Deacon Greg Kandra has an interesting post up at the Deacon's Bench. It seems that someone went to Mass last weekend and heard the Deacon's homily - only it wasn't the Deacon who was preaching. A pastor reportedly took Kandra's sermon, made one edit (Kandra's wife became the priest's mother) and delivered a terrific homily on World Marriage Sunday. It just wasn't his homily.
The deacon isn't particularly perturbed, "As far as I’m concerned, the Holy Spirit owns the copyright to my work, not me, and I’m glad others can make use of the material that I post." though he stops far short of endorsing the practice. Most of his commenters concur - it's not a big deal. Personally, I'm appalled. And where I teach, that sort of behavior could get you expelled.
Could I submit as my weekly column one of Karl Rahner SJ’s columns for Die Presse, and not attribute it to the late Fr. Rahner? It’s been a busy week here, I have a sick kid, lots of grading to do and a grant deadline. The message is the same, we both write with the Holy Spirit’s inspiration (at least in my case, I hope and pray I do). What's the big deal, after all?
To quote one of the commenters on the Deacon's Bench: "A big cheer for your attitude. The Holy Spirit likewise holds my copyrights. If someone wants to use them and not attribute, that is fine with me. If some from a distant parish gets something out of it, even better." It's been a long time since Rahner's columns appeared, and they're in another language, and if my readers get something out of it, even better. AMDG (ad majorem Dei gloriam - to the greater glory of God) as the commenter closed. Another commenter intimates that we (I?) shouldn't be so fussy - Matthew and Luke plagiarized Mark after all.
Would you say something to the editor or to the bishop in charge of the archdiocesan paper? I imagine so, and you would be right to do so. To pass off Rahner's words as my own, no matter how good my intentions are, is plagiarism, pure and simple. (I think I still remember my moral theology!)
As Pope John Paul II put it the homily "commits the person who pronounces it to a dual responsibility: towards the Word and towards the assembly.” This behavior seems to me to be irresponsible to both the Word and the assembly. The responsible way for the pastor to begin is to say, “I found this wonderful homily by Deacon Kandra – and was so moved by his words and thought them so valuable for this community that I wish to read them for you today.” or “This week was unexpectedly full, and I did not have time to prepare a homily – and so I share Deacon Kandra’s words with you today.”
Homilies are not academic papers, and I don’t expect footnotes or MLA style references. I do expect that the person who has been ordained to preach in the person of Christ – He who is the Way, the Light and the Truth – be truthful. If it is not your homily and you preach it, say so.
On many Saturdays the most common search term that lands people at my blog is “homily” (Google doesn't understand that my columns aren't homilies). I'm all for being a resource, I find wonderful gems in the works of other (I just don't use them without acknowledging them!) and am happy to give back in any small way I can. What do you think I should do the day I hear my own words preached back at me without attribution?
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