Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Of Encyclicals, Formatting, and Kerfluffles

A few days ago I heard that Brandon Vogt got hit with the ol' Vatican/USCCB cease-and-desist for trying to make Pope Francis's Lumen Fidei encyclical more accessible to a larger audience. (If you want details, the last place I read about it was Simcha Fisher's column.)

That sort of silliness is old news to anyone who ever helped with the Verbum Domini podcast where many years ago the founder had the temerity to read aloud the daily Mass readings using the New American Bible (USCCB owns the rights and defends them aggressively). Some nerve, right? He had to cease-and-desist and now everyone who reads for him has to go through the extra steps of finding the RSV version for the day.

I mentioned Simcha Fisher's piece because I actually glanced over the comments there, something I rarely do when there are so many comments. I was surprised to see some of the reasons that people were defending the Vatican and USCCB. (The one that made me laugh hardest was someone taking Vogt to task for critiquing the Vatican's pdf format. Folks, I've gotta say, anyone still formatting with tables is surely moving with that glacial slowness the Vatican is famous for. They've got no defense on that one at all.)

Fixing dinner and then washing up later, I pondered the arguments on both side. I thought surely there must be a precedent for such a thing. Weren't the disciples (that's us) told to spread the Good News? For goodness sakes, Jesus didn't even write down anything he said.

I hate to pull in that old cliche, but what would Jesus do?

Then it hit me. Of course, there is a precedent. One of the things I really love is the way that Christ's own life provides us with so many examples to live by in every circumstance.

We see it in both Mark and in Luke.
Then John said in reply, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow in our company.”

Jesus said to him, “Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”
John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”

Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.

For whoever is not against us is for us.

Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.
I'm going to get back to reading Lumen Fidei now. It is rich and I am moving through it slowly. I cut and pasted it into a document to bring home and enjoy at my leisure. I admit it, I didn't like the formatting on the Vatican's pdf. Too many pages to print out and gigantic type. So sue me.


  1. I think part of the reason is US legislation. You will lose copyright on a piece if you do not defend it. I think the USCCB has no choice there.

    BUT, that shouldn't prevent them from being creative with the rules. It shouldn't be too hard to figure something out like USCCB giving out licenses to certain third parties allowing them to redistribute.

    The thing is that for this, you need to be comfortable with thinking outside the box. It seems like USCCB can't do that because the current bishops are still a product of a time where thinking outside the box was discouraged. The modern generation, at the other hand, does that all the time, which makes cooperation frustating beyond relief.

    It's hard to solve this in a quick way. I pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the mean time, that He may help the bishops making the transition to the 21st age.

    1. Ahhh, that is an answer which spreads light and not heat ... which in retrospect I was not sure my piece did. So I really appreciate your calm sense. Excellent points and ... yes ... prayer in all things. :-)