Father Tom's plagiarism was shocking, but he is more than his failing


National Post, 28 February 2019

The Catholic Church in Canada does not have a surfeit of priests like Father Tom and we need him, in his own voice

The news, brought to a national audience in these pages last Saturday, that Canada’s most prominent media priest, Father Thomas Rosica, head of Salt & Light Television, has been plagiarizing for years in his published work came as a particular shock to me.

I have known Fr. Tom for nearly 20 years, and he has been good to me and my family. In the divisive pontificate of Pope Francis, where the disparagement of those who disagree begins in Rome and is amplified in the world of digital media, Fr. Tom and I have found ourselves on different sides often enough. He has applied his prodigious gifts to promoting the idea that Pope Francis represents an exhilarating break from Catholic tradition. I find such breaks alarming, so we have largely gone our separate ways lately. But it was not so under St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, where Fr. Tom and I happily collaborated on occasion.

I expect that will be the case in the future, or at least I hope it will be. The current pontificate is proving exhausting for all concerned, as the powers-that-be in Rome lash out at perceived enemies as they lurch from crisis to crisis. I am eager for these internecine battles to be set aside so we can get on with the work of evangelization.

It is manifestly the case that he has no need to plagiarize to make a worthy contribution

But even across the divides that Pope Francis is deepening in the Church, I found the news of Fr. Tom’s plagiarism tragic and a blow for all Catholics. He is enormously intelligent and even more industrious; it is manifestly the case that he has no need to plagiarize to make a worthy contribution. But he did so, with examples perhaps stretching back as long as 25 years, perhaps even including his scholarly work.

How to explain that? My own suspicion is that Fr. Tom, always accepting demanding assignments with enough work for three men, cut a few corners here and there to maintain the pace he was keeping, with no malice aforethought. Carelessness then became something of a habit.

Nevertheless, it remains most serious. Fr. Tom has confessed his guilt, both publicly and privately, saying that the fault is his alone. In the university world, plagiarism is one of the few things not subject to moral relativism, and Fr. Tom has resigned from the three university boards that he sat on. The Canadian Jesuits — Fr. Tom is a member of another order, the Basilians — had planned to honour him later this spring and have withdrawn the planned award.

For journalists, plagiarism is also a serious crime. Fr. Tom doesn’t have a regular column, but his work has appeared widely, including in the National Post. I expect editors where he has appeared will take appropriate action and that his byline will not be as ubiquitous as it has been in recent years.

He does though run a Catholic television network. Not just as the CEO, but as the founder and animating spirit. The Latin is more accurate: he is the Salt & Light’s sine qua non. So I expect he will continue his work there, chastened and contrite.

The divisions fomented by Pope Francis mean that there will be many calling for Fr. Tom’s head, indulging in morose delectation — a sort of theological term for schadenfreude — that a key booster of Pope Francis has been besmirched.

Continue reading at the National Post: https://nationalpost.com/opinion/father-raymond-j-de-souza-father-toms-plagiarism-was-shocking-but-he-is-more-than-his-failing