The Catholic Encyclopedia, also referred to today as the Old Catholic Encyclopedia, is an English-language encyclopedia published in the United States. The first volume appeared in March 1907 and it was completed in April 1914. It was designed "to give its readers full and authoritative information on the entire cycle of Catholic interests, action and doctrine."
The Catholic Encyclopedia was published by Robert Appleton Company, a publishing company that had been incorporated at New York in February 1905 for the express purpose of publishing the encyclopedia. The five members of the encyclopedia's Editorial Board also served as the directors of the company. In 1912 the company's name was changed to The Encyclopedia Press. Publication of the encyclopedia's volumes was the sole business conducted by the company during the project's lifetime.
The encyclopedia was designed to serve the Roman Catholic Church, excluding information which has no relation to the Church and explaining matters from the point of view of the official Catholic doctrine, as it stood during the pontificate of Pius X. It records the accomplishments of Catholics and some others in nearly all intellectual and professional pursuits, including artists, educators, poets and scientists. While more limited than other general encyclopedias, it was far broader in scope than previous efforts at comprehensive Catholic encyclopedias, which had studied only internal Church affairs.
It also offers in-depth portrayals of historical and philosophical ideas, persons and events, from the Roman Catholic point-of-view. On issues that divide Catholicism from other Churches and Protestant ecclesial communities, the text consistently presents matters from the Catholic point of view. Since the encyclopedia was first undertaken in 1913, some of its entries are not up-to-date, either with respect to the secular domain or to the Catholic ecclesiastical world. In particular it predates the creation of the Vatican City State and the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), which introduced many significant changes in Catholic practice.
The writing of the encyclopedia began on January 11, 1905 under the supervision of five editors:
The editors, all situated in the United States, had their first editorial meeting at the office of The Messenger, on West 16th Street, New York City. The text received a Nihil Obstat ("nothing hinders") from an official censor Remy Lafort on November 1, 1908 and an Imprimatur ("let it be printed") from John Cardinal Farley, who was Archbishop of New York at the time. This review process was presumably accelerated by the reuse of older authorized publications. In addition to frequent informal conferences and constant communication by letters, the editors subsequently held 134 formal meetings to consider the plan, scope and progress of the work, culminating in publication on April 19, 1913. A supplement was published in 1922.
There was controversy over the presence of the Catholic Encyclopedia in public libraries with nativist protests that this violated the separation of church and state, including a successful appeal in Bellville.
The encyclopedia was later updated under the auspices of The Catholic University of America and a 17-volume New Catholic Encyclopedia was first published in 1967, and then in 2002.
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