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Plagiarism by Vatican spokesman Fr. Rosica found in 34-year-old article

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EMMITSBURG, Maryland, March 5, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – A Maryland professor shared news yesterday that plagiarism by Vatican spokesman Fr. Thomas Rosica now goes back to 1985. Examples of the priest's plagiarism had, prior to this news, been traced back to 1991.  

Professor Josh Hochschild revealed yesterday on Twitter that an unattributed sentence appeared in an article Fr. Thomas Rosica wrote for The Priest magazine. Rosica’s editorial, which drew upon the work of theologian Karl Rahner, appeared in June 1985. 

Rosica began his article with a description of Rahner as “an architect of modern Catholic theology and as a master of the practise of the Christian life.” In his 2007 "God in the World," theologian Thomas O'Meara included a translation of a similar sentence from a German work on Rahner by Karl Lehmann and Albert Raffelt, crediting them for having written, “Karl Rahner is not only an architect of modern Catholic theology but at the same time a master in the exercise of Christian life.” 

The misappropriation was found by Dr. Michael Dougherty, an authority on plagiarism and professor of Philosophy at Ohio Dominican University. 

LifeSiteNews broke the story of the Salt + Light Catholic Media CEO’s partly-plagiarized speech for the Von Hügel Institute at Cambridge University on February 15.  Since then Hochschild has joined other academics and journalists in hunting down misappropriated material in Rosica’s published work. Dozens of examples have been found in Rosica’s newspaper columns and speeches, and others have been found in his books and academic articles. 

Last week one of Rosica’s publishers, Joe Sinasac of Novalis, told LifeSiteNews that he and a team had run the Vatican spokesman’s manuscripts through plagiarism-detecting software and turned up only one unattributed sentence. After Hochschild independently identified that misappropriation and discovered at least two more examples in Rosica’s Seven Last Words of Christ, Sinasac set a staffer to the lengthy task of checking the book manually.  

“Technology can’t replace trust and professional judgment,” Hochschild told LifeSiteNews via email today.  

“In academia, you rely on educated specialists as part of peer review to recognize what is authentic work and what is not.  In more journalistic outlets, you simply have to trust – and once violated, you drop the author as the Globe and Mail has done.”

Hochschild believes that plagiarism on the scale of Rosica’s is “rare”.

“It is rare, especially for someone who claims as much authority as a professional communicator as Fr. Rosica,” he stated. 

“But fraudulent publication can happen everywhere there is incentive to publish, including physical and social sciences which have their share of fraudulent research.”

In a few examples from recent years, Rosica misappropriated whole paragraphs and even a passage from the works. However, over the past 34 years he seems to have usually taken just one or two colorful sentences, an undertaking Hochschild called “petty, unimaginative, and unnecessary.”

“This is habitual plagiarism,” the professor told LifeSiteNews.  

“It’s become second nature.  Whatever started it – laziness, insecurity, pride – through long practice he is most comfortable writing by piecing together sentences and paragraphs from other people.”

The separate research of Josh Hochschild and Michael Doherty into a scholarly article Rosica published in a 1994 issue of the peer-reviewed journal “Worship” may have led to its publisher formally retracting the piece. Dougherty wrote a letter to Liturgical Press, stating: 

“Portions of the article appear to consist of texts pieced together from various authors without quotation marks and without attribution. The document accompanying this letter highlights select passages from the article that are taken verbatim or near-verbatim from works by other authors. That is, the document presents evidence of suspected plagiarism in this article for which Thomas M. Rosica is the author of record.”

Today Hochschild posted a copy of Rosica’s retracted paper on Twitter, showing the misappropriated material--from six separate sources--in six colors. 

“Basically [the] whole thing is plagiarized [―] on the topic of his licentiate thesis!” he said.

Asked what he thought of the decision of Fr. Rosica’s Catholic media organization to retain him as its leader, Professor Hochschild was grim.

“Based on their statements so far, it doesn’t appear that the company has yet fully faced the gravity of the situation,” he wrote. 

He thinks the Conference of Canadian Bishops, who works closely with Rosica, will conduct an independent investigation. 

“They will have their own standards and processes, but I’m sure they will be asking themselves whether it is fitting to continue associating with his damaged credibility,” Hochschild stated. 

“They also probably see now that they need to review the evidence themselves, and not rely on Rosica’s own accounts of what he did or didn’t do.  They may want to hear from him as part of any evaluation, but he has made it very hard to trust what he says, even by way of apology, without independent verification.” 

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