Texas Bishop Chastises Catholic University for Hosting Dissident ‘Theologian’
By Meg Jalsevac
AUSTIN, Texas, October 15, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) - St. Edwards University, a Catholic academic institution in Austin, Texas, has been called to task by its local Catholic bishop for hosting self-proclaimed, ‘Catholic theologian’, Father Charles Curran.
Bishop Gregory Aymond of the Austin diocese has issued a letter to his diocesan priests requesting that they not publicize the lecture that is scheduled to be held Thursday, October 18th at the St. Edward’s campus as part of the Most Reverend Bishop McCarthy Lecture Series.
Father Curran is a Catholic priest who has long been at odds with several of the Church’s fundamental moral teachings. Because of his aggressive and vocal condemnation of the Church’s teachings on matters such as abortion, contraception, and homosexuality, Curran was investigated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. In 1986, at the recommendation of then-Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope John Paul II officially forbad Curran from teaching at any Catholic school and stripped him of the title of ‘Catholic theologian’.
In his letter to his priests, Austin Bishop Aymond expressed his disappointment that a Catholic university would give a platform to such a dissident voice. He said, "I realize that he is still a priest in good standing, but he is not a theologian. Therefore, I believe that it does not foster the Catholic identity of a university to present him as a guest lecturer."
According to the university’s website, Curran’s lecture will "discuss both the achievements of the Second Vatican Council led by Pope John XXIII and the Pope’s openness to the call of the Spirit." The talk is part of a lectures series created to honor the previous bishop of the diocese.
When asked if Bishop Aymond’s condemnation of the lecture would spur St. Edward’s officials to reconsider their invitation to Curran, Director of Communications, Michelle Diaz told LifeSiteNews, "It is certainly better when we can agree with our bishop on what speakers come to St. Edwards. However, we are an academic institution and we feel academic forums are really the life blood of all universities."
Diaz could not comment on Father Curran’s lecture in light of the USCCB 2004 directive for Catholic universities to refuse "awards, honors or platforms" to individuals who openly defy Catholic "fundamental moral principles". He only reiterated that St. Edward’s philosophies strive to foster "an academic dialogue which includes a broad spectrum of viewpoints and we feel that Curran fits in to that broad spectrum and differing opinions that is common in a university setting."
The university’s websites herald’s Father Curran’s achievements with a laundry list of awards and ‘accomplishments’. It states, "His teaching specialties and research interests span the following subjects: fundamental moral theology, social ethics, role of the Church as a moral and political actor in society, and Catholic moral theology."
However, Diaz assured LifeSiteNews that biographical information disseminated to the student body "did in fact identify [Curran] as a ‘dissident theologian’ and did point out that he was removed from the faculty at the Catholic University of America. The information also reviewed why he is seen as controversial."
According to Diaz, retired Bishop John McCarthy, and name-sake of the lecture series, is involved in the speaker selection. While she could not confirm how involved McCarthy is in all other lecturer selections, she stated that it was the retired Bishop who had extended the formal invitation to Curran. "The reason that Father Curran is coming [to St. Edward’s] is because Bishop John McCarthy asked him."
While a representative from the Diocesan office did not return a call before press time, according to an article in the Austin American-Statesman, Bishop Aymond has expressed an interest in collaborating with St. Edward’s official to select future participants for the lecture series.
To respectfully voice concerns regarding Father Curran’s lecture contact:
George E. Martin
President, St. Edward’s University
Chair of the Board of Trustees