Curran v. Catholic University of America

Civ. Action No. 1562-87 (1989)

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Curran v. Catholic University of America

District of Columbia Superior Court
Civ. Action No. 1562-87 (1989)

Facts

Curran (plaintiff) became a tenured professor of Catholic theology at the Catholic University of America (defendant) in 1970. The university held a special relationship with the Catholic Church and the Holy See, the governing entity of the Catholic Church, and was bound by canon law and Church doctrine. The university was governed by the Apostolic Constitution and Canonical Statutes and was authorized by the Holy See to confer ecclesiastical degrees. In 1986, Curran was notified by letter from the Holy See that he was no longer suitable or eligible to teach Catholic theology due to his vocal opposition to Church doctrine with regard to sexual ethics and birth control. The university’s Board of Trustees withdrew Curran’s canonical mission, which was an ecclesiastical license required by canon law to teach in the Department of theology, and Curran was barred from teaching Catholic theology anywhere within the university. Curran retained tenure at the university, but because Catholic theology was the only course in which he was competent to teach, Curran was essentially barred from teaching. Curran filed a lawsuit against the university, alleging that the university breached its contract with Curran by violating his right to academic freedom.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Weisberg, J.)

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