TIME Magazine: “Religion: Catholic Censorship”


J.S. Larochelle

Revised September 12, 2014

Censorship is a philosophical paradox because freedom of speech is not only the axiom of our democratic rights, it is also the axiom of our economic rights in that with out it, politicians not only determine what works of art, entertainment, philosophy and science we can buy, but if we are artists, entertainers, philosophers and scientists, censorship prevents us from making the money we money we need not to be poor.    

CBC Archives “Alice Munro challenges censorship”


Alice Munro was born July 10, 1931 and Ian Holm on September 12, 1931 

He has played King Lean, Ash (Alien), Bilbo Baggins, White Knight (Alice Through the Looking Glass), Baron Frankenstein, Squealer (Animal Farm), Mitchell Stevens (The Sweet Hereafter ), Kiri Vinokur (eXistenZ), Dr. Francis Willis (The Madness of King George), Doctor Murnau (Kafka), Tom Frost (Naked Lunch), Polonius (Hamlet) and Mr. Kurtzmann (Brazil)


Ruth Nelson, Anthony Perkins, David Foster Wallace, Johnny Cash, Raymond Burr, Steve Biko die on September 12.

The paradoxical history of Western philosophy is one of philosophers being routinely censored by the Catholic Church based on nothing by the whim of Catholic popes for the obvious and therefore paradoxical reason that instead of demanding democracy and the constitutional right to free speech, century after century, Catholics were cowards but for good reason because they had no choice but to support censorship and the divine right of kings to do to them as they will because they would have been declared treasonous heretics for doing anything else.    

Steven Pinker “My interest in swearing is (I swear) scientific. But swearing is not just a puzzle in cognitive neuroscience. It has figured in the most-famous free-speech cases of the past century, from Ulysses and Lady Chatterley to those of Lenny Bruce and George Carlin.”


Censorship is a political and therefore constitutional paradox for the obvious and therefore paradoxical reason that there is no such thing as a constitutional right to ‘limited’ speech. We must either demand the constitutional to free speech or stop pretending that we are opposed to government interference in the free market because that is what censorship is.

Frank Zappa “I think that if you use the so-called ‘strong words’ you’ll get your point across faster and you can save a lot of beating around the bush.Why are people afraid of words?”


Maria Popova “Some of history’s most celebrated works of literature have, at various times and in various societies, been banned—from Arabian Nights toUlysses to, even, Anais Nin’s diaries, to name but a fraction.”

Charles Bukowski”Censorship is the tool of those who have the need to hide actualities from themselves and from others.”

Susan Sontag “I am against censorship. In all forms.”


Wendy Crewson “I am sure this committee is familiar with the powerful words of Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin:

Among the most fundamental rights possessed by Canadians is freedom of expression. It makes possible our liberty, our creativity and our democracy. It does this by protecting not only “good” and popular expression, but also unpopular or even offensive expression. The right to freedom of expression rests on the conviction that the best route to truth, individual flourishing and peaceful coexistence in a heterogeneous society in which people hold divergent and conflicting beliefs lies in the free flow of ideas and images. If we do not like an idea or an image, we are free to argue against it or simply turn away. But, absent some constitutionally adequate justification, we cannot forbid a person from expressing it.


Censorship is an economic paradox because free market economists such as F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman did not point out that censoring artists and entertainers is not how capitalism works. In other words, the reason that we don’t have the constitutional right to own private property has nothing to do with Karl Marx and probably everything to do with the Catholic Church, which used the Index librorum prohibitorum to prevent Catholics from reading philosophers such as Rene Descartes, John Locke, David Hume and Adam Smith.

Paul Halsall “Index librorum prohibitorum, 1557-1966”


CBC “Alice Munro challenges censorship”


Julia Scheeres ”Kidspeak teaches kids about censorship and fighting for freedom of expression, using the fictional boy wizard as a case study.” (The Trouble With Harry Potter)


Joseph Hilgers ”The reverse of censorship is freedom of the press.”  ”Censorship of Books.” The Catholic Encyclopedia.  (1908)


Mette Newth “In western history the very term censorship takes on a whole new meaning with the introduction of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.”


Time Magazine “Religion: Catholic Censorship” Monday, Apr. 28, 1952


When Redmond Burke was a student at the University of Illinois, he had some spiritual troubles over his required reading. As a Roman Catholic, he knew that he was forbidden, under pain of sin, to read books listed in the Vatican’s Index Librorum Prohibitorum—the index of forbidden books. But like most Catholics (and non-Catholics) he had only a dim notion of how the church’s book censorship operated and what, exactly, it forbade.

Burke, at 37, is now a priest and the librarian of Chicago’s De Paul University. As a professional librarian, he has had a fine chance to look into his old problem. In a book published last week, What Is the Index? (Bruce; $2.75), he has written a short and brisk guide to the church’s position on reading.

Heresy or Obscenity. Ever since St. Paul’s new converts at Ephesus burned their old magic books,* the church has waged war against books that might damage the faith or morals of its communicants. Pope Pius IV issued the first Index in 1564. A Congregation of the Index was established at the Vatican seven years later, with the sole job of judging what books were dangerous enough to be forbidden.

The latest edition of the Index (1948) lists 4,126 titles—all of them books banned since 1600. Many of the names it includes must have popped up on Father Burke’s old University of Illinois reading lists. Among them: Voltaire, Kant, Montesquieu, Descartes, Spinoza, Anatole France, Emile Zola, John Stuart Mill, Francis Bacon, Hugo Grotius, Gustave Flaubert, Maurice Maeterlinck.

The important part of the Index is not the listed titles, but the fine Latin print in the introduction, citing the twelve classes of books which Catholics are not to read. They include: non-Catholic editions of the Bible, books attacking Catholic dogma, books defending “heresy or schism,” books which “discuss, describe or teach impure or obscene matters.” A volume fulfilling any of these specifications, whether it was published before or after 1600, is as fully banned as if it were mentioned by name. Many books, therefore, that to Catholics obviously fit one of these classifications are not even mentioned in the Index, e.g., John Calvin’s Institutes, D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover.

Spiritual Allergies. The actual working of the church’s book censorship is not so inflexible as it sounds. Any Catholic with a “good reason” for reading a banned book can easily get permission from his bishop. Many U.S. bishops give temporary blanket permissions to students in their dioceses to read books necessary for their studies.

The Vatican has long conceded that the popular printing press can outrun any censor’s pencil. Since 1900 the church has banned only 255 books, most of them theological works. (Best-known contemporaries on the Index: Philosopher Benedetto Croce, Existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre.) Responsibility has been shifted to local bishops and, in the last analysis, to the individual to decide whether a particular book can injure the reader’s faith. Explains a Vatican book censor: “People have different spiritual allergies.”

* Acts 19:19.



(Censura Librorum.)

Definition and division

In general, censorship of books is a supervision of the press in order to prevent any abuse of it.

APA citation. Hilgers, J. (1908). Censorship of Books. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved July 20, 2011 from New Advent:http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03519d.htm


STEVEN PINKER Freedom’s Curse

Why Washington’s crusade against swearing on the airwaves is f*cked up

A WORD IS an arbitrary label—that’s the foundation of linguistics. But many people think otherwise. They believe in word magic: that uttering a spell, incantation, curse, or prayer can change the world. Don’t snicker: Would you ever say “Nothing has gone wrong yet” without looking for wood to knock?

Swearing is another kind of word magic. People believe, contrary to logic, that certain words can corrupt the moral order—that piss and Shit! and fucking are dangerous in a way that pee and Shoot! and freakin’ are not. This quirk in our psychology lies in the ability of taboo words to activate primitive emotional circuits in the brain.

My interest in swearing is (I swear) scientific. But swearing is not just a puzzle in cognitive neuroscience. It has figured in the most-famous free-speech cases of the past century, from Ulysses and Lady Chatterley to those of Lenny Bruce and George Carlin. Over the decades, the courts have steadily driven government censors into a precarious redoubt. In 1978, the Supreme Court, ruling on a daytime broadcast of Carlin’s “Filthy Words” monologue, allowed the Federal Communications Commission to regulate “indecency” on broadcast radio and television during the hours when children were likely to be listening. The rationale, based on rather quaint notions of childhood and of modern media, was that over-the-air broadcasts are uninvited intruders into the home and can expose children to indecent language, harming their psychological and moral development.

Somewhere, George Carlin is still smiling.


Steven Pinker is a professor of psychology at Harvard 



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