Friday, February 05, 2010

ICEL Approves Buying and Selling but not Charity?

For two years, has been begging the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) to let us give away for free music and recordings of chant-based Mass settings using the new texts for Mass. We've been told on several occasions - via email and phonecalls - that this is not permitted. The ostensible reason is that Rome has not given its final approval to the texts - and also it would be wrong to give us the right to do what other print-centered publishers cannot do.

I find this ridiculous and I've said so many times. After all, choirs need to practice, people need to get to know the texts, and I see no problems resulting from giving music away for free. The texts in question are stable and everyone knows it. And why should ICEL be in the business of subsidizing the bottom line of publishers by restraining competition? Nonetheless, we complied and even found a software work around to the banning of links: we deliver the sheet music via email.

Well, you can imagine that I'm stunned to find that World Library Publications turns out to be offering a CD of music with the new texts and the texts themselves.

New Translation Release WLP

Presumably, this violates the ICEL edict. Or maybe the ICEL edict only applies when you are trying in charity to help the Church rather than charging money for the privilege of seeing and singing the new translation.

While I'm on the topic of ICEL's policies, I have an email that made its way to my inbox from an employee at ICEL, Jason McFarland, Assistant Editor, who tells a convent that it cannot record Latin chants for a fundraising CD without "permission of the Holy See via the Vatican Press."

There is absolutely no basis for this claim. The Latin chants of the Church have been in the public domain for hundreds of years. Even the new editions from the turn of the 20th century from Solesmes are in public domain. The entire contents of the Liber Usualis is in public domain - a fact that has been well-established by the U.S. Copyright Office.

I don't know what legal authority ICEL believes itself responsible to, but to tell a convent that they have to obtain permission to sing and record Gregorian chant strikes me as the height of absurdity. It is not only legally wrong; it is also morally wrong. Some people need to revisit the very meaning of Christian charity.

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