Charging for the Good News

February 21, 2006

Here is a story about how the Vatican is demanding that they be paid royalties for the Pope's writings: Should Vatican get book royalties? Here are a few highlights:

The demand by the Vatican to respect copyright on the pontiff's writings and pay for their use has triggered hot debate: Should an institution that exists to spread the word of God be putting a price on papal writ?

... While the question is pondered, the new papacy is shaping up as a publisher's dream. Benedict's first encyclical, "God is Love," is a best seller.

... La Stampa's Vatican correspondent, Marco Tosatti, and his Italian publisher were hit with $18,500 in copyright fees for Pope Ratzinger's Dictionary, a slim volume of the pope's thoughts on abortion, freedom and conscience that was rushed out after his election.

Vatican lawyers also demanded 15 percent of sales plus $4,200 in legal fees, Tosatti said.

Tosatti said the demand for payment "seems to go against the very spirit of the church."

Its attitude, he said, seemed to be "We have to evangelize, spread the word." But then, "when someone spreads it, we make them pay."
This is an interesting debate with important ramifications. While the Vatican may be legally correct in their demands, Tosatti and others make a very good point. The first priority should be getting the message of God out so all can hear it. The Vatican and other Christians should be less concerned about making money (maybe that is easy for me to write as a graduate student). God's gift of salvation is free so why should we charge for it?