Priests Appointed as Censores Librorum


Three priests of the archdiocese have been appointed as censores librorum, and a fourth has been re-appointed to another term.

The new censores librorum are Father Peter A. Heasley, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel parish in the Bronx; Father Richard G. Smith, pastor of St. Joachim-St. John the Evangelist parish in Beacon; and Father Mark G. Vaillancourt, president/principal of John F. Kennedy Catholic Preparatory School in Somers.     

Re-appointed as censor librorum was Father Matthew S. Ernest, the director of liturgy for the archdiocese and the acting academic dean and professor and director of liturgy at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie.

In canon law, the censor librorum is an ecclesiastical authority charged with reviewing texts for doctrinal accuracy, and the granting of the nihil obstat

“This favorable declaration is given by an individual who has the knowledge, orthodoxy and prudence necessary for passing a moral judgment on a publication,” said Cardinal Dolan in his letters of appointment to the priests.


The appointments, which became effective March 1, are for three years, with automatic renewal unless otherwise indicated, the cardinal’s letter said. 

Father Ernest, in a phone interview with CNY, said the censor librorum “is to be of assistance” to the bishop.

“It’s the bishop’s role as pastor and teacher in a diocese to oversee authorizing written materials that have to do with faith and morals,” said Father Ernest, who holds a pontifical doctorate in sacred theology from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He was first appointed censor librorum in 2015.

“The censor’s job is to assist the bishop in evaluating theological works like prayer books and catechetical textbooks and other works of theology to make sure they are true and accurate expressions of Church teaching.”

In addition to reviewing individual works once a month or so, Father Ernest said larger works such as multi-volume series of catechetical textbooks can take several months to review and approve. 

When a work is approved, the censor librorum offers the declaration of nihil obstat, which means that nothing stands in the way of the work being published, Father Ernest said.

Cardinal Dolan would then give his imprimatur, which means let it be printed.