Catholic Dictionary




A Roman congregation founded by Pope Paul III in 1542. It was reconstituted in 1965 to become the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, but the original functions have not substantially changed. The purpose of the Holy Office was to defend Catholic teaching of faith and morals. It censored and condemned books judged dangerous to Catholic orthodoxy, and granted permission to read such books. It could dispense priests from the midnight fast required before celebrating Mass. It had exclusive jurisdiction over questions about the Pauline privilege and the impediments of worship and mixed religion. As a tribunal, it judged heresy and all offenses leading to a suspicion of heresy. Its members were bound to the strictest secrecy, called the secret of the Holy Office.