Inter Mirifica § 12: Did the Council endorse censorship?

Yes, it did.

Catholics of a libertarian bent will surely find section 12 of Inter Mirifica alarming:

The public authority, in these matters, is bound by special responsibilities in view of the common good, to which these media are ordered. The same authority has, in virtue of its office, the duty of protecting and safeguarding true and just freedom of information, a freedom that is totally necessary for the welfare of contemporary society, especially when it is a question of freedom of the press. It ought also to encourage spiritual values, culture and the fine arts and guarantee the rights of those who wish to use the media. Moreover, public authority has the duty of helping those projects which, though they are certainly most beneficial for young people, cannot otherwise be undertaken.

Lastly, the same public authority, which legitimately concerns itself with the health of the citizenry, is obliged, through the promulgation and careful enforcement of laws, to exercise a fitting and careful watch lest grave damage befall public morals and the welfare of society through the base use of these media. Such vigilance in no wise restricts the freedom of individuals or groups, especially where there is a lack of adequate precaution on the part of those who are professionally engaged in using these media.

Special care should be taken to safeguard young people from printed matter and performances which may be harmful at their age.

The first paragraph here follows a conciliar pattern described earlier of declaring a “right” and then qualifying it with exceptions that (from a leftist perspective, at least) swallow the rule. The state, we are told, is obliged to protect the (limited) right to information and free exchange thereof; it is also obligated to actively support (as opposed to passively protect) media and fine arts venues that promote morally sound values. But to the extent that social media damages the moral hygiene of society and conduces to social disorder, the state is obliged to intervene.

This isn’t just a permission slip for censorship; it’s a positive precept to censor. States that, for instance, are able to but deliberately do not restrict the production and sale of pornography fail grievously in their duty to promote the common good. I imagine that, given the gravity of the matter and especially given the last paragraph above, the means afforded to the state to work toward this end are broad, indeed.

Americans with an extraordinary fondness for the First Amendment (or the Constitution generally) are going to need to get over it: the commonly-understood usage of “freedom of speech” is an Enlightenment accretion that is fundamentally at odds with traditional Catholic understandings. For a Catholic defense of censorship, see this excellent essay.

But how would you feel if liberals restricted your freedom of speech?!” cries an Enlightenment enthusiast with a basement full of gold bullion. You mean like they do, all the time? Obviously, I object to that arrangement. But I object to it not because of the means but because the end in the service of which those means are marshaled: the promotion and celebration of perversion and evil.

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One thought on “Inter Mirifica § 12: Did the Council endorse censorship?

  1. Pingback: Inter Mirifica: Summary and Conclusions | The Strange Council

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