Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, English-language assistant to the Vatican press office and CEO of Canada’s Salt and Light Media Foundation, speaks at a press briefing after the morning session of the Syond of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 12, 2015. CNS/Paul Haring
The Catholic Register
March 15, 2019
In the few weeks since the revelations of Fr. Thomas Rosica’s long history of plagiarism, it has been a prime topic of conversation in Canadian Catholic circles, and not a few of my Catholic Register readers have asked for my view.
I addressed it in my National Post column, as my colleagues there ran an extensive story on the matter after it had appeared online at LifeSite. I made no excuses for a long history of what — in both education and media circles — is usually a disqualifying offence. Yet I did not overlook the many fine contributions that Fr. Rosica has made for many years.
I expressed the hope that Fr. Rosica’s many gifts might find new ways to be of service. That column has met with a very positive response in Catholic circles, likely because so many people were reached by Fr. Rosica’s many projects.
That seems to have captured the general response to Fr. Rosica’s plagiarism. The Congregation of St. Basil (the Basilians), to which Fr. Rosica belongs, issued a statement on the matter: “Plagiarism of any kind is wrong. When it is committed knowingly it rises to the level of a moral offence. As a community of Catholic educators we condemn it, without qualification. At the same time, we embrace our brother despite this failing for which he has taken full responsibility.”
What’s next for Fr. Rosica? That’s largely a question for the Basilian order to decide and thus far there has been no public statement about that. The challenge for the Basilians is to ensure a proper priestly response, a response that is suitable from a community of priests toward a brother priest.
First, as we have learned so painfully over recent years, a proper priestly response is to be distinguished from clericalism, or priestly privilege.
There is no doubt that students, professors and journalists with a far less extensive record of plagiarism would face maximum penalties. The student may well be expelled and a professor dismissed. Likewise, a journalist with such a record would certainly be fired.
So it would be wrong to say that Fr. Rosica, because he is a priest, should be given privileges that a lay student, professor or journalist would not be given.
Fr. Rosica himself has acknowledged that, insofar as he has resigned from the three university boards of which he was a member. He has also suspended the daily e-mail he sent to hundreds of journalists, a compendium of Vatican news, writing that, “I will be concluding this service for some rest and personal renewal.”
That would seem to indicate that he will no longer have a role with the Holy See Press Office, as he has had in recent years. The Basilians would have to take the lead on that though, as Vatican standards for journalistic integrity are sadly lacking.
It was this time last year that Msgr. Dario Viganò, prefect of the secretariat for communications, lied to journalists about a letter from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Viganò had asked Benedict to write a letter endorsing a series of books celebrating the theological sophistication of Pope Francis. Benedict declined to do so, on the grounds that some of the books were authored by longtime opponents of the papal magisterium of St. John Paul II. Viganò concealed that part of the letter in producing a doctored photograph of it for the press corps.
It was such a serious breach of professional and priestly ethics that Viganò knew he had to resign; a communications chief cannot continue if he manipulates documents in order to deceive.
But Pope Francis was less sure of what ethical standard should apply; he reluctantly accepted Viganò’s resignation, only to reappoint him as a chief deputy in the same department.
Fr. Rosica remains, of course, what he principally is, a priest. A lay student, professor or journalist would be dismissed and it would be up to him to find a new path. If the Basilians decide, understandably, that Fr. Rosica must be removed from educational and media work, that does not mean that he is cast aside, and hardly means that he has nothing further to offer.
To the contrary, a priestly response would endeavour to make his priestly service as fruitful as possible, for him and those he serves. While the Basilians are an educational order, they have other apostolates, and certainly a priest of Fr. Rosica’s experience and gifts could be of service to God’s people after his period of rest and renewal.
Meanwhile, spare a thought and a prayer for Fr. Kevin Storey, the Basilians’ superior general. Just elected to the post last summer, he had to deal last fall with the troubles at their flagship, St. Michael’s College School, and now with their most well-known priest. Not an easy first year.
(Fr. de Souza is editor-in-chief of Convivium.ca and a pastor in the Archdiocese of Kingston.)
Thomas Rosica steps down from St. Michael’s College post amid extensive plagiarism allegations
Resignation of prominent priest from board of directors comes as evidence surfaces of plagiarism since 2008
Thomas Rosica, CEO of Catholic media channel Salt + Light Television and a well-known spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Church, resigned from his board position after it was revealed that several columns and essays published under his name in news outlets such as the Toronto Sun, National Post, Windsor Star, and The Globe and Mail included copy plagiarized from other sources.
Many of the plagiarized sources can be traced back to other Catholic and secular journalists writing for publications such as The New York Times and America Magazine. The earliest of the articles dates back to 2008, when Rosica published a column for the Toronto Sun about Catholic martyrdom, which includes two unattributed paragraphs from the work of Associated Press reporter Brian Murphy.
“I sincerely regret the situation that has arisen and the allegations of plagiarism. I can assure you these errors were never done intentionally,” said Rosica in a statement to The Varsity.
“Nevertheless such actions are wrong. I have recognized the errors and publicly acknowledged them. I am truly sorry for what has transpired. It is best that I step down from the governing board so that my mistakes do not detract from the mission of the University.”
The governing body at USMC, run by the Catholic community of priests known as the Congregation of St. Basil (CSB), have taken the situation seriously. USMC has not been involved beyond the acceptance of Rosica’s resignation.
Collegium chair Don McLeod tweeted on February 25, “Fr. [Father] 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.”
Martyn Jones, a spokesperson for USMC, issued a statement to Catholic and self-described “#1 pro-life news website” LifeSiteNews on February 19 in response to the greater university’s comment on the matter.
“We are troubled to hear of the allegations against Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB. The University of St. Michael’s College holds its students and its academic community to the highest standards of accountability and academic integrity, and as a federated university in the University of Toronto, we follow the U of T’s Office of Student Academic Integrity and its Code of Behavior on Academic Matters.”
Rosica has also played a significant role in other Canadian universities, having served as President and Vice-Chancellor of Assumption University in Windsor. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from St. Mark’s College at the University of British Columbia in May and an honorary degree from Regis College at U of T in November. Rosica also served as a media adviser for the Vatican in 2014 and played a significant role as a spokesperson during the St. Michael’s College School hazing incidents.
David Mulroney, former President of USMC from 2015–2018, tweeted on February 18, “Failure to investigate suggests that major Catholic universities in Canada value ideological compatibility over academic rigor.”
While it is unclear whether Rosica’s awards and degrees will be revoked, the Jesuits of Canada has withdrawn its bestowal of the Magis Award, given to an outstanding member of the Catholic community.
“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,” reads a statement from the Jesuits of Canada.
“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.”
Rosica continues to serve as CEO of Salt + Light Television. The Vatican has not released a statement on the matter.
‘No formal diploma’: Jerusalem college denies Rosica’s claim they gave him ‘advanced degree’
Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, appeared on Al Jazeera English to speaks of Pope Francis’ Visit to Myanmar, November 28, 2017. Salt and Light / screen grab
Mar 6, 2019 – 11:05 am EST
TORONTO, March 6, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) ― Vatican spokesman and Salt + Light CEO Father Thomas Rosica — currently at the center of a plagiarism scandal — does not hold an advanced degree from a graduate school in Jerusalem despite his claims to the contrary.
Rosica’s official biography at Salt + Light Catholic Media Foundation claims that he “holds advanced degrees in Theology and Sacred Scripture from Regis College in the Toronto School of Theology , the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome  and the École Biblique et Archéologique Française de Jérusalem .”
However, the École Biblique et Archéologique Française de Jérusalem (EBAF) informed LifeSiteNews on March 5 that the media priest has neither a degree nor a diploma from them.
“Here is what we can say,” wrote EBAF’s director, Jean Jacques Pérennès:
“Fr. Rosica came here in 1991, from the Biblicum in Rome, and during the academic year 1991-1992 he prepared a Mémoire of the Ecole [essay] on Understanding what we are reading…The Use of the Scripture in Acts 8:26-40.”
“His mémoire was accepted on 8 May 1992, after reports of 3 professors: Prof. Justin Taylor, Prof. M-E Boismard and Prof. Jerry Murphy O’Connor,” Pérennès continued.
“On 22 May 1992, he passed with success the lectio coram and was allowed to enter formally in doctorate, but on 7 June 1994 the record of the academic council mentions that Fr. Rosica had stopped his doctorate. No reason is written.”
LifeSiteNews subsequently confirmed with EBAF that Rosica received no diploma or degree for passing the lectio coram, an investigation into a passage of Scripture.
“There is no formal diploma after a lectio coram. It is just an agreement to be allowed to start a Ph D,” Pérennès explained.
Not only does a claim that Rosica has a “degree” from the Jerusalem college appear on Salt + Light’s website, the priest himself makes the claim on film.
“You know, I did my degrees in Scripture in Toronto, and in Rome, and in Jerusalem,” he said in a 2017 Salt and Light video.
His claim has also been reproduced by the publisher of his most recent books, Novalis. “Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, holds advanced degrees in Theology and Sacred Scripture from Regis College in the University of Toronto, the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem,” the publisher states.
An entry in the Canadian Biblical Association’s Membership Roll, published in 2004, comes closer to the mark than the biographies that grace the Salt + Light website and the backs of Rosica’s books.
According to the Canadian Biblical Association, Rosica studied at Regis College at the University of Toronto from 1982 until 1985, receiving a Master of Divinity degree and a Bachelor of Theology (S.T.B.). He subsequently studied Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome from 1987 until 1990, receiving a License in Sacred Scripture (S.S.L.). He then studied from 1990 to 1992 at the École Biblique (EBAF) as an “élève titulaire” or junior student.
LifeSiteNews has contacted the Pontifical Biblical Institute, or “Biblicum”, in Rome to confirm that Rosica has the S.S.L., which would permit him to teach Scripture in a major seminary. According to the Canadian Biblical Association entry, Rosica has taught at the University of Saint Michael’s College in Toronto and St. Peter’s Seminary in London. Rosica is also the President Emeritus of Assumption University in Windsor, Ontario.
We have not yet received a response.
Nevertheless, it is currently believed that a Thomas M. Rosica submitted a thesis in 1990 to the Biblicum for the S.S.L. It is titled “Emmaus: The Road to Recognition. The Literary Structure of Luke 24:13-35. An Exegetical Study”.
Luke 24:13-35 is the story of the disciples who travel to Emmaus and recognize the Resurrected Christ in the fellow traveler who breaks break with them. Two philosophy professors, Professor Joshua Hochschild and Professor Michael Dougherty each discovered extensive plagiarism in Rosica’s 1994 essay “The Road to Emmaus and the Road to Gaza: Luke 24:13-35 and Acts 8:26-40,” in the peer-reviewed journal Worship. The article has since been formally retracted by Worship’s publishers, Liturgical Press.
On February 24, Hochschild tweeted, “It is reasonable to guess that Rosica’s Worship article is related to his 1990 thesis for the Licentiate in Sacred Scripture for the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.”
Rosica has been at the center of a plagiarism scandal that erupted after LifeSiteNews discovered that the Vatican spokesman had misappropriated the writings of at least five men for a speech he gave at the Von Hügel Institute at St. Edmund’s College, Cambridge University. Subsequent research revealed that Rosica had been passing off the words of others as his own for many years. After Rosica admitted his plagiarism to Joseph Brean of the National Post, the story went viral and news of the priest’s word-lifting was published in French, German, Italian, Spanish and Polish.
Jonathan Bailey, founder of the website Plagiarism Today, wrote in a Feb. 28 article that it remains a “mystery” why Rosica’s plagiarism was discovered only recently.
“The peculiarity of Rosica’s plagiarism is that none of it is well-hidden at all. He routinely plagiarized lengthy passages from other, well-known Catholic authors and well-recognized secular sources and he did it in very public places including columns in major newspapers,” he wrote.
“All of this begs a difficult question: How did Rosica last so long? Did no one notice the plagiarism? Did some see it and not think it was a big deal? Did someone see it and doubt their findings? Was there an attempt to keep this a secret?” he continued.
Bailey wrote that, in the end, “there doesn’t appear to be much that he wrote that wasn’t plagiarized in some way. It seems that plagiarism was (and may still be) very central to his writing process.”
“Still, as the story winds to a close, it appears that Rosica’s career as a communicator is, most likely, over,” he added.