By: TOM COYNE, Associated Press Writer
(AP) A well-known liberal theologian at the University of Notre Dame said Monday that the school is reviewing an article he wrote after a conservative Roman Catholic group questioned whether the piece was plagiarized.
The Cardinal Newman Society alleges that a syndicated article the Rev. Richard McBrien wrote for several Catholic newspapers, including The Tidings in Los Angeles, earlier this month closely resembles the “structure, arguments, ideas and general theme” of an article written a month earlier by Boston Globe columnist Eileen McNamara.
McBrien said the allegations were unfounded.
Both articles were about a protest of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s appearance at a Catholic Charities dinner in Boston in December. The protest focused on the group’s decision to honor Menino despite his support for abortion rights and gay marriage.
Patrick J. Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, urged Notre Dame to investigate McBrien’s article in a letter last week to the Rev. John I. Jenkins, the university’s president.
“Because this concerns the reputation of one of the most well-known Catholic universities in the United States, we urge you to give this matter serious consideration. If the faculty member is indeed guilty of such dishonesty, we urge you to consider whether he belongs at Notre Dame,” the letter said.
University spokesman Dennis Brown said Notre Dame “takes any allegation of plagiarism seriously and has procedures in place for investigating such charges in a confidential manner.”
McBrien confirmed in an e-mail to The Associated Press that the university is reviewing the article. He said he welcomed the review and accused the Cardinal Newman Society of irresponsibly criticizing Catholic theologians.
“They use any ploy they can to attempt to discredit theologians whom they regard as unorthodox and universities which they regard as un-Catholic according to their ultraconservative perspective,” McBrien said.
The Boston Herald reported last week that McBrien conceded that he took facts from the Globe that he should have credited, but denied committing plagiarism.
“Plagiarism is when you steal someone’s ideas,” he told the Herald. “I was using the [Globe’s] facts [because[ I’m not a reporter; I wasn’t at Menino’s talk.”
He told the AP on Monday that he had failed to explicitly refer to McNamara’s column.
“If I were deliberately trying to cover my source for the facts and quotations that were in the public record, I would hardly have cited The Boston Globe in the first place,” McBrien wrote.
Among the similarities in the articles cited by Reilly is that McNamara wrote: “These folks do not just miss the Latin Mass; they miss Cardinal Bernard Law. … There’s Bill Cotter, pining for the good old days when Law would allow Operation Rescue to use Catholic churches as staging areas for illegal blockades of abortion clinics.”
McBrien wrote: “These ultraconservative activists, for whom abortion is the only moral and political issue that counts, not only miss the Latin Mass but also the former archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law, who allowed Operation Rescue, a militant anti-abortion organization, to use Catholic churches as staging areas of illegal blockades of abortion clinics.”