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CNS ALERTS NOTRE DAME TO SECOND INSTANCE OF POSSIBLE PLAGIARISM BY REV. RICHARD MCBRIEN
- University Dismisses First Complaint in ‘Whitewash’, Refuses Investigation -
MANASSAS, VA (March 14, 2006) – The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) has alerted the University of Notre Dame to a second instance of possible plagiarism involving dissident theology professor Rev. Richard McBrien—despite the university’s dismissal of a prior complaint because, in part, it could find no other cause for concern.
CNS yesterday faxed Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins, C.S.C., an 11-page comparison of numerous citations from McBrien’s 1997 book Lives of the Popes which closely paraphrase and sometimes identically resemble wording in the 1986 edition of The Oxford Dictionary of Popes by Rev. J.N.D. Kelly. This “troubling problem” was first revealed by another Notre Dame professor—Rev. Marvin O’Connell, professor emeritus of history—in a 1998 book review published in Books & Culture magazine.
“Notre Dame’s response to our first complaint was a whitewash, but this they cannot ignore,” said CNS president Patrick J. Reilly. “There is no valid excuse for a university professor to copy or closely paraphrase the wording of another’s scholarly work without clear attribution. If that is what has happened here—and the evidence is extensive—then Notre Dame’s integrity is on the line.”
In January, CNS and others, including Catholic Web blogger Domenico Bettinelli (www.bettnet.com) and the Boston Herald, raised concerns about a column written by McBrien and published in The Tidings, the Catholic newspaper of Los Angeles. Portions of the column closely resemble a previous column and news articles published in the Boston Globe.
On January 24, the National Catholic Reporter published portions of a leaked copy of Notre Dame theology chairman John Cavadini’s report dismissing the plagiarism complaint. (McBrien claims to have no knowledge of who leaked the confidential report, even though he previously pledged to “make public the university’s finding as soon as he can,” according to a February 10 article in the National Catholic Reporter.) The Reporter claims Cavadini dismissed the complaint without a full investigation of McBrien’s writings “on the grounds that the alleged copying constitutes ‘carelessness’ rather than unethical behavior; that statements of regret and apology for oversight have been issued; and that there is no previous instance to indicate a pattern requiring investigation.”
According to the National Catholic Reporter, Cavadini searched McBrien’s past as long ago as 1991 and found “no previous instance” of concern. This despite O’Connell’s 1998 book review—including his criticism that McBrien’s Lives of the Popes in places “echoes almost to the word what Kelly published 12 years ago.” The O’Connell book review was mentioned in the National Catholic Reporter article about McBrien on February 10, two weeks prior to Cavadini’s report.
According to the Reporter, Cavadini’s report launched into criticism of CNS as “a militant right-wing Catholic interest group lobbying for the most stringent standards of orthodoxy to be used in courses and curricula at Catholic colleges and universities.” McBrien has likewise sought to deflect attention from the merits of the CNS complaint by arguing that CNS has “a thorough bias against me.” In the past, CNS has called on Notre Dame to remove McBrien from his theology position because of his public dissent from Catholic teaching and his book Catholicism, publicly criticized by the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine.
“On behalf of the more than 18,000 members of the Cardinal Newman Society—and in the interest of the students, faculty and alumni of the University of Notre Dame—I urge you to insist upon a serious investigation of the concerns raised about Fr. McBrien’s work,” Reilly wrote in yesterday’s letter to Fr. Jenkins. “Anything less than a serious examination, whatever the result, is less than what one expects from Notre Dame.”
The CNS letter to Jenkins and accompanying comparison of McBrien’s Lives of the Popes and Kelly’s The Oxford Dictionary of Popes—as well as the previous complaint by CNS—are posted at www.cardinalnewmansociety.org.
The Cardinal Newman Society is a national organization to strengthen and renew Catholic identity at U.S. Catholic colleges and universities.