By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 9/25/2020
Posted: 1/26/2006
Topics/Keywords: #ReligiousPolitics Page Views: 3448
The Pope will tolerate no arguments.
His Holiness, Pope Palpatine

Yesterday, the new Pope, Benedict, released his first encyclical.

An encyclical is a letter to the Catholics of the world. Popes send them out regularly. They can be influential, as was Pope John XXIII's Peace On Earth, which presented the revolutionary ideas and ideals of the second Vatican Council. This would be an appropriate place to quote it, but I can't…because Pope Gregory has also issued an edict which states that all papal documents published in the last fifty years are subject to Vatican copyright rules and a very hefty royalty.

According to the London Times, "Publishers will have to negotiate a levy of between 3 per cent and 5 per cent of the cover price of any book or publication 'containing the Pope's words'. Those who infringe the copyright face legal action and a higher levy of 15 per cent." Note that this royalty isn't for an entire document; it applies to any quote, even a short one. A publishing house in Milan printed a mere 30 lines from a papal speech, and was shocked to receive a bill for 15,000 (over $18,000), based on the number of copies sold.

It isn't hard to find the Pope's words. There are a number of Catholic Internet sites which present his speeches, homilies and even the new encyclical. But those sites also do not analyze those words. They certainly don't critique them. Another article in the Times was a puff piece written by a Canadian priest who concluded, "… the Pope turned to the topic of love and charity, showing himself to be a real shepherd who is aware of human feelings, desires, and matters of the heart." This was in reference to the encyclical, which extols the benefits of the physical sexuality between men and women that Pope Benedict has presumably never experienced. The commentary ignored the fact that Pope Benedict, in his previous life as Cardinal Ratzinger, wrote the notorious "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons," advised that homosexuality "itself must be seen as an objective disorder." That document was also online; but as of this morning, the link is dead while other Ratzinger pieces are still available. Obviously, taking its cue from the Bush Administration, the Vatican has decided to suppress criticism of the new encyclical by manipulating what historical documents the Internet will and will not make available. And with it now illegal to reprint anything without permission (and by paying a hefty royalty, at that), the Vatican has found a way to suppress disagreement that must have Karl Rove salivating.

I expect to hear soon that all Presidential speeches, writings, and appearances will be copyrighted. Then, like the papal documents, newspapers would be free to publish extracts without charge once they were officially released, but only by "prior agreement". Such agreements would be freely given to, oh, say, Fox News. But probably not to the New Times.