In April 1967, the board of trustees of Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., dismissed Father Charles Curran from his position as theology professor without any hearing or explanation. In response, the CUA faculty led a campus-wide strike in support of Curran, which succeeded in having Curran reinstated as a professor. The story of the strike narrated below draws from never-before published material from the archives of CUA and the personal papers of key bishops on the CUA board of trustees. The battle which played out at Catholic University centered on the question that consumed Catholic higher education throughout the country during the turbulent years following the Second Vatican Council: “What is the meaning of academic freedom at a Catholic university that seeks to be fully American?” Widespread frustration among Catholic intellectuals with ecclesiastical control found a willing and powerful ally in the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), whose principles had developed during the twentieth century into a quasi-religious ideology of academic freedom in opposition to any and all creedal statements of a priori dogmatic truth. Throughout the 1960s the AAUP waged an aggressive attack on religious institutions of higher education demanding they renounce commitments to denominational interests. The outcome of this high-profile clash of opinions over the nature of bishops’ authority over theology professors remains normative in U.S. Catholic higher education.


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