A few considerations:
- 1) From 16th C. to at least Antipope Montini, there was a Church law on any book touching theology, it had to have either imprimatur or imprimi potest, at least a nihil obstat, before it could be in good conscience printed.
- 2) The nihil obstat was a preliminary. It was usually made not by the bishop himself but by a censor deputatus, usually a Dominican.
- 3) After the nihil obstat, the bishop could give an imprimi potest or an imprimatur. These are not synonymous.
Say a learned Jesuit was in 1830 stationed into the diocese of Cork (or clostest corresponding thing, not sure when Cork became a diocese after abolition of Penal Laws in 1830).
He had been working on a thesis, that the Hebrew which Moses wrote and spoke was not identical to that of the Hebrew Bibles we have (for how vowels are written, this is obvious, since this has changed, the modern system was not around in the time of Moses but he goes further : phonemes, verbal endings and a few more have been continuously updated by the Cohanim scribes, so the language of Hebrew Bible is post-Mosaic, while the texts are not). In 1830, Cork, the bishop does not find this as being of vital interest, but the Jesuit wants to send it to an academy of Oriental languages in Rome. He gets an imprimi potest and prints on his own cost 15 examples, which he then sends to Rome, Paris, Louvain and Salamanca and one or two to some study friends left behind on the Continent.
If he gets a response, he is of course free to pay for a reprint.
He then procedes to make a work which is of vital interest to the Church in Ireland and England : a special edition of the Penny Catechism, with a defense against each Protestant charge in more detail. The bishop is interested, he gives an imprimatur. This means, if the Jesuit can't pay for the printing, the bishop will. Why? Because "imprimatur" means "let it be printed" - the bishop is in fact by this note ordering the book to be printed. Obviously, he makes sure the examples are more numerous than 15, and when the stock is sold out, he renews it.
- 4) The difference between an "imprimi potest" and an "imprimatur" can be paralleled with town councils and architecture. You buy an adjacent property on which the previous building has been torn down, you have a plan for making the ground valuable, you want to build - what you get from the town council is a building permit. However, the town has a need, you have a plan for how the new library should look, your architectural plan is not giving you a building permit, it becomes, if approved, an order by the town to build that library on your plan.
- 5) It is obviously not just simonistic, but nonsensical to ask a fee for the work of an imprimatur. It is as if the town were asking you to pay a fee for your plan for the new library - your plan for the new library is a service to the town, not to your private interest. You are more likely to get a contractual or prize type reward for proposing your plan. In the same manner, a book of apologetics is a service to the Church - and when a bishop orders it printed, he is more likely to reward the author - if it is not someone who is obliged to live poor and therefore is likely to waver monetary rewards.
- 6) For an imprimi potest, I don't think that fees would have been charged, as a pre-condition sine qua non, since giving an imprimi potest is an act of jurisdiction, which of the Church should be available also to the poor. Imprimi potests have been given to works by Capuchins and Minims, meaning sometimes obviously to people having no money.
If a customary fee was usually expected - I don't pretend to know the details - it would be wavered for the poor.
Precisely as the fees for services of the stola which have sometimes been expected (a parish priest getting a fee for a marriage and so on) would also be often wavered for the poor.
I think Pope Michael should have at least this in mind before asking me to provide money before he can begin the work involved in an imprimatur.
- 7) One more.
Necessitas non habet legem.
The virtue of Epikeia.
If at present the one bishop of the Church who has a right to issue imprimatur (as Pope Michael claims to be, and I am so far accepting him as, since ditching Bergoglio and very briefly considering the Feeneyite Argentinian Antipope Alexander, back in 2014), if he can't do so unless pre-paid, and if this clogs both a perhaps valuable work of apologetics and my personal affairs, I am not obliged to wait for a never coming imprimatur.
It is one thing to say "look here, in that essay you pretended God consists of material atoms, you won't get an imprimatur on that one!" Ever, presumably. If I dispensed myself from obligation of imprimatur for such a thing, it would be rebellion against the Church.
But it is quite another to say "look here, I can't afford the work for giving you an imprimatur, unless you pay me" - if so, I think I am quite entitled to consider the material difficulties of Pope Michael dispense me from waiting for an imprimatur.
But this has a consequence : in foreseeable future, Pope Michael won't be able to make the work for an imprimatur procedure. Therefore it is unreasonable for the Church to require one before things get printed.
Not just for me, but for a lot of other good Catholic writers*. Pope Michael, if indeed the true Pope, cannot afford the luxury to exclude writers because they are poor in money, if they have something to say.
This means, along with fact that Antipope Montini issued his ruling at a time when very many Catholics certainly really such took him to be the real Pope** and therefore felt free to follow the order as given, one may presume God wanted this freedom to be established for these confused times so that no wasteful waiting should make them even more confused, to be at least probably established.
- 8) Sorry, was tired and forgot one.
If people have in general been able to see my blogs for years, and no one has issued any condemnation of what I write in them, I think this amounts to an imprimatur as much as a certain serial non-stoning amounted to God's "neither do I condemn you".
This I find a reason to waver imprimatur requirement on texts that have been available as blogs for long and where comments have been open to commenters, as is the case on my blogs. But either way, it stands there in my favour.
Do you know how Chesterton defended the Catholic interference with liberty of writing and publishing? By the invention of printing, the act of effectively publishing a book had come into the hands which could affor the invenestment of a printer. This means, the Church was not shutting down a really democratic debate, but one which had taken quite a few notches to becoming an oligarchic one. Note, the advent of internet has changed the situation. The old rule, post-publishing approval or reproval by notified superiors is good enough. As it was for Bishop Tempier.***
Hans Georg Lundahl
St Fabian, Pope and Martyr
PS, I forgot to mention another thing I had intended to, also due to fatigue. Some guys seem bent on giving me chances to reconsider myself what I wrote on some occasions. They spam posts, and some of them several times over. Or, one of them does. So, I have published two lists on essays I could have reconsidered and didn't find objectionable, they are called Spammers' Choice! / Choix des spammeurs and Spammers' Choice. While there is exactly one blogger profile, I think the action is a type of plot to "give me a chance" to reconsider - what I still think I considered very correctly./HGL
* Yeah, I just said I am a good Catholic writer. So, a penance for vainglory might be OK, but making it years and years of waiting to get published is not a penance, it is useless waste.
** I speak of the guy often named "Pope Paul VI".
*** Some may know I have published on internet a Latin text and own footnotes on the condemned sentences by Bishop Tempier. It is an "English" copy of the work in which the condemned sentences are ordered by theme, as they were not in the original in Paris. Now, the first group of themes is "errores de deo", but this is chapter VI - which leaves the question what the first five chapters were. In the case of Tempier's original there were however a few known prequels, namely sentencing named authors after their publication - Boethius de Dacia for a work of Averroist tendency or Andrew the Chaplain for a work on love lore (relationship advice or seduction advice). Here is however the text of the syllabus: Index in stephani tempier condempnationes.