Last Friday, The Globe and Mail was sent a note from a National Post reporter who was writing about allegations of plagiarism against Rev. Thomas Rosica, a spokesman for the Catholic Basilian Fathers and a well known Vatican spokesman. Father Rosica is also the CEO of Canada’s Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation.
The Post’s article, by Joseph Brean, described allegations of plagiarism in a speech Father Rosica had given and also in columns and essays. He acknowledged his mistakes and apologized, telling the Post, “What I’ve done is wrong, and I am sorry about that. I don’t know how else to say it.”
He told the Post that “he lost track of attributions and relied on material prepared by interns.”
Mathew Block, the editor of The Canadian Lutheran magazine, also wrote in the National Post that his examination of Father Rosica’s writings found clear evidence of plagiarism.
Father Rosica’s opinions were published nine times in The Globe and Mail between February, 2004, and March, 2016, and not since. His work has also appeared in the National Post, The Toronto Star, The Windsor Star and on his own website.
I have reviewed the nine articles and found three problems, as did Mr. Block. Two columns included a sentence and/or a partial sentence from the Catholic News Service (CNS), of which the Catholic Register is a member. Father Rosica works with the CNS as an official spokesman, and a representative of the CNS said their service is for priests and other clients who are free to use the material as provided.
The Globe and Mail, like most other media, also pays for news agencies and wire services whose work they publish on a regular basis. However, The Globe’s rules on attribution say that, “Any extensive unacknowledged use of another’s words, structure or ideas may constitute plagiarism. Exception: Background and technical information from previously published Globe staff and news-service items may be recycled, verbatim or otherwise, without credit, although you should not borrow someone’s distinctive prose style in doing so. … Information from another publication must be checked or credited before it is used. This does not apply to material supplied by news services to which proper credit is given.”
There were also two references in a review of a Mel Gibson movie which did not credit writings and interviews on a Catholic website. It has been updated.
This column was more troubling.
This is the key paragraph Father Rosica wrote in a column for The Globe in March 2016 about Pope Francis:
“At the very beginning of his Petrine ministry, Pope Francis said loud and clear in St. Peter’s Square: ‘A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just.’ His rallying cry has been 'mercy’ for the past three years. Mercy is essential because all people are sinners, in need of God’s forgiveness and grace, and it’s especially necessary today, at a time when ‘humanity is wounded,’ suffering from ‘the many slaveries of the third millennium’ – not just war and poverty and social exclusion, but also fatalism, hard-heartedness and self-righteousness."
Two months earlier, in a January, 2016, New York Times review of Pope Francis’s book The Name of God is Mercy, Michiko Kakutani wrote this:
“The centrality of mercy, Francis says, is ‘Jesus’ most important message.’ Mercy is essential because all men are sinners, in need of God’s forgiveness and grace, and it’s especially necessary today, at a time when ‘humanity is wounded,’ suffering from ‘the many slaveries of the third millennium’ – not just war and poverty and social exclusion, but also fatalism, hardheartedness and self-righteousness.”
You can see that one of Father Rosica’s sentences is almost exactly the same as Ms. Kakutani’s, except for the replacement of the word “men” with “people.”
Father Rosica said he had heard Pope Francis make those points in person, and he told me that “many of Pope Francis’s words have become commonplace among us, especially words pertaining to mercy. If I have inadvertently used the same words as did Kakutani, there was never ill will. ...” He said he was sorry and that he “never meant to take those words from her,” although he remained unsure how “her words came to me, perhaps sent by others who know that I was writing frequently on Pope Francis.”
There is also, in that same column, a partial quote, paraphrase and idea first expressed by E.J. Dionne in the Washington Post in 2014. In her column, she wrote that Francis “demands a lot while preaching about a God of mercy, confounding scolds and religious therapists alike. By engaging joyfully with nonbelievers and those who believe differently, he speaks to those skeptical that Christianity has anything left to say.”
Father Rosica had said that Francis “certainly demands a lot while preaching about a God of mercy, by engaging joyfully with non-believers, atheists, agnostics, skeptics and those sitting on the fences of life, many who thought Christianity has nothing left to add to the equations of life.”
So in this case, we have corrected and updated the column to reflect Father Rosica’s failure to attribute original writing and ideas to both Ms. Kakutani and Mr. Dionne. Globe and Mail editors say they will not use his writings in the future.