“Just another guy with a blog.  No big whoop.”

December 19, 2009

Did the Holy See Just Patent, Trademark, and Copyright the Papacy?

No, really. It looks like that's what at least somebody in the HS press office intends to do. I did a double take when I saw this on their website today, but here's the declaration in plain English, not to mention in plain German, Spanish, Italian, French, and Portuguese.

What do you make of it?

I really don't see how this measure could possibly be enforced. And I have to wonder if the press office is really ready to be inundated with tens of thousands of faxes, letters, and e-mails containing requests for permission from parishes, publishing houses, universities (well, at least one), journalists, and bloggers who, if they take this requirement seriously (many, maybe most, won't).


Recent years have witnessed a great increase of affection and esteem for the person of the Holy Father. There has also been a desire to use the Pope’s name in the title of universities, schools or cultural institutions, as well as associations, foundations and other groups.

In light of this fact, the Holy See hereby declares that it alone has the right to ensure the respect due to the Successors of Peter, and, therefore, to protect the figure and personal identity of the Pope from the unauthorized use of his name and/or the papal coat of arms for ends and activities which have little or nothing to do with the Catholic Church. Occasionally, in fact, attempts have been made to attribute credibility and authority to initiatives by using ecclesiastical or papal symbols and logos.

Consequently, the use of anything referring directly to the person or office of the Supreme Pontiff (his name, his picture or his coat of arms), and/or the use of the title "Pontifical", must receive previous and express authorization from the Holy See (source).


  1. Whoaa...what kind of implications will this have?

  2. I understand how they want to protect his name, etc., from being associated with causes that aren't genuinely Catholic. But come on...he's a public figure. Legally, at least in the U.S., that means his name and image can be used without his permission.

  3. This will be very interesting to follow. I see the Pope's image on many Catholic blogs because B16 is so affectionately loved.

    But if Papal symbols and logos are being used fraudulently, (which apparently they are) then perhaps the authorization rule is their answer.
    It remains to be seen if someone comes up with a better solution.
    I'll be watching to see how this develops. Thanks for the heads-up.

  4. It's enforceable in the Vatican City State where the Pontiff has legislative, executive, and judicial authority. In other jurisdictions, it is simply a preemptive declaration that it demands prior "authorization" (the correct word to use here would be "permission") before use. IANAL but I believe in the United States actual damages would have to be shown for use without permission.

  5. Why is it only in English, and everything else in Latin?

  6. I think this is a wise move from the Holy See. Here in the States, we have a limited view (despite the Internet) of what is actually going on world wide. If the Holy See thinks it important to protect the name and image and maintain the repect due to the Successor of Peter, then so be it.

  7. I'd have to think about it more before I really make up my mind about it, but it would seem that doing this to the name "catholic" might be a good idea. We could take the name of Notre Shame, "My Old Parish (that will not be named)", and many other places. But then again, it could really be a pain for us good guys too...

  8. I like to think the Holy Father is above such things. It seems so Commerical of the Holy See to do this but I think their intentions are honorable.

  9. It's way overdue. The word CATHOLIC should also be protected. There are rampant abuses of it to deceive people tha should be stopped, or made ot pay for their theft.

    Go VATICAN!!!

  10. When I saw that I just about laughed. I mean... why do you need to -- or how can you -- copyright that sort of thing? I mean once you start copyrighting lots of stuff, then authors need special permissions, religion gets legal, and it gets kind of silly.

    Well, as a Catholic(r)(c) 'I believe'(r) that us Catholic(r)(c) bloggers will need to be more careful about what we write about the Pope(r), bishops(c), or priests.


  11. Haha, thanks Patrick.

    Say, I noticed that your "Facebook" picture link in the left hand bar does not bring me to your Facebook page, it seems to have disconnected somehow.


  12. does this affect the labelling on "papa benny's novus ordo 2", now with 50% less bugnini, etc ?

  13. This is done already with the label Pontifical as it applies to universities. Certain requirements need to be met before one can use that. So, I am for that idea. I second Child of God on expanding the copyright or branding right to the label "Catholic" as so many have usurped this for their purposes with disruptive or even devastating results. Just how that will work will depend on the law. Can the Church be like a corporation then trademark or copyright its name?

  14. How wise of Jesus not to have ecclesiastical and pontifical symbols and logos and no Coat of Arms otherwise He, too, like the Pope, would become a degrading marketable commodity.