“Luckily, we were able to work with Ignatius Press to get permission to use the YouCat as a substitute, and were able to finish the year,” Warner said. “A few years later we were able to get permission from the USCCB to use the Compendium of the Catechism, which has been a really good fit for a daily email.”
Though Noguchi did not discuss particular requests to use the Catechism text, she explained there are legal constraints on the USCCB.
“Unfortunately, not every request can be granted,” she said. “Other considerations, such as honoring the exclusive contract granted for the original mass-market paperback and gift editions must be considered. We make every reasonable attempt to work with publishers. At times, it has been necessary to notify groups of copyright infringements, but we will not comment further on negotiations between the USCCB and those seeking permissions.”
The Catechism’s second edition runs to 924 pages in the English-language paperback edition. This version is available through the USCCB website at a cost of just under $30.
St. John Paul II authored an Aug. 15, 1997 apostolic letter marking the Catechism’s publication. He praised the work as a “genuine, systematic presentation of the faith and of Catholic doctrine” and urged Catholic bishops “to intensify their efforts to disseminate the text more widely.”
The USCCB’s website provides an online version of the Catechism and offers several resources, including a question-and-answer document with 48 sections.
The website also discusses copyright issues and permission for the use of the Catechism.
“The Holy See has given the United States Conference of Catholic (USCCB) specific rights and responsibilities regarding the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” the website says. Written permission is required for all editions of the catechism published or imported for commercial distribution in the U.S. Excerpts from the English, Spanish or French language catechism may be used only in compliance with USCCB guidelines.
Both the USCCB Subcommittee on the Catechism and USCCB Publishing oversee how the Catechism is used. Their goals are to preserve the integrity of the text, to seek its “widest possible distribution,” and to encourage “the proper use of the text” in secondary and derivative works.
Warner questioned whether the USCCB’s approach is in the best interest of the Catholic Church’s mission.
“I think their view of how to ‘control’ or ‘protect’ the texts of the Church is outdated and, in practice, ends up hurting the promotion of these important and essential texts, therefore working against the Church’s mission,” he said, reflecting on the obstacles his company faced.
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This put a group like Flocknote “in a tough spot of trying to keep the USCCB, which represents my Church, from looking bad while also hopefully working to bring about positive change,” Warner said. “I do think it’s gradually gotten better and I hope it continues in that direction. We are very grateful they let us use the Compendium and many people have benefited from that. I hope those kinds of partnerships continue.”
Warner had advice for small projects or volunteer groups want to adapt the Catechism for new efforts and new media: “just ask the USCCB and see what they say.”
“Give the USCCB the benefit of the doubt and engage in good faith, even after hitting those initial roadblocks. Keep trying. There are good people working there. Make connections and let’s work together to improve the situation. It’s possible. And we’ll be most productive if we work together on it as brothers and sisters,” he said. “They do give permission sometimes. If they don’t, find out why. Share the answer with your bishop and hopefully we can all work together to make it easier to use and promote these texts.”
Flocknote makes no money from its catechism project, said Warner, who added: “In fact, it costs us lots of money to provide it for free. But we’re fine with that.”
The guidelines for use of the Catechism discuss various ways to include copyright notices and to ensure accuracy in using the text. Printed works, recordings, or other electronic media that use the text do not need to secure USCCB permission, provided the use of the text is fewer than 5,000 words.
If this word limit is exceeded, further permission is required regardless of whether the work is commercial or non-commercial. It is still necessary to secure written permission from the USCCB and a USCCB review of non-commercial works. Commercial use of the Catechism text faces another requirement: they must pay a pro-rated royalty, under Vatican requirements, calculated based on 10% of the list price.