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March 8, 2008

Sermon-pinching

It's Saturday and some pastors or preachers may be seeking online preaching helps or tips from web-based lectionaries and exegetical resources.

Can it go too far? Some in Poland recently said so.

Poland’s Roman Catholic priests have been warned to stop using the Internet to plagiarize sermons. Professor Tomasz Naganowski, an expert on media law at Poznan’s Higher School of Social Learning, and the author of “To Pinch or Not to Pinch,” said Polish clergy must learn about intellectual property law as part of their seminary training. He’s quoted in the Feb. 28 Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper, saying court penalties for such offenses could include fines and up to three years in prison.

“A sermon is a composition - as such, it comes under the law on authors’ rights,” Naganowski said. “If someone’s preaches someone else’s sermon and fails to say it isn’t his own, he commits a crime. Such a priest is telling a lie and stealing.”

“The whole Church relies on honesty, and any instance of dishonesty in this arena carries a special significance,” Naganowski said. His co-author, Wieslaw Przyczyna, told Ecumenical News International that some priests were busted by parishioners who traced the sermons they heard, finding them on the Internet.

No online help necessary to write the moral of this story.

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