"Censorship reflects a society's lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime."
~ Potter Stewart
After I wrote my previous post about Banned Books Week, I got an email from Dave Rock, the husband of one of my cousins, who reminded me about the Index Librorum Prohibitorum — the Catholic Church's former list of prohibited books. Published from 1559 until it was abolished in 1966, the list included works by some of history's best known scientists, novelists and other authors — Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, John Milton, David Hume, René Descartes and Victor Hugo among them.
When I was very young, the Index was still taken seriously in certain Roman Catholic circles, including my elementary school. Thinking about it fetched up a memory from those days about the time a banned film came to my home town. It was 1958 and the movie was God's Little Acre, starring Robert Ryan, Aldo Ray and Tina Louise. The film was based on Erskine Caldwell's 1933 novel of the same name, for which Caldwell was arrested, tried for obscenity and ultimately exonerated. Its presence at the local movie theater caused outrage, protests and, if I remember correctly, a short-lived boycott.
It all brings to mind the immortal words of Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff in the 1932 movie Horse Feathers.
“The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion.”
~ Henry Steele Commager