Friday, February 06, 2009

Pay to Pray: The Simony Problem in Liturgical Texts

An article of mine that began with and was informed by discussion on this site is now posted on The editors called it "Pay to Pray: The Church's Simony Problem."

The issue concerns the convention in the English-speaking world for the Catholic Church to maintain copyright and charge royalties for the publication and broadcast of its ritual texts. In the entire Christian world, the Catholics are the only ones to hold to this practice. The rest have a public domain policy for their ritual texts, and rightly so.

The problem is getting worse, not better, especially with the proposal to have the GIA, a for-profit corporation, be the sole rights administrator for the Psalms at Mass. ICEL, meanwhile, will continue to charge royalties on the new Missal texts, as will the NAB for Holy Scripture.

Yes, I know there is a lot of money at stake, but I argue in this piece that to charge for evangelism introduces moral issues and inhibits the spread of the Gospel. Further, there is nothing wrong with buying and selling Church goods as such: Missals, books of all kinds, original music composition and collections, etc.. A vibrant market helps everyone.

What we are speaking of here is something different: it is the proprietary claim over the texts themselves that GIA-ICEL-Grail-NAB is asserting. This is not about selling music or books. It is about charging for the legal right to print an indulgenced liturgical text that should by right be the property of all the faithful.

I'm glad to know of any errors in my piece.

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