AMONG Protestants there is a sublime confidence in truth, a fearless conviction that error will give her only an opportunity for fresh victories, a field to display her unequalled prowess, and the intrinsic weakness and wickedness of all her enemies. The rugged mountain-peak does not try to remove the huge arms of the tempest when, in its greatest fury, it embraces it; the ocean may be lashed into gigantic billows, towering, in crested and foaming majesty, over its mighty bosom; but the sea, as if conscious that the hurricane cannot hurt it, that it will soon be as calm and as deep as ever, allows the wind to sport with its waters without an effort to resist them. The earth, when vast hosts assemble in battle array on her surface, listens to their rattling musketry, their thundering artillery, their shrieks, their shouts, the clash and din of arms, the trumpet blasts of victory; but she rolls on, as if conscious that their struggles, groans and slaughter, cannot injure her; that, in a few months, the grass will hide the traces of battle; and, in a few years, if it were not for memory or books, not a footprint of savage Mars would be on the scene once slippery with blood, and horrible with agony and slaughter. So Protestants, judging by their free press and unrestrained speech, feel about their principles. They say, in deeds, to papal Christendom, send your monks and nuns to attack us, your priests and bishops, your Jesuits, and sisters of mercy and charity; send your books and confessional, your logic and your zeal; let there be a siege or an assault, a battle on the open plain, or an effort at secret slaughter, like the mountain-top, defying the whirlwind, or the ocean, despising the furious gale, or the earth, unterrified by the throes and roars of the great battle, we hurl defiances in the faces of all; we are so sure that our principles will uproot yours, and bathe
humanity in the light of saving love, that we do not fear your efforts, and would disdain to hinder you from making war upon Protestantism. That is the faith and the practice of all great centres of evangelical Christianity. The Church of Rome has always acted as if she feared for the success of her religion, and whenever she had an opportunity, invited the policeman, the prison, confiscation, the rack, the flames, the axe, and the halter, to quiet her enemies, and to give perseverance to her friends.
In the Council of Trent, legislation against the freedom of the press was introduced by the legates of the Holy See who presided over it, and it was referred by them to a committee. The subject was called: "The Business of the Books, Censures, and Index." The committee consisted of "The Embassador of Hungary, the Patriarch of Venice, four Archbishops, nine bishops, one abbot, and two generals" (of religious orders).*
Decree of the Council about this Committee.
" The sacred and holy synod, in the second session, celebrated under our most holy lord, Plus IV., entrusted to certain chosen fathers, to consider what ought to be done about various censures and books, either suspected or pernicious, to report to the holy synod itself. Hearing now that the last hand has been put to that labor by them, which, however, cannot be distinctly and advantageously decided by the holy synod, on account of the variety and multitude of the books, it orders that, whatever has been done by them, may be shown to the most holy Roman Pontiff, that it may be settled and published by his decision and authority. And it commands that the same should be done about the Catechism by the fathers to whom that question was entrusted, and about the Missal and Breviary." †
One very important work of this committee was the preparation of the Catechism of the Council of Trent, which was originally published three years after the dissolution of that synod by command of Pius V. It is a work of five hundred pages, prepared with
* Sarpi, p. 477. London, 1629.
† De Indice Libr. et Catech, sess. xxv. p. 205, Canones et Decreta Con. Trid. Lipsiae, 1863.
singular ability, and it presents the most complete view of Catholic doctrine and practices in existence. Of course, its statements bear the impress of the highest authority.
The weightiest business with which this committee was charged was the duty of looking after books doubtful or dangerous in the judgment of the Catholic hierarchy; it framed TEN RULES for prohibited books, which were published with the approval of the pope, and which have been the laws of the Catholic Church ever since.
THE PAPAL ENACTMENTS DESIGNED TO KEEP CATHOLICS IGNORANT.
The first rule condemns all books censured by popes or councils before A. D. 1515.
The second condemns the works of all arch-heretics and minor terrorists since A. D. 1515; it, however, permits books of the latter class of authors on secular subjects, and books of Catholic writers who have fallen into heresy, after examination by a Romish university or general inquisition, to be read.
The third permits the Old Testament, at the discretion of the bishop, to learned and pious men. But versions of the New Testament made by authors of the first class of this index shall be permitted to no one.
The fourth prohibits the reading of the Bible in the vulgar tongue (no matter in what version), unless when a bishop or inquisitor, on the recommendation of a confessor, grants the privilege; and it ordains heavy penalties against those who sell or read it. Even monks must not search the Scriptures without the permission of their superiors.
The fifth permits lexicons, and similar works, from heretical authors, after being duly expurgated, to be read.
The sixth permits books on practical religion to be read by the faithful in their own tongue; but forbids the perusal of controversial books, except when permitted by a bishop or inquisitor on the advice of a confessor.
The seventh forbids the use of all indecent books except the ancient classics, and it permits these with restrictions.
The eighth permits the use of books whose general sentiment is good, after purification by the Catholic authorities.
The ninth forbids the use of all books on magic, necromancy, and kindred subjects.
The tenth aims at
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE LIBERTY OF THE PRESS THROUGHOUT CHRISTENDOM.
It reads: * " Wherefore, if, in the noble city of Rome, any book is to be printed, let it be first examined by the vicar of the supreme pontiff, and the master of the sacred palace, or by persons appointed by our most holy lord. But in other places, let its examination and approval belong to the bishop, or to another having knowledge of the book or writing to be printed, such person to be appointed by the same bishop, and an inquisitor of heretical depravity, of that state or diocese in which the printing will be executed, and let it be approved by their hand, to be imposed by their subscription gratuitously, and without delay, under the punishments and censures contained in the same decree, with the addition of this law and condition, that an authentic copy of the work to be printed, subscribed by the author, shall remain with the examiner; but the deputed fathers judge that those who issue manuscript works, unless they are first examined and approved, should be subjected to the same penalties as the printers: and they who retain and read them should be held as the authors unless they give up the authors. But let the approbation itself be given in writing,
* — Canones et Decreta Conc. Trid., Regula x., De Lib. Prohib., pp. 235-6. Lipsiae, 1863.
and let it appear authentically in the front of the book, whether manuscript or printed; and let the proving and examination, and all the rest, be attended to gratuitously. Moreover, in the several states and dioceses, let the houses or places where printing is performed, and libraries of books are for sale, be frequently visited by persons deputed for that object by the bishop, or by his vicar, and also by the inquisitor of heretical depravity, that none of the prohibited things may be printed, sold, or kept. Let all librarians and booksellers have in their libraries a catalogue of the books for sale which they keep, with the subscription of said persons. And let them keep or sell no other books, or by any means deliver them, without the license of the same deputies, under the penalty of the confiscation of the books, or other punishments to be inflicted at the discretion of the bishops or inquisitors. And let the buyers, readers, and printers be punished at the discretion of the same. But if any persons introduce any books whatsoever into any state, let them be bound to report them to the same deputies; or, if a public place has been appointed for such wares, let the public servants of that place signify to the persons aforesaid that books have been brought. Let no one dare to deliver a book which he himself or another has introduced into a state, to any one to read, or by any means to transfer or lend it, unless the book has first been shown, and a
license obtained from the deputies, or unless it is notoriously clear that the book is now permitted to all. Let the same thing also be done by heirs and executors of last wills, that they may present the books left by the departed, or a catalogue of them, to those deputies, and obtain a license from them, before they use them, or in any way transfer them to other persons. But in all and each of these particulars, let the punishment be fixed either by the loss of the books, or by some other pains, at the discretion of the same bishops or inquisitors, according to the character of the contumacy or the crime. . . . . . In conclusion, it is enjoined upon all the faithful, that no one presume, against the authority of these rules, or the prohibition of this index, to retain or read any books. But if any one shall keep or read the books of heretics, or the writings of any author condemned and prohibited for heresy, or for the suspicion of a false dogma, let him immediately incur the sentence of excommunication. But he who shall read or keep books interdicted on any other account, besides the guilt of mortal sin, with which he is affected, let him be punished severely at the discretion of the bishop."
Pius IV., entering with his whole heart into the oppressive spirit which governed the Council of Trent in most of its decrees, after reading these ten rules, and submitting them for examination to some learned men, sent them forth with his approbation in a bull eulogistic of their tenor and claims, in which he says: * "By our apostolic authority, we approve, by these presents, the index
* — Pius IV., Ad Futuram Rei Memoriam, p. 237, Canones et Decreta. Conc. Trid. Lipsiae, 1862.
itself, together with the rules prefixed to it; and we command and decree that it be printed and published, and that it be received everywhere by all Catholic universities, and by every one whatsoever; and that these rules be observed; prohibiting each and all, as well ecclesiastics, secular and regular, of every grade, order and dignity, as laymen, no matter what their honor and dignity, that no one may dare to keep or read any books contrary to the command of these rules, and the prohibition of the index itself." This bull was issued on the 24th of March, 1564, and is binding on all Catholics, and on the whole Protestant world at this moment. No canon about the mass stands more defiantly on the statute book of Rome than the decree of Pope Pius, giving validity to these rules. There is no likelihood of their repeal; such an act would declare infallibility to be liable to grave mistakes, and have a tendency to overturn the whole pyramid of papal pretensions. But Rome seeks no change. The Church of the popes to-day, in the principles of those who dictate her great movements, is of one mind with Pius IV. and the fathers of Trent, and would, if she had the opportunity, chain the flashes of human genius, the imperial mountain-billows of that intellect which only God can imprison or guide.
The tenth rule prohibits the circulation of all printed matter, and even manuscript works, unless permitted by a Catholic bishop or inquisitor, or their deputies, on pain of losing the books, and of enduring any other punishment the bishop or the inquisitor may choose to inflict.
It places the literature of the world in the hands of men who thrust Galileo into the inquisition for his astronomical doctrines, and compelled him to deny that the earth moves, and who have the greatest jealousy of all light; who, if they had power, would restore the blindness of the dark ages, and perpetuate its ignorance and tyranny till the blasts of the last trumpet awoke the dead.
Source: The Papal System: From Its Origin to the Present Time, by William Cathcart, D.D., published in 1872 by Menace Publishing Company, Aurora, Mo., pages 350-356.