The Times of London’s inaccurate report about the Vatican’s new policies on copyrighting Pope Benedict’s writings is beginning to spread. It was in the Boston Herald this morning, and in The Australian as well. (Here’s a link to the Google News page showing a whole bunch of related links.)
All of the stories characterize this as a money grab by the Pope and the Vatican. And they’re all wrong. The fact is that Father Joseph Fessio and Mark Brumley of Ignatius Press were both at the meeting at the Vatican last month of all the publishers of the Pope’s writings and they say this is hogwash.
Here’s what’s happening. The Vatican wants to assert some control over the publication of papal writings to prevent abuses and inaccuracies. Mark Brumley gave me the example that last summer a German or Italian publishing put together an unauthorized compendium of all the Pope’s speeches given at World Youth Day in Cologne. However, what they published was not what the Pope said. They published the prepared texts when, as well know, the Pope has a tendency to extemporize and re-write on the fly, so the speeches and homilies that were actually heard differed markedly from what this company published. Despite repeated requests of the Vatican, this company would not correct the error.
So this is the Vatican’s attempt to get a handle on shoddy translations, badly compiled works, and even leaked documents. Will they be able to do so worldwide? I think it will be like trying to wrestle a bowl of Jello, but they’re trying.
But this is definitely not about money. Already several people have approached the Vatican about publishing or re-publishing older works by Pope Benedict, when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, and all of those requests have been approved without a single request for royalties. Unlike the USCCBureaucracy, this isn’t moneygrubbing a few bucks off Church documents, but about protecting the integrity of those documents.
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