Toronto, Canada, Apr 17, 2019 / 05:56 pm (CNA).- A Canadian priest’s controversial 2018 characterization of Pope Francis was plagiarized, according to a recent media report. The priest, Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, apologized in February after he was discovered to have committed acts of plagiarism serially.
Rosica, a long-serving English language press aide at the Vatican Press Office, and the CEO of Canada’s Salt+Light Television network, wrote in July 2018 that Pope Francis “breaks Catholic traditions whenever he wants because he is ‘free from disordered attachments.’ Our Church has indeed entered a new phase: with the advent of this first Jesuit pope, it is openly ruled by an individual rather than by the authority of Scripture alone or even its own dictates of tradition plus Scripture.”
The passage had been taken from a 2014 blog post written by Richard Bennett, a former member of Dominican Order and an apparently laicized priest, who is now active in a fundamentalist Protestant organization which says it “places particular emphasis on the evangelization and conversion of Roman Catholics.”
Bennett’s post was intended as criticism of a video about Pope Francis released by Fr. James Martin, SJ, according to the National Post.
In one section of Bennett’s blog, which aimed to both summarize and critique Martin’s synopsis of Ignatian spirituality, Bennett wrote that: “Without the Gospel and locked into subjective mysticism, both the priests and the lay people are then without biblical authority – except as mediated to them by their Roman Church. Francis having completed the Spiritual Exercises is now ‘detached,’ i.e., free from any ‘disordered attachments’ so that all his attachments or desires are supposedly ‘ordered toward God.’”
“Therefore, it is not surprising, as Jesuit priest Martin points out, Pope Francis breaks Catholic traditions whenever he wants – because he is ‘free from disordered attachments’ according to the subjectivity of his own mindset rather than worshiping and serving God according to the authority of Scripture,” Bennett added.
“Clearly, the Roman Catholic Church has entered a new phase: with the advent of its first Jesuit pope, it is obviously ruled by an individual rather than by the authority of Scripture alone or even its own dictates of tradition plus Scripture,” he concluded, suggesting that Francis’ Ignatian spirituality contradicts Catholic doctrine regarding the binding authority of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.
Each passage of Rosica’s controversial 2018 paragraph was nearly identical to a parallel passage in Bennett’s blog post, though no attribution was given. Rosica’ paragraph was part of an essay, “The Ignatian Qualities of the Petrine Ministry of Pope Francis,” published July 31, 2018 at Salt+Light Media’s website. The essay has since been removed from the site.
Rosica’s essay was met with immediate criticism by some theologians, who said that the priest incorrectly characterized the pope’s spirituality in a manner contrary to Catholic doctrine regarding the binding authority of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.
Those critics, Rosica tweeted in response, should read the full text “then go to confession.”
Rosica was first reported by Life Site News Feb. 15 to have plagiarized sections of text in lectures and op-eds from a variety of writers, among them priests, theologians, journalists, and at least two cardinals.
Subsequent reports found pervasive plagiarism in academic articles, essays, speeches, and op-eds by Rosica, dating back more than a decade. Rosica was reported in March to have misrepresented his academic credentials, claiming falsely in his official biography to have earned an advanced degree from École Biblique et Archéologique Française de Jérusalem.
“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,” Rosica told The Catholic Register Feb. 18.
“I take full responsibility for my lack of oversight and do not place the blame on anyone else but myself.”
Rosica told the National Post Feb. 22 that “What I’ve done is wrong, and I am sorry about that. I don’t know how else to say it.”
Rosica also told the National Post his plagiarism was inadvertent and not malicious. He explained that “it could have been cut and paste,” apparently meaning that he had mistakenly included passages of text written by others in his texts without remembering to attribute them.
The priest added that he would “apologize that this came to light, and it’s wrong, and it’s not going to happen again.”
On March 14, the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation announced that Rosica would take a “sabbatical of several months for rest and renewal.”
Salt and Light’s Board of Directors said it had “accepted the apology and deep regret of Chief Executive Officer, Fr. Thomas Rosica, for instances of plagiarism where passages and texts were not properly attributed. Fr. Rosica understands the gravity of his actions, accepts full responsibility for them and has pledged to the Board that this will not occur again.”
Editor’s note: This article incorrectly identified Fr. Rosica’s religious order and has been corrected. He is a member of the Congregation of St. Basil.
If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!