Page:Vactican as a World Power.djvu/435

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INDEX 421

of procedure became noticeably sharper when all bishops and ordinaries were bound in conscience to look upon surveillance of published works and denunciation of those that were questionable as a function of their office. Germanic ideas of justice took offense at this system of de- nunciation to almost the same extent that it had been repelled by condemnations without trial or the right of defense, and verdicts which, though irrevocable, were handed down without an explanation and without hearing the defense. Whether it was the ceaseless insistence of a great many scholars or whether it was the realization that it was rapidly becoming impossible even for a Congregation numbering more than fifty persons to run the bottomless sea of books through a sieve of criticism at any rate, on March 25th, 1917, Pope Benedict XV disbanded the Congregation of the Index as such and put the duty of censorship back again on the shoulders of the Holy Office, which was henceforth to look upon this as part of its general task and to perform it by confining itself to really important cases. The most recent edition of the Index is still binding in conscience, as its precedes- sors were; and it remains a very simple matter for the individual to obtain a dispensation. Shall we 'say that the tendency is to permit, in view of the changed times, the debated catalogue to slip back once more into the soothing quiet of things that are not talked about? Rome can adapt itself to conditions but it never concedes a point. It is also true that since the very earliest times no state has dispensed with its right to forbid writings and addresses calculated to undermine its existence. Indeed, the practice of the totalitarian states of the present day even finds it compatible with the German sense of freedom and natural law to submit views of life and intellectual products to the dictatorship of the state and its inquisitorial organs. Every society organized on a constitutional basis is justified in principle in demand- ing obedience in essential matters. It could hardly survive otherwise. And though Catholics have been opposed to the Index and some of its attendant phenomena, they have never thought of denying the right of the Church to exercise supervision. The point at issue has always been how the methods employed could be reformed to meet valid needs. It would appear that at present such a reform, proceed- ing slowly, as is customary with the Church, may bring a solution of this century old quarrel.


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