Recently I was discussing and lamenting with friends the proliferation of heretical books written by individuals calling themselves Catholic or at least purporting to have expert knowledge of the Church or Christianity in general. I read a lot and my friends read a lot. We’re inquisitive people and have at least a little ability to discern works that are in accordance with orthodox teachings and those that are not. The vast majority of people in the Church lack such a foundation and are easily lead astray by dreck by the likes of Dan Brown, Gary Wills, and John Shelby Spong.

Once upon a time, the Church maintained a list of books that Catholics ought not read, called the Index. It’s impractical in this age of mass communication for the Church to maintain such a list. However, a queriable database of books that have been given an imprimatur and/or nihil obstat would be nice. Speaking of this useful service with my friends, an idea occurred to me.

What if we created a wiki with information about popular theological books? I lack the time to set something like that up, but I’m sure someone else could do it. Somewhere in this vast blogosphere is an individual or group with the time and know-how to set up a WikiIndex. Please spread this meme if you’d like to see this idea come to fruition.

Update: I’ve discovered that the software used to create Wikipedia is open source. Woohoo!

Comments 15

  1. Tom Smith wrote:

    “I do not trust 2000 years of church tradition, but the Bible. I do not trust scripture because it was assembled by a group of men, but because it is authored and maintained by the Almighty.”

    But if scripture was written a generation after Christ died, what was it based on? Oral tradition, perhaps? Catholics believe that the Catholic Church was founded at the Pentecost. That’s before the Bible was written. Our doctrinal traditions of the time went into the writing of the Bible. So it’s not so nuts to think that the Bible doesn’t necessarily include all of them, since there’s been a development in the understanding of truth.

    And how can you say that God authored scripture? He certainly ensured it would be error-free, but I can’t agree that God wrote it. And I certainly can’t agree that God “maintained” scripture, simply because that would mean every medieval (Catholic) monk who transcribed scriptures was infallible as well.

    One can’t pretend that the 1611 KJV just came straight down from heaven leatherbound. That’s simply a blatant denial of history.

    “I know I sound pretty flippant, but sometimes you just gotta put the protest back in protestant.”

    Well, if you really wanted to put the “Protest” back in “Protestant”, you’d have to be protesting the toleration granted to Catholics by the Diet of Speyer in 1529.

    (Sorry, that last bit was really flippant of me.)

    Posted 24 Feb 2005 at 12:10 am
  2. Curt wrote:

    1) It is an authoratative religion. 2) It *would* be useful to know if something was in or out of bounds, especially if it irked you but you were unsure why. Not everyone has the time or inclination to be a legal beagle on Cannon Law.

    Posted 23 Feb 2005 at 2:42 am
  3. Funky Dung wrote:

    “Shouldn’t it be enough to say that, if there is no such paragraph at the beginning of the book, the person is expressing his own ideas and not necessarily advancing the teachings of the Church?”

    Not necessarily. There are a few scenarios when that’s not enough.

    1) The book went to press without an imprimatur (but is nonetheless orthodox).

    3) The book was not written by a Catholic. There are some excellent Protestant authors that are worthy of attention from Catholics.

    4) The book isn’t explicitly theological. I suspect that historical books don’t go through the same review process.

    5) The book is fictional.

    Also, there is no database I know of that lists all the books that have been approved. It’d be nice to have a place to go where people could discover good books that otherwise might not have crossed their paths.

    Posted 27 Feb 2005 at 8:11 pm
  4. Funky Dung wrote:

    Even if one is “in the Word”, there is still a problem, and it may be far worse than any within the Catholic Church (in regard to heterodox and heretical books). There are lots of false teachers who have interpreted Scripture to suit their needs. Private exegesis is a breeding ground for heresy. The Church maintains the Deposit of Faith and ensures doctrinal purity. Faithful Catholics are encouraged and urged to read the Bible thoroughly and often, but we must check what we think we’ve learned from Scripture against 2000 years of Sacred Tradition. I do not trust Scripture because Scripture tells me to. I trust Scripture because I trust the Church that assembled the canon of Scripture.

    Posted 23 Feb 2005 at 7:03 pm
  5. sibert wrote:

    I do not trust 2000 years of church tradition, but the Bible. I do not trust scripture because it was assembled by a group of men, but because it is authored and maintained by the Almighty. History has given much evidence of errors in the church, awful sins commited by popes, harboring of Nazis by priests, etc. This does not make the church eveil, but full of fallable humans.

    Essentially all exegesis is private exegesis and eventually you end up relying on some other human’s interpretation. We have souls and minds provided to us and while we are not simply responsible for ourselves (we are held accountable for our brother’s walk as well) we will be damned or saved by our own choices.

    Of course, it was “heresy” that birthed the vital and growing branch called the protestant church. The law given to the Jews in the OT is pretty thick, but Jesus said that the Scribes and Pharisees made it even more so and unaccesible to people searching for truth. I think in some ways the Catholic Church has done the same. Not only must you obey scripture, but now you must obey every obscure church father, inspired hermit, and papal bull uttered in the last 2000 years. I know I sound pretty flippant, but sometimes you just gotta put the protest back in protestant. I still love you guys and ask His blessings for you.

    Posted 23 Feb 2005 at 8:54 pm
  6. John wrote:

    I have not read all that much theology, but some of the Catholic writings i have read have had a little paragraph inside the front cover saying that the teachings within the book are accepted as cannonical by the Church (or possibly just by a Bishop, but I think most Bishops probably know enough to make the right call).

    Shouldn’t it be enough to say that, if there is no such paragraph at the beginning of the book, the person is expressing his own ideas and not necessarily advancing the teachings of the Church?

    Posted 27 Feb 2005 at 6:10 pm
  7. Richard Hall wrote:

    I’ve been running a wiki for a little while, and I’m just in the process of changing over to a robust php script. I’ll add a “bookshelf” space and see what happens. (

    Posted 23 Feb 2005 at 1:25 pm
  8. sibert wrote:

    If you read your Bible and disqualify those statements that disagree with it then reading unorthodox books can be a constructive process. It can expose you to ideas that will stretch you in ways you hadn’t considered. If you are not grounded in scripture and therefore are unsure about certain theologies, then unorthodox books probably will pull you off track. The Bible is the ultimate standard. Catholic theology has complicated the matter by injecting hundreds of other sources and placing them on par with scripture (I know several of you may disagree). Lots of other material can be good and God works through those books too, but there is nothing like scripture. The Bible should be the only textbook and everything else read in light of that. You don’t have to be a legal beagle on canon law, just be in the Word. I still love all my Catholic brothers though!

    Posted 23 Feb 2005 at 5:18 pm
  9. Funky Dung wrote:

    People can read whatever they please so long as they know what’s orthodox and what is not. The point of the wiki I described would be to have reviews of theological books (much like those on Amazon) in a searchable database.

    Posted 23 Feb 2005 at 3:25 am
  10. theomorph wrote:

    So this is what it takes to maintain your religion? Telling people not to read books? Or, if they do manage to read them, telling them what to think about them?

    Posted 22 Feb 2005 at 10:47 pm
  11. Tom Smith wrote:

    The 1529 Diet of the Holy Roman Empire was held in Speyer. There, the Diet upheld the 1524 ruling that Catholicism and Lutheranism would be respected in each town they had been established in. Several Lutheran princes at the Diet protested the toleration of Catholics, and so acquired the name “Protestant”.

    I just think that’s one of those interesting little farts of history, where something seemingly inconsequential, namely the changing of common parlance from simply “Lutheran” to “Protestant”, became a nearly 500-year thing.

    Posted 24 Feb 2005 at 1:32 pm
  12. Funky Dung wrote:

    Theo, think of similar issues in the sciences. The textbooks in schools shouldn’t be filled with lies, half-truths, distortions, or gross errors. We don’t want students to be misinformed or confused do we?

    There is a certiain doctrinal purity to be maintained in the sciences. It is true that there is room for discussion on many issues, but there is such a thing as “junk” science. Likewise, there are theological issues which are open for discussion, but there is also junk theology. The Church is authoritative on these issues. If you don’t accept that authority, fine. You’re not the intended audience for such an index. Faithful Catholics who don’t desire to be mislead by Catholics-In-Name-Only are.

    Posted 23 Feb 2005 at 3:05 am
  13. sibert wrote:

    I must admit my ignorance and humbly ask you to explain the import of the Diet of Speyer in 1529. I am obviousely not as astute a student of history as you, please enlighten me. Thanks in advance.

    Posted 24 Feb 2005 at 4:38 am
  14. MarkDilley wrote:

    Have you seen

    Best, Mark

    Posted 27 Mar 2007 at 5:21 pm
  15. Funky Dung wrote:

    Thanks, but that’s not quite the kind of index I had in mind. 😉

    Posted 29 Mar 2007 at 1:19 pm

Trackbacks & Pingbacks 1

  1. From I've Been Workin' on the Wiki.. @ Ales Rarus on 27 Mar 2007 at 2:03 pm

    […] Remember my WikiIndex idea? Well, somebody saw it and asked me to participate in a private beta for a wiki site he's developing. I accepted and have begun work on a wiki for Catholic books. There's much work left to do, but if you take a look, you'll get the basic idea of what it's about. […]

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *