The Coup at Catholic University: The 1968 Revolution in American Catholic Education

The Coup at Catholic University: The 1968 Revolution in American Catholic Education

by Fr. Peter Mitchell


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The Coup at Catholic University: The 1968 Revolution in American Catholic Education by Fr. Peter Mitchell

1968 witnessed perhaps the greatest revolution in the history of the Catholic Church in the United States. It was led by Fr. Charles Curran, professor of Theology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, with more than 500 theologians who signed a "Statement of Dissent" that declared Catholics were not bound in conscience to follow the Church's teaching in the encyclical of Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, that said artificial contraception is morally wrong because it is destructive of the good of Christian marriage.

The battle at Catholic University centered on the major question in Catholic higher education during the turbulent years after the Second Vatican Council, "What is the meaning of academic freedom at a Catholic university?" Curran and the dissenting theologians maintained they needed to be free to teach without constraint by any outside authority, including the bishops. The bishops maintained that the American tradition of religious freedom guaranteed the right of religiously-affiliated schools to require their professors to teach in accord with the authority of their church.

This book uses never-before published material from the personal papers of the key players at CUA to tell the inside story of the dramatic events that unfolded there. Beginning with the 1967 faculty-led strike in support of Curran, this book reveals the content of the internal discussions between the key bishops on the CUA Board of Trustees.

This work attempts to disprove both the standard "liberal" and "conservative" interpretation of the events of 1968, suggesting that the culture of dissent was a direct fruit of the excessive legalism and authoritarianism which marked the Church in the years preceding Vatican II. Because the polarization in 1968 has continued to define the experience of many American Catholics and has had an ongoing effect on Catholic education, this work should be extremely interesting to those who want to understand the past so as to move forward with a greater awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of Catholic education in the United States.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781586177560
Publisher: Ignatius Press
Publication date: 04/25/2015
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 1,229,849
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Fr. Peter Mitchell is a priest of the of the Diocese of Green Bay. He received his doctorate in Church History from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, in 2009. He has spent much of his priesthood working in Catholic education.

Table of Contents

Preface 11

Introduction 15

Abbreviations 21

I The Curran Affair

1 The Catholic University Strike: April 17-24, 1967 25

2 The Role of the Media in Public Perception of the Strike 57

3 The Influence of the AAUP on Catholic Higher Education 69

II The School of Theology Takes Control of CUA

4 After the Strike: The Embers Smolder 95

5 Institutional Developments at CUA: 1967-1968 111

6 The Campaign to Remove Dean Kevane 127

III The Triumph of Dissent

7 Cardinal O'Boyle Meets with the Dissenting Professors: August 20, 1968 151

8 The Board of Trustees Meeting: September 5, 1968 173

9 The Faculty Board of Inquiry: September 1968-April 1969 183

10 The Response of the CUA Board of Trustees to the Report of the Board of Inquiry: April-June 1969 203

11 The Controversy over the Deanship of the School of Theology: July-August 1969 217

12 The Board of Trustees Capitulates: September - November 1969 227

Conclusion 247


A AAUP Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure (1940) 263

B Land O'Lakes Statement on the Nature of the Contemporary Catholic University (July 23, 1967) 267

C Statement of Dissent (July 30, 1968) 275

D Notes on Possible Courses of Action at CUA (September 4, 1968) 279

E Summary Report of the Faculty Board of Inquiry (April 1, 1969) 287

Bibliography 293

Index 303

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