socialism in the course of study. Common sense would tell you that you can’t defend Truth against something you don’t understand. And you can’t understand Communism if you don’t study it.

Well, it’s Friday but I’ll answer your question. First, I think you may be misunderstanding that Decree. For the offense of reading such material, the person was not to be admitted to the Sacraments (n. 3). That’s not excommunication. The excommunication is for those who defend and propogate Communist ideology (n. 4).

Be that as it may, in the current Code(s) there is no prohibition for reading any books–there is no canon that corresponds to the old canon 1399, (a canon which was about more than private revelations, by the way). So, you can freely read such things and even listen to the propaganda of a socialist teacher and still be admitted to the Sacraments. That being said, a person who promotes and defends communism might still get excommunicated but…you’re not doing that.


Huh? So you can’t read Karl Marx in an intro social science class in order to contrast him with Adam Smith? That seems preposterous. And you can’t learn about how labor unions work? Also preposterous. I’m pretty sure you can even join a labor union and still be a Catholic just fine.

Or maybe I am misunderstanding this thread?

The person initiating the thread apparently had concerns along those lines. His concerns are unfounded and you can study any legitimate subject you like, including communism.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit