The catholic church

The Index of Prohibited Books makes a fine reading list

In a classic paradox of bureaucracy, the Index of Forbidden Books only really hit its stride when its original task became impossible. By the 17th century, Robin Vose relates in his new history of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum – established 1559, venerated and cursed for four centuries as ‘the Index’ – it was broadly accepted that censoring literature, senso stricto, was no longer possible. The ubiquity of printers, the ease of transportation and concealment and the sheer number of new books all made most texts available, most of the time, to those with time and cash to spare. The Index of Forbidden Books couldn’t, practically speaking, forbid. In other words,

Joseph Ratzinger’s coat of many colours

A common but flawed assumption about Joseph Ratzinger is that he is simply an ardent conservative. That’s the figure we see in Netflix’s The Two Popes. Anthony Hopkins’s performance may be a visual feast, but the script leaves no cliché unaired. Better informed observers note that the Vatican’s former doctrinal guardian is a poacher turned gamekeeper who once supported major reform of the Catholic Church but then performed a somersault, partly because of worry about threats including Marxism and moral relativism. Among the truest verdicts is that he has always been torn between different versions of himself. The cultural warrior who could urge Catholics not to practise yoga and to