All the fuss about the election now beginning in Vatican City for a new pope got me thinking about my treasured copy of the Index librorum prohibitorum, the official list, promulgated by the Church, of books the faithful are barred from reading. Taking it down from the shelf, I find that my copy was issued in 1948, but by the time I acquired it, several more books had been added on an addendum sheet which came with it, including, among other things, the entire collected works of Jean-Paul Sartre.
The Index is a curiously parochial work, in the common, not the religious, sense of that term. Having been compiled by a collection of not very broadly educated Italian clerics, it is extremely heavy on the most obscure works of slightly deviant Italian language theology, but remarkably silent on even the most scandalous works in other languages.
For example, the only English work of fiction I could find in an admittedly quick scan of the 508 pages of the Index is Samuel Richardson's Pamela, widely [and incorrectly] considered the first English novel. Apparently the Vatican apparatchiks took the elegantly recursive position that if one banned the first novel, all subsequent instances of the genre were banned by implication. [The Index does forbid the faithful to read Defoe's The Political History of the Devil, but that is not a novel, so it doesn't fall under the Pamela proscription.]
Kant's Kritik der reinen vernunft is there, as indeed it should be. I cannot believe that a serious student could survive a deep engagement with the Critique with his or her faith intact.
There is something naive and touching about a list of prohibited books put out in the middle of the twentieth century, when everything was already available in libraries and bookstores. It makes one think of those pop psychology tests that consist of telling someone, "Now, whatever you do, don't think about elephants!"
My secret wish is that when next the Index is updated, In Defense of Anarchism gets included, but that is, I know, too much to hope for.