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Catholic Dictionary




Written material that Catholics are forbidden to read, except for grave reasons, because it is contrary to Christian faith or morals. Lists of forbidden books date from the earliest centuries; for example, Pope Innocent, in 417, forbade the faithful to read the apocryphal Scriptures. The first extensive list, called the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (List of Prohibited Books), was issued by the Congregation of the Inquisition under Pope Paul IV in 1557. In 1571 Pope St. Pius V established a special Congregation of the Index, which survived until 1917, when pope Benedict XV transferred its responsibilities to the Holy Office. When the Code of Canon Law was published in 1918, twenty-one separate laws (1395-1405) dealt with the matter of forbidden books, and severe ecclesiastical penalties were imposed for disobedience. In 1966 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared that the Index and its corresponding penalties were no longer binding in law. However, no basic change was made in the Church's attitude toward reading literature contrary to revealed truth. Catholics are still obliged to refrain from reading whatever would be a proximate danger to their faith and Christian virtue.