The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



McBrien cleared of plagiarism complaint

Karen Langley | Friday, February 24, 2006

A complaint of plagiarism against theology professor Father Richard McBrien was recently dismissed by theology department chair John Cavadini, according to an article in the National Catholic Reporter published today.

“Although I did not release the University investigator’s report to the National Catholic Reporter, nor do I know who did, I can verify the accuracy of the story in this week’s issue,” McBrien told The Observer in an e-mail Thursday.

Though Cavadini spoke to NCR, he did not return Observer phone calls seeking comment Thursday.

The complaint, which originated with the Catholic group the Cardinal Newman Society, was dismissed “on the grounds that the alleged copying constitutes ‘carelessness’ rather than unethical behavior; that statements of regret and apology for oversight have already been issued; and that there is no previous instance to indicate a pattern requiring investigation,” according to a letter obtained by the NCR, from Professor Cavadini to Jeffrey Kantor, vice president for graduate studies and research.

The Cardinal Newman Society – an organization Cavadini called “a militant right-wing Catholic interest group” – requested in a Jan. 19 letter to University President Father John Jenkins the University investigate similarities in structure and language between a column written by McBrien for the Jan. 6 issue of The Tidings of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and an op-ed piece by Eileen McNamara for the Dec. 11 Boston Globe.

The two publications criticized protests of a Catholic Charities fundraiser benefiting Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, a supporter of abortion rights and gay marriage.

McBrien cited McNamara’s piece in his column, but sent letters of apology to McNamara and to the Globe for too closely paraphrasing a sentence. He also agreed to add a formal statement in a future column “admitting and regretting the oversight,” according to the NCR.

“I am pleased that the review process within the University is now officially over, and I am completely satisfied with its outcome,” McBrien told The Observer.

McBrien said he would neither release the report to anyone nor conduct further interviews about the matter.