According to Wikipedia, an imprimatur “(from Latin, “let it be printed“) is, in the proper sense, a declaration authorizing publication of a book. The term is also applied loosely to any mark of approval or endorsement.”
The online Cambridge dictionary defines it as the official permission to do something that is given by a person or group in a position of power.
According to the Catholic Catechism, Part 1 Section 2 Chapter 3 Article 9 Paragraph 4, we read the below [emphases mine]:
The teaching office
888 Bishops, with priests as co-workers, have as their first task “to preach the Gospel of God to all men,” in keeping with the Lord’s command.415 They are “heralds of faith, who draw new disciples to Christ; they are authentic teachers” of the apostolic faith “endowed with the authority of Christ.”416
889 In order to preserve the Church in the purity of the faith handed on by the apostles, Christ who is the Truth willed to confer on her a share in his own infallibility. By a “supernatural sense of faith” the People of God, under the guidance of the Church’s living Magisterium, “unfailingly adheres to this faith.”417
890 The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium’s task to preserve God’s people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms:
891 “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council.418 When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine “for belief as being divinely revealed,”419 and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions “must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.”420 This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.421
892 Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a “definitive manner,” they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful “are to adhere to it with religious assent”422 which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.
Further to this, according to a decree issued by the Sacred Congregation for The Doctrine of The Faith [emphases mine], the Roman Catholic church declares that:
“To preserve and defend the integrity of the truth of faith and morals, 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 writings concerning the faith and morals should he submitted to her prior approval and also to condemn books and writings that attack the faith or morals. This office belongs to the Bishops both individually and gathered in particular Councils or in Episcopal Conferences, as regards the faithful entrusted to their care, and to the supreme authority of the Church as regards the while people of God.”
Thus it is that the Roman Catholic Church bestows its ‘imprimatur’ or authority to publish books. It first assumes the infallibility of its pope or body of bishops when in the supreme Magisterium for they say themselves that: “To fulfill this service,” [of preserving God’s people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error] “Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals.”
They also prepared their Index Librorum Prohibitorum (English: List of Prohibited Books) which was a list of publications deemed heretical, anti-clerical or lascivious, and therefore banned by the Roman Catholic Church.
With their ‘charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals’ and their duty to ‘preserve and defend the integrity of the truth of faith and morals’, these are now qualified to ‘demand that the publication of writings concerning the faith and morals should he submitted to her prior approval and also to condemn books and writings that attack the faith or morals’.
When the Protestant Reformation arose in the 16th century, they declared that the Scriptures should be interpreted by the individual conscience bound by God’s Word. “The protesters had moreover affirmed their right to utter freely their convictions of truth. They would not only believe and obey, but teach what the word of God presents, and they denied the right of priest or magistrate to interfere.” The Great Controversy (1911) 203.4
Thus, Protestantism taught that you can interpret the Bible individually and that you retain the right to freely promulgate (in whichever form) your convictions of truth. By this, the system of ‘imprimaturs’ was thoroughly overturned.
However, within the 16th Century among Protestants themselves, this false system of censorship by men pretending to bestow upon fellow men the authority to publish religious books was still prevalent. Calvin denied Sebastian Castellio his imprimatur and thus the latter’s French translation of the Bible couldn’t be published. In fact, Calvin had a strong theocratic hold over Geneva that “No book could be printed within the walls of the city without his imprimatur” (Zweig, Stefan “Erasmus & The Right to Heresy” p. 241, 242)
In another instance we read that “During one of the customary house-to-house visitations in Geneva, two burghers were found conning a book which lacked Calvin’s imprimatur… The two readers were promptly brought before the Consistory. Dreading thumbscrew and rack, they hastened to acknowledge that one of Castellio’s nephews had lent them this Conseil” (ibid. p. 356, 357)
Calvin engaged a machinery that seems to have been tougher than that of the Catholic Inquisition. He had a number of ‘spiritual police’ (ibid. p. 221) who would pry “into bookshelves, on the chance of there being a book devoid of the Consistory’s imprimatur” (ibid. p. 222).
The direction in Geneva during Calvin’s reign was clear: “No book might be printed without a special permit.” (ibid. p. 224)
Thus, while declaring himself a Protestant; Calvin maintained a Papistic hold upon the people exercising censorship powers similar or worse to those of the Roman Catholic magisterium, which can only be sustained under the error of human infallibility.
In these days of the proclamation of the 3 angels’ messages, a similar spirit is creeping in. It is not only limiting the liberties of people as it appoints others as popes but sets bounds on men as to what they ought to teach and not to teach. For Gods’ grace that men will be awakened from this lurking danger in order that they may fully proclaim the truth.
When you review the Seventh-day Adventist Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly, First Quarter, 1987, on page 92 you will see an illustration of my point in the strange suggestion made by the lesson contributor and formally published by our official publishing house.
See the captures below:
Galatians 2:4-6 “4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:
5 To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person🙂 for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:”
The below documents from the proceedings of our General Conference (The General Conference Bulletin [Thirty-Seventh Session] dated Thursday, May 27, 1909 from page 173 under the titles “IMPROVEMENT OF LITERATURE” & “IMPORTANCE OF LITERATURE COMMITTEES” proceed to the end) and a seemingly tacit protest to the conclusion captured in this bulletin.
The General Conference Bulletin [Thirty-Seventh Session] dated Thursday, May 27, 1909 from page 173 under the titles “IMPROVEMENT OF LITERATURE” & “IMPORTANCE OF LITERATURE COMMITTEES” proceed to the end.