The problem of censorship

I’ve often wondered what, exactly, Victor Hugo’s religious views were. Apparently, he started off very conservative and devout, but shifted to being more politically liberal as time went on. His ultimate beliefs were anti-religious deism.

So, apparently, like Tolstoy and Dickens, he advocated belief in God without the Church, condemning the entirety of Chrsitanity just for the corruption of his day.

However, what’s interesting is tha ta major catalyst for Hugo’s conversion from Catohlic to anti-Catholic was the reception of Les Miserables by the Church! It is surprising today to think that a book which is about Christian forgiveness, where the protagonist is a criminal turned saint by the action of a saintly bishop, could be banned on the Index.

Many Catholics today want a kind of modern day Index. ” Ban everything but EWTN and Ignatius Press,” they’d tell us. “Don’t try to engage the culture! Don’t try to uphold positive works of art/entertaniment that promote Christian values! Censor, censor, censor! And you’ll go straight to Hell if you read a “Harry Potter” book!”

Not everything about Vatican II was bad. The Index, while an advisable guideline, was often exagerated in its importance. After all, the Index only meant those works could not be read casually: they could be read under proper spiritual or academic direction.

Flannery O’Connor died before the Index was abolished, yet she identified the banned Madame Bovary as her favorite novel. Yet O’Connor also acknowledged the right and duty of the Church to tell us what works are morally safe to read. Indeed, Madame Bovary was the basis of the VeggieTale Madame Blueberry (swapping out conspicuous consumption for adultery). One could say that _Madame Bovary_ is about the oppression of traditional society, *or* one could see in _Madame Bovary_ an illustration of the wages of sin.

It is also interesting that it was Cardinal Ottoviani who, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, declared the cessation of the Index. Ottaviani was one of the greatest criticss of Vatican II. The “Ottaviani Intervention” is one of the seminal documents of the Traditionalist Movement. I’ve long maintained that the elimination of the Index happened to give us laity greater freedom to criticize the “smoke of Satan” in its various manifestations.

2 responses to “The problem of censorship

  1. Speaking of censorship, what happened to the excellent article on the priest shortage? I really wanted to comment that it’s not just a Catholic issue- but a United States culture issue, as we see fatherhood in general, both in the spiritual and parental sense, being minimized and marginalized.

    The downside of the abolishment of the Index, however, was contributions to the Vatican Library. Used to be a part of Canon Law that to even propose a book be on the Index, a copy had to be sent for safekeeping in the Vatican Library. I’ve heard a rumor that they ended up needing to dedicate an entire room to the works of Charles Darwin.

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