Copyright, the USCCB, and Evangelization

The USCCB continues to wield copyrights for and squash evangelical uses of Vatican-issued texts that are of critical importance to the Church's mission of evangelization.

Brandon Vogt decided to post the Holy Father's latest encyclical, Lumen Fidei, to his blog in formats that are accessible to the masses (epub, kindle, etc.), but was quickly made to remove these downloads from his blog because of a copyright claim by the USCCB.

Obviously, Brandon doesn't own the rights to the text—and he also obediently complied with the takedown request. However, time and time again, I have noticed that lay faithful (and heck, even diocesan organizations—I experienced this three times while working in the curia, and many more times since!) have had their innovative evangelical initiatives deflated or outright squashed by the USCCB's publishing wing. (Examples: Integration of the Catholic text of the Bible, Catechism, and mass translations in parish, diocesan, and organizational websites and apps (too many times to count), Flocknote's Catechism in a Year email list).

To be clear, I have no issue with the Vatican's and USCCB's rights to the texts of the faith (encyclicals, scripture, catechisms, teachings). I have issue with the fact that, any time someone demonstrates evangelical initiative, the first (and usually only) official Church response is: "stop that, you're stealing a copyrighted work." It should be more along the lines of: "you're trying to do something awesome—we'd like to help you, here's how you can do it without violating our copyright."

I have made myself heard on these issues many times. It's time to double our efforts, in prayer and in spreading the word, towards setting the sacred text of the Bible and the great evangelical tool of the Catechism free in the English language.

Further Reading

[Update: It looks like there's another casualty from the fallout of this recent copyright battle—Jeff Miller's 'The Weekly Francis' eBook compilation project, which took all the writings/speeches of the pope and compiled them into one easy-to-digest document. I understand why Jeff had to stop, but I wish he wasn't compelled to do so.]


Why in the world is the Church not issuing these things with a Creative Commons type license which allow sharing without profit? Or other sane licensing options? Srsly, this is ridiculous.

Unfortunately, given the current dynamic between US bishops and the new pope, this will be interpreted as politically motivated suppression of information.

... or JF, sharing WITH profit (of Heaven only!) There's always the old-fashioned way...word of mouth. If it was good enough for the disciples... Jeff, good for you for keeping the copyright issue alive. We each have our ground in the New Evangelization, we just have to stand it.

I think a letter to the Congregation for the Bishops would help bringing the US bishops to their senses.

Marc Cardinal Ouellet, PSS
President of Congregation for the Bishops
Palazzo della Congregazioni, Piazza Pio XII, 10
00193 Roma

I would copy Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, the secretary of the Congregation for the Bishops. He has been Apostolic Nuncio here in Brazil and is a very understanding man.

Other cardinals that could be contacted in this matter would be:
Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski
President Congregation for Catholic Education
Palazzo della Congregazioni, Piazza Pio XII, 3
00193 Roma

Gerhard Ludwig Cardinal Müller,
President Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Piazza del S. Uffizio, 11,
00193 Roma

Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella
President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization
Via della Conciliazione, 5
00193 Roma

The main issue here is that catholics are being deprived of knowledge of the current pontifical documents as well of the approved version of the Bible due to draconian rules of USCCB