The Rev. Dexter L. Hanley, an internationally known Jesuit attorney and educator and former director of Georgetown University's Institute of Law, Human Rights and Social Values, died Thursday at the Community Medical Center in Scranton, Pa., of complications related to cancer. He was 56.

Father Hanley, who retired in 1975, when he first learned he had cancer, served from 1970 until 1975 as president of the University of Scanton.

An expert on labor law and a spokesman on issues involving human rights, Father Hanley served in 1967 as a U.S. Delegate in 1967 to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

In addition to his academic positions, which included teaching posts at Boston College and Georgetown, Father Hanley served on several American Bar Association committees dealing with labor law and arbitration.

In 1968 the Jesuit priest served as a panelist at the National Conference of Continuing Action for Human Rights, sponsored here by the State Department.

A native of Fort Worth, Texas, Father Hanley was the son of the late Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Hanley Jr. (USAF), an aviation pioneer, and moved with his family from post to post and school to school.

He graduated from Georgetown University in 1940, was ordained in 1951 and earned his law degree from Georgetown in 1956. Father Hanley also earned a masters degree in law at Harvard and earned licentiate degrees in philosophy and sacred theology from Woodstock College.

In 1970 and 1971 Father Hanley, then president of Scranton, served on a three-member U.S. Labor Department investigative panel that found the Bethlehem Steel Corp. had engaged in discriminatory practices at its Sparrows Point plant in Baltimore.

Always outspoken, Father Hanley went against the traditional stand of the church and in 1966 testified against federal policy that restricted the distribution of birth control aids and devices to married couples.

Arguing that extramarital and premarital sex are in and of themselves moral evils, Father Hanley argued that a person engaging in such acts had "already made a decision to enter upon an illicit relationship (and) I do not see where the social harms are increased by permitting contraceptive counseling . . .

"Can it be maintained that one has an obligation to procreate when he does not have a right to the performance of the generative act," he asked. "I suggest that the essential moral evil of these situations is the illicit relationship itself, not the contraceptive practice."

Father Hanley served on numerous boards and commissions, including the Commission for Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania, the National Commission for Observance of World Population Year and the National Council for Energy Conservation.

He is survived by his mother, Mrs. Thomas J. Hanley Jr., of San Antonio, Tex.; a brother, Col. Thomas J. Hanley III, (USA-Ret.), of San Antonio; and a sister, Mrs. William R. McAlpine, of Pompano Beach, Fla.