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The Archive of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (ACDF), commonly referred to as the Archive of the Inquisition (or more fully the Archive of the Inquisition and Index), contains the Catholic Church's documents dealing with doctrinal and theological issues related to church teaching. It also contains information on political trials that were carried out when the papacy had temporal power over the Papal States.
According to most sources, the archive that is now the archive of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was founded in the sixteenth century – most likely in 1542 when Pope Paul III first established the Roman Inquisition as a central body for Church doctrine at the beginning of the Counter-Reformation. The Index of Forbidden Books was founded in 1571. Before this, there was no centralised means for collecting Inquisition papers, and it is generally believed that all or almost all important documents have been lost or even deliberately destroyed.
Most of the documents dating from these early years have been lost due to the French Revolution and the resultant pillage of Napoleon, which it is believed caused as many as two thousand documents to be lost before the archive was returned to Rome. Those remaining, however, have considerable value covering such questions as what role the Church played in the seventeenth century witch-hunts.
After the archive of the Inquisition was returned to Rome in 1815, it expanded a great deal. Although the actual number of documents housed in the present archive of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is not known because documents dated after Pope Leo XIII's death, in 1903, are still closed to researchers, there are known to be 4,500 documents available to scholars up to that point.
Over the years, there have been numerous important documents placed by various Popes in this archive. Probably the best known case is the 1944 and 1957 revelations by Fatima seer Lúcia dos Santos, but there exist numerous other documents of this type placed in the archives whose content was partially known before being placed there.
Although little precise information is known, there can be not the least doubt that a great many individual cases concerning doctrinal orthodoxy are dealt with very thoroughly in the archives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, simply because many theologians investigated by it have published some of the information within their own writings.
Because hostility towards liberalism and socialism was so strong and the documents dealing with them considered very sensitive, at the time the papal files in the Vatican Secret Archives were opened by Leo XIII in 1879, that same Pope refused to allow any access to the archives either of the Inquisition or the Index of Forbidden Books. Even the pro-Papal historian Ludwig von Pastor could not use the Inquisition archive in writing his massive History of the Popes since the End of the Middle Ages. The first known case of a scholar gaining access to the Inquisition archive was ironically the fiercely anti-clerical scholar Luigi Firpo, who used his close connections with Maurilio Fossati (long-serving Archbishop of Turin) to study the trial of Giordano Bruno.
In 1979, a request was made to Pope John Paul II by historian Carlo Ginzburg, an atheist from Jewish background, to open the Inquisition Archives. By 1991 a limited group of scholars were already allowed access to review the material in the archives.
On 22 January 1998 the Vatican opened all Inquisition archives up to the death of Leo XIII. At first, there was space for only twelve scholars within the archives, but this has been increased as demand for the use of the material has increased.
Pope Benedict XVI, formerly head of the Congregation, described Ginzburg's letter as instrumental in the Vatican's decision to open these archives.
The fact that – whereas other open Vatican archives are now open up to the death of Pope Pius XI – documents dated from the modernist crisis under Pope Pius X have not been made available has been criticised by many liberal scholars (Hans Küng, John Cornwell). Since 1998 the Vatican has failed to issue any document stating either that post-1903 material will never be released (presumably to protect doctrinal orthodoxy) or that it may in the future open post-1903 Inquisition archives.
The Council of Trent, held between 1545 and 1563 in Trent, was the 19th ecumenical council of the Catholic Church. Prompted by the Protestant Reformation, it has been described as the embodiment of the Counter-Reformation.
An ecumenical council is a conference of ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological experts convened to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice in which those entitled to vote are convoked from the whole world (oikoumene) and which secures the approbation of the whole Church.
The Roman Inquisition, formally the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition, was a system of tribunals developed by the Holy See of the Roman Catholic Church, during the second half of the 16th century, responsible for prosecuting individuals accused of a wide array of crimes relating to religious doctrine or alternative religious doctrine or alternative religious beliefs. In the period after the Medieval Inquisition, it was one of three different manifestations of the wider Catholic Inquisition along with the Spanish Inquisition and Portuguese Inquisition.
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The temporal powerof the Holy See designates the political and secular influence of the Holy See, the leading of a State by the pope of the Catholic Church, as distinguished from its spiritual and pastoral activity.
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The Index Librorum Prohibitorum was a list of publications deemed heretical or contrary to morality by the Sacred Congregation of the Index, and Catholics were forbidden to read them without permission.
The Vatican Apostolic Archive, known until October 2019 as the Vatican Secret Archive, is the central repository in the Vatican City of all acts promulgated by the Holy See. The pope, as Sovereign of Vatican City, owns the material held in the archive until his death or resignation, with ownership passing to his successor. The archive also contains state papers, correspondence, account books, and many other documents that the church has accumulated over the centuries. In the 17th century, under the orders of Pope Paul V, the Secret Archive was separated from the Vatican Library, where scholars had some very limited access, and remained closed to outsiders until the late 19th century, when Pope Leo XIII opened the archive to researchers, more than a thousand of whom now examine some of its documents each year.
Mariano Rampolla del Tindaro was an Italian Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church, and the last man to have his candidacy for papal election vetoed by a Catholic monarch.
Humanum genus is a papal encyclical promulgated on 20 April 1884 by Pope Leo XIII.
Alfredo Ottaviani was an Italian cardinal of the Catholic Church. Pope Pius XII named him cardinal in 1953. He served as Secretary of the Holy Office in the Roman Curia from 1959 to 1966 when that dicastery was reorganised as the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, of which he was Pro-Prefect until 1968.
Ordinatio sacerdotalis is an apostolic letter issued by Pope John Paul II on 22 May 1994 in which he discussed the Catholic Church's position requiring "the reservation of priestly ordination to men alone" and wrote that "the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women". While the document states that it was written so "that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance", it has been contested by some Catholics, as to both the substance and in the authoritative nature of its teaching.
Obsequium religiosum is a Latin phrase meaning religious submission or religious assent, particularly in the theology of the Catholic Church.
Joseph Ratzinger was named by Pope John Paul II on 25 November 1981 as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the Holy Office and, especially around the sixteenth century, as the Roman Inquisition.
The Pontifical Biblical Commission is a body established within the Roman Curia to ensure the proper interpretation and defense of Sacred Scripture.
Giuseppe Pecci was a Jesuit Thomist theologian whose younger brother, Vincenzo, became Pope Leo XIII and appointed him a cardinal. The Neo-Thomist revival, which Leo XIII and his brother Giuseppe, Cardinal Pecci originated in 1879, remained the leading papal philosophy until Vatican II.
Mediatrix of all graces is a title that the Roman Catholic Church gives to the Blessed Virgin Mary; as the Mother of God, it includes the understanding that she mediates the Divine Grace. In addition to Mediatrix, other titles are given to her in the Church: Advocate, Helper, Benefactress. In a papal encyclical of 8 September 1894, Pope Leo XIII said: "The recourse we have to Mary in prayer follows upon the office she continuously fills by the side of the throne of God as Mediatrix of Divine grace."
Mariological papal documents have been a major force that has shaped Roman Catholic Mariology over the centuries. Mariology is developed by theologians on the basis not only of Scripture and Tradition but also of the sensus fidei of the faithful as a whole, "from the bishops to the last of the faithful", and papal documents have recorded those developments, defining Marian dogmas, spreading doctrines and encouraging devotions within the Catholic Church.
Papal infallibility is a dogma of the Catholic Church that states that, in virtue of the promise of Jesus to Peter, the pope when appealing to his highest authority is preserved from the possibility of error on doctrine "initially given to the apostolic Church and handed down in Scripture and tradition". This doctrine was defined dogmatically at the First Vatican Council of 1869–1870 in the document Pastor aeternus, but had been defended before that, existing already in medieval theology and being the majority opinion at the time of the Counter-Reformation.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the Catholic Church: