Can't Credit?
Off the Wall, October 6,

Back in 2011, I published my first book, Off the Wall Favorites. After it was made available to the public, people would come up to me and request my signature or a special note to another party with my written name posted next to it. I checked around to find out exactly where one should put it and was subsequently given the needed information.

When a good Catholic friend heard that I was signing my name in books, he hit the ceiling. “You can do that,” he said. “Jesus doesn’t want you drawing attention to yourself in such a manner.”

For a while, I sensed it caused division between us. I knew he was definitely adamant about it. There was no discussing the matter. To him, that was the doctrine and that was that.

I sought counsel from Father Michael Sikon and he gave me the go ahead to sign books when requested. And thus, that is what I have been doing for years.

Recently, I retired from doing professional photography after 52 years, but told a certain individual I would take some pictures for him free of charge instead of charging him $50 an hour. My only request was that I be credited for taking the photo.

I ran into the same problem with this fellow, again, a strict Catholic middle-aged man who lives by the Word and has brought up his family according to it.

When I handed over some photographs I took for him and asked that my name be credited, he inferred the same implication.

Since this was the second incident, I thought it was best to contact Father Michael Sikon and get this dilemma solved once and for all.

In my letter to him, I stated that I thought a lot about what both parishioners said and decided there was something to it, after all, as it would draw attention to one’s person. We shouldn’t try to do anything to make us stand out in the world.

“Then today I picked up and browsed the Catholic Accent newspaper and looking over page after page only to notice that Mary Seamans name was under each picture. I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t wrong in wanting my name under my photographs since she has her photos credited in a publication of the Catholic faith. If we are to be politically correct according to this gent, there should be no photo credits under any of the pictures in the Accent, as well.

One has to realize, as a convert to the Catholic Church, all I want to do is abide by the doctrine set before me. However, it’s not that easy, since the literature of guidance is inches thick. Maybe when I retire at the age of 80, if the Lord gives me strength to live that long, I will dig into all of the pages and know all that is expected of me.

Getting back to my situation, I concluded my letter to the good father, “If you may be so kind, could you please settle this “right or wrong dilemma” that seems to be hanging over my head? It would be greatly appreciated.”

This was his response:

“Allow me to first acknowledge that you would be better served by a conversation with an expert in moral theology. From me, you’ll get simply a summary of key themes and teachings.” I’ll settle for that.

“To cut to the chase, you’re right. In this matter, there is no reason for you to not be credited as the source of the photograph(s). There is nothing within Catholic tradition that opposes credit being provided to the originator of some action. In fact, within our teaching tradition we consistently express the fact that Churches and other institutions have a legal and moral obligation to respect the provisions of copyright law, and to afford proper credit to authors, composers, etc. Just because we’re the Church does not mean that we have a right to claim as our own what others have created.”

He continued, “It is true that over the ages great works of art, architecture, etc. are sometimes credited to “Anonymous.” There are individuals who choose not to be recognized for their actions, this is their right, but it’s not an action that should be expected or demanded. God is certainly the ultimate originator of all our talents and abilities. However, there’s nothing immoral about desiring recognition for an accomplishment,” he said.

I now sigh with relief…

- Paul J. Volkmann
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To buy my book, Off the Wall Favorites, call me at 724-539-1951.