CDWDS Decree on Magnum Principium 2-3: Liturgical Books

These two sections give us some background on the Roman Rite liturgical books. Many people are surprised to learn that the texts of the liturgy are under international copyright. The church earns royalties when a publisher assembles, prints, and sells books. Over the years, I’ve heard complaints that such things, Bible translations included, should be free. Writing, editing, and the publishing aspects all involve human work. People somehow must be paid for the work they do.

2. The liturgical books of the Roman Rite in Latin are promulgated in editio typica by the Apostolic See, which holds their copyright [Cf. Secretariat of State, Decree, 13 May 2005: AAS 97 (2005) 798-799].  The “concordat cum originali” is certified by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. For subsequent editions (aliae editiones necnon editiones emendatae vel auctae) the same principle applies. They can be used as soon as they are published, normally by the Tipografia Vaticana, and they are distributed by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Often, there is a final date after which a new edition must be used, but as soon as a ritual book is published, it can be used. Example in point: when the new Latin editions of the Roman Missal are promulgated, and even before the translation work is completed, the worship may be conducted. In Latin, of course.

More on those Latin books:

3. In order to print or reprint these Latin books for liturgical use (editio typica vel iuxta typicam), a license must be obtained from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments each time. For editiones iuxta typicam, publishers must also enter into a contract with the Amministrazione del Patrimonio della Sede Apostolica or, on its behalf, with the Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Similar permissions are also required for the distribution of liturgical books or parts thereof via the internet. [For editions of liturgical texts, even partial editions, for non-liturgical use (study editions, worship aids) the norms of the Codex Iuris Canonici, can. 826 § 3 apply.]

Bishops and translating groups are not involved at the Latin stage. Whatever has been produced by the CDWDS can be used as is. The local bishop must ensure whatever is used is actually theup-to-date version of the rite. I remember serving in a parish where an out-of-date Lectionary was purchased from a publisher. Oops. The local bishop wasn’t involved, but he could have been.

That canon law reference reads: “Books of prayers for the public or private use of the faithful are not to be published without the permission of the local ordinary.”

The link of the English translation is here

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in CDWDS Decree on Magnum Principium, Liturgy, post-conciliar liturgy documents. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to CDWDS Decree on Magnum Principium 2-3: Liturgical Books

  1. Liam says:

    “Writing, editing, and the publishing aspects all involve human work. People somehow must be paid for the work they do.”

    Yes, but copyright royalties are not the only way to do it. And royalties are not a creature of natural law (though I can think of a prominent contemporary liturgical music composer from England who likes to obliquely insinuate otherwise), but a product of statutory law in the modern era (in the historical sense of that term), which has been considerably altered by lobbying from commercial entity copyright holders.

    The Book of Common Prayer, by contrast, is released into the public domain. And there are Creative Commons ways to maintain ownership and a measure of control without turning something into a royalties-generating piece of property.

    • Agreed that there are other ways to do it. I might even think that Creative Commons would be a better way to go. However, “creators” do get to decide. Not consumers or users.

      • Liam says:

        But consumers and users have a legitimate voice about policies chosen by the deciders.

      • Devin Rice says:

        Well, the Constitution gives Congress the right to decide copyright law. So if Congress, at the behest of consumers or users, decides to go the Creative Commons route exclusively, then the “creators” would not have any say, except of course on whether they would create or not.

      • Agreed with both of you on the principle. But we all know that corporate interests are in ascendancy in much of Western culture, and certainly in the US.

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