Official Catholic Books

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Blair Laird | Forum Activity | Posted: Mon, Jul 15 2013 5:31 PM

How does one know what is an official catholic book? For example is there an official catholic dictionary?

Are the Catholic dictionary, and the ecclesiastical dictionary considered official? I am not familiar enough

with catholic theology to know what is considered official books or not..

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Deacon Steve | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Jul 15 2013 7:54 PM

I'm not sure which resources you referring to for "Catholic dictionary" or "ecclesiastical dictionary" so I can only make a general comment.  Let's see if I can state this clearly and accurately for your question without being too confusing ...

You can think of "official" in terms of a hierarchy.  At the highest level, "official" would mean approved by the Holy See to include his legal representative(s) and the Bishops in communion with him.  The Canon of Sacred Scripture, Liturgy and Sacraments, Council documents, Catechism, Canon Law, Encyclicals are in this category.  The official language of the Western or Latin Rite of the Catholic Church is ... surprise ... Latin.  "Official" books/documents are generally (not always) produced in Latin first, then translated to another language.  The translations of those generally carry a "Nihil Obstat" and "Imprimatur" within the front page or two of the book/document but not always (Papal Encyclicals do not).  These designations identify the name of the authority that is stating that the book/document is free from moral or doctrinal error and give approval to print.  Some books/documents carry a copy of the official letter granting "recognitio" from the legal representative.  You can find most these documents freely available at the Vatican website.  Logos has many of them available in the Verbum base packages and individually.

A sidebar .... Recent history shows us that Popes author books that are not "official" church documents.  Benedict XVI has given us much to read besides "official" documents.  It would be a mistake, however, to dismiss those just because they are technically not "official".  In one sense they could be considered part of the third category below but the Pope does not need or require a "Nihil Obstat" nor "Imprimatur".  He is the authority.  Logos has a bunch of those available.  Highly recommended.

Second level of "official"  are usually approved by the governing ecclesiastical authority for a country, groups of countries, or regions depending on the language.  In the United States that would be the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.  These books/documents also will have a "Nihil Obstat" and "Imprimatur" within the front page or two of the book/document.  There is an adaptation of the universal Catechism for the United States that has the "recognitio" mentioned previously.  In the U.S. approved English translations of the Bible would be in this category. English translations of the Roman Missal and Rites also. 

Another sidebar ...  After that, there are books written by Catholic authors; clergy, theologians, and laity that are not "official" in the eyes of the Church but also have  "Nihil Obstat" and "Imprimatur" from the appropriate governing ecclesiastical authority.  This would usually be the Bishop where the author resides.  These are not "official" but express a theological view or opinion that is not in direct conflict with official church teaching.  If a book/document in this category does not have an Imprimatur it doesn't necessarily mean its bad, but you may want to add other text(s) on the subject that has an Imprimatur to round out your understanding.

Your best bet for "official" is the first and second category I mention.

Does that help?

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Blair Laird | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Jul 15 2013 9:14 PM

Very helpful, thank you...

The two dictionaries I mentioned came with my Verbum package

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Blair Laird | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Jul 15 2013 10:04 PM

Where can I find an official online library? Is there one?

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Jul 15 2013 10:46 PM

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Deacon Steve | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 16 2013 4:21 AM

OK.  Yes, those resources you link to would be in that third category I mentioned above.  They are written/compiled by different Priests.  Some have an Imprimatur, some do not.  As mentioned above, those without an Imprimatur does not imply that they are bad.  I have this collection and use the resources in it.

When it comes to dictionaries, they are likely not going to be in that first category of books/documents.  Yes, some words change meaning over time but you will probably recognize those changes by virtue of changes in usage ... speaking of the English language here.

If you don't have any Catholic resources, Logos has a very nice, reasonably priced package, Catechism of the Catholic Church Collection, that I can suggest for anyone getting started.  It is essentially the same price as the volumes you are looking at.  It contains resources more in that first category I mention.  There is no "dictionary" in there but very useful in understanding the Catholic faith.

I've been wading off into MJ's areas of expertise.  I'll stop now.  MJ has provided some very helpful links.

EDIT:  I forgot to mention one other collection available in Logos that aligns moreso with your reference links:  Liturgical Press Reference Collection. These resources are more current than the other collection but still fall into that third area of "official".  ...if that makes sense.

Also keep in mind that my comments are not official.  Stick out tongue


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Mark Barnes | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 16 2013 4:43 AM

From a layman's perspective, books not published by the Catholic Church itself, should generally not be considered 'official'. Books that are published by the Church could often be considered 'official', but that is not to say they all carry the same weight.

In Logos, you should be looking for books published by "Libreria Editrice Vaticana" (aka Vatican Publishing House). You can also look for those published by the "United States Conference of Catholic Bishops".

This general advice doesn't apply to older publications, though. For example, the Catechism of the Council of Trent, that's available in Logos is not an official translation, even though the Catechism in its Latin form should be considered as 'official'. Nonetheless, that English edition is widely used by Catholics in the English-speaking world, and has taken on something of an 'official' air (much like Protestants use English translations of Bibles, even though we only really hold the Hebrew/Greek originals as authoritative).

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 16 2013 12:45 PM

Besides the comparative weight the various church documents, the date and purpose also need to be considered. The message has remained the same but the best human expression of it can and does change over time and culture. And church documents do not represent all possible views that can legitimately be held by Catholics.

No, you will not find dictionaries and such that are official. Church documents tend to be pastoral teaching documents, responses to questions presented to the Church, or documents for worship and canon law.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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