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Index of Forbidden Books

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Definition:   The list of writings prohibited by the Catholic Church. Begun under Paul IV in 1559, the index grew to include over 4,000 titles. It is unclear whether the Index remains in effect. A notice was promulgated in 1966 stating that the Index retains “its moral force” but would not continue to be published. The purpose of the Index was to restrict access to objectionable writings, especially in the area of theology and morals. The effect of the Index was profound in predominantly Catholic countries where the Church controlled both publishing and education. The blacklist includes books on astronomy by Kepler and Galileo, and many scientific writings that were written by Protestants. Catholic writers are still subject to censorship through the requirement that their works receive the nihil obstat and imprimatur in order to be published.

Discussion: One very important book was included on the list: the Bible. The Church held that only the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible was permissible. This was to prevent the laity from gaining access to the Bible. As Protestants printed Bibles written in the vernacular, the Church sought to destroy both the books and the translators. William Tyndale, a prominent English reformer, was hunted down, strangled and burned at the stake in 1535. His crime? Being the first to translate the Bible into English.

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