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Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent/Second Part/Concerning Prohibited Books



Rule I.

Let all the books which before the year 1515 were condemned, whether by the sovereign pontiffs or by œcumenical councils, and are not in this index, be considered to be condemnd after the same manner as they were formerly condemned.

Rule II.

The books of arch-heretics, as well of those who invented or excited heresies after the year above mentioned, as of those who are or were the heads or leaders of heretics, such as Luther, Zuinglius, Calvin, Balthazar, Pacimontanus, Swenchfeldius, and such like, of what name, title, or argument soever, are utterly prohibited. And the books of other heretics, such as professedly treat of religion, are altogether condemned. But such as do not treat of religion are permitted, after having been examined and approved by Catholic theologians, by order of the bishops and inquisitors. But Catholic books written as well by those who have afterwards fallen into heresy, as by those who after falling have returned to the bosom of the Church, being approved by the theological faculty of some Catholic University or by a general inquisition, may be permitted.

Rule III.

Versions also of ecclesiastical writings, which have hitherto been set forth by condemned authors, provided they contain nothing against sound doctrine, are permitted. But versions of the books of the Old Testament maybe allowed only to learned and pious men at the discretion of the bishop, provided they use such versions as elucidations of the Vulgate to understand the sacred scripture, but not as the sound text. But let versions of the New Testament, made by authors of the first class of this index, be allowed to no one, because but little utility, but very much danger is to flow from their perusal. But if any annotations are made public with such versions as are permitted, or with the Vulgate edition, the suspected passages being expunged by the theological faculty of any Catholic University, or by a general inquisition, they may be allowed to the same persons, to whom the versions also [were permitted]. On which conditions the entire volume of Biblia, which is commonly called the Bible of Vatablus, or parts of it, may be granted to pious and learned men. But, from the Bible of Isidore, let the prologue and prolegomena of Clarius Brixianus be cut out; but let no one consider the text of it as the text of the Vulgate edition.

Rule IV.

Whereas it is evident from experience, that, if the sacred books be permitted in the vulgar tongue indiscriminately, more harm than utility arises therefrom by reason of the temerity of men, in this respect let it depend on the discretion of the bishop or inquisitor, so that with the counsel of the parish priest or the confessor, they can grant to them the reading of the books translated by Catholic authors in the vulgar tongue, such persons as they may consider may derive not injury, but an increase of faith and of piety from such reading; which power they may have with respect to the scriptures. But whosoever shall presume to read them without such power, let him not be able to obtain absolution of his sins, unless he has first given back the books to the ordinary. But the booksellers, who shall sell the Bible written in the vulgar tongue, to a person not having the aforesaid power, or shall in any other way grant it, is to lose the price of the books, which shall be converted by the bishop to pious purposes, and they shall be subject to other penalties, according to the quality of the offence, at the discretion of the same bishop. But regulars are not to have the power of reading or buying them, unless they have power to do so from their prelates.

Rule V.

Those books, which sometimes come forth as the works of heretical authors, in which they set down little or nothing of their own, but collect the words of others; such as lexicons, concordances, apophthegms, similes, indexes, and such like, should they contain any matter mixed with them, which may require expurgation, those matters being first taken away or corrected by advice of the bishop or inquisitor together with the advice of Catholic theologians, may be permitted.

Rule VI.

Books treating in the vulgar idiom of controversies between Catholics and the heretics of our time, are not to be allowed indiscriminately; but let the same thing be observed with regard to them as has been ordained respecting Bibles written in the vulgar tongue. But there is no reason why books written in the vulgar tongue on the subject of living well, of contemplating, confessing, and such subjects, if they contain sound doctrine, should be prohibited; the same may be said of popular sermons in the vulgar tongue. But if in any kingdom or province any books have been prohibited, because they contained some things which it would not be expedient should be read by all without selection, if their authors are Catholic, after they have been emended, they may be permitted by the bishop and the inquisitor.

Rule VII.

Books which professedly treat of, relate, or teach lascivious or wanton subjects, since regard must be had not only of faith, but of morals also, which are wont readily to be corrupted by the reading of such books, are absolutely prohibited, and those who may possess them are to be severely punished by the bishops. But the ancient books written by the heathens, are permitted by reason of the elegance and propriety of their language; on no account, however, are they to be used by boys in their lessons.

Rule VIII.

Books, whose prominent subject is good, in which, however, some things are incidentally inserted, which have a tendency to heresy or impiety, divination or superstition, may be allowed, when expurgated by Catholic theologians, by the authority of a general inquisition. Let the same judgment be formed touching prologues, summaries, or annotations, which have been annexed by condemned authors to books not condemned. But let them afterwards not be printed unless emended.

Rule IX.

All books and writings in geomancy, hydromaney, aeromancy, pyromancy, oneiromancy, chiromancy, necromancy, or those in which drawing lots, sorceries, auguries, auspices, incantations of the magic art are contained, are altogether rejected. But let the bishops carefully see, that books, treatises, indices of judicial astrology be not read or kept, which dare to affirm something certain as likely to happen regarding future contingent successes, or fortuitous casualties, or those actions which depend on the human will. But judgments and natural observations are allowed, which are written for the purpose of aiding navigation, agriculture, or the medical art.

Rule X.

In the printing of books or other writings, let that which was enacted in the Council of Lateran under Leo X., Session 10, be observed. 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 to be deputed by our most holy lord. But in other places, let the approbation and examination of it appertain to the bishop or another person acquainted with the book or writing to be printed, such person to be deputed by the same bishop, and an inquisitor of heretical depravity of that state or diocese in which the printing will take place, and under the penalties and censures contained in the same decree, let it be approved by their hand, to be imposed by their own subscription, gratuitously, and without delay, this law and condition being added, that an authentic copy of the book to be printed, and one subscribed by the author's hand, should remain with the examiner; but those who publish manuscript treatises, unless they are first examined and approved, the deputed fathers have judged ought to be subjected to the same penalties as the printers; and those who may keep and read them, unless they give up the authors, are to be considered as the authors. But let the approbation itself be given in writing, and let it appear authentically in front of the book, whether written or printed, and let the proving and examination of the book, and all the rest be done gratuitously. Moreover, in each state and diocese, let the houses or places where the art of printing is practised, and the libraries of books for sale be frequently visited by persons to be deputed for the purpose by the bishop or his vicar, and also by the inquisitor of heretical depravity, so that none of those things which are prohibited, may be printed, or sold, or kept. But let all librarians and book-sellers soever keep in their libraries a catalogue of the books for sale, which they possess, with the subscription of the aforesaid persons, and let them have or sell no other books, or by any means deliver them without the license of the same persons to be deputed, under pain of the loss of the books, and other penalties to be imposed at the discretion of the bishops or inquisitors. And let the buyers, readers, or printers of the same, be punished at the pleasure of the same. But if any persons shall introduce any books soever into any state, let them be bound to report them to the same persons to be deputed, or, if a public place has been appointed for such wares, let the public servants of such place intimate to the aforesaid persons that such books have been brought. But let no one dare to deliver a book which he himself or another has brought into a city, to any person to read, or in any way to transfer or lend it, unless he has first shown the book, and has had a license from the persons to be deputed, or, unless it be notoriously ascertained that the book is now permitted to all. Let the same thing, also, be observed by the heirs and executors of last wills, so that they offer books which have been left by deceased persons, or a list of them, to the persons to be deputed, and let them obtain 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 penalty be determined either of the loss of the books, or any other, according to the discretion of the same bishops or inquisitors, according to the nature of the contumacy or offence.

But regarding the books which the deputed fathers have examined or expurgated, or have delivered to be expurgated, or have allowed, on certain conditions, to be again printed; whatever appears to have been enacted by them, let book-sellers, as well as others, observe. Let it, however, be optional with bishops or general inquisitors, according to the powers which they possess, to prohibit even those books which seem to be permitted by these rules, if they should judge this to be expedient in their kingdoms, or provinces, or dioceses. But the names as well of the books which have been expurgated by the fathers deputed, as of those to whom they assigned this province, have, by order of our most holy lord, been delivered, copied out by the secretary of the same deputed persons to the notary of the sacred universal Roman inquisition.

Finally, it is enjoined on all the faithful, that no one dare, contrary to the direction of these rules, or to the prohibition of this index, to read or keep any books. But if any one shall read or keep books of heretics, or the writings of any author condemned and prohibited for heresy, or for the suspicion of a false dogma, let him forthwith incur the sentence of excommunication. But, whoever shall read or keep books interdicted on any other pretext besides the guilt of deadly sin, with which he is affected, let him be severely punished at the discretion of the bishops.