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Thou shalt not steal sermons from the Internet


Poland’s Roman Catholic priests have been warned to stop using the Internet to plagiarise sermons for their Sunday Masses.

"A sermon is a composition – as such, it comes under the law on authors’ rights," said Professor Tomasz Naganowski, an expert on media law at Poznan’s Higher School of Social Learning. "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 professor was speaking after the publication of a book, "To pinch or not to pinch". This says Polish clergy should be instructed on the legal situation as part of their seminary training.

The Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper on 28 February reported Naganowski as saying that Catholic clergy could face fines and prison terms of up to three years if taken to court for acts of plagiarism.

"It’s sad we have to talk about the law when we should be talking about values," Professor Naganowski added. "But the whole Church relies on honesty, and any instance of dishonesty in this arena carries a special significance. Unfortunately, this problem exists and shouldn’t be swept under the carpet."

Poland’s 28 000 Catholic priests can obtain tips for sermons from several Web sites, including www.angelus.pl and www.kazania.pl, as well as from a century-old monthly church journal, Kaznodziejska.

However, more and more Catholics are complaining about priests who read their Sunday sermons, while some had traced the texts on the Internet, Wieslaw Przyczyna, a co-author of the book told ENI.

"Owners of Internet sermon Web sites have noticed use increases on Saturday nights, suggesting some priests are trying to rescue themselves at the last moment by finding a text to read out at the next day’s Mass," said Przyczyna, chairperson of the Polish Homilectics Group and head of the religious communication department at Krakow’s Papal Theology Academy.

He said plagiarism mainly affected younger clergy familiar with the Internet, whereas older priests often showed "greater solidity" in serving their vocations.

Ecumenical News International