Sources of Contract Law

The court was faced with three potential sources of contract law: District of Columbia common law, canon law, and explicit or implied contractual promises of academic freedom that were judicially enforceable. The court saw its duty not to interpret canon law, which it was forbidden to do by establishment clause principles, but to determine whether the parties had intended to be bound by canon law, a question of fact. The court found that, even though his contract did not explicitly mention canon law or its requirements, Curran knew that ecclesiastical faculties were different from non ecclesiastical faculties, that the Holy See could change the requirements for ecclesiastical faculties, and that the university was obligated to accede to those changes. In fact, the Apostolic Constitution of 1979 required ecclesiastical faculties to have a “canonical mission,” meaning that such faculty were required to teach in the name of the Catholic Church and not to oppose its doctrine. The court noted:

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