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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 2 of 2)

Drafted the first papal Index in 1559


Outside

the States of the Church the suppression of books and the requirement of ecclesiastical licence could only be carried out through the co-operation of the secular authorities; and they naturally demanded some uniformity in the books condemned. This led to lists of prohibited books being drawn up--as at Louvain (1546 and 1550), at Koeln (1549), and by the Sorbonne, who managed the Inquisition for the north of France (1544 and 1551). Pope Paul IV. drafted the first papal Index in 1559. It was very drastic, and its very severity prevented its success.[727] It was this _Index Librorum Prohibitorum_ which was discussed by the Commission appointed at the Council of Trent.[728]

The Commission drafted a set of ten rules to be followed in constructing a list of prohibited books, and left the actual formation of the Index to the Pope. This new Index (the Tridentine Index) was published by Pope Pius IV. in 1564. His successor, Pius V., appointed a special Commission of Cardinals to deal with the question of prohibited books. It was called the Congregation of the Index, and although distinct from the Inquisition, worked along with it. Its work was done very thoroughly. Italian scholarship was slain so far as the peninsula was concerned. The scholarship of Spain and Portugal was also destroyed. Learning had to take shelter north of the Alps and the Pyrenees. So thoroughly was the work of prohibition carried out, so many difficulties beset even Roman Catholic

authors, that Paleario called the whole system "a dagger drawn from the scabbard to assassinate all men of letters"; Paul Sarpi dubbed it "the finest secret which has ever been discovered for applying religion to the purpose of making men idiots"; and Latini, a champion of the Papacy, declared it to be a "peril which threatened the very existence of books."

The rules for framing the Index, drafted by the commission of the Council of Trent, are curious reading. The writings of noted Reformers, of Zwingli, Luther, and especially of Calvin, were absolutely prohibited. The Vulgate was to be the only authorised version of the Scriptures, and the only one to be quoted as an inspired text. Scholars might, by special permission of their ecclesiastical superiors, possess another version, but they were never to quote it as authoritative. Versions in the vernacular were never to be quoted. Bible Dictionaries, Concordances, books on controversial theology, had to pass the strictest examination at the hands of the censors before publication. The censors were directed to examine with the utmost care not merely the text, but all summaries, notes, indexes, prefaces, and dedications, searching for any heretical phrases or for sentences which the unwary might be tempted to think heretical, for all criticisms on any ecclesiastical action, for any satire on the clergy or on religious rites. All such passages were to be expunged.

North of the Alps the Index had small effect. It was impotent in lands where the Reformation was firmly established; and in France, papal Germany, and north Italy a class of daring colporteurs carried the prohibited tracts, Bibles, and religious literature throughout the lands.


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