In response to my email I received this:
To clarify: I am a father of eight, I work more than full time (50+ hours a week for the last several years) and am an iconographer who has very little time to paint these days. I do not have time to write letters, and so I simply apply the gospel principle: I try to treat others as I would like to be treated. In this case, if someone used one of my icons of a saint to post something on that saint’s feast day I would be pleased. If he or she acknowledged me I would be more pleased. If he or she did not I would be no more than mildly annoyed. If they were using my icons for some nefarious purpose, of course, or profiting from them, that would be a different story.
For, dear sister, icons are not yours or mine, but the Church’s. “Copyright law” really does not apply unless they are being misused or being used for profit. Secular laws do not apply in the spiritual dimension of iconography. A genuine iconographer is a channel for God, and his or her work is sacramental. I used your icon, which is very nice, to honor St Teresa. I made no money from this, but as you objected I removed it.
I wonder if you heard a word that I wrote in response to your initial letter. Iconography is not about you, or your originality, or, Lord have mercy, about money.
A friend who knows about such things has told me that if I use an image from the internet and someone objects, all I have to do is delete it and there are no further ramifications. But perhaps your lawyer knows better. Fine; I am sure that the National Catholic Reporter would love the headline “Nun Sues Catholic Father of Eight.”
Curiously, I was taught by sisters from your community when I was a child, at St John’s Catholic School in Fenton, Michigan in the mid 60s. It was a strange time. The only nun I have really fond memories of is Sr Mary Lorenzo, who was kind and maybe even a saint. The others ranged from smug to amusing to malevolent. And I watched as your community went from uptight Irish Jansenists to folk-singers in mini-skirts.
And now, fifty years later, an IHM sister, vowed to live in poverty, is threatening to sue me for using one of her icons to honor a saint.
This is rich in irony.