WASHINGTON — Dissenting theologian Charles Curran said Monday that he is suing Catholic University of America, seeking a civil court order halting his suspension from the Roman Catholic school.
Curran's difficulties with the university stem from a deep and long-running disagreement with the Vatican concerning his views--considered too liberal by church authorities--on birth control, abortion, divorce, homosexuality and other issues of sexual ethics.
Cites Civil Contract
However, the theology professor said in an interview that he is not asking the District of Columbia Superior Court to become involved in church matters but only to rule on his contention that the university breached his civil teaching contract in suspending him in January.
University spokeswoman Anne Smith said Monday that officials would have no comment on the litigation, filed late Friday, in which Curran seeks a permanent injunction against the school's action.
Vatican officials said last August, in a statement approved by Pope John Paul II, that Curran's refusal to recant his positions on sexual matters meant he was no longer "suitable nor eligible" to teach as a Catholic theologian.
Removal of License
The Vatican officials asked Archbishop James Hickey of Washington, the university's chancellor, to begin proceedings for formal removal of Curran's "canonical mission," or theologian's license to teach in the name of the church.
When the school's spring semester began in January, Hickey suspended Curran from teaching his usual three advanced courses, saying that "it would be intolerable" to allow him to teach under the circumstances.
Curran's argument in his Superior Court suit is that, even if university rules requiring a canonical mission for teaching in certain Vatican-sanctioned programs are valid--which he does not concede--his tenured contract protects his right to teach courses outside such programs.