Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What Does "Nihil Obstat" and "Imprimatur" Found In Catholic Books Mean?

Q - A "nihil obstat" and an "imprimatur" appear at the front of many Catholic books. What exactly do these mean?

A - Thanks for the question. When a Catholic writer has a book on faith, morals, theology, etc. they submit it to the Bishop in their diocese or the Bishop of the diocese of the publisher of the book. The Bishop, or his appointed representative, then reads through the book and either gives or denies a "nihil obstat" to it.

This approval comes in two official steps:
  1. "nihil obstat" means nothing "stands in the way" of it being printed - that is, nothing contrary to the faith and morals of the Church is in the book.
  2. "imprimatur" is the official permission to print the book.
Thus, it is the official permission of the Bishop to print the book and a statement that it contains nothing outside the teachings of the Church. It is not an endorsement of the book or a statement that it is valuable to read. Nor do all books on Catholic teaching have these in them. It is up to the author and/or publisher to seek out such approval.

The Code of Canon Law discusses this issue in Canons 822-832.

I hope this helps.

1 comment:

Cassandra said...

It's important to remember that these approvals are not infallible.

They are only as reliable as the person that reviewed the work.

Bishop Clark was forced by the CDF to remove an imprimatur on a book.