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Recently, I came across a book published in 2012 which indicates an "Imprimatur" (i.e., permission to print) from Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Auxiliary Archbishop, Archdiocese of Cincinnati. It contains, however, no Nihil Obstat (which indicates that the book is not objectionable on doctrinal or moral grounds).

I don't recall having ever seen a book published with an Imprimatur but no Nihil Obstat.

An example from another of his book: Example of imprimatur page


QUESTION: Should I have reason to suspect that the Imprimatur is not valid? I ask this, because:

  1. How can an archdiocese mandate "let it be printed" without having first assigned it to a qualified censor to determine if there is anything contained therein objectionable to the Catholic Faith?

  2. Can an auxiliary bishop grant an Imprimatur? I thought that the granting of a valid Imprimatur comes is the prerogative of the local ordinary alone---which in this case would be the archbishop of Cincinnati---provided of course, that either the real author resides in Cincinnati or the book was published in Cincinnati? Incidentally, the book indicates a publisher based in Erlanger, KY, which is within the diocese of Covington, KY---and not Cincinnati.

QUESTION 2: The author indicated on the book is a young (< 50 years old) Australian who operates several companies and publishes many, many books (with his name on it)---some of which have been marketed to both Catholics and Protestants under "different" publishing companies. If a ghostwriter is involved, how does Canon Law account for that? I interpret the author as being the one who actually writes the book, not necessarily the one who's name appears on the book.

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  • In the absence of a picture of the page where the imprimatur appears, I think it would be helpful if you could provide the title, author, and/or ISBN of the book, so that someone else can procure that image. Aug 27 at 20:21
  • @GratefulDisciple The book is "The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic". Indicated author: Matthew Kelly. Amazon link: amazon.com/Four-Signs-Dynamic-Catholic/dp/1937509664 --- I have noticed that when I "look inside", though the date on Amazon is 2012--- it now contains no Imprimatur and indicates a publisher address of Hebron, KY. --- Hopefully, I can upload a picture of the page your equest from my book, shortly.
    – I. Chekhov
    Aug 27 at 20:28
  • At any rate, I found an example from another of Matthew Kelly's book here. PDF page 3 contains something that matches your description. Aug 27 at 20:37
  • @GratefulDisciple I am glad you were able to post this; for some reason, my AdobeScan is not forwarding my scan to me---have yet to figure out what the problem is. Thanks again.
    – I. Chekhov
    Aug 27 at 20:59
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    Are we all just going to ignore the typo ("Cannon Law") in the grant? Aug 28 at 12:00

1 Answer 1

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  1. Canon Law does not require the appointment of a Censor Liborum according to the 1983 code. See When does a Catholic book need an imprimatur for additional details. In that case, a book could have an imprimatur without a Nihil Obstat

  2. Usually it is the Ordinary -- the Bishop or Archbishop that heads a diocese:

Can. 824 §1 Unless it is established otherwise, the local ordinary whose permission or approval to publish books must be sought according to the canons of this title is the proper local ordinary of the author or the ordinary of the place where the books are published.

In this specific case, the auxiliary bishop was also vicar general (incidentally, Canon Law requires an auxiliary bishop to be vicar general). The vicar general acts on the authority of the Ordinary in a unique way in Canon Law -- the authority of the vicar general is not considered delegated from the bishop and hence you also cannot appeal from the vicar general to the ordinary. Thus, the vicar general in this case likely approved the book by acting in that capacity.

Canon Law at least for imprimaturs does not take account of "ghost writers" -- it is the work itself not the author which is scrutinized for defects in faith and moral.

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  • Thank you for posting this informative answer. One reason I inquired about a ghostwriter is because if say, I wrote a book and wanted to submit a book I wrote for an Imprimatur---I only have two choices: (1) The (arch)diocese where I, the author, live; or (2) The (arch)diocese where the book is to be published. Since, the aforementioned book seems to have been published in Erlanger, KY --- it would seem that the author must then have lived within the archdiocese of Cincinnati---which could have been possible, I suppose; but if a ghostwriter is involved---I was wondering if anything changes.
    – I. Chekhov
    Aug 27 at 21:05
  • I'm not clear on how this particular book could have been approved by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati at that time -- I don't see any particular rule which would allow that. Again, I don't see how a ghost writer changes anything. The local ordinary of the author meaning the person who wrote the book not just whose name appears on it.
    – eques
    Aug 27 at 21:22
  • I just came across this: According to page 1 (first paragraph) of usccb.org/about/doctrine/publications/upload/… --- it would seem that it is the archbishop (or bishop) who can grant ecclesiastical approval for publishing a book---not an auxiliary bishop or vicar general. The latter statement is but my interpretation.
    – I. Chekhov
    Aug 27 at 21:34
  • "Local ordinaries in the Latin Catholic Church are defined in law as diocesan bishops, those who are placed over a particular church or equivalent community (e.g., diocesan administrators), vicars general, and episcopal vicars acting within the scope of their designated responsibilities.42 "
    – eques
    Aug 27 at 21:35
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    It does. I said the person who wrote the book would be the author for the purpose of canon law. In other words, if you put someone else's name on it, that doesn't canonically change who may approve it. Furthermore, if you lie or deceive the bishop by claiming you wrote something that someone else actually did (i.e. you hire a ghostwriter), not only would you render the imprimatur invalid if that person lives in a different domicile but you would sin.
    – eques
    Aug 28 at 0:24

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