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Church threatens to throw the book at Poland's plagiarising priests
POLAND'S 28,000 Roman Catholic priests have been told by church authorities that they may be fined if they are found to have plagiarised their sermons from the internet, and could even face up to three years in prison.
The church has published a self-help book on writing sermons to lure parish priests away from the growing habit of stealing the words of their fellow clergy.
Father Wieslaw Przyczyna, co-author of To Plagiarise or not to Plagiarise, told Polish media that the guide had been written to address what had become an increasingly common problem as more churches put their sermons online and an increasing number of priests used the internet
Father Przyczyna, a sermon expert at Krakow's Pontifical Academy of Theology, added that the book's aim was to shame culprits and prompt them to confess what they had done.
"Unfortunately, the practice has become more usual than not," he said. "But if a priest takes another priest's words and presents them as his own without saying where he got them from, this is unethical and against the rules of authorship."
Responses to the self-help guide suggest that the problem also exists in other parts of the world, particularly in Britain and America, where the practice has been dubbed "pastoral plagiarism". In the US, the Reverend Glenn Wagner, a former evangelical pastor, and the Reverend Robert Hamm, a former minister, resigned in 2004 after admitting to lifting sermons.
Homilists, or experts in the art of religious discourse, argue that while it might be a popular view that no sermon is necessarily based on original thought, a priest should be encouraged to convey ideas in his own words to help foster better dialogue with his congregation. Church authorities have said they will start to carry out systematic checks to clamp down on the practice and will rely on sharp-eared parishioners to compare online texts with those in Biblioteka Kaznodziejska, a monthly magazine that publishes sermons delivered from pulpits in Poland.