The Catholic University of America

Archived June 2006

Policy on Academic Freedom

The Catholic University of America affirms its commitment to academic freedom. In so doing, it reaffirms its commitment to the tradition of higher learning that is the heritage of both the Roman Catholic Church and the nation. It is a tradition grounded on respect for truth, social responsibility and individual rights. It is a tradition that posits freedom of inquiry, open discussion and unrestricted exchange of ideas as essential to the pursuit of knowledge.

In the tradition of American universities and in accord with Catholic teaching, The Catholic University of America upholds academic freedom as a fundamental condition for research and dissemination of information. The university is a center of discourse where inquiry is encouraged and discoveries are verified and refined by the interaction of scholar with scholar. The Catholic University of America respects the right and responsibility of its faculty and students to conduct research, to publish their findings, and to discuss ideas according to the principles, sources and methods of their academic disciplines.

These principles, sources and methods, as they develop over time, are not external to their respective disciplines. The university sanctions and encourages investigation of unexplored phenomena, advancement of knowledge, and critical examination of ideas, old and new. The university accepts the responsibility of protecting both teacher and student from being forced to deny truth that has been discovered or to assert claims that have not been established in the discipline.

Where the faculty is concerned, academic freedom presupposes, first of all, personal integrity in dealing with students, peers and officers of the university. Second, it presumes scholarly competence, observance of the professional standards of one's discipline, commitment to the stated mission of the university, and an openness to having one's ideas and findings subjected to the judgment of one's peers. Third, faculty members have a responsibility as professional scholars to be accurate and judicious in their public statements, and respectful of the opinions and responsibilities of others.

The Catholic University of America, from its establishment, has voluntarily embraced a special relationship with the Church. This relationship, with the mutual responsibilities involved, has been made an internal and constitutive part of its mission. Accordingly, priority is given to the study of Catholic theology and related disciplines. In the tradition of the Church, theology serves the Christian community by seeking to express the abiding truth of Christ in human terms and, thereby, to mediate between faith and culture. Theology contributes to an understanding of faith and becomes a means of communicating the Church's teachings to the community of believers and to society at large.

As an academic discipline, Catholic theology is the systematic reflection on the data of revelation expressed in Sacred Scriptures and Tradition as proclaimed, preserved and interpreted by the magisterium of the Church, and received by faith. The teachings of the magisterium are a necessary factor in ascertaining truth in the discipline of Catholic theology. The Catholic University of America affirms its commitment to safeguard the freedom that is necessary if theologians are to pursue the disciplined study of Christian faith in the Catholic tradition according to rigorous standards of scientific investigation. The university recognizes that scholars use diverse methods and sources to explicate the original deposit of faith and to discern patterns of doctrinal development over the centuries. The university also recognizes that freedom of inquiry, thought and expression is requisite to the advancement of knowledge and to the deepening of understanding in matters of faith.

As in the case of all other faculty members, the academic freedom of those engaged in theological disciplines presupposes personal integrity, scholarly competence, commitment to the mission of the university, observance of professional standards and openness to criticism from one's peers. In addition, Catholic theology acknowledges the singular responsibility of the Church's magisterium to safeguard the integrity of the Christian message, and to protect the faithful from erroneous teachings in faith and morals. Although the roles and responsibilities of theologians differ from those of bishops, theologians share a common goal with the magisterium in their service to the ecclesial community. Catholic theologians are expected to give assent to the teachings of the magisterium in keeping with the various degrees of assent that are called for by authoritative teaching. Differences arising over the interpretation and presentation of Church teaching are resolved through dialogue of scholars with members of the magisterium, with due recognition that final authority in matters of faith and morals lies with the magisterium. Such dialogue is carried on in accordance with established procedures in a spirit of Christian charity and mutual, professional respect.

The Faculty Handbook outlines the norms and procedures relating the academic freedom with regard to initial appointment, tenured appointment and, where cause has been established, the dismissal of faculty members. In addition, Canonical Statutes govern appointments in the Ecclesiastical Faculties. These documents embody the institution's guarantees that its faculty enjoys the freedom of academic inquiry and expression that is central to its identity as a university authentically Catholic and distinctively American.

Revised and approved by the Academic Senate: January 17, 1991

Revised by the Joint Board-Senate Task Force: January 22, 1991

Revised and approved by the Academic Senate: February 28, 1991

Revised and approved by the Joint Board-Senate Task Force: March 23, 1991

Approved by the Academic Senate: March 28, 1991

Approved by the Board of Trustees: June 4, 1991