2. This document was written by the congregation during the Council of Trent, a convention of Catholic leaders, theological and Bible scholars of the Catholic Church and church dignitaries. Councils – the assembly of the Catholic dignitaries and which include Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops – are usually presided by the Apostolic See or the Pope. Pope Pius V presided in the assembly of the Council of Trent. The decrees developed from the Council sessions were sanctioned, issued and confirmed by the Pope (J. Donovan, 3).
3. The Ten Rules on Prohibited Books was written in 1546 during the ecumenical assembly of The Council of Trent. The Council convened in 1545 and thereafter had three sessions presided by three popes. It culminated in 1563. In 1564, Pope Pius V formally confirmed all decrees from the three sessions and promulgated them. This decree, The Ten Rules on Prohibited Books, is part of the decrees produced by the Council (McHugh, Callan, 13).
4. The Council of Trent produced the Ten Rules on Prohibited Books as a response to the Reformation movement led by the prominent Protestant reformists such as Luther, Calvin and Zwingli. Although the Catholic Church, under attack by the radical ideas of the reformists, took twenty five years to respond, after Luther and his followers had already done the damage of the weakening the foundations of the church and the leadership of the Pope (Darby, 25). Luther decried the absolutism of the leaders of the Catholic Church as well as the indulgences of the Papacy in his speeches and in his writings (Davies, 57). This was the time when the authority of the Pope faced decline and countries in Europe were gearing up for the looming religious war (Wallbank, 2). The ecclesiastical leaders of the church, alarmed by the havoc the reformers created on their leadership, responded with prohibitions on published materials written mainly by Luther, Calvin and Zwingli or their followers (New, 34).
The historical background of this decree is apparent as it specifically mentioned the leaders of the Reformation Movement and labeling the aforesaid leaders as ‘heretics’ or heretical authors. Moreover, the decree clarifies the types of books considered ‘condemned’ and the kinds of publications and writings deemed heretical and forbidden. The rules in this decree states that the only books permitted should be ones that are not contrary to the doctrine. This explicitly refers to the doctrine of the Catholic Church. The decree provides stipulations on punishment on whosoever has been found guilty of reading the forbidden works. This document was part of the voluminous decrees and legislations developed within the span of eighteen years during the Council of Trent whose aim was to ‘define’ the doctrines of Catholicism (New, 127).
5. The authors’ goals in this decree are to define condemned works, stop the spread of heresy, and specify punishments for those who break the rules. In addition, it clearly specifies who the ‘heretic’ authors are ‘and others like these’ (II) and the nature of the condemned and prohibited writings. It also provides clarification with regards heretical works ‘which deal professedly with religion’ as they are absolutely forbidden. The authors of this decree purport to bring to an end the proliferation of ‘heresy’ brought