Tag Archives: banned books

Vatican gets embroiled in Italy’s ‘banned books’ fray

The Vatican has gotten embroiled in a modern-day, secular version of the Index of Banned Books.

The Holy See press office had to set the record straight on Aug. 28 after the Italian media interpreted a formulaic blessing by Pope Francis of a lesbian children’s book publisher and her partner as an endorsement of their same-sex relationship.

Author Francesca Pardi had written to Francis in June complaining about how her books — some of which deal with children growing up with gay, single and divorced parents — had been maligned by Catholic groups and politicians.

A half-dozen of her titles were among the 49 titles that Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro recently banned from public preschools pending a review of their appropriateness because they deal with gender issues.

Thinking that Francis might appreciate the books’ inclusive message, Pardi sent him copies of her 30 titles, explaining that they had nothing to do with “gender theory” or even sex but merely conveyed a message of tolerance.

A few weeks ago, an official in the Vatican’s secretariat of state, Monsignor Peter Wells, sent her a note in Francis’ name thanking her for the gesture, blessing her and her partner, and encouraging her to continue with her “activities in the service to young generations and the diffusion of authentic human and Christian values.”

Pardi says she didn’t take the letter by any means to be a papal endorsement of her lifestyle — she and her partner have four children together — but the Italian media interpreted it as such, prompting the Vatican to step in.

In a statement, the Vatican’s deputy spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, said the letter made clear that Francis was encouraging Pardi to pursue activities consistent with Christian values.

“The blessing of the pope at the end of the letter was directed to the person, not at any possible teachings that are not in line with the doctrine of the church on gender theory, which hasn’t changed a bit as the Holy Father has repeated even recently,” he said.

One of the “banned” titles, “Little Egg,” tells the story of an egg about to hatch that goes out in search of a family, and encountering a variety of different ones — two mothers, two fathers, single parents, bi-racial parents, “traditional” parents — concludes that any one of them would be great.

The review of the “banned books” by Venice’s mayor sparked outrage among gay and human rights groups, with sometimes Venice resident Elton John calling Brugnaro “boorishly bigoted.”

Venice’s review harked back to the Vatican’s own Index of Prohibited Books, the 16th century list of books deemed heretical by the Roman Inquisition. The Vatican in 1966 officially removed the ban from its law books.

Report: 32 Missouri school districts considered book bans

Recent efforts to restrict Missouri students’ classroom or library access to certain books have met with mixed results, new research by the University of Missouri School of Journalism shows.

Bans or restrictions have been considered on more than 50 books in 32 Missouri school districts since 2008. Graduate journalism students relied on more than 560 public records requests to compile the data.

The banned books include Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five” in Republic, though the district later reversed its decision.

In another case, a parent in the Jackson school district unsuccessfully sought a ban on “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins.

And in Camdenton, Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner” was removed as required reading in an honors English class but remained on the school’s library shelves.

Twelve of the 53 documented challenges resulted in a book’s removal, with another 11 challenges resulting in restrictions.

Twenty-nine challenges were unsuccessful. The result of one challenge wasn’t reported.

The North Kansas City school district reported seven challenges, the highest number among districts to respond. Seventy-one of the students’ 566 Sunshine Law requests to each of the state’s local school districts went unanswered.

The reasons for book challenges include concern over sexual themes and language, violent content, racial slurs and religious references. Other taboo topics involved self-injury, drugs and alcohol.

Nationwide, the American Library Association lists 1,647 book challenges from 2008 through 2011 and more than 6,300 over the past two decades. Most involved K-12 schools, but others involved books in prisons, theaters, museums and university libraries.

Banned Book Week, organized by the ALA against such censorship efforts, takes place Sept. 30-Oct. 6.