Bishop Damien Mead in his Facebook column tells us about unscrupulous characters using our Church’s name and arms:
From time to time I notice (or have pointed out to me) that people (and ‘organisations’) adopt the ‘Anglican Catholic Church’ name and logo / service mark (shield) as their own, whether or not they are associated with the ACC. I acknowledge that a long debate could surround the legitimate use of the words ‘Anglican Catholic ‘. But when used in conjunction with our ACC shield, I think it is misleading unless the folk using it clearly do have an association with the ACC.
A few days ago I noticed that a ‘priest’ in Italy was using the name and shield so I wrote to him asking him if he was (a) a member of the ACC (b) did he realise that the shield belonged to the ACC (c) and that the name ‘Anglican Catholic Church’ did not, for many of us, translate as ‘Anglican Communion’ which is what he seemed to think. Gosh the email response I had back from him, in Italian, was ferocious and nasty … The only English words he used were the sort of words my mother would say that he needed to wash his mouth out with soap! All very Christian, priestly and ecumenical I must say! He seems to have blocked me now but I think the shield has disappeared from his profile. All he had to do was respond with a simple “oops sorry!”
Periodically I also have people contact me to ask if so-and-so priest, bishop, layman is a member of the ACC because of something they state on their FB profile or website or because of a picture or logo they are using (I was even pointed in the direction of one German ‘priest’ claiming me as his bishop). If in doubt please feel free to check it out with me! I can’t really comment on the ‘validity’ or ‘integrity’ of those who claim episcopal or sacerdotal status on here, my use of ‘…’ in referring to those above is simply because the behaviour of both of these particular ‘gentlemen’ leaves me room to doubt! However, I can, reasonably well, identify those who have communio in sacris with the Church to which I belong.
He makes the point very well, particularly the distinction about the term Anglican Catholic being something generic rather than proprietary. However, the clerics in question were also fraudulently using the ACC’s arms, which are the legal property of our particular institutional Church. Such misrepresentation is a legal offence in the USA and most other countries.
Inventors have patents to protect their property. Composers, film makers and publishers have their copyrights against plagiarists who would steal their work for their profit. All manufacturers and traders have their trademarks and symbols which are protected by law. Camembert cheese, fine wines and champagne are protected by law as appellation d’origine contrôlée. Brands of fashion wear have their reputations in high street shops, and many customers go by the brand to know they are buying a product of quality. This is how it works. Anyone can build up a business if he is any good, and acquire his own reputation and trademark.
It is no different for Churches. Our reputation as clergy or institutions of integrity and trustworthiness can be ruined in no time flat by some fraud pretending to belong to us when he does not. There can be a reasonable amount of tolerance for those who claim to be Anglican Catholics or Independent Catholics or Independent Orthodox. Those are not proprietary trademarks but general descriptions of a type of Christianity which indicate what kind of worship and doctrine people will find. The problem comes in when you get men claiming to be Roman Catholics under the Pope as I described in Vagante Bishops and Aping Rome or men claiming to be priests of the Church of England or the Russian Orthodox Church. There, we find true misrepresentation and an intention to deceive.
I have often been criticised for my tolerance in regard to independent churches when there is some minimum level of sincerity and integrity. The Church can very well overflow the limits we humans try to put on it in our zeal to protect our reputations and our source of living like any business or creator. I support my Bishop in his indignation faced with a German and an Italian, both unnamed, who have been plagiarising our Church websites and symbols. In hindsight, I see very little or no future in clergy striking out of their own away from anything recognisable as an institutional Church.
Where is the line drawn? Anyone can make a car or a van if they have the skills and equipment to produce a vehicle that works and is roadworthy, but only certain people can call it a Ford or a Renault. We Anglican Catholics use these names without being in communion with either the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury, but we don’t do so fraudulently or with the effect of misleading or deceiving. If our faithful know what we are and what we are not, then they have the freedom to choose what we offer them in the way of a Christian life and the Sacraments of Christ. Some would have the terms Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican restricted to the large institutions and claimed as proprietary trademarks, (respectively the Roman Catholic Church, the Patriarchates of Constantinople, Antioch, Moscow, etc. and the Lambeth Conference) using them. The truth is somewhere in the middle between the totalitarian and liberal extremes.