Rosica resigns from college board after plagiarism apology; Jesuits withdraw award
JD Flynn Feb. 25, 2019
A Canadian priest who apologized last week for plagiarism has resigned from the governing board of a Catholic college affiliated with the University of Toronto.
“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,” Fr. Thomas Rosica told The Catholic Register Feb. 25.
“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 practiced deliberately. Please note that my actions were never deliberate. Nevertheless they were wrong.”
In a statement Monday, Fr. Don McCleod, CSB said that “Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB made significant contributions while serving the St. Michael's community as a member of its Collegium,” adding that he had “respectfully accepted his resignation from the Collegium.”
McLeod is the chairman of the Collegium, or governing board, of The University of St. Michael’s College, which was founded by the Congregation of St. Basil, the religious community of which McLeod and Rosica are members. The college has nearly 4,000 students.
Rosica, a long-serving English language press aide at the Vatican Press Office, and the CEO of Canada’s Salt+Light Television network, was reported by Life Site News Feb. 15 to have plagiarized sections of text in several lectures and op-eds from a variety of writers, among them priests, theologians, journalists, and at least two cardinals.
Subsequent reports found widespread plagiarism in essays, speeches, and op-eds by Rosica, dating back more than a decade. Plagiarized sections in some texts ran beyond even one paragraph.
“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,” Rosica told The Catholic Register.
“I take full responsibility for my lack of oversight and do not place the blame on anyone else but myself.”
Rosica told the National Post Feb. 22 that “What I’ve done is wrong, and I am sorry about that. I don’t know how else to say it.”
Rosica also told the National Post his plagiarism was inadvertent and not malicious. He explained that “it could have been cut and paste,” apparently meaning that he had mistakenly included passages of text written by others in his texts without remembering to attribute them.
The priest added that he would “apologize that this came to light, and it’s wrong, and it’s not going to happen again.”
After Rosica’s initial apology, evidence emerged on Twitter that Rosica had also copied directly and without attribution the work of several theologians in a 1994 article he published in the theological journal “Worship.”
Journalists who have worked with Rosica told CNA they were surprised by the evidence of plagiarism, noting the priest’s intellectual gifts and his reputation for charitable generosity toward young staff members and journalists.
Sources noted that Rosica is known to work extremely long hours and to eschew vacations or time off. Some praised the priest’s love for the Church, and his availability to assist the bishops of Canada and the Holy See whenever he is asked.
The priest told the National Post that some plagiarism might have occurred because he neglected to check sources and overlooked attributions in background material prepared for him by interns.
He elaborated Monday, telling The Catholic Register that “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.”
One source confirmed to CNA that the priest sometimes has had interns assist him with research, adding that he was not aware of incidences in which interns would have written speeches or op-eds for Rosica, and that he was unaware of what role interns might have played in the priest’s plagiarism.
Rosica is no stranger to controversy. In August 2018, the priest generated considerable debate when he wrote that Pope Francis “breaks Catholic traditions whenever he wants because he is ‘free from disordered attachments.’ Our Church has indeed entered a new phase: with the advent of this first Jesuit pope, it is openly ruled by an individual rather than by the authority of Scripture alone or even its own dictates of tradition plus Scripture.”
The remark prompted considerable debate among Catholic commentators and theologians.
Rosica was also a member of the Board of Trustees at St. John Fisher College in New York; on Feb. 25 the college notified CNA that the priest "is no longer a member of the Board of Trustees." He additionally belongs to the Board of Directors at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, which has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Rosica was scheduled to be honored in April at the annual Provincial’s Dinner of the Canadian province of the Society of Jesus. The province withdrew its invitation Feb. 25.
“The Jesuits of Canada have followed the recent media reports regarding plagiarism by Father Thomas Rosica, CSB, actions for which he has taken responsibility and offered a full apology. Plagiarism is a grave offense against intellectual honesty and the community of scholarship. 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. It is with great sorrow then that we have written to Father Rosica and withdrawn our invitation to him to receive the Magis Award on April 24, in the context of the Annual Provincial’s Dinner,” the province said.
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