Vatican's Inquisition, Index of Banned Books open for study

The Vatican's doctrine office, once responsible for the Inquisition, the Index of Prohibited Books and famous for its centuries of secrecy, is reminding scholars that it's actually a fairly accessible and transparent place.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is hosting an academic conference starting Tuesday marking the 20th anniversary of its historic decision to open its archives to scholars.

The conference, "The Roman Inquisition and its Archives," will feature dozens of academic presentations about the scholarship that has emerged, including a whole session on how the Inquisition and banned book list have been portrayed over time in popular storytelling, media, cinema and advertising.

The Roman Inquisition began in 1542 as part of the Catholic Church's counter-reformation against Protestantism, and prosecuted people for heresy and other doctrinal crimes.