Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin has a good article explaining why the Imprimatur isn’t much used in apologetics books, using his own book, The Salvation Controversy (which does not have an Imprimatur) as an example. In a nutshell, it’s not required if a book isn’t used in official catechetical instruction. My books are popular apologetics; no more, no less.
My six books published by Sophia Institute Press do not have the Imprimatur, but The New Catholic Answer Bible (where I am co-author with Paul Thigpen, of the apologetics inserts) does:
Imprimatur: J. Kevin Boland, D.D. Bishop of Savannah: January 15, 2005
Nihil Obstat: Douglas K. Clark, S.T.L., Censor Librorum
Also, the earlier Catholic Answer Bible, where I was the sole author of the apologetics inserts, has it, from different people:
Imprimatur: James P. Keleher, S.T.D., Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas: July 1, 2002
Nihil Obstat by Gary Applegate, J.C.L., Censor
I also have one for the book, What Catholics Really Believe, by Dr. Ray Guarendi and Rev. Keven Fete. I provided the Answer Guide for that book:
Ecclesiastical approval for publication was granted by The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron, Archbishop of Detroit, . . .
Dr. Robert Fastiggi was the Censor Librorum, and he has since stated that he didn’t have to make a single correction to my portion.
And I have an Imprimatur for my pamphlet, Top Ten Questions Catholics Are Asked (Our Sunday Visitor):
Nihil Obstat: Michael Heintz, Censor Librorum
Imprimatur: John M. D’Arcy, Bishop of Fort Wayne – South Bend
February 20, 2008
Thus, I have received four altogether.
The Imprimatur was not always used even in the “old” days. Looking through some of my many books, I notice that G. K. Chesterton’s works did not utilize it (not even his studies of St. Francis and St. Thomas and his masterpiece, The Everlasting Man). Hilaire Belloc’s works don’t have them, either. They were both lay apologists.
Other Chesterton Catholic books also lack the Imprimatur: The Well and The Shallows (1935), Eugenics and Other Evils (1922), The Thing: Why I am a Catholic (1929), but I did discover one book that has the Imprimatur: The Catholic Church and Conversion (1926).
Chesterton is widely considered the most important lay Catholic apologist in the first half of the 20th century. Yet his Catholic books (save one that I found) do not have an Imprimatur. Here are some additional influential and well-known Catholic books from before the revision of canon law in 1983 that also lacked the Imprimatur:
The Faith of Our Fathers, James Cardinal Gibbons, 1876 (I have a 1917 edition).
Nine books by Catholic cultural historian Christopher Dawson.
Eight books by Catholic historian Hilaire Belloc. One of his books has it: The Catholic Church and History (1926) but other similar books, such as The Great Heresies and Europe and the Faith do not.
Many other books by theologians, priests, etc. from that period usually do have it, but the lay authors such as Chesterton, are far more analogous to my own lay apologetics books.
As the canon law was apparently stricter on this matter before 1983, and books similar to mine still did not have an Imprimatur, then it is all the less objectionable for mine (except for three and a pamphlet) to lack them in the current post-1983 period of less restrictive canon law in this respect.
In other words: “what’s good enough for Chesterton is good enough for me.”
(originally 5-30-08; additions on 4-20-17)
Photo credit: G. K. Chesterton, photographed by Herbert Lambert in the 1920s [public domain / Wikipedia]