Monday, August 29, 2016

The Coup at Catholic University (Ignatius Press)

The Coup at Catholic University begins by telling the story of the dismissal of an associate professor named Fr. Charles Curran in 1967. The university said that instead of calling it a dismissal, that anyone asked should refer to it as choosing not to renew a contract of a non-tenured professor. This logic did not set well with Fr. Curran, and he did not take his dismissal lightly, calling it unfair and threatening to take it to the media. The media did get hold of the story and protests and strikes occurred. Eventually, after much deliberation and meetings, the bishops, not only reinstated Fr. Curran, but gave him a promotion that came with tenure.

On its surface, this seems like a David and Goliath story of a young priest battling a large university and winning. In reality, Fr. Curran was a liberal priest teaching sexual morality that conflicted with the Church's teachings during the sexual revolution. So what we have was a Catholic university trying to retain its orthodoxy, and instead caving in to pressure and losing any authority it had left. In 1968, Fr. Curran and 500 other theologians signed a "statement of dissent" saying that they did not have to follow Humanae Vitae and that artificial contraception is not morally wrong. It took until 1986 and Pope John Paul II to declare Fr. Curran ineligible to teach at Catholic University of America. The remainder of the book follows the negative consequences of these actions and the rippling effect it had not only on its campus, but on other Catholic campuses across the United States, because it dealt primarily with where control of the university rested.

Within this book, the author, Fr. Peter Mitchell, draws on a great deal of primary sources to tell the real story of what happened, as not the liberally slanted version of the story that has been spread. This is always appreciated and makes you trust the author more than if he had just went to secondary or tertiary sources. A lot of people have said they found this book easy to read. I, however, struggled through it a bit as it is 300+ pages of history, and history was never my strongest subject in school. Nonetheless, it is a fascinating read and one you should pick up if you have an interest in Catholic education or Catholic American History.

This book was provided to me for free by Carmel Communications in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!