Heresy in the Heartland is a narrative case study of the 'Heresy' Affair at the University of Dayton, a series of events predominantly in the philosophy department that occurred when tensions between the Thomists and proponents of new philosophies reached crisis stage in fall 1966. The controversy culminated in a letter written by a lay assistant professor to the Cincinnati archbishop, Karl J. Alter. In the letter, the professor cited a number of instances where "erroneous teachings" were "endorsed" or "openly advocated" by four lay faculty members. Concerned about the pastoral impact on the University of Dayton community, the professor asked the archbishop to conduct an investigation. How the University weathered this controversy, the second of three major controversies to hit Catholic higher education within three years (St. John’s University, University of Dayton and the Curran affair at Catholic University of America), is of interest to faculty and administrators in Catholic higher education who continue to struggle with defining what it means to be a "Catholic" university, with the relationship of Catholic universities to the Church at large and the hierarchy in particular, and with Church teachings that conflict with the culture we live in such as immigration, the environment and sexual ethics.
The story is told in chronological order by the participants in the controversy - faculty, administrators, students and clergy - using the words of those involved. Heresy in the Heartland concludes with a synopsis of what happened at the University of Dayton and draws some lessons for the future of Catholic higher education.
"A solid, well-written, dispassionate study of an issue that played out at other schools as well. As such, Heresy in the Heartland is a contribution to the historical literature on Catholic higher education. Brown's contribution to scholarship is significant."~Timothy Walch, director emeritus of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library
" Heresy in the Heartland should be read by all those involved in Catholic higher education, especially by those people who have not lived through the cultural wars of the 1960s. Mary Jude Brown’s detailed examination of academic controversies (over philosophical pluralism, situation ethics, contraception, and abortion) at the University of Dayton highlights issues of Catholic identity and academic freedom that reflected and influenced American Catholic life in the immediate wake of Vatican II. The challenges to Catholic identity and to the teachings of the Catholic magisterium were not exclusively academic but involved appeals to the local archbishop, the apostolic delegate, and Vatican congregations. The conflicts were reported and analyzed in the national as well as local press. Those controversies, the so-called heresies, need to be re-examined because they still affect American Catholicism."~Patrick Carey, author of An Immigrant Bishop: John England’s Adaptation of Irish Catholicism to American Republicanism
"If ever there was a time when orthodoxy’s limits were tested, it was in the radical, anti-authoritarian environment of the 1960s. Mary Jude Brown explores the context of the little-known heresy affair at the University of Dayton, showing that this contest of religious belief and academic freedom resonates today. Even after fifty years, the questions this book elicit remain exceptionally important in the ongoing battle for the soul of Catholic colleges and universities."~David J. Endres, Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, and Editor, U.S. Catholic Historian