Father Thomas Rosica accused of plagiarism in new article on Vatican II

Father Thomas Rosica accused of plagiarism in new article on Vatican II

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB. / Chris Adamczyk/Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation via Wikimedia CC BY SA 4.0

Vatican City, Oct 18, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

A Canadian priest who was forced to resign from a number of senior positions over allegations of plagiarism in 2019 has once again been accused of passing off other people’s work as his own.

At issue are three recent writings by Father Thomas Rosica, with one plagiarism expert citing evidence the priest used others’ texts without citation in a communication for the 60th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, in an article about Edith Stein, and in a book on the crucifixion of Christ.

The Vatican II article attributed to Rosica is available online in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. The text includes the crest of the Basilian Fathers, a religious congregation to which Rosica belongs, and was shared a few days ahead of the Oct. 11 anniversary of Vatican II.

“It turns out that the article is constructed using the methods that caused newspapers, journals, and book publishers to retract so many of [Rosica’s] works for plagiarism,” Michael V. Dougherty, a scholar who specializes in the research of plagiarism in philosophy and theology, told CNA via email.

Dougherty, a philosophy professor at Ohio Dominican University in Columbus, Ohio, said uncited passages in Rosica’s new article come from America Magazine, the National Catholic Reporter, and a 2021 essay by Cardinal Michael Czerny, among others.

Rosica was CEO of the Salt and Light Media Foundation for 16 years until his resignation in June 2019 following the publication of reports that he had plagiarized sections of lectures, op-eds, scholarly articles, and other writings. Rosica was also formerly an English-language spokesperson for the Vatican and a university president.

The full title of Rosica’s article is: “Remembering St. John XIII on his Feast Day and the 60th Anniversary of the Opening of the Second Vatican Council October 11, 1962 – October 11, 2022.” Dougherty told CNA he found Rosica’s article on the Catholic news aggregator website Il Sismografo on Oct. 8.

The priest is described in the eight-page reflection as co-director of ongoing formation for the Basilian Fathers.

The editor of Il Sismografo, Luis Badilla, told CNA the website decided to publish the two recent articles by Rosica after receiving them directly from Rosica himself.

Rosica did not respond to CNA’s request for comment by publication time.

Father Kevin Storey, superior general of the Basilian Fathers, formally called the Congregation of St. Basil, told CNA Rosica’s article was distributed as part of “an internal communication” within the congregation.

“We are taking steps to address the situation,” he said via email Oct. 17, referring to the plagiarism claim.

Dougherty also raised fresh concerns about two other works by Rosica.

The professor said he found evidence of plagiarism in another recent article by Rosica about St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, also known as Edith Stein. The piece was published on Il Sismografo on Aug. 8.

Rosica is also the author of record for “The Seven Last Words of Christ,” a book published in 2017 by Novalis, and shown by Dougherty and fellow philosophy professor Joshua Hochschild to include extensive portions of texts of other authors without attribution or quotation marks. Hochschild teaches at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

Some of the unattributed texts, the professors show, are taken verbatim or near-verbatim from writings and speeches by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, St. John Paul II, and Pope Francis.

The Italian translation of the book, published under the title “Le Sette Parole di Cristo sulla Croce,” is listed on the website of the Vatican’s publishing house, Libreria Editrice Vaticana (LEV). The page links to other websites where the book can be purchased.

The editorial director of LEV, Lorenzo Fazzini, was informed of the book’s plagiarism at the end of March. Fazzini was also contacted by CNA for comment Oct. 12 and did not respond by publication time.

Dougherty and Hochschild are the authors of an article in the journal Horizons, published by Cambridge University Press, documenting what they call Rosica’s “serial plagiarism” and the ways it harms the practice of theology.

Dougherty told CNA he was surprised to see a new article by Rosica.

“At first, I thought the article was one of Father Rosica’s older pieces, since so many of his compilations are still on the internet. This article, however, bears a 2022 logo indicating a celebration of the 2022 bicentennial of the Basilian Fathers; it is newly published,” he said via email.

“A close inspection,” Dougherty said, “reveals that some of the copied sentences come from a recent 2021 article by Cardinal Michael Czerny. The article also manages to incorporate texts from a host of Catholic authors who remain uncredited, including America Magazine assistant editor Joseph McAuley, Jesuit and historian Norman Tanner, [and] NCR editor Tom Roberts, among others.”

The priest’s article also took passages from writing by a fellow member of the Basilian Fathers, Warren Schmidt.

Past mistakes acknowledged

Rosica apologized in 2019 for his acts of plagiarism.

“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 in February 2019.

“I take full responsibility for my lack of oversight and do not place the blame on anyone else but myself.”

He told the National Post the same month the errors were inadvertent mistakes, but not the intentional stealing of other’s words.

Rosica was reported in 2019 to have plagiarized sections of text in lectures and op-eds from a variety of writers, among them priests, theologians, journalists, and at least two cardinals.

Subsequent reports found pervasive plagiarism in academic articles, essays, speeches, and op-eds by Rosica dating back more than a decade. Rosica has served as a Vatican press aide and the president of Assumption University in Windsor, Ontario. He was also a central figure in the planning of World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto.

The Canadian priest was also found to have plagiarized in ghostwriting he did for Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Bishops.

Rosica is also reported to have misrepresented his academic credentials by claiming falsely in biographies to have earned an advanced degree from École Biblique et Archéologique Française de Jérusalem.

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