Page:Vactican as a World Power.djvu/433

This page needs to be proofread.


The first Index appeared in 1559 and dealt so radically with all heretical and schismatic utterances that even learned works used in Catholic research were ordered cleansed of the names, notes and citations of heretics. Germany resisted and the bishops refused to publish the Index. St. Peter Canisius complained feelingly that the Congrega- tion had been too severe. Though he is today a Saint and a recognized Doctor of the Church, he called the Index a "stumbling block" and "the ruin of schools," and declared that efforts to tone it down were "good works." The Jesuit Lainez wrote to the Pope saying "that the Index has done harm to many souls and benefited only a few." A Tridentine (1564) and a Clementine Index (1595), somewhat less exacting but still impractical, met with the same passive resistance in Germany. They were not published and so went unheeded, with the result that no consciences were troubled. But Rome did not cease to insist upon publication, and so England, and later on Germany, pro- ceeded to introduce a very easy form of dispensation by the bishops. Permission to read books on the Index was granted without examina- tion of the petitioner: the dead letter of the ordinance was thus re- placed with an empty formality. In the France of Gallican times nobody paid any attention to the Index and there seems to have been little change since. Yet the Church could not, would not surrender its justifiable and eminently natural right to exercise censorship. If Catholic faith is based upon the conviction that Revelation is no mere consequence of human research but a treasure handed down by tradi- tion, it must be the business of the Church's juridical office to decide what is genuine revelation and therewith also to pass judgment on every expression of opinion concerning Catholic teaching. It must see to it that changing forms of expression, the product of changing times, do not lead to grave concessions to what is thought and written outside the Church.

In 1573 Pope Benedict XIV recast the weapon of the Index. He laid down rules governing its procedure, and established general prin- ciples which breathe an attractive spirit of pastoral mildness. In all essential matters these are still in force today. But the instrument was still too dangerous to make even the most careful instructions for its use a guaranty against misuse. Since denunciation was necessarily the means employed to set it in motion, all forms of human meanness