Gregorian University clears Scottish bishop accused of plagiarism

The Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome on Monday cleared a Scottish bishop of plagiarism in his 2003 doctoral dissertation.

The announcement Monday concluded an investigation begun by the university in January, following accusations that Bishop Stephen Robson of Dunkeld, Scotland, committed several acts of plagiarism in his 2003 doctoral dissertation on St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

A three-member panel appointed by the university “unanimously decided that the dissertation of Bishop Stephen Robson did not include plagiarized material, and therefore no sanctions of any kind were required,” the university announced on Monday.

According to the university, a medievalist and two patristic scholars—one from outside the university—conducted the investigation of Robson’s work, “With the Spirit and Power of Elijah (Lk 1,17). The Prophetic-Reforming Spirituality of Bernard of Clairvaux as Evidenced Particularly in his Letters.” 

In 2019, a Cistercian priest in Austria first raised the possibility of plagiarism in the dissertation.

Writing in an article for his scholarly journal Analecta Cisterciensia titled “Concerns about Bishop Stephen Robson’s Dissertation on Bernard of Clairvaux,” Fr. Alkuin Schachenmayr alleged that Robson used passages apparently taken verbatim from scholars including Bruno Scott James, Jean Leclercq, Friedrich Kempf, and Robert Bartlett. Other scholars were not cited in the dissertation, but Robson’s dissertation appeared to copy or nearly copy passages from their work, Fr. Schachenmayr  alleged.

After its investigation, the Gregorian University said that the texts in question were all sourced by Bishop Robson in the bibliography and footnotes of his dissertation. Some of the passages in question cited different editions of the works than those named by Fr. Schachenmayr, the university said.  

The lone exception to this finding, the commission said, was text “from a Church History manual frequently used in First Cycle courses which provides general knowledge background.” This text might have been recalled by Robson “verbatim from an earlier lecture course,” the investigation found.

Once the investigation concluded, the President of the Institute of Spirituality approved its findings.

After the accusations first were made public, Robson denied the charges to CNA in a 14 January interview.

“I can categorically state that there was absolutely never any intention to plagiarise any work,” Robson told CNA at the time.

After CNA reported on the allegations and interviewed Bishop Robson, the Gregorian University began its investigation.

Robson has been bishop of Dunkeld since 2014, and was ordained a bishop in 2012. He received a doctorate in theology from the Gregorian University’s Institute of Spirituality, as well as a licentiate in canon law.

His 2003 dissertation was given the Premio Bellarmino prize by the university in 2004, for the best dissertation.

Source: CNA