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Jesuit Order to Honor Priest Caught in Serial Plagiarism

Father Thomas Rosica with hand gesture
Salt and Light / Youtube
THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, PH.D.

The Jesuits of Canada are bestowing their annual “Magis” award this spring on Father Thomas Rosica, a priest and Vatican spokesman recently found to have engaged in serial plagiarism over the past 25 years.

The award announcement by the Jesuit community predates news of Father Rosica’s extensive plagiarism, which only emerged this month, but thus far, the conferral of the honor appears to be going forward.

“At this year’s dinner, we will honour Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation,” the invitation letter states. “A well-known and respected biblical scholar, lecturer, speaker, retreat preacher and author, Fr. Rosica is fluent in several languages and has served the Church at local, national and international levels.”

“For his work as an international Catholic communicator, he has received a multitude of awards and recognition,” the letter continues. “From 2008 – 2015 he held senior roles in the Vatican including the English-speaking Media Attaché of the Synod of Bishops and Consultor to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, to name a few.”

Father Rosica’s first known act of plagiarism was in an academic paper dating back to 1994, in which he lifted an entire unattributed paragraph from Jerome Neyrey’s 1988 book, Resurrection Stories, as well as pasting another chunk of text from a study by C.H. Lindijer as if it were his own.

Dorothy Cummings McLean revealed in a February 15 article that Fr. Rosica had plagiarized large sections of a February 8, 2019, Von Hügel Institute lecture at Cambridge University, which turned out to be a cut-and-paste mishmash of unattributed texts from Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, Gregory K. Hillis, Fr. Thomas Reese, Cardinal Walter Kasper, and Fr. James Martin.

In a curious irony, two of those whom Father Rosica plagiarized on that occasion — Fathers Reese and Martin — are both members of the Jesuit order.

Soon after, First Things editor Matthew Schmitz and others unearthed a seemingly boundless trail of plagiarized texts dating back years. Schmitz tweeted out passages of Rosica’s writings side by side with the original texts, highlighting the extensive blocks of directly copied material.

Rosica’s plagiarism “appears to be endless,” Schmitz tweeted. “I can’t recall seeing a more extreme case.”

This past week, Father Rosica served as press attaché for the Holy See Press office in its coverage of the Vatican summit on clerical sex abuse. In another irony, Father Rosica presided in the Vatican Saturday over a press meeting devoted to the theme of “transparency.”

After the news of his misdeeds became public, Father Rosica issued an apology but also suggested his interns could have been at fault.

“What I’ve done is wrong, and I am sorry about that. I don’t know how else to say it,” Rosica told the National Post Friday in a phone call from Rome.

“It could have been cut and paste,” he said. “I realize the seriousness of this, and I regret this very much … I will be very vigilant in [the] future.”

According to Joseph Brean of the National Post, Rosica told him that he had “depended too much on compiled notes” and also that he “relied on material prepared by interns.”

Rosica holds honorary doctorates from Gannon University, Niagara University, St. Mark’s College at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and Toronto’s Regis College. He is also on the Collegium, a governing body of the University of St. Michael’s College, a Catholic college in Toronto.

A university spokesman said he was “troubled” to hear of the allegations against Rosica, adding that St. Michael’s “holds its students and its academic community to the highest standards of accountability and academic integrity.”

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