SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

A prominent priest in Toronto’s Catholic community has stepped down from the University of St. Michael’s College’s (USMC) board of directors after extensive plagiarism allegations surfaced against him on February 15.

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.

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