Vatican spokesperson and former member of USMC Governing Collegium admits, “What I’ve done is wrong”
Isabel Armiento ARTS & LIFESTYLE EDITOR
Vatican spokesperson and University of St. Michael’s College (USMC) Governing Collegium former member Fr. Thomas Rosica has been accused of extensive accounts of plagiarism. The chunks of plagiarized text in his press releases and articles ranged from short quotations to those exceeding a paragraph, calling into question the credibility of his writing.
His misconduct is especially worrisome given Rosica’s prominence in the media. As an English aide at the Vatican Press Office and the CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation, Rosica’s words are far-reaching and influential within the Catholic community.
“I realize the seriousness of this and I regret this very much,” Rosica admitted. “I will be very vigilant in the future.”
Rosica’s participation in Catholic education and notoriety in the USMC community further troubles these allegations. USMC’s Board Chairman Rev. Donald McLeod reiterated Rosica’s sentiments, expressing the gravity of the incident and saying the university will “address the matter internally going forward.”
Fr. Kevin Storey, Superior General of CSB — the Basilian order of priests whose influence is far-reaching in Toronto’s Catholic education — noted that while the situation is unprecedented, Rosica’s credibility and future participation in Catholic publication should be questioned.
“As an academic order, we would obviously take that very seriously,” he said of the incident.
Rosica’s plagiarized work has appeared in various reputable publications, including the National Post, The Windsor Star, and, most recently, The Globe and Mail. Matthew Schmitz, Senior Editor of the Christian journal First Things, claims that he “can’t recall seeing a more extreme case” of plagiarism.
Sylvia Stead, the Public Editor at The Globe and Mail, examined Rosica’s nine publications in The Globe and Mail from 2004–16 and found three plagiarism problems. The most troubling of these occurred in a column entitled “Pope Francis’s biggest feat in three years? Proving he’s a regular guy,” written by Rosica in March 2016. In this article Rosica copied a sentence almost verbatim from Michiko Kakutani’s article “Review: In a New Book, Pope Francis Calls Mercy Essential” published in The New York Times in January 2016. Rosica’s version of the plagiarized sentence only changed one word, replacing the word “men” with “people.”
The Globe and Mail corrected and updated all three articles that had included Rosica’s plagiarized work. According to Stead, “Globe and Mail editors say they will not use his writings in the future.”
Rosica conceded that he “relied too much on compiled notes” as he tended to work on many projects at once and thus had many working documents open on his computer. In this confusion, quotations and information may have inadvertently remained unchecked or unsourced. “It could have been cut and paste,” Rosica said, attributing the plagiarism to the constant stream of material and quotes sent to him, leading him to often neglect confirming or crediting his sources.
Many of his notes for op-eds are compiled by interns, adding a layer of distance between him and the articles. “What I’ve done is wrong, and I am sorry about that,” apologized Rosica. “I don’t know how else to say it.”
An op-ed in the National Post, one of the news outlets that published Rosica’s plagiarized articles, expressed disappointment in light of the allegations against Rosica. The writer, Matthew Block, lamented that “the Christian media community in Canada is rather small, and (…) I’ve always appreciated the work [Rosica] has done helping the public at large to better understand Catholic teachings and news.” He called Rosica’s plagiarism “a sin” but “[prays] that through repentance he will find comfort in the mercy and love of Jesus Christ.”
Rosica resigned from the USMC Collegium on February 24, as well as from the Board of Directors at the University of St. Thomas in Houston and St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York. Salt + Light Media’s Board of Directors remain in support of Rosica as of March 6.