Plagiarism claims prove disastrous for priest’s new book

2 mins read
Sichko plagiarism
Father Jim Sichko, a papal Missionary of Mercy and an evangelist from the Diocese of Lexington, Kent., faces allegations of plagiarism in his book "60 Seconds for Jesus: One Minute a Day Can Change Your Life," released Jan. 9, 2024. On Jan. 10, Loyola Press, the publisher, announced that after an investigation they were pulling the book from publication. (OSV News photo/Bob Roller)

(OSV News) — A Catholic book publisher has scrapped a new book one day after its release, following allegations the priest who wrote it had plagiarized material.

Loyola Press announced Jan. 10 it would pull from publication “60 Seconds for Jesus” by Father Jim Sichko, a priest of the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky, and a papal Missionary of Mercy known for his motivational talks, generous donations and active social and mainstream media presence.

The book — drawing from Father Sichko’s “60 Minutes for Jesus” talks, and billed as a “do-votional” that gave readers “specific actions they can do to find purpose and possibility” — had been slated for release Jan. 9.

However, Loyola Press president and publisher Joellyn Cicciarelli told OSV News in a Jan. 10 statement, “We have made the decision to pull the book from publication and all rights have been returned to the author.”

Cicciarelli said Loyola Press had been contacted on Jan. 6 regarding allegations concerning the book, and “immediately initiated a detailed review of the content.”

Father Sichko responded by email Jan. 10 to an OSV News request for comment saying that he “would speak … in the next few days.”

OSV News is awaiting a reply to a request for comment from the Diocese of Lexington.

Issues in the book

In a lengthy Jan. 10 post on his website, Legionary of Christ Father Matthew Schneider took credit for alerting Loyola Press, and described Father Sichko as a “habitual plagiarist.”

“Our investigation revealed missing attributions for certain statements in the book,” said Cicciarelli in her statement, noting that the decision to cancel publication” was made as soon as practicable based on the events and our review.

Father Schneider, himself an author, listed multiple instances of what he called “straight up plagiarism” in Father Sichko’s book.

Among the sources Father Sichko laid claim to were billionaire Warren Buffett, Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, motivational speaker Zig Ziglar and the rock band The Pretenders (songwriters Billy Steinberg, Chrissie Hynde and Thomas Kelly), said Father Schneider.

In addition, Father Sichko had taken credit in the book for “stories that are repeated but have an uncertain source,” and had even displayed instances of “poor taste” in his text, such as a scatological quip, said Father Schneider.

He also said Father Sichko had engaged in systematic online plagiarism, citing the X account @RevPlagiarism, which had identified and listed “over 300 plagiarized tweets” by the Lexington priest.

The posts drew from “eclectic” sources, said Father Schneider, including “bishops to Ralph Waldo Emercon to random Catholic laypeople to comedians to (P)rotestant pastors to Juanita Broaddrick,” a retired nursing home administrator who accused former President Bill Clinton of rape.

Recent counts of plagiarism

Father Schneider said in his blog post that Father Stephen Vrezel, an Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama priest, was “behind” the @RevPlagiarism account, and that Father Vrezel “had tried hard to convince Fr. Jim to stop plagiarizing before this.

“In his texts with Vrazel, Sichko lacks remorse for this,” said Father Schneider, who called for Father Sichko’s speaking engagements to be canceled as well.

Referencing recent scandals at prominent U.S. universities, Father Schneider said in his post that “plagiarism was enough to bring down the presidents of Harvard and Stanford.

“We Catholics should have higher standards for honesty than them,” he said, adding that Father Sichko “does not even pass some of the lowest bars you can set for plagiarism.”

Father Sichko has previously published two other books, both through Open Road Media: the 2014 “Among Friends: Stories from the Journey,” co-written with Jonathan Ryan and Chas Allen, and the 2021 “Encountering God as a Traveling Papal Missionary of Mercy.”

His website’s online store also features Miss Marie’s Spaghetti Sauce, a commercially distributed product he launched in 2018 in honor of his late mother, using her family recipe.

Gina Christian

Gina Christian is a National Reporter for OSV News.