Plagiarism, Writers and Conscience

[ NOTE: Discussion of Catholic Fiction at]


I have received several emails from readers ( in the few weeks that Properly Scared has been up) asking if I knew that a Canadian editor was fired due to his plagiarized work, including material from one of my articles.

Yes, I know of Robert Sibley’s confession–after he was tagged for multiple instances of plagiarism. The editor and board member of the Ottawa Citizen wrote:

Finally, on Nov. 12, 2000, I included a 23-word sentence in the second part of my nine-part series on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage that should have been attributed to an article entitled “Pilgrimage to the Stars” by Mary Jo Anderson that appeared in the February 2000 edition of the Catholic magazine, Crisis. Her sentence reads: “As the pilgrims streamed across Europe, converging on the ‘Road of Stars,’ they exchanged ideas about architecture, fashion, ballads, politics, food and philosophy.” I wrote: “As the pilgrims trekked across Europe, converging on the Road of Stars, they exchanged ideas about architecture, fashion, science, politics, food and philosophy.”

While I did not personally receive an apology from Mr. Sibley, I am happy to report that he did apologize to the professional community and his readers:

“My errors may have been, in part at least, the consequence of gathering or trying to impart too much information; to be sure, I like to think my essays, columns and editorials bring to the reader’s attention ideas that can help them better understand the world. Nevertheless, while I was not intentionally trying to appropriate the words or ideas of others as my own, I must acknowledge my failures in attribution. And it is for this that I wholeheartedly apologize — to the authors whose words I used, to my colleagues and, most particularly, to Citizen readers, who have every right to expect better of me.”

I want to make a couple of points. First, Mr. Sibley was not technically fired, rather, he was given a new job description. And, he outlined how and why the instances of his plagiarism happened. I am sympathetic with his explanation.

There is a vast, vast amount of material available now via the Internet. Add to that the pressure to meet ever-shorter deadlines as print tries to keep up with online material and you have a recipe for both deliberate and inadvertent plagiarism. I do not excuse it, but at least in the cases of inadvertent use of material I can see how it happens. When you research an article, it is easy enough to forget where you read what. It takes time that deadlines do not permit to carefully catalog where you found each idea–and the clip and store functions of computer programs adds to the difficulty. I have had to create a system for my own research, but it is a time gobbler.

I am told that it is not rare for professors to “appropriate” the work of their better students. And corporate America has its share of managers who take the credit for and idea, a marketing plan, or a job done by subordinates.

As in any discipline, writing requires a sense of justice and a well formed conscience.

I’d welcome comments from other writers.


CARDINAL EGAN and Giuliani’s Catholicism

By John-Henry Westen

NEW YORK, April 28, 2008 ( – The decision by several prominent pro-abortion politicians to publicly receive Holy Communion at papal Masses during the recent visit of Pope Benedict XVI, despite clear Church teaching that says that their reception of Communion would constitute a grave sacrilege, may have backfired.

While at first it seemed like it would be business as usual, today Cardinal Edward Egan of New York issued a statement condemning the reception of Holy Communion by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

The Archdiocese informed that the issue is being brought forward publicly at this time “because it has become a public issue and a public question.”

“The Catholic Church clearly teaches that abortion is a grave offense against the will of God,” said Egan. “Throughout my years as Archbishop of New York, I have repeated this teaching in sermons, articles, addresses, and interviews without hesitation or compromise of any kind.”

He continued, “Thus it was that I had an understanding with Mr. Rudolph Giuliani, when I became Archbishop of New York and he was serving as Mayor of New York, that he was not to receive the Eucharist because of his well-known support of abortion.”

“I deeply regret that Mr. Giuliani received the Eucharist during the Papal visit here in New York,” said Egan, “and I will be seeking a meeting with him to insist that he abide by our understanding.”

Responding to the matter in the press, Giuliani said that his faith “is a deeply personal matter and should remain confidential.”

Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, responded, “The Catholic faith is not simply about one’s private and confidential relationship with God. It’s public, as evidenced by the fact that Mr. Giuliani received Communion in public. Mr. Giuliani’s support of legal abortion is also public. That’s why Cardinal Egan’s remarks are entirely appropriate, as is his expectation that Mr. Giuliani abide by those remarks.”

The Pope, just prior to his elevation to the pontificate, issued a document to the US Bishops which outlined that in keeping with Church teaching, pro-abortion politicians who present themselves for communion even after being warned not to “must” be denied communion. asked Joseph Zwilling, Director Office of Communications at the Archdiocese of New York, if there had been any communication on the matter between the Pope or Vatican and the Archdiocese. Zwilling replied, “No


NOTE: Pope Couture Continues–click here for The Red Shoes

I wrote “Wisdom in the Ruins” earlier this month about the Tocqueville Forum award that Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. of Georgetown received on April 10th. Here is a link to the very fine comments by the Professor McInerny ( “THERE WAS A MAN”) that evening–a look at education at America’s colleges and a tribute to an incomparable professor–it’s a treat! You won’t regret taking the time to read this.

The day after Fr. Schall received the award he invited me to attend one of his classes ( On Plato!) –which I did with great relish. The students clearly adore this wise and witty octogenarian. No wonder that they lauded him just a week later–the students of Georgetown voted Fr. Schall their favorite! What I particularly noted was how the professor respected his students, and they returned the favor.

I am near to gushing here, so let me simply remark that two of Father Schall’s favorite descriptives are “winsome” and “lightsome” and he is both. He is a priest who is alert to the beauty of God’s creation, the exquisite order of things, and our happy task to discover this ordered beauty. An encounter with Fr. Schall changes you angle of view—the world takes on a a new hue.

Nothing would please me more than if some of you who are not familiar with his work would reward yourselves with one of his “lightsome” books.

I routinely give copies of Fr. Schall’s ANOTHER SORT OF LEARNING as graduation gifts. A series of short essays that are a frolic through the wonder of life, yet have a kernel of deep theology embedded. A young person who reads these essays will effortlessly, eagerly ingest great wisdom. For everyday delights there is his Idylls and Rambles. I assure you, you will not be disappointed.

For the more erudite or academic sorts who chance upon this blog, there is Roman Catholic Political Philosophy.

Many families are making choices about colleges —here is another good article on choosing “Catholic” by Fr. Kenneth Baker.

The Pope Connects the Dots on Marriage

“…in less than three years of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI has spoken publicly about marriage on 111 occasions. His pronouncements connect marriage to such overarching themes as human rights, world peace, and the conversation between faith and reason.”

This is the lead of Maggie Gallagher’s recent article on Pope Benedict and Marriage-really worth reading.

I made a similar point about the Pope’s insight –how he connects the dots from the family to global peace and prosperity–in this recent WorldNet Daily article.

The matter of marriage will be enormous in the 2008 election. Both of the democratic candidates will work for passage of a “gay-rights” bill. The storm of the Texas polygamy case continues in the media–yet another whap to those of us who realize that marriage must be defended in LAW, in the culture, in social policy…

Many states will have marriage amendments on the ballot as well.

It is crucial that Catholics are prepared to promote marriage as a legal definition that confines the elements of marriage to the exclusive bond of one man and one woman. (Catholics would like the “permanent bond” wording, but in a secular society accustomed to easy divorce that is not politically viable. )

The topic is very tender for many families. There can be no condemnation of persons who struggle with same-sex attraction. Yet, we must confront the organized and determined homosexual agenda.

Here is a link to a debate in which I participated (with an attorney for a “gay-rights” organization) on the subject of legalizing same-sex unions.

When the Pope received Catholic Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard Law professor, as the new US Ambassador to the Vatican in February, he stressed the need for America to insure “the safeguarding of the institution of marriage, acknowledged as a stable union between a man and a woman, and that of the family.”

Politicians, abortion and Communion?


There was a a great deal of speculation over who could/would/should receive Communion during the Papal masses while Pope Benedict XVI was in the United States.  The “wafer wars” in one headline was the predictable attempt to turn the whole issue into a cartoon.  

I’ve now read and heard comments that when Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry received Communion at Mass in Washington, that it was an indication that the Pope was not a “hard-liner” on the matter. (John Allen of National Catholic Reporter)

As if to underscore that point, Rudy Giuliani (twice divorced, pro-abortion) shamelessly went to Communion in St. Patrick’s Cathedral during the Papal visit. The message the pols sent was “See, I’m not out of Communion with the Church.”

This is not true. Not remotely true. Pope Benedict has written EXPLICITLY on this very point.

Then WHAT happened? How was it that millions of –who struggle with family members and loved ones who are separated from the practice of their faith for various disputes over Church doctrine– had to witness a Pelosi or a Kerry at Communion?

I’m pretty certain there is no ONE answer. The preparation for a papal trip is an enormous undertaking. A quadrillion details must be overseen. Also, at some point, you must rely on the people in place…ah, there is a point, the people in place. Often when working on articles about dissent within the Church in America, I heard the dissenter’s mantra: “defect in place.” They mean, of course, “keep your jobs, and undermine from within.”

I suggest to faithful Catholics that the music for the liturgy at At the Nationals’ stadium was an example of the Pope being “honored” by the “people in place.” They did not want to honor him with that music–but to show him “how we do it here, your Holiness.”

I did hear that those 50 who received Communion from the Holy Father were vetted carefully–perhaps a partial truth was told: “Oh YES, your Holiness, it has been seen to that no pro-abortion candidate will receive Communion (from you).”

But an equally likely explanation may be that the Pope did not want to overshadow his major message, and his entire visit with the media circus that would have ensued –the political tempest that Pelosi would make–if nationally prominent politicians had been turned away in a public disciplinary act.

But I admit–I’d love a photo of the Pope blessing Pelosi, but refusing her communion.

Some find a whiff of consolation in the address to the bishops, particularly this paragraph:

Perhaps America’s brand of secularism poses a particular problem: it allows for professing belief in God, and respects the public role of religion and the Churches, but at the same time it can subtly reduce religious belief to a lowest common denominator. Faith becomes a passive acceptance that certain things “out there” are true, but without practical relevance for everyday life. The result is a growing separation of faith from life: living “as if God did not exist”. This is aggravated by an individualistic and eclectic approach to faith and religion: far from a Catholic approach to “thinking with the Church”, each person believes he or she has a right to pick and choose, maintaining external social bonds but without an integral, interior conversion to the law of Christ. Consequently, rather than being transformed and renewed in mind, Christians are easily tempted to conform themselves to the spirit of this age (cf. Rom 12:3). We have seen this emerge in an acute way in the scandal given by Catholics who promote an alleged right to abortion.

May I suggest each of us write a letter to out pastors and bishops outlining this passage?

As an antidote to the pro-abortion politicians and Communion stories, give yourself time to read his address to the young people–

Keep the faith!

Pope Benedict’s Papal Visit


AN ASTOUNDING talk given by the Pope to young people–particularly worth reading–at Fr. Z’s blog, here

The Pope’s Thursday homily at the National’s Stadium

There are a zillion bloggers typing furiously–piling up words on their blogs about this historic visit.

Many will express surprise, some relief at the obvious cordial meeting between the Holy Father and President Bush. The reality is that the Vatican and America have more in common than most understand–a commitment to life, to religious freedom and an “ordered liberty.” (Washington contacts report that the President was deeply affected by the Pope’s love and care for America, the Pope’s praise of America’s commitment to being a nation “Under God.”)

What the Holy Father said to Americans:

“Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility…The preservation of freedom calls for the cultivation of virtue, self-discipline, sacrifice for the common good and a sense of responsibility towards the less fortunate. It also demands the courage to engage in civic life and to bring one’s deepest beliefs and values to reasoned public debate.”

Some will vent their spleens on the music chosen for the Mass at National Stadium. Fr. Richard John Neuhaus’ commentary described it as “over-preeening exhibitionism of multiculturalism” as “musical stew” that “tried Pope Benedict’s patience”(are you listening Karen??)

Others will note their frustration and or admiration for the coverage by the major broadcasters–the good the bad and the just dreadful.

And YET–the over all glorious effect is a tremendous confirmation of the power of the Holy Spirit in our midst.

I am thrilled that the Pope’s homily calls us to an intellectual examination of faith and reason–how that shapes a healthy culture.

I’m not sure I have much new to observe–and may simply provide some good links. Read the Pope’s address to the American People here.

Please pray for Pope Benedict XVI and all who hear him–pray for hearts to be touched and moved toward the source of our hope, Jesus Christ.

New Links about the Papal Visit:

What the Pope said to US Bishops

“Today the Catholic community you serve is one of the largest in the world, and one of the most influential. How important it is, then, to let your light so shine before your fellow citizens and before the world, ‘that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven’ (Mt. 5:16).”

In his address, the successor of Peter told each of the bishops how to be a “good shepherd” according to the example of Jesus. But he also told them what to do – and, if necessary, how to correct themselves – ”

* * *

Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput reacted to the Pope’s address to the U.S. bishops by agreeing with the Pontiff’s emphases on the need for Catholics to be present in the public square and to buttress family life. “The part I found of personal interest was…”

The American Catholic Church is big, rich and powerful. Compared to the marginalised Catholic Church in England, American Catholicism is a global force to be reckoned with. Time magazine, in a recent feature on the Pope’s visit to the US, recognises that Benedict XVI understands and is intrigued by America’s “totally modern, yet totally religious” worldview. (Fr. Dwight Longnecker-a blogger priest)

Fr. Schall on Pope Benedict (several important esays)

MJ’s article on the Pope and the United Nations:

What the Pope will Say at the United Nations

Wisdom in The Ruins

Note: Fr. Joseph Fessio’s TV schedule during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in USA is here

See my Ignatius Insight article on Fr. Schall and Georgetown University’s New Tocqueville Forum here

%d bloggers like this: