A Catholic University Theologian, whose own battle for academic freedom 12 years ago precipitated a university-wide strike, has charged that the school again has violated academic freedom by failing to grant tenture to a fellow professor of moral theology.
The Rev. Charles Curran, 45, has raised the issue in the case of the Rev. John Dedek, 49. Dedek has been recommended for tenure by his fellow professors in the School of Religious Studies, by the Academic Senate of the University and by the academic affairs committee of the board of trustees.
But when the full board met on Jan. 27, student and faculty representatives who ordinarily attend board meetings were excluded when the board took up the question of Dedek's tenure. The board again went into executive session on the Dedek matter on Feb. 23, and again did not reach a decision, Curran and Dedek said.
Dedek has publicly questioned orthodox Catholic Church views on such issues as contraception, sterilization and other questions of personal morality. But the question of his tenure has since been mooted by Dedek's decision to withdraw his application and return to the parish ministry.
But according to Curran, who is a past president of both the Catholic Theological Society of America and of the American Society of Christian Ethics, "academic freedom has already been violated."
In a statement scheduled to appear in today's edition of the campus newspaper, Curran charged that minutes of the January meeting indicate the board members were more concerned about Dedek's "orthodoxy" than his fitness as a teacher.
"The trustees violated the fundamental principle of academic freedom which calls for judgment by peers," siad Curran. "Judgments about orthodoxy cannot be made by the trustees and used as the basis of granting or denying promotion or tenure."
Dedek said he has had no confrontation with Church officials over his writings or teaching. Since developments at the school in 1967, when a student-faculty strike forced the trustees to reverse their vote to fire Curran after his faculty colleagues had recommended promoting him, there have been few challenges to academic freedom, even in the highly sensitive area of moral theology.
Curran expressed concern over how the Dedek case would affect the future of the school.
"The Department of Theology now needs to fill five positions," he said. "How will any academic apply for a position in religious studies at this university in the light of what happened to Dedek? Will ways be found to get rid of people with whom some trustees disagree?"
Dr. Edmund D. Pellegrino, who was preparing for his formal installation today as president of the University, could not be reached for comment.