Why does the Church advocate censorship?


Freedom of speech seems to be one of those things the Church has looked upon with a jaundiced eye, probably because of its Enlightenment associations. I think Pius IX considered freedom of speech one of the errors in his Syllabus. Francis has also advocated limits on speech.

But I feel like the Church’s rationale is flimsy on this issue. It seems to amount to “free speech allows people to spread false, heretical ideas, and heretical ideas are harmful to souls, those who speak against Catholic doctrine must be silenced”. This appears to be circular logic (free speech is wrong because it says we’re wrong, so it must be wrong).

So what other justification is ther for censorship, besides an argument from authority (“because God/the Church/the Pope says so”)?

It reminds me of a *Game of Thrones *quote: “If you cut out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar. You are only showing the world that you fear what he has to say.”


“…spread false, heretical ideas, and heretical ideas are harmful to souls…” is not the same as “…wrong because it says we’re wrong…”.

A desire to protect someone from damnation has nothing to do with not wanting anyone to claim you are wrong. I have also never witnessed the Church ever trying to stamp out dialog with people who disagree with her. Rather, the Church embraces these opportunities to talk out our differences and debate the issues. The only “argument from authority” or “circular logic” is that which does not represent the reality of the Church’s position.


The Church doesn’t advocate censorship. The Church doesn’t teach that governments should be allow to limit/monitor a person’s speech. However, the Church does teach that individuals should monitor their own speech.

Just because someone has a right to say something doesn’t mean that they should. Free speech is a right that should be used responsibly. However, some people often do not practice responsibility when the speak.

For example: during all of these post-Ferguson protests/riots, etc; the media basically told people how to find the home of one of the police officers. The policeman and the police force were naturally mad at the media. The media pulled the story, but too late. It was already out there; hence putting the police officer’s family at danger.

The media had a right to tell that story, but it was totally irresponsible.

It’s like the Pope said… if you don’t be surprised if you get punched for bashing someone’s mom.

We have a legal right to say things and do things. But everything we say and do has consequences. The Church teaches that we should conscientious of those consequences and speak in a responsible manner.

This is a far cry from limiting the legality of free speech.

I hope my post makes sense. May The Lord grant us wisdom and understanding. Amen.


where do you get the idea that our Holy Church is against (or for, for that matter) the american-constitution defined bill of rights idea of “freedom of speech”?

freedom of speech is not a theological issue


No – not “freedom of speech,” but “absolute, unrestrained freedom of speech.” From Quanta Cura:

they do not fear to foster that erroneous opinion, most fatal in its effects on the Catholic Church and the salvation of souls, called by Our Predecessor, Gregory XVI, an “insanity,” viz., that … “a right resides in the citizens to an absolute liberty, which should be restrained by no authority whether ecclesiastical or civil, whereby they may be able openly and publicly to manifest and declare any of their ideas whatever, either by word of mouth, by the press, or in any other way.”

So, let me ask you – in the United States, where “freedom of speech” is an important part of our ideals, do we have “an absolute liberty… restrained by no authority… publicly to declare any ideas whatever”? Before you answer, ask yourself: do you have the right to cry ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre? Do you have the right to damage a person’s reputation through slander or libel?

No, of course you don’t have that right; and, in fact, in the U.S. you might be subject to prosecution if you do so. In other words, the U.S. – which upholds ‘freedom of speech’ – implicitly agrees with Pius IX, in that it has set restraints on the proper use of freedom of speech.

But I feel like the Church’s rationale is flimsy on this issue. It seems to amount to “free speech allows people to spread false, heretical ideas, and heretical ideas are harmful to souls, those who speak against Catholic doctrine must be silenced”. This appears to be circular logic (free speech is wrong because it says we’re wrong, so it must be wrong).

No, I think the argument is “unlimited free speech allows people to make false statements with intent of doing harm and injustice, and this cannot be permitted in human society.”

So what other justification is ther for censorship, besides an argument from authority (“because God/the Church/the Pope says so”)?

Not censorship, but accountability.

Without accountability, Pius IX asserts, “human society, when set loose from the bonds of religion and true justice, can have, in truth, no other end than the purpose of obtaining and amassing wealth, and that (society under such circumstances) follows no other law in its actions, except the unchastened desire of ministering to its own pleasure and interests.”


Why should the Church be in favor of the distribution of pornography? Why do you believe that the unrestrained distribution of pornography is a good idea?


Okay, pornography is different. I would never advocate unrestricted distribution of porn.

I think my question has been adequately answered. I could have gotten the idea that the Church is pro-censorship from a number of places, mostly in my mind. Forgive me, this was another one of my impulsive posts, made out of impulsive frustration rather than a rational grievance.,


There are days when it just seems that way. The bishops can sometimes come off as a pack of micromanaging control freaks. I know that isn’t reality, but my perception of it is.


Did Jesus support free speech? He was certainly quick to condemn and correct error. He being the Truth is diametrically opposed to error because of the damage it does. The Church is His mystically body here on earth and it should behave the same.


Honestly I think they should “micromanage” and “control” way more than they do. I think they are too lax for my taste. Some days I wonder if they are the opposite of what you describe. And that is my frustration.

Do you have an example?
The marriage issue perhaps? Or a liturgical issue? what do you think the Bishops are not allowing “free speech” on?


The Bishops? :smiley:
hmmmmm When was the last time I heard anyone discussing what the Bishops thought about anything???
Ok, let me get back to you, LOL
God bless you, I think you got some great answers.


Speaking purely from my own perspective, if I were one day to become the monarch of a nation, here is how I would treat free speech:

Everyone, from hardcore Catholic to the most liberal of atheists, would be required to receive a solid Catholic education that teaches the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the good, bad, and ugly truth, about the Church. And anyone who said that the Church taught such-and-such when in fact she did not would be corrected on the matter. And if they persisted in saying the Catholic Church was something she was not - well, why do you think that might be?

Now on matters of history, that’s one thing. Every church and ecclesial community has to maintain their narrative somehow, and so I think there can be freedom of debate on that. I think general moral or universal principles can be the same way; we don’t know them perfectly, and there’s room for discussion and debate. The same with science. And as for other churches and religions, I don’t rightly care whether or not anyone understands them entirely correctly.

But if they do not understand the Catholic Church correctly when she says something - and most people do not nowadays - how will they ever come to know the Truth?

So, for a persistent heretic, well, I think heresy is dangerous, and should not be tolerated. But the heretic himself? He’s a human being, made in the image of God and loved by Him. I think rehabilitating the heretic, by sending him to a school where he can learn a more practical trade to take his mind off of higher thoughts, and perhaps offering him reeducation in the process - I think that might be a good idea. Repeat offenders shouldn’t be tortured. But have you heard of those luxury prisons in Norway and Sweden? Something like that would be a good idea for heretics, I think.


Don’t be so tough on yourself – that idea comes from contemporary society, not from you. You’ve heard those voices, perhaps, and tacitly accepted their assertions, and have internalized their rhetoric.

When looking up Quanta Cura for the quote I provided, I ran across the Wiki article on it. Guess what I found? Yep, sure enough… they make exactly the same claim (that is, that the Church is anti-free-speech). Just sad. :sad_yes:

(I briefly considered making an edit to the page, but didn’t have sufficient motivation to tilt against that windmill… :()


While I dont believe modern day porn is a good thing, I do think it is a good thing for us to to look at another human body and admire how beautiful it is, Im talking about naked bodies as well, however I would bet most christians would not admit to looking at naked pictures of women/men, they would think its somehow dirty or wrong. This is nothing but Satan influencing us in my opinion, Ive even seen the statue of David censored when its shown on TV…I mean, WOW, they actually censor this on TV…?? WHY? lol


There is this idea that anybody can say whatever they want but should they? Let’s break it down.

  1. Only I decide what to say and I’ll say anything.

  2. I will say almost anything but impose certain limits on myself based on various things, which could include how I was raised, what I was taught and the way people around me spoke, among other things.

  3. I like the truth. Foul language is wrong. And I’m that way because that’s the way I was taught, usually from a religious basis.

Words have power and influence. The truth is the truth. If anyone reading this holds to both of these ideas then saying anything means you’re responsible for what you said. I don’t just mean that in a legal/law kind of sense but in any situation.

The Church has been called the greatest truth-telling institution in the world (Al Kresta on Catholic Radio). The first truth is that there is a God that can be known through natural/non-religion based reason.

Some people have been called “great” for speaking the truth on matters of global importance, while some people avoid saying certain things, and yes, encouraging others to not say certain things. They set a good example to family, friends and total strangers.

The Church tells us that we are in a daily struggle against good and evil, right and wrong, vice and virtue, first, within ourselves, next, from those around us who we talk to and how they talk, and third, from a media that has - on many occasions - kept people in the dark and is promoting vulgarity, profanity and worse. So we can’t be complacent either.

Yeah, “it’s work” or “It’s too much work.” Because of our warring human natures and fallen state, the bad, wrong words seem easier to say. Besides, everybody talks like that. Right? Not everybody.

The Church advocates good, pleasant and truthful speech. I think those are good things. And yes, the Church will say this or that person said something that is not true or wrong or incorrect. Again, not saying something that isn’t true is a good thing. Even if you are against something, do you want to be wrong or study whatever if it is to see if you have a reason to say you are right? You want to be correct not incorrect.

All this leads to healthier societies and more agreeable ways to exchange ideas and have good discussions.



I don’t want to get bogged down on whether or not the Church actually DOES “advocate censorship” - that’s such a broad accusation. However, let’s assume that it does for a moment:

Simply, the ultimate goal of the Church is the salvation of humanity and the glorification of God. Terrestrial freedom is a lovely thing, but many men and women have gone to Heaven without the luxury of liberty. The church espouses freedom insofar as is consistent with its moral teachings - that is to say, while it holds personal freedoms as a very good thing, it is not an immediate concern of the state of men’s souls.

It’s a novel idea for us, who have enjoyed living in countries where, for the most part, doing and saying literally whatever you want is vaunted as an objective good. This is entirely the reason why Western thought so quickly condemns “institutional religion” as being overly restrictive and moralistic - the new morality is freedom. Ultimately, however, the Church advocates certain moral truths and condemns their antitheses - and, logically, advocates the promotion of the truths and condemns those who promote immoral or unjust agendas.

Of course the Church, which advocates a certain moral doctrine, is opposed to the dissemination of information contrary to that doctrine. As an American, I can say that my opponents’ ability to proclaim their opinion is proof that my country’s open forum for free thought is still working. I do not, however, think it is morally right for him to spread falsehood. Moreover, the freedom to spread falsehood as protected by American law is a consideration for me as an American citizen; it has no claim on the conduct of the Church, whose principal consideration with regards to speech is the promotion of truth.

If the concern is that “censorship” prevents honest discussion about what IS morally right and wrong, then for the most part you’re several hundred years late. The teachings f the church as we see them are merely the conclusions resting atop years upon years upon years of debate; the Church’s history is characterized by nothing if not by internal and external dialogue. Most of those debates were resolved satisfactorily; some resolved less favorably by schism; others continue to this day. The Church has never, to my knowledge, advocated silence on a subject it itself sought the truth about; any “censorship” involved what it deemed to be open and shut topics, even if those topics were later reopened.

Again, I have not read Pius IX, but I feel that saying “the Church advocates censorship” is a pretty broad statement to make, especially when “censorship” is the sort of word usually levied at communist China or North Korea. It’s a buzzword, a trendy handle with too many modern connotations to be used gracefully in this context. If we say, however, that “the Church advocates stopping what it judges to be deliberately misleading or harmful information,” well, yeah. Find a state, organization, or religious institution that does the opposite. As others point, out, even freedom of speech in America is preserved within a context that rules out TOTAL freedom of speech, for the protection of its citizens. Unlike the United States, however, the whole point of the Church is to provide unambiguous moral and spiritual guidance, not carte-blanche license to do whatever.

Also, at the tremendous risk of sounding pompous, in discussing the ways and means of a millennia-old, billion-person-strong religious institution with centuries of thought by some of history’s greatest minds to define and defend its substance and, by its own account, the very providence of The Lord God Himself affirming it, the last person to turn to for a supporting quote is George R.R. Martin.


This is satire, correct?


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