CHNetwork Q&A Discussion Home Forums Other Topics Question about Imprimatur, Nihil Obstat, and Imprimi Potest.

9 replies, 4 voices Last updated by  neilh 1 month, 4 weeks ago
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  • #28502

    neilh
    Participant
    @NeilH

    Hi,

    I have a few questions regarding books that are supposed to have Church approval on them. My understanding is that a book dealing with religion or morals that is to be displayed/sold at churches or used in seminaries needs approval. Also prayer books need approval.

    So my questions:

    1. If a book does deal with religion/morals and is being sold in a church does it only need the Imprimatur or does it need the Imprimatur AND the Nihil Obstat together?
    2. Likewise if such a book was written by a vowed religious would it be mandatory for it to only have the Imprimi Potest or would it also require the Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat?
    3. Would it be sinful (under canon law) to read a book that deals with religion/morals that doesn’t have authorization, but is displayed at churches or is a prayer book. I feel like I’ve seen a couple of examples of Catholic books being displayed in churches that don’t have the authorization on them.

    I appreciate the help as I have been confused about this and not read some books I have because of my confusion. For instance, I have the book The Imitation of Mary and it has the Imprimatur/Nihil Obstat, but doesn’t have the Imprimi Potest. The writer of the book was a Jesuit as far as I know so wouldn’t it have needed the Imprimi Potest too? Also I think the Diary of St. Faustina has the Imprimatur/Nihil Obstat, but no Imprimi Potest – however she was a vowed religious. Perhaps it didn’t have it because her diary was published after her death?

    Thanks,

    Neil H

    #28508

    alma
    Participant
    @alma

    Hi Neilh:

    From what I know, and I ask other forum members to please correct me if I am wrong, I will try to answer your questions.

    Nihil Obstat (a Latin word thet is pronounced: knee kill obs tat) means: nothing opposed, that is, there is nothing in this book that opposes the Catholic Church’s doctrine.

    In order to obtain a Nihil Obstat, an author must submit his or her manuscript to the ecclesial authority, that is to an authorized priest who is an expert in the field the book covers. He will read it thoroughly, (it may take him some time 🙄), make comments, even point out things that need clarification or change, and then turn it back to the author, who must make the suggested corrections.

    So, is it a sin to read a religious book that has no ‘Nihil Obstat’?

    In those times when the Catholic Church published a list of forbidden books, it was considered sinful to disobey her and read them.

    Nowdays, to read a Catholic book that lacks Nihil Obstst is a little risky, because you cannot tell for sure if what it says is true or according to the Church’ teachings, and there are lots of supposedly Catholic authors out there, including priests and nuns, 😔 whose points of view are definitely opposed to what the Church teaches

    So if you know for sure that a Catholic author follows the Church, you may read his or her books, even if it does not have Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur. Otherwise you may end up reading something that may lead you astray.

    Now, once the manuscript has obtained the Nihil Obstat, the author submits it to another Church authority, who grants the ‘Imprimatur’, (another Latin word, it means: print it). A book with Imprimatur has the aproval of the Church. It is a very good thing because it can be considered that the Church not only did not find anything wrong with the book and therefore granted the Nihil Obstat, but that she also recommends it may be printed.

    I don’t know if ‘Imprimatur’ and ‘Imprimi Potest’ are the same thing, but it sounds like they may be. I think only one of them suffices.

    About the Diary of St Faustina, it is a great book!! You’ll profit greatly reading it!!

    Alma

    #28510

    Howard Hampson
    Keymaster
    @Howard the Pilgrim

    I did some reading on the subject in order to answer your questions, Neil.  Alma took a good first attempt at answering your questions.

    Some clarifications are in order.  These are general rules.  The bishops usually appoint knowledgeable priests to act as deputy censors in their diocese to read through the religious works being submitted for review. They will follow the process in dealing with the authors as outlined by Alma.  Once the books are considered to be free from error then the censor issues the nihil obstat, no obstacle to being printed. The bishop can then issue his imprimatur, let it be printed.

    The imprimi potest is the equivalent of the nihil obstat meaning it has been reviewed by a superior in the same order as the authoring religious and is able to be printed.  The bishop of the diocese can then issue the imprimatur.

    This review and approval process must be used for books used in Catholic K-12 schools, for prayer books and catechisms and religious books sold in Catholic churches and oratories.  So basically anything that looks like something official from the Church but not issued by the Magisterium of the Church which has its own processes.

    Catholic books sold in Catholic bookstores and/or distributed by Catholic apostolates do not.

    I perused some of my own collection of books and some books by very theologically sound authors such as Scott Hahn do not have them while some books by the same author do.  Probably depends on the purpose of the book and its intended use and method of distribution.

    Is it sinful to read Catholic religious books without them?  I didn’t see anything in this section of the canon law saying that.  It is riskier as Alma pointed out, particularly if one is not very knowledgeable in the Faith.  But reading sound authors who have other approved published works would be pretty safe.

    Here is the link to the Vatican website canon law section pertaining to your questions.

    http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P2Q.HTM

    #28922

    neilh
    Participant
    @NeilH

    Hey Alma and Howard,

    Thanks so much for your replies! And please forgive me for being so late to respond! I am a professional procrastinator.

    Yeah I still don’t know if Imprimatur and Imprimi Potest would have equal weight. Such as in the case of a book just having imprimi potest, but no imprimatur from the bishop.

    There is a document called “The Permission to Publish” by the USCCB that talks about the required books that need authorization. Sometimes I’ll see books in churches that don’t have the imprimatur, but they are supposed to.

    Thanks again for your responses.

    God bless you!

    Neil

     

    #28923

    David W. Emery
    Keymaster
    @David W. Emery

    Neil, the Imprimi Potest is a preliminary permission from the head of a religious order or monastery. This permission is required by the Rule of the order, but not by the Church at large. The bishop, with his Imprimatur, always has the last word within his diocese. But the Pope (and through him, certain Vatican officials) can overrule a bishop in certain cases, because the Pope has universal jurisdiction.

    David

    #28924

    neilh
    Participant
    @NeilH

    Thanks for the clarification David.

    So basically if a book had only the Imprimi Potest it should still get the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur before being distributed in a church?

    And if a book written by a religious had the nihil obstat and imprimatur, but not the imprimi potest – this would be fine according to the Church at large, but just not the order?

    Thanks

    #28925

    David W. Emery
    Keymaster
    @David W. Emery

    The Imprimi Potest takes the place of the Nihil Obstat for religious orders. The Nihil Obstat is the sign-off for a diocesan official appointed by the bishop. The Imprimi Potest is the sign-off for an official of the religious order appointed by the abbot or other high official in the order. Basically, they serve the same purpose, one for the dioceses and the other within religious orders. In either case, the bishop’s Imprimatur is required for books with religious subject matter written by a Catholic.

    David

    #28926

    neilh
    Participant
    @NeilH

    Awesome thanks for clarifying that!

    My Diary of St. Faustina has the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, but no Imprimi Potest even though she was part of a religious order. I suppose this is just because the documents were reviewed and authorized many years after her death.

    #28927

    David W. Emery
    Keymaster
    @David W. Emery

    My understanding on St. Faustina’s Diary is that a number of individuals, both secular and religious, were involved in the production of the English version that you have. The result is that the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur cover everything, whereas an Imprimi Potest would apply only to that part of the product produced by an individual who belongs to a particular religious order. The obvious choice, was to go with the Nihil Obstat by a diocesan official, who would then pass it on to the bishop for final approval.

    David

    #28928

    neilh
    Participant
    @NeilH

    Gotcha, sounds good to me!

    Thanks again for your help David and God bless.

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