AUBURN, ALA. -- Auburn University President James Martin said he received "additional information" that caused him to deny tenure to a Roman Catholic theologian at odds with the Vatican, but he refused to provide specifics.

That was not good enough for the school's faculty senate, which asked Martin to elaborate on his decision regarding the Rev. Charles E. Curran or face additional action from the 1,100-member faculty, possibly a censure or no-confidence vote.

"I have lost confidence in Dr. Martin's ability and judgment regarding tenure and promotion decisions," said Jim Hanson, a physics professor.

The faculty senate met for three hours Tuesday to discuss the escalating feud between the professors and Martin over Auburn's tenure-granting process.

Curran taught moral theology as a tenured full professor at the Catholic University of America in Washington until he became the first American barred by Rome from teaching Catholic theology.

Nearly four years ago he was forced from CU's theology faculty, the only one in the United States that has a special relationship with the Vatican.

He has held a variety of teaching posts since then and last spring accepted a one-year appointment at Auburn, where he now teaches in an endowed professorship. The school initially advertised the post as being tenured, and Curran said he learned the job was not tenured only after he already had decided to accept it and had rejected several other offers.

Last spring, Martin overruled two faculty committees that recommended Curran for the tenured position as Goodwin-Philpott Eminent Scholar of Religion. Martin has refused to explain his motive, either publicly or to Curran.

"We made an offer to a man, we made him change his life to come here and we reneged -- and we did it in McCarthyesque fashion," said Barry Burkhart, one of five professors who investigated the president's tenure decision.

Several members of the senate, composed of teachers and some staff members, asked Martin Tuesday to give his reasons for denying Curran tenure.

"I'm not going to discuss a personnel decision in an open forum such as this," Martin said. He would only say that he received "additional information during the negotiating process" that changed his mind.

"If you knew what I knew you would have done the same thing," said Martin.

Martin suggested that the matter be settled by the board of trustees, which has issued a statement backing Martin and denying any involvement in his tenure decision.

University senate chairman Gary Mullen said that proposal drew a cold shoulder -- especially since the panel believes that trustees discussed Curran's status during an April 7 meeting.

"It's totally unacceptable to resolve this issue before a board that not only has been implicated in {Martin's} decision but has no role in the process," Mullen said.

Mullen said he believes that Martin made his tenure decision after Curran inquired about the 1983 censure of Auburn by the American Association of University Professors following another tenure dispute. The AAUP recently censured CU because of its treatment of Curran.

The faculty senate, which considered a resolution that would have asked Martin to reverse his decision, instead requested that he make arrangements by Dec. 7 to meet with the promotion and tenure committee and explain his reasons for denying Curran a permanent position.

If Martin fails to comply with the request, the senate will ask its executive committee to call a meeting of the entire faculty, which could lead to a formal censure or a vote of no confidence.

"We want to give {Martin} every chance to explain to the tenure promotions committee what his reasons were for not granting Dr. Curran tenure," said Miller Soloman, an English professor and former senate chairman.

"I certainly do not think he had good reasons. To put it bluntly, I think he's defending the indefensible."

Curran, 56, did not attend Tuesday's meeting.

"I am not really a player in this anymore," Curran, author of 20 books on Christian ethics and morality, said in an interview last week. "It is all going on around me."

Curran has been involved in disagreements with Rome since the 1960s. He led hundreds of Catholic theologians in opposition to a 1968 Vatican decree against artificial birth control, and he also has criticized some portions of the church's stance against abortion.

When CU's board of trustees voted to deny him tenure in 1967, a week-long protest by faculty and students that shut down the university led to Curran's reinstatement and promotion.

In 1986, the Vatican cited Curran for his disagreements with conservative church doctrine and barred him from teaching Catholic theology. Since then, some 750 Catholic theologians have signed a statement supporting him, and the University of Notre Dame Press still publishes his books.