Albrecht and his Imprimatur Confusion

Correcting Albrecht’s misunderstanding of the ‘Imprimatur’

by Ibn Anwar

In the latest debate between Dr. Shabir Ally and Orthodox Christian apologist William Albrecht on the topic ‘Is the Trinity Biblical and Ancient,’* the latter, in his response to Dr. Shabir made an egregious misrepresentation of a Catholic tradition regarding the ‘Imprimatur,’ which is important in Catholicism and it is typically accompanied by the ‘nihil obstat’ pursuant to Canon Law 823 and 824 that read as follows:

Can. 823 §1 In order to safeguard the integrity of faith and morals, pastors of the Church have the duty and the right to ensure that in writings or in the use of the means of social communication there should be no ill effect on the faith and morals of Christ’s faithful. They also have the duty and the right to demand that where writings of the faithful touch upon matters of faith and morals, these be submitted to their judgement. Moreover, they have the duty and the right to condemn writings which harm true faith or good morals.

  • 2ForChrist’s faithful entrusted to their care, the duty and the right mentioned in §1 belong to the Bishops, both as individuals and in particular councils or Episcopal Conferences; for the whole people of God, they belong to the supreme authority in the Church.

Can. 824 §1 Unless it is otherwise provided, the local Ordinary whose permission or approval for publishing a book is to be sought according to the canons of this title, is the author’s proper local Ordinary, or the Ordinary of the place in which the book is published.

  • 2Unless thecontrary is clear, what is said in the canons of this title about books, applies also to any writings intended for publication.

In the relevant portion of the debate, Dr. Shabir Ally contended that Albreecht’s interpretation of Daniel 7 where the ‘Son of Man’ was concerned is but one of several possible interpretations. Dr. Shabir contended that it is quite possible to view the Son of Man as a collective and not necessarily a single individual which in the mind of Albrecht refers to the person of Christ. To give credence to what he proposes, Dr. Shabir Ally at time stamp 1:08:50 cites the scholarly notes given on it in a Catholic publication of the New American Bible Revised Edition to which Albrecht insisted that his understanding and the reasons thereof constitute the correct view with regards to Daniel 7’s Son of Man. As a response to Albrecht’s insistence, Dr. Shabir Ally brought up the New American Bible once again and pointed to the fact that he was not plucking some esoteric view that can simply be discarded, but rather, the view that he has propounded is safely attested by Christian scholarly opinion which, as Dr. Shabir tried to show Albrecht, was given a stamp of approval by the bishops of the Catholic church. Dr. Shabir Ally did this by directing our attention to one of the front pages of the book which is typically where the nihil obstat and imprimatur seals are featured in any given publication. Rhetorically, Dr. Shabir asks, “You can see my difficulty. I’m asking myself, “Okay, who knows the better? Is it my friend William or is it all of these bishops?” As a response to Dr. Shabir Ally, William Albrecht simply dismissed the scholarly notation by saying that the imprimatur that Dr. Shabir Ally was referring to covers only the translation and not the footnotes.  Albrecht from time stamps 1:12:08 to 1:12:34 confidently states the following in his said response:

“Well, let me add one thing, so you can understand. Here’s where you’re very confused, because imprimaturs and having the note of bishops, given a translation a stamp of approval does not then in turn go to the footnotes my friend. We need to be very careful there. That imprimatur and that stamp of approval is of the translation.” (emphasis added)

As I was watching the debate,I was jerked by that blatant error, picked up on what he said and challenged him on it in the chat section on the Youtube page through which the debate was being streamed. Almost immediately, Christians came to his defense, but most surprisingly, all of them, including those carrying seemingly Catholic nicknames misrepresented the imprimatur (and the nihil obstat). Under the nickname ‘sunnimanhaj,’ I explained to all of them that were there that Albrecht was absolutely wrong regarding the nihil obstat and the imprimatur, because nihil obstat, which is the seal of approval, and the imprimatur, the official permission to print a work intended to be published all constitute the governing authority’s act of sanctioning the whole book and not just any small portion of it, so that the work in question, the New American Bible Revised Edition, bearing the seals of nihil obstat and imprimatur cover everything that comes with the book, including the translation and the footnotes. The Christian chatters remained obstinate and refused my explanation, especially one particular individual so intent on defending and exonerating Albrecht from the charge I levelled against him by the name Virgil K, who requested I provided an online source for my allegation. I suggested to him and the rest that were present that they need not search it online, because it is a common tradition in Catholicism for publications to bear those seals and so, I simply directed him to a few notable Catholic publications that I gave off the top of my head, one of which was ‘The New Jerome Biblical Commentary.’ I repeated several times that an approved Catholic publication would bear those seals and typically a notation explaining what those seals are would be provided below the seals. Virgil replied saying that the reference I provided was available online, he went to retrieve the information and the screenshot below shows his disingenuous reply:

 

 

As anyone can see, in the person’s zeal to protect his beloved Albrecht, he misquoted the notation as though it only said, “No implication is contained therein that those who have granted the nihil obstat or imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions or statements expressed.” I reproached him on his slyness and challenged him to produce the full notation which he purposefully left out because he must have realised the brevity of posting the first part which would absolutely sanction against Albrecht’s erroneous claim. Comically, Virgil persisted in his slyness and claimed, falsely so, that he had merely quoted the notation verbatim (i.e., exactly) despite my telling him that he had intentionally left out the first of the definition which was essential.

 

Thereafter, I posted the full notation for the nihil obstat and imprimatur as follows:

The nihil obstat and imprimatur are declarations that a book or pamphlet is free of doctrinal or moral error. No implication is contained therein that those who have granted the nihil obstat or imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions or statements expressed.” (emphasis added)

The following is from my copy of the New Jerome Biblical Commentary and the page upon which the above notation for the seals in question is given:

 

How do the seals, the nihil obstat and imprimatur, function? Father William Saunders explains as follows:

With this in mind, the Magisterium will examine those works, particularly books, n faith and morals and pronounce whether they are free from doctrinal error. On March 19, 1975, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued the following norms in this matter: “The Pastors of the Church have the duty and the right to be vigilant lest the faith and morals of the faithful be harmed by writings; and consequently, even to demand that the publication of writing concerning the faith and morals should be submitted to the Churchâs approval, and also to condemn books and writings that attack faith or morals.” This mandate was reiterated in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, No. 823.

The review process would then begin with the author submitting the manuscript to the censor deputatus, who is appointed by the bishop or other ecclesiastical authority to make such examinations. If the censor deputatus finds no doctrinal error in the work, he grants a nihil obstat attesting to this. Translated as “nothing stands in the way,” the nihil obstat indicates that the manuscript can be safely forwarded to the bishop for his review and decision.

If the bishop concurs that the work is free from doctrinal error, he grants an imprimatur. From the Latin imprimere, meaning to impress or to stamp an imprint, imprimatur translates, “let it be printed.” Technically, this is the bishopâs official declaration that the book is free from doctrinal error and has been approved for publication by a censor.[1] 

In short, Dr. Shabir Ally’s evidence is well supported and in Albrecht’s haste to simply dismiss Dr. Shabir’s evidence, he inadvertently demonstrated his ignorance of the matter and completely misrepresented a well-known Catholic tradition and when this error was highlighted, Christians flocked to his defense and even falsified evidence, lied, in order to exonerate their champion in the debate. Contrary to Albrecht’s claim, the imprimatur covers the entire publication and not just a portion of it, therefore, both the translation and the footnotes of the book astutely cited by Dr. Shabir Ally have the seals of nihil obstat and imprimatur, that is also to say, nothing in the footnotes, specifically that which Dr. Shabir cited, according to the ecclesiastical Catholic authorities, contradict any established doctrine of the church. Whether or not the bishops and the church authorities agree on a personal level with the particulars in the footnotes is a different issue that comes under the second clause in the said notation. In misplaced confidence, Albrecht accused Dr. Shabir of being confused when, in fact, it was he that was very confused in the matter.

To watch the full debate, play the video below.

Addendum:

In fact, in the first edition of the New American Bible, Saint Pope John Paul II himself gave his papal seal of approval for the translation AND the footnotes. The opening page bears his official letter upon which is seen the Vatican coat of arms. He writes regarding the publication as follows:

“For the faithful in all English-speaking countries the publication of the New American Bible represents a notable achievement. Its pages contain a new Catholic version of the Bible in English, along with illustrations and explanations that facilitate the understanding of the text.” (emphasis added)

According to the papal pronouncement, the footnotes are essential to the publication as they assist the English-speaking faithful (Christians) better understand the biblical texts.

The original papal letter bearing “his holiness'” seal of approval can be seen below:

 

 

Notes:

*

[1] Saunders, W. (n.d.). The Magisterium’s Imprimatur. Retrieved from https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/catholic-contributions/the-magisterium-s-imprimatur.html

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply