The Cardinal Newman Society has been sparring with Fr. Richard McBrien recently over McBrien's literary borrowings. The editors of the National Catholic Reporter, unsurprisingly, were quick to draw conclusions about McBrien's opponents from his acquittal. Below is a spunky letter in reply, from the Newman Society's president.
You have published claims by Notre Dame theology chairman John Cavadini that there were no questions of plagiarism by Fr. Richard McBrien prior to the Cardinal Newman Society's recent complaint, yet two weeks earlier NCR reported serious questions raised in a 1998 book review by fellow Notre Dame professor Fr. Marvin O'Connell (NCR , Feb. 10). That's quite an oversight by Cavadini, yet NCR publishes his claims without challenge. NCR also does not challenge Cavadini's curious notion that plagiarism is not plagiarism unless one can prove intent to plagiarize. Many Notre Dame students welcome this impossible-to-prove standard, I am sure, but I cannot find it in any published Notre Dame policy.
Editor Tom Roberts assures us that NCR takes charges of plagiarism seriously, since it's a matter of journalistic integrity. (Perhaps also because McBrien is an occasional NCR columnist?) But NCR never reports its own investigation of the facts. You did investigate, right?
Had you studied McBrien's column and our complaint, you would have reported that the concerns involve more than one Boston Globe article. Had you researched O'Connell's troubling questions about McBrien's Lives of the Popes, you would have found extensive similarities to J.N.D. Kelly's prior work. It seems NCR is responsible only for reporting that Tom Roberts doesn't like the Cardinal Newman Society. Yawn.
Fortunately the Cardinal Newman Society's members don't look to NCR for the facts, but -- silly me -- I thought that we were the advocacy group, and you were the journalists!
Patrick J. Reilly
Nice work, Pat.
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