Lifting the Veil: Abolishing Censorship at the Vatican



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Home >> Special Collections & University Archives >> New Notable >> Lifting the Veil: Abolishing Censorship at the Vatican

The Vatican kept a list of forbidden books?!  Yes, they did!  However, this past week in history on June 14th, 1966, the Catholic Church lifted the final restriction on banned books from the Index Librorum Prohibitorum or the “List of Prohibited Books.”

The Index, as it is informally known, was a list of publications the Catholic Church deemed as either heretical, anti-clerical or immoral.  The first version was published in 1559, under Pope John IV.  The 20th and final edition appeared in 1948, and the Index was formally abolished on June 14, 1966 by Pope Paul VI.  The list was designed to prevent faithful followers of the Catholic Church and its constituents from reading material bent on questioning or challenging Catholic ethics or morality, as determined by the Holy See.

San Diego State's Special Collections is fortunate to house two editions of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum: the 1758 edition, nearing the end of Pope Benedict XIV’s pontification, and the 1835 edition under Pope Gregory XVI.  By 1948, the list contained over 5,000 titles, many of which included single works of authors and in some cases, an entire bibliography of a single author.  Many fundamental astronomy books, including the work of Galileo, Kepler, and Copernicus were originally included on the list immediately after publication, although later lifted.  Special Collections also holds the Historic Astronomy Collection which includes the works of Galileo and Copernicus, who were banned for their heliocentric model in which the planets revolve around the Sun and not Earth.
Other authors within SCUA’s collection found in the Index, include the controversial religious scholar and Catholic priest, Martin Luther and his 1520 sermon; Victor Hugo’s radical working class and anti-authoritarian views in the Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1836 edition; and Madame Staël’s proto-feminist, Romantic political views in Delphine and Corinne.

A complete list of banned authors and books listed in the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, 1948 is found here:

Written by Kim Schwenk.


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