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On the HSPO statement of Dec 19

December 21, 2009

The original press reports I saw on the HSPO statement of Dec 19 regarding the use of “figures” of the pope did not include a dicasterial attribution (besides the Press Office, of course) for the declaration, but a posting on the Vatican website confirms that it was the Secretariat of State. That answers one of my two main questions about the binding character of the assertion, and rather than try to update my original post to reflect that point, I find it simpler to substitute this post for the original.

My second question, as to whether norms for behavior in the Church can be promulgated via weekend press releases, still stands (see, eg, 1983 CIC 8). But, that question only arises if the assertion is, after all, meant to bind behavior in the Church. Some are reporting, however, that this press statement is really about international copyright law.

I leave to experts in that field whether this press statement, in form and substance, suffices for that purpose, and limit my observations to whether the declaration constitutes a binding norm for Catholics in the Church. On that point, several questions would remain, including (1) does this regulation apply to the regnal and/or baptismal name of all popes?; (2) do the permissions henceforth apparently to be sought go beyond those that already apply under copyright law?*; and, (3) how are such broad phrases as “the use of anything referring directly to the person or office of the Supreme Pontiff” to be understood in practice?

I will watch for elucidations and, as always, appreciate leads from my readers.


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* It’s possible that they do. For example, Canon 300 regulates the use of the name Catholic in regard to certain kinds of associations and Canon 803.3 extends that regulation to schools, but neither of these canons is dependent upon civil copyright law for their binding force.

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