Index the name given to certain catalogues of books and authors either wholly prohibited, or censured and corrected, by the Romish Church. An Index of the former kind is called Index Librorum Prohibitorum; of the latter, Index Expurgatorius. An Index Prohibitorum exists also in the Russo Greek Church, to which, no doubt, is due the weakness of the Russian literary productions on theological subjects.


1. Before the Reformation. — Prohibitions of heretical or dangerous books are as old as the attempts of the popes to usurp universal supremacy. In fact, such prohibitions flow naturally from the theory that "out of the Church there is no salvation." It was Cyprian (q.v.) who first fully stated this theory; and even in his hands it logically led to the conclusion that all heretical opinions (i.e. such as differ from those announced by the Church authorities) must be punished and suppressed, if possible. As the claims of the hierarchy grew in magnitude, It became necessary to put down all doctrines that might diminish the power of the priesthood. To do this was a proof of zeal. This zeal was at first directed against heathen and Jewish writings, as it was feared that the reading of such might even endanger Christianity. The Council of Carthage (A.D. 400) forbade in Can. 16 the reading of heathen books. The Church, however, did not remain satisfied with forbidding heretical books, it commanded them to be burned. This was first attempted in connection with the writings of Arius, and became afterwards one of the practices of the Church. As heretical books, however, were sometimes published under ecclesiastical titles, such proceeding was in the 5th and 6th centuries declared by the Apostolic Canons (Can. 60) to be punishable by suppression of the work. The Synod of Elvira (813) decided in the same sense that all who circulated forbidden books should be anathema (libelli famosi). It even came to be held that any one who had read a forbidden book was guilty of all the heresies therein contained, and incapacitated for readmission into the Church until the performance of such penance as the Church enjoined. Especially did the hierarchy consider the reading of translations of the Bible as dangerous for the laity. Thus Gregory VII (1080) denounced the practice of reading the Bible in the vernacular in his letter to the King Wratislaw of Bohemia (in Mansi SS. Conciliorum nova et ampliss. Collectio, 20, 296). Innocent III it is true, said (see his Epistolarum libri 19, in lib. 1, ep. 141, p. 1199) that the searching of the Scripture is to be commended not forbidden; but added: "Tanta est divinge Scripturas profunditas ut non solum simplices et illiterati, sed etiam prudentes et docti non plene sufficiant ad ipsius intelligentiam indagandam. Unde recte fuit olim in lege divina statutum, ut bestia, qume montem tetigerit, lapidetur; ne videlicet simplex aliquis et indoctus proesumat ad sublimitatem Scripturse sacrse pertingere vel etiam aliis praedicare." But the opposition to the papacy and to the Romish Church which immediately followed a more general reading of the Bible, soon led to placing the latter among the forbidden books, on a level with those condemned as heretical. The Concil. Tolosanum (1229) forbade the laity (c. 14) to even possess the O.T. or N.T. (see Hegelmaier, Gesch. des Bibelverbots, Ulm, 1783). When the Inquisition became established and prosperous, the enforcing of the rules relating to forbidden books was entrusted to it, and in the Cone. Biterrense (1246) we find (c. 36) a number of theological works mentioned which both the laity and clergy are forbidden to read. But the more the Church strove to render its position secure by such means, the more did influences quite to the contrary exert themselves to secure its overthrow, particularly the precursors of the Reformation, whose doctrines and writings struck at the most vital parts of the Romish organization. A Synod of London (1408) forbade the reading of Wycliffe's works when not previously approved, while the works of Huss were condemned as thoroughly heretical. The discovery of the art of printing gave a new impulse to the publication of dangerous books, and Alexander VI complained in his Decretum de libris non sine censure:

imprimendis (Raynald, Annal. ad a. 1501, no. 36) that heretical dogmas were extensively promulgated, especially in the provinces of Mayence, Cologne, Trieste, and Magdeburg. He recommended the bishops and vicars to carefully watch the appearance of any heretical works, and to enforce the fines and excommunications against the authors. As to the printers, he says: "Debentipsi merito compesci opportunis remediis, ut ab eorum impressione desistant, que fidei catholicae contraria fore noscuntur vel adversa, ant in mentibus fidelium possunt verisimiliter scandalum generare." Pope Leo X, in the tenth session of the Lateran Council (May 4, 1515), stated in the decree Inter sollicitudines that no book should be published without the authorization of either the bishop, his legate, or the Inquisition, under penalty of excommunication. Any book issued in contravention of this regulation was to be sequestered and burnt. '

2. At and after the Reformation- and the Council of Trent. — The Reformation gave rise to innumerable writings highly dangerous to the Romish Church, and, in spite of all orders to the contrary, they were widely circulated and eagerly read. In 1546 the University of Louvain, by order of Charles V, published a list (Index) of all such books as were considered dangerous to read and consequently forbidden; a new edition of the list appeared in 1550, after the papal legate at Venice, John della Casa, had published one on his own account in 1549 (see Schelhorn, Ergotzlichkeiten, 2, 3). During the suspension of the Council of Trent, pope Paul IV had another list of forbidden works prepared in 1557 by a particular congregation, and this formed the first actual Index librorum prohibitorum of the Romish Church. It was republished, with additions, by Bergerius in 1559, under the title Index auctorum et librorum, qui tanquna haeretici aut suspecti aut perversi ab Officio S. R. Inquisitionis reprobantur et in universa Christiana republica interdicunfur (Romae, 1557). In 1558, pope Paul forbade also to the clergy and students the reading of such heretical works as had been tolerated for their exclusive use by his predecessors or by the Inquisition. These orders, however, did not prove very successful in Italy, and utterly failed in other countries, though many of the works named in the Index were burnt. The writings especially condemned by Paul's Index were such as defended the civil governments against the encroachments of the Church, such as asserted the superiority of the authority of councils over that of popes and bishops, or such as attacked the theory and practice of the Romish Church in general. The Index divided the authors of forbidden books into three classes:

1, those of whom all the works were absolutely condemned;

2, those among whose works some only were condemned;

3,. the authors of anonymous works, such as had appeared since 1519. At the end was appended a list of sixty-two printers of heretical works. The reading of books named in the Index was punishable by excommunication and by degrading penances.

The Council of Trent, in its 18th session, appointed a committee to prepare a new Index. This committee reported at the twenty-fifth session that they could not agree on account of the number and diversity of the books to be included in the Index, and recommended that the drawing up and enforcing of it should be left to the pope, which was agreed to. Pius IV then prepared a new Index, an enlarged edition of Paul IV's. The publication of this Index (which has often, but erroneously, been called Index Tridentinus) was accompanied by the bull Dominici gregis custodice (March 24, 1564), and by ten rules, which have been prefixed to all official Indexes published since that period. As these rules illustrate fully the whole spirit and tendency of the Romish system, in its relation to the freedom of literary and scientific progress, we give them here in full.

"(1.) All books condemned by the supreme pontiffs or General Councils before the year 1515, and not comprised in the present index, are nevertheless to be considered as condemned.

(II.) The books of heresiarchs, whether of those who broached or disseminated their heresies prior to the year above mentioned, or of those who have been, or are, the heads or leaders of heretics, as Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Balthazar Pacimontanus, Swenchfeld, and other similar ones, are altogether forbidden, whatever may he their names, titles, or subjects. And the books of other heretics, which treat professedly upon religion, are totally condemned; but those which do not treat upon religion are allowed to be read, after having been examined and approved by Catholic divines, by order of the bishops and inquisitors. Those Catholic books are also permitted to be read which have been composed by authors who have afterwards fallen into heresy, or who, after their fall, have returned into the bosom of the Church, provided they have been approved by the theological faculty of some Catholic university, or by the general inquisition.

(III.) Translations of ecclesiastical writers, which have been hitherto published by-condemned authors, are permitted to be read, if they contain nothing contrary to sound doctrine. Translations of the Old Testament may also be allowed, but only to learned and pious men, at the discretion of the bishop; provided they use them merely as elucidations of the Vulgate version, in order to understand the Holy Scriptures, and not as the sacred text itself. But translations of the New Testament, made by author of the first class of this index, are allowed to no one, since little advantage, but much danger, generally arises from reading them. If notes accompany the versions which are allowed to be read, or are joined to the Vulgate edition, they may be permitted to be read by the same persons as the versions, after the suspected places have been expunged by the theological faculty of some Catholic university, or by the general inquisitor. On the same conditions, also, pious and learned men may be permitted to have what is called 'Vatablus's Bible,' or any part of it. But the preface and Prologomena of the Bibles published by Isidore Clarius are, however, excepted; and the text of his editions is not to be considered as the text of the Vulgate edition.

(IV.) Inasmuch as it is manifest from experience that if the Holy Bible, translated into the vulgar tongue, be indiscriminately allowed to every one, the temerity of men will cause more evil than good to arise from it, it is, on this point, referred to the judgment of the bishops or inquisitors, who may, by the advice of the priest or confessor, permit the reading of the Bible translated into the vulgar tongue by Catholic authors, to those persons whose faith and piety, they apprehend, will be augmented, and not injured by it; and this permission they must have in writing. But if any one shall have the presumption to read or possess it without such written permission, he shall not receive absolution until he have first delivered up such Bible to the ordinary. Booksellers who shall sell, or otherwise dispose of Bibles in the vulgar tongue, to any person not having such permission, shall forfeit the value of the books, to be applied by the bishop to some pious use; and be subjected to such other penalties as the bishop shall judge proper, according to the quality of the offence. But regulars shall neither read nor purchase such Bibles without a special license from their superiors.

(V.) Books of which heretics are the editors, but which contain little or nothing of their own, being mere compilations from others, as lexicons, concordances (collections of), apothegms, or similes, indexes, and others of a similar kind, may be allowed by the bishops and inquisitors, after having made, with the advice of divines, such corrections and emendations as may be deemed requisite.

(VI.) Books of controversy between the Catholics and heretics of the present time, written in the vulgar tongue, are not to be indiscriminately allowed, but are to be subject to the same regulations as Bibles in the vulgar tongue. As to those works in the vulgar tongue which treat of morality, contemplation, confession, and similar subjects, and which contain nothing contrary to sound doctrine, there is no reason why they should be prohibited; the same may be said also of sermons in the vulgar tongue, designed for the people. And if in any kingdom or province any books have been hitherto prohibited, as containing things not proper to be indiscriminately read by all sorts of persons, they may be allowed by the bishop and inquisitor, after having corrected them, if written by Catholic authors.

(VII.) Books professedly treating of lascivious or obscene subjects, or narrating or teaching them, are utterly prohibited, as readily corrupting both the faith and manners of those who peruse them; and those who possess them shall be severely punished by the bishop. But the works of antiquity, written by the heathens, are permitted to be read, because of the elegance and propriety of the language; though on no account shall they be suffered to be read by young persons.

(VIII.) Books, the principal subject of which is good, but in which some things are occasionally introduced tending to heresy and impiety, divination, or superstition, may be allowed, after they have been corrected by Catholic divines, by the authority of the general inquisition. The same judgment is also formed of prefaces, summaries, or notes taken from condemned authors, and inserted in the works of authors not condemned; but such works must not be printed in future, until they have been amended.

(IX.) All books and writings of geomancy, hydromancy, airomancy, pyromancy, onomancy, chiromancy, and necromancy, or which treat of sorceries, poisons, auguri auspices, or magical incantations, are utterly rejected. The bishops shall also diligently guard against any persons reading or keeping any books, treatises, or indexes which treat of judicial astrology, or contain presumptuous predictions of the events of future contingencies and fortuitous occurrences, or of those actions which depend upon the will of man. But they shall permit such opinions and observations of natural things as are written in aid of navigation, agriculture, and medicine.

(X.) In the printing of books and other writings, the rules shall be observed which were ordained in the tenth session of the Council of Lateran, under Leo X. Therefore, if any book is to be printed in the city of Rome, it shall first be examined by the pope's vicar and the master of the sacred palace, or other persons chosen by our most holy father for that purpose. In other places, the examination of any book or manuscript intended to be printed shall be referred to the bishop, or some skilful person whom he shall nominate, and the inquisitor of the city or diocese in which the impression is executed, who shall gratuitously, and without delay, affix their approbation to the work, in their own handwriting subject, nevertheless, to the pains and censures contained in the said decree; this law and condition being added, that an authentic copy of the book to be printed, signed by the author himself, shall remain in the hands of the examiner: and it is the judgment of the fathers of the present deputation, that those persons who publish works in manuscript, before they have been examined and approved, should be subject to the same penalties as those who print them; and that those who read or possess them should be considered as the authors, if the real authors of such writings do not avow themselves. The approbation given in writing shall be placed at the head of the books, whether printed or in manuscript, that they may appear to be duly authorized; and this examination and approbation, etc., shall be granted gratuitously. Moreover, in every city and diocese, the house or place where the art of printing is exercised, and also the shops of booksellers, shall be frequently visited by persons deputed by the bishop or his vicar, conjointly with the inquisitor, so that nothing that is prohibited may be printed, kept, or sold. Booksellers of every description shall keep a catalogue of the books which they have on sale, signed by the said deputies;. nor shall they keep, or sell, nor in any way dispose of any other books without permission from the deputies, under pain of forfeiting the books, and being liable to such other penalties as shall be judged proper by the bishop or inquisitor, who shall also punish the buyers, readers, or printers of such works. If any person import foreign books into any city, they shall be obliged to announce them to the deputies; or if this kind of merchandise he exposed to sale in any public place, the public officers of the place shall signify t to he said deputies that such books have been brought; and no one shall presume to give, to read, or lend, or sell any book which he or any other person has brought into the city, until he has shown it to the deputies, and obtained their permission, unless it be a work well known to be universally allowed, Heirs and testamentary executors shall make no use of the books of the deceased, nor in any way transfer them to others, until they have presented a catalogue of them to the deputies, and obtained their license, under pain of confiscation of the books, or the infliction of such other punishment as the bishop or inquisitor shall deem proper, according to the contumacy or quality of the delinquent. With regard to those books which the fathers of the present deputation shall examine, or correct, or deliver to be corrected, or permit to be reprinted on certain conditions, booksellers and others shall be bound to observe whatever is ordained respecting them. The bishops and general inquisitors shall, nevertheless, be at liberty, according to the power they possess, to prohibit such books as may seem to be permitted by these rules, if they deem it necessary for the good of the kingdom, or province, or diocese. And let the secretary of these fathers according to the command of our holy father; transmit to the notary of the general inquisitor the names of the books that have been corrected, as well as of the persons to whom the fathers have granted the power of examination. Finally, it is enjoined on all the faithful, that no one presume to keep or read any- books contrary to these rules, or prohibited by this index. But if any one read or keep any books composed by heretics, or the writings of any author suspected of heresy or false doctrine he shall instantly incur the sentence of excommunication; and those who read or keep works interdicted on another account, besides the mortal sin committed, shall be severely punished at the will of the bishops" (Labbei SS. Concilia, 14, 952- 956).

This Index of Pius IV was published at Rome by Aldus Manutius (1564), and afterwards revised and enlarged by Gregory XIII, Sixtus V, Clement VIII (1595).

2. INDEX EXPURGATORIUS. — Pope Sixtus V introduced a series of works which, after expunging certain obnoxious passages, could be allowed to be read. This list received the name of Index libroruns

expurgandoruin or expurgatorius. It was first published by order of the duke Alba, under the style Index expurgatorius librorum, qui hoc sceculo prodierunt (Antwerp, 1751, and republished since). Other lists of prohibited books, on the model of that of Rome, were, however, published in other countries, especially in Spain (most of them under Philip II in Madrid, in 1577 and 1584) and in Italy. 'John Maria Brasichellen or Brasichelli (proparly Wenzel of Brisigella) prepared, with the aid of the Dominican Tomas Malvenda, an Index styled Index expurgatorius cura J. A. Brasichellani, Mag. Palat. Romae (1607), but this, far from being approved of at head-quarters, was itself put in the Romish Index libr. prohib. The Spanish inquisitor general, Antonio a Sotomajor, published a Novissimus librorum prohibitoruns et expurgandorum Index (Madrid, 1648), which is highly praised for its completeness. The Romish Index was republished in 1818, but has since received, and is constantly receiving, numerous additions.

The Congregation of the Index was originally established by pope Pius V. It holds its sittings at Rome, and has the right of examining generally all books which concern faith, morals, ecclesiastical discipline, or civil society; on which it passes judgment, for suppressing them absolutely, or directing them to be corrected, or allowing them to be read with precaution, and by certain persons. Persons specially deputed by it may give permission to Romanists throughout the world to read prohibited books; and the penalty denounced against those who read or keep any books suspected of heresy or false doctrine is the greater excommunication; and those who read or keep works interdicted on any other account, besides the mortal sin committed, are to be severely punished at the will of the bishops. It is remarkable, however, that the Index is hardly in force at the present day, even in the most Romish-inclined countries. In Austria even, the faithful daughter of Rome, Maria Theresa forbade the publication, and it is not to be expected that either her liberal successors or the princes of other Roman Catholic countries, forced by the liberal spirit of the people to disobedient acts towards Rome, should permit the publication in their dominions. It can, therefore, hardly be said to be any longer virtually in force, though in some countries its publication is permitted by special grant from the government. Baudri, in an article on this subject in Aschbach (Kirchen-Lex. 3:444, a Roman Catholic work), concedes this, and says that even the countries bound by a concordat to an enforcement of the decisions of the Congregation of the Index fail to do their duty, and that books are constantly published without regard and consideration of the agreement entered into with Rome (comp. Eckardt, Modern Russia, p.246 sq.). See Mendham, Literary Policy of the Church of Rome (Lond. 1830, 8vo); Cramp, Text-book of Popery (London, 1851, 8vo), p. 419-428; Elliott, Delineation of Popery, bk. i; Gibbings, Index Vaticanus, an exact Reprint of the Roman Index Expurgatorius (London, 1837, 8vo); Peignot, Dictionnaire critique litteraire et bibliographique des principaux livres condamnes aufeu, supprimes ou censures (Paris, 1806); Herzog, Real- Encyklop. 6:651; Eadie, Ecclesiastical Encyclopedia, s.v.; Buckley, Canons and Decrees of Trent, p. 284. SEE BIBLE, USE OF; SEE CENSORSHIP OF BOOKS.

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