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Father Thomas Rosica resigns from Catholic college after admitting to plagiarism

25 February 2019

Appears in: Archdiocesan News

Accepting “full responsibility” for failure to credit his sources in several published articles and lectures, Rev. 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.

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.

He has also resigned from the board of directors of University of St. Thomas in Houston and is no longer listed on the board of St. John Fisher College in his hometown of Rochester, N.Y.

“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 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 chairman Rev. 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The Jesuits of Canada have also announced, “with great sorrow,” that it has withdrawn an invitation for Rosica to receive its Magis Award for service to the Catholic Church at its annual provincial’s dinner in April.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, German Cardinal Walter Kasper, Boston College theology professor Dr. Richard Gaillardetz, U.S. 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 Rosica.

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

Rosica said he never wilfully 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 wilfully done,” he said.

The accusations against Rosica first appeared on LifeSiteNews.com. They appeared six days before the Vatican’s summit on clergy sexual abuse, Feb. 21-24, where Rosica was engaged as an English-language liaison.

After the news broke, 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, Rosica was accused of taking 12 paragraphs from a 2013 article by Rev. Roger Landry in the 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.”

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.”

A spokesperson for the Basilians said that because Rosica has been in Rome they have not addressed the issue with him.

“We hope to have a conversation with him when he gets back,” said Rev. David Katulski. “At the present moment we don’t have any kind of statement to make other than we are looking into the matter.”