Topics

Canada Feb. 26, 2019

Father Rosica leaves board over alleged plagiarism

By Mickey Conlon

Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, right, president of Salt and Light Media, moderates a symposium on the history and future of women deacons in January at Fordham University in New York City. Father Rosica announced his resignation Feb. 24 from the board of the University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto.(CNS photo)

Accepting “full responsibility” for failure to credit his sources in several published articles and lectures, Father Thomas Rosica has resigned from the collegium of the University of St. Michael’s College.

The Basilian Father’s resignation followed allegations that he lifted word-for-word sections of other peoples’ work that he used in lectures, blog posts and articles. Father Rosica is the CEO of Salt + Light Media, has been an English-language spokesperson for the Vatican, and sits on the board of a number of educational institutions. He has apologized for his mistakes and taken full accountability.

“As a sign of contrition and acknowledgement of the error, I freely submitted my resignation (Feb. 24) to the Collegium of the University of St. Michael’s College,” said Father Rosica in an e-mail to The Catholic Register. “It has been a privilege for me to serve that excellent university for many years in various capacities. I did not want my errors to cloud over the university governance and offer a bad example to students, educators and staff. We know that plagiarism is wrong, especially when it is practised deliberately. Please note that my actions were never deliberate. Nevertheless they were wrong.”

Collegium chair Father Don McLeod acknowledged the resignation in a tweet on Feb. 25: “Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB made significant contributions while serving the St. Michael’s community as a member of its Collegium. Over the weekend, I received and have respectfully accepted his resignation from the Collegium.”

The Jesuits of Canada have also announced, “with great sorrow,” that it has withdrawn an invitation for Father Rosica to receive its Magis Award for service to the Church at its annual provincial’s dinner in April.

“Plagiarism is a grave offence against intellectual honesty and the community of scholarship,” the Jesuits said in a release Feb. 25. “At the same time, many of us know Fr. Tom personally, and celebrate his genuine service to the Church in Canada and around the world.”

Among sources Rosica is accused of plagiarizing are the New American Bible Revised Edition, Cardinal Walter Kasper, Dr. Richard Gaillardetz, theologian Gregory Hillis and John Allen Jr. of the National Catholic Reporter in the United States.

“I realize that I was not prudent nor vigilant with several of the texts that have surfaced and I will be very vigilant with future texts and compositions,” said Father Rosica. “I take full responsibility for my lack of oversight and do not place the blame on anyone else but myself.”

Father Rosica said he never willfully plagiarized and noted he has relied for years on volunteers, interns and colleagues to send him ideas for his lectures and articles. 

“If there was an error on my part, it is that I have often relied on others who have generously helped me in my preparation of various texts and I did not do the necessary checking into sources, etc. I regret that. It was never willfully done,” he said. 

The accusations against Father Rosica first appeared on LifeSiteNews.com. They appeared six days before the Vatican’s summit on clergy sexual abuse, Feb. 21-24, where Father Rosica was engaged as an English-language liaison. After the story broke, Father Rosica said he could “clearly see that in several of the stories, words were similar or exactly those of a previous author and at times a colleague and friends in Catholic media,” he said.

In one instance, Father Rosica was accused of taking 12 paragraphs from a 2013 article by Fr. Roger Landry in the American publication National Catholic Register. Landry, however, said he was not upset. He called Rosica “one of the hardest working priests I know” who wears many hats in serving the Church. 

“I don’t think he’s dishonest, but probably overworked.”

Father Rosica has been an occasional contributor to The Catholic Register. Publisher and editor Jim O’Leary said he was surprised by the allegations.

“I have always known Father Rosica to be an honourable person who works extremely hard and maintains very high professional standards,” O’Leary said. “While plagiarism is obviously unacceptable, I take Father Rosica at his word that he truly regrets what has happened and that it won’t happen again.”