The phrase is used more particularly to mean an "attestation by a church censor that a book contains nothing damaging to faith or morals". The Censor Librorum delegated by a bishop of the Catholic Church reviews the text in question, but the nihil obstat is not a certification that those granting it agree with the contents, opinions or statements expressed in the work; instead, it merely confirms "that it contains nothing contrary to faith or morals."
The nihil obstat is the first step in having a book published under Church auspices. If the author is a member of a religious institute and if the book is on questions of religion or morals, the book must also obtain the imprimi potest ("it can be printed") of the major superior. The final approval is given through the imprimatur ("let it be printed") of the author's bishop or of the bishop of the place of publication.
A nihil obstat also refers the document declaring that someone is free to marry due to lack of form in the previous marriage. It can also refer to a document of dispensation from certain impediments to marriage in the Catholic Church.
- The America Heritage Dictionary, archived from the original on 2007-03-09, retrieved 2009-07-30
- "Code of Canon Law, canon 832". Intratext.com. 2007-05-04. Archived from the original on 2013-01-16. Retrieved 2013-01-22.
- "Code of Canon Law, canon 824". Intratext.com. 2007-05-04. Archived from the original on 2013-01-16. Retrieved 2013-01-22.
- Code of Canon Law, The Means of Social Communication and Books in Particular (canons 822-832)
- A Word A Day: nihil obstat
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