Words For Free

Persistent Catholic blogger Brandon Vogt offers a petition and an explanation for changing the licensing mechanism for Church documents. He has over 200 comments on his thread already. I haven’t checked the petition. I’ve been approached about signing a few petitions today to which I’m sympathetic. For today, I’m declining.

I did comment there, and I’ll expand on that a bit here.

In exploring his web site, you can learn about Mr Vogt. He identifies himself as a “blogger, writer, and speaker.” There’s a mutual exchange of regard among people in communities. An individual gets good word-of-mouth, develops a reputation, and attracts interest.

I can admire he was busy as a bee to download Lumen Fidei and translate it into multiple electronic formats. I am not surprised that he attracted non-affirming attention from people who might have thought any number of things about a guy they did not know, including:

  • that he was opportunistic enough to use a papal encyclical to burnish his reputation to develop more speaking and writing gigs
  • that he was taking work away from people already employed to do what he did (and Mr Vogt concedes the Lumen Fidei text went up first, and some other stuff later)
  • that maybe he wasn’t competent to offer the pope’s letter either as an electronic whiz or as a Catholic

Misunderstandings happen. After thirty-plus years in parish ministry, I’ve seen, caused, and been the victim of it all.

And some people intentionally frustrate the work of the Church. It takes me about ten seconds to edit, for example, every instance of the word “good” in a document, and change it to “bad.” Maybe Mr Vogt can do that in eight.

Bishop Thomas Tobin thinks well of this blogger, but when you’re sitting in a Vatican office half a world away, even +Tobin is just one guy out of thousands. Or he could be part of the scam too. Or another bishop duped by another weird guy. Do you see where this goes? You have to cultivate relationships when you are part of a community. Just because you and your close circle of friends think well of you doesn’t mean the rest of the Catholic Church is fly with that.

My own sense is that Mr Vogt has greatly erred in presenting this petition “Free the Word” publicly. If he’s aiming for a job on the Tiber (and I might be, were I in his shoes with skills and passion and no mortgage or kids) I think he’s sunk his chances with Vatican HR.

A petition is essentially an adversarial statement. Somebody did something wrong. We asked them nicely, and they declined to change. So we take our cue from Matthew 18:16, and assemble, not another voice or two, but a few hundred to make the behavior change. But organizations and defensive people are resistant to change, even when it’s good for them. Sometimes even especially when it’s good.

Brandon Vogt has demonstrated his internet connections and skill as a community organizer. But if he were serious about Creative Commons, I wonder why he didn’t push that when he was invited to Rome two years ago for the Catholic blogger conference.

Asking for Big Change when a popular pope’s first encyclical is issued might be construed as opportunistic. Better might have been to cultivate relationships rather than endorsements.

Down the list from faith, hope, and love is another great virtue. It doesn’t get as much attention, possibly because it is shorter supply than most. It’s not just a John Lennon song.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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2 Responses to Words For Free

  1. You know, I think there is this sense of entitlement going on which is, in many respects, amusing. Many of the same people complaining about the Vatican’s rightful response (do they have the time and resources to look to every e-published version to make sure it is identical?) would be the first to complain about communism when dealing with real-world resources being shared in the same fashion. Yet, unlike real-world resources, tampering and changes here, easily done by mistake or for other reasons, could have significant spiritual outcomes. The Vatican NEEDS to be cautious. What good is it for someone to be promoting “follow the Church” to outsiders (evangelism) if they are unwilling to follow the Church but think they are above the Church themselves? They promote the Protestant mentality and it shows it is still in them. As many others have noticed, this is similar to the Vatican going against unauthorized Bibles during the renaissance. But the thing which keeps front and center is the ideology of entitlement. That tells me something is wrong. Even if they have good reason to want to use something, the entitlement aspect is going to corrupt that use. They need to remember the Church’s decisions, even if there are questions, need to be respected and treated with respect. When it goes against their desires, it doesn’t. That tells me something about them. And the Church is rightful to be concerned with such “evangelists” using its works when they are not entirely in synch with the Church! They still show a Protestant “me me me” behind their work.

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