AUBURN, ALA., DEC. 13 -- The Rev. Charles Curran, a controversial Roman Catholic theologian denied tenure by Auburn University's president, said today that he will fill a permanent post at Southern Methodist University next August.

Curran told colleagues and reporters that his treatment at Auburn was a symptom of serious problems at the heart of its power structure.

In 1986, Curran became the only American barred by the Vatican from teaching Catholic theology when he lost his tenured position at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

Auburn President James Martin overruled two university committees when he denied tenure for Curran, but he has refused to explain his decision.

Curran said changes should be made in Auburn's board of trustees, on which 10 members appointed by the governor serve 12-year terms. The four other members are the governor, the state school superintendent and two student representatives. "There should be more members, and the terms should be shorter," Curran said.

At least one trustee, Jack Venable, has acknowledged that some members expressed concern about Curran.

Martin's refusal to explain his decision has raised the ire of the university's Faculty Senate, which is to consider possible action against him Jan. 8.

Leroy Howe, an associate provost at SMU in Dallas, said the university, owned by the United Methodist Church, was happy to have Curran and not concerned about his trouble at Auburn. He is to fill a tenured teaching chair.