The Catholic Church and censorship

How is an orthodox Catholic to handle ethical issues related to censorship? For example, the free exchange of materials that may be anti-Catholic, or may be deemed hate material (such as literature written by Nazis or violent communists?) Where is the line drawn (i.e. the Qu’ran would be defined as hate material based on Catholic standards, but the AFAIK the Catholic Church has no desire to suppress the distribution of Qu’rans). Does the Church support the freedom of the preservation and distribution of all published materials?


(I do know from my recent readings in ecclesiastical history that there were a LOT of book-burnings in the Church’s past.)

Not to mention that little list known as the Index Librorum Prohibitorum


As far as I know, the Church has never said that censorship is wrong. The idea of a free press is pretty limited to the US and a few western countries. She supports personal freedoms but that does not always extend to the freedom or license to distribute material of any nature to anyone.

What exactly are you wanting to know about what an individual Catholic should do? An individual Catholic should not purchase or read objectionable material, nor should they support it in other ways. They should not be involved in the production or distribution of it either.

The only reason there is no longer a list of banned books, or other material, is because of the sheer impracticality of such a list in this day and age.

So, we as Catholics are called to self censor using prudential judgment since the Church cannot possibly guide us on every book, article, or piece of information we come across.

This day and age? What does that mean? The Church does tell us not to buy, view or listen to certain things. Our judgment should always be based on Church teaching. I would say the majority of magazines contain objectionable material, especially those labeled “Men’s Interest” which means designed to incite lust.

The Church has clear guidelines. There’s a lot of bad stuff out there, include New Age material.


It means that when books were produced by hand, and mostly through the Catholic university system, the Church could effectively censor.

And in this day and age-- the one with unlimited publishing and dissemination of written information-- the Church cannot possibly do so.

Yes. In general terms.

However the Church used to list specific, **individual **titles. It cannot possibly do so now. There are bazillions of books, articles, websites, videos, songs, and other media.

Of course the Church has guidelines. That was not the question. The question was about censorship and the Church’s role. The Church is no longer the publisher of the world’s manuscripts, therefore it is no longer able to censor individual books or decline their publication.

I’m asking because I’m converting while in the middle of completing my Master’s degree in Library & Information Science. Libraries and digital mediators of knowledge are multicultural and multi-idealogical by nature. It would be fundamentally impossible for me to have a library faculty position if I only worked with materials I agreed with.

Of course I can explore and research this issue perfectly fine by myself :p, I just wanted to post this to get some initial reactions.

First of all, I disagree with your premise that libraries are “by nature” multi-ideological. There are plenty of libraries built to support and enrich a particular faith, ideology or world view.

That being said, I think it would be very hard to be a practicing Christian and to work in a public library. I know that our local library has been ordered to allow porn on its public terminals, even those available to children, in someone’s twisted interpretation of the First Amendment. There definitely should have been some censorship there.


I should have been a farmer or a brute laborer or something. This is so complicated.

This issue has come up because in the course of my studies, I’m slowly realizing that much of library culture, at least at the higher up end, has been conquered by wolves. The ALA (American Library Association) which is suppose to be a neutral supporter of the distribution of knowledge, has become political and done things like involve itself in Gay Pride marches, etc. It’s heavily controlled by evil women. I initially had in mind working at a large public library, but my values were somewhat different when I first started than what they were now.

I’ve been slowly exploring my options working as a correctional (prison) librarian or as a school librarian, hopefully in a Catholic school. A prison librarian actually sounds like an interesting job, because it does censor certain things, and it’s heavily geared towards instruction and helping people with their future vocational pursuits, etc. Plus I like the combination of academia and a high stress environment. I like kids but I’m not entirely sure how well I’m suited to work with them all day.

That does not mean you cannot be a force for good in the library system as a whole. Perhaps you can help bring sense and sanity into your little corner of the world.

And you can also look for opportunities to work in Catholic schools, universities, or even large corporations with specialty libraries (at my old company we had a library), etc.

You might try and be a beacon of light in the darkness. Jesus said [Matt 10:16], “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” While there are some professions more consumed by evil than others, you can hardly find one that isn’t.

Some might be too hard, like Medicine, where Doctors are increasingly required to do immoral things by law.

There are practical limits to what I can do without simply getting fired. I would not be at liberty to turn a library into a miniature Vatican, and ultimately, even if I’m not working somewhere that allows the consumption of XXX material, there are still going to be novels and such that I would not personally want my future children reading, etc. The acquisitions department of a library is not subject to personal taste. Although something curious about library culture is that libraries tend to be popular among moral conservatives, and yet the higher ups in the ALA are heavily liberal.

I’m getting involved in the Catholic Library Association to see how they handle these ethical issues.

Interesting that you can assume with certainty what the Church can and cannot do. I work in the book trade, I know the numbers and a lot of books being published today are worth a trip to the landfill. The electronic books, fortunately, save us the time, effort and space. Are there a lot of books being published? Yes. Are more of them really bad because people who publish electronically believe that without an editor and no previous experience, they can automatically produce a good book? Yes. No, I’m not talking about those who don’t care. I’ve been to the forum for authors of one particular, large e-book publishing platform, and the question was: “So, how’s your book selling?” The numbers would mean the company I work for would be out of business in 30 days.

You have apparently missed all the tracking available on the internet. The spiders that crawl everywhere. That information is available, and depending on the details you are looking for, can be assembled for a cost. All of it.


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