Father Charles E. Curran, who has taken visiting professorships at three secular universities since leaving the Catholic University of America in an academic freedom dispute in 1988, has found a haven at a leading United Methodist school.
The controversial theologian will become the Elizabeth Scurlock University Professor of Human Values at Southern Methodist University in Dallas next fall.
The announcement was made this week, only days after the faculty tenure committee at Auburn University in Alabama, after months of controversy, accepted President James E. Martin's decision last spring to withdraw the offer to Curran of a tenured post.
No reason was given for the Auburn decision other than to state that it had nothing to do with the priest's scholarship or character. Curran will continue teaching and research work at Auburn through spring quarter.
In announcing Curran's appointment, SMU Provost Ruth P. Morgan said, "In the community of Roman Catholic theological scholars, Prof. Charles Curran enjoys widespread respect as an outstanding researcher, writer and teacher, whose contributions are squarely within the mainstream of contemporary moral theology. His teaching will complement the work of other ethicists at SMU and will heighten our ecumenical vision of the role of scholarship in the pursuit of a more values-oriented society."
In accepting, Curran said the SMU post was attractive for many reasons. "To bring ethical perspectives from the vantage point of Christian values into dialogue with all parts of the university fits in very well with my own academic agenda in Christian ethics and my attempt to keep the tradition of Catholic moral theology a living tradition."
After years of clashes with Catholic Church officials, primarily over issues in sexual ethics, the Vatican barred Curran in 1986 from teaching at the papal-affiliated theology department at the Catholic University in Washington. He left the school two years later, after losing a legal battle to try to retain the post on academic freedom grounds.
Curran, who in June ended a two-year stint at USC, is a past president of the American Theological Society, the Catholic Theological Society of America and the Society of Christian Ethics. He is the author of 21 books in the field of moral theology.