I understand that one of the results of the recent Yoot Synod as that the Vatican is thinking about censoring Catholic websites.
They’re talking about a “certification system” to manage fake news. Sounds like censorship to me.
Deacon Kandra explains and opines over at his Patheos column
Is this a bad idea? Is it (as one site claims) “Soviet-style censorship”?
Well, in theory, it doesn’t sound all that different fromthe time-honored practice of issuing a “Nihil Obstat” or “Imprimatur” on a published work:
The Nihil Obstat (nothing stands in the way) and the Imprimatur (it may be printed) are indications that a written work is not known to be in contradiction to the Faith. As printed in many works which bear these indications, we read:
“The Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur are a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free from doctrinal or moral error. It is not implied that those who have granted the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions or statements expressed.”
Some additional background:
Regarding Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: In brief, a Nihil Obstat is a declaration from a theologian called the Censor Librorum that a book is free from doctrinal or moral error – it literally means “Nothing Hinders.” If the bishop’s Censor Librorum grants the Nihil Obstat, then the Bishop, in his name and by his episcopal powers, confers the Imprimatur, which means “let it be printed.” The Imprimatur is the result of the Nihil Obstat -i.e., “Nothing hinders”, therefore, “let it be printed.” Both can be taken as guarantees that the book is free from moral or doctrinal error, but because the Imprimatur comes directly from the Bishop and is the final step in the printing process, it is commonly considered to be more authoritative, though I’m not sure whether or not this is true.
Yeh, but is the proposal for certification for Catholic websites and the nihil obstat similar at all? I don’t think so.
The nihil obstat is all about guaranteeing doctrinal orthodoxy. Let’s face it, there aren’t that many prelates in the Catholic Church at the present time who give two hoots about that. Being concerned about the true teaching of doctrine and morals would be too dogmatic, rigid, pharisaical etc. etc. Being concerned about moral and doctrinal orthodoxy? That wouldn’t be pastoral and flexible and listening and accompanying and all that sweet stuff.
No, this is not like the nihil obstat at all and it is indeed much more like “Soviet style censorship”. You can bet this is a plan to squelch debate and quash the independent journalists, bloggers and writers who keep stirring up the sludge pond.
I don’t suspect there is really anything to be concerned about. Rome has always tried to get the devils back into Pandora’s Box once they’ve flown. No system of certification is going to stop the Catholic websites, blogs and papers from spreading fake news and wild eyed opinions.
If they were really concerned about such things they would have made the National Catholic Reporter remove “Catholic” from their name.
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I heard about this proposal years ago, that those who want to have “Catholic” in their titles or headlines would need to go through Rome first. Then they would get a special .va at the end of their URL. At the time, I thought it was a pretty clever idea and logical. If you are speaking as a Catholic, why not let Rome know you’re doing so? That was my thinking at the time. Since then, after seeing what currently Rome believes, it may not be as practical as I thought…
Virtually all of us are students, we depend on competent instructors. When it comes to the Catholic Faith,
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur are important. Sly instructors can easily misteach us. A book should at least make the first cut of reliability.
Yet, Bishops and Cardinals teach a lot without adding NO and I to each of their written versions.
I would appreciate the “Good Housekeeping” stamp of approval for websites that hold forth on Catholic Doctrine that that site at least tries to stay in bounds. Free Speech is effective when it has a modicum of responsible speech.