The Catholic University of America

James H. Provost

An inventory of the James H. Provost Papers at The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives


Contact Information:

Mailing Address: The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. 20064

Telephone: 202-319-5065

Email: lib-archives@cua.edu

URL: http://archives.lib.cua.edu/

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Descriptive Summary

Repository: The Catholic University of America, The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives
Creator: James Harrison Provost, 1939-2000
Title: The James H. Provost Papers
Dates: 1965-2000
Extent: 5 linear feet; 5 boxes
Abstract: The James H. Provost papers document his prolific life as a priest of the Diocese of Helena, a world renowned canonist, and professor at The Catholic University of America. Contained within this collection are multiple papers and correspondence regarding his controversial battle for tenure which stretched for more than two years, newspaper articles and papers in which he appears, documents and publications from synods and committees, and personal items.
Collection Number: 328
Language: English, Latin, French, German, Spanish, and Italian

Biographical Note

Born on October 15, 1939 in Washington, D.C., Father James Harrison Provost was an internationally renowned canonist and professor. After completing undergraduate studies at Carroll College in Helena, Montana receiving degrees in philosophy and mathematics, Provost went on to pursue theological studies at The Catholic University of Louvain where he was ordained a priest in 1963 and earned his S.T.B. and M.A. degrees. In 1967, Provost received his doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome graduating summa cum laude. Upon his return to the United States, he served as chancellor and officialis for the Diocese of Helena from 1967 until 1979 when he joined the faculty of canon law at The Catholic University of America. Throughout his service to the Church, Rev. Provost was an active member of the Canon Law Society of America (CLSA) of which he served as president from 1977 to 1978 and as executive coordinator from 1980 to 1986. He also participated in many committees and synods regarding church issues. While on the faculty of canon law at CUA, Provost served as managing editor for The Jurist, the only journal published in the United States dedicated to the study and promotion of canon law, from 1980 until his untimely death on August 26, 2000. Provost had been struggling with Crohns' disease and died at a local hospital after suffering from a respiratory arrest.

Provost studied Church law during an exciting time for canonists as Pope John XXIII called for the Code of Canon Law to be updated. Canonists had to undertake a new task: consider what the law of the Church might and should be instead of simply interpreting the law. Because Provost "had the great and rare fortune to become a canonist at a time when Church law was undergoing renewal and reform," he not only interpreted the law but always considered what Church law should be. During his more than thirty-five years of writing, Provost addressed numerous difficult questions from abortion to the role of the laity and even to the reorganization of the Roman Curia.

While he proved to be a prolific writer and an expert on Church law, Provost's writings were called into question during his two-year long battle for tenure at the Vatican chartered Catholic University of America. Under university bylaws, a teacher must be granted tenure within seven years or leave the school. In addition, if the candidate is a member of an ecclesiastical faculty, namely that of philosophy, canon law, and theology, he or she must be granted a nihil obstat (no objection) from the episcopal members of the CUA Board of Trustees. Deviating from the established procedures, Archbishop of Washington and therefore CUA Chancellor ex officio James A. Hickey sent Provost's application to the Vatican's Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education. A year later, the Vatican returned the tenure review to the episcopal members of the CUA Board of Trustees without recommendation but did raise some issues regarding Provost's ecclesiology. In published works, Provost has asserted that the Catholic Church "discriminates" against women since they cannot enter the priesthood. In addition, Vatican officials questioned his writings regarding the role of the laity in the Church, the issue of First Penance before First Communion, the "death of marriage" concept, the "internal forum solution" in regards to divorced and remarried Catholics, the use of dispensed priests under the 1971 norms, and the role of dissent in the Catholic Church. Despite receiving a unanimous vote of approval from each evaluating bodies in the Department of Canon Law, in the School of Religious Studies, and in the University, Provost was denied the nihil obstat on June 2, 1986.

Following a proposal submitted by the Committee on Appointments and Promotions of the School of Religious Studies, Father Provost and Archbishop Hickey released a joint statement on August 26, 1986. According to the statement, the nihil obstat "does not mean that the bishops of the Board of Trustees necessarily agree with all the expressed canonical opinions of [Rev. Provost]." Provost also agreed to publish clarifying articles and revise some of his writings since "his published opinions may need to be changed upon further study." Shortly after the statement was released, the episcopal members of the Board of Trustees reversed its previous decision and granted the nihil obstat. On August 28, the full board approved the conferral of continuous tenure upon Fr. Provost by mail ballot. The Provost case contrasted sharply with that of Charles E. Curran, another member of the Catholic University theology faculty who refused to retract certain statements he had made regarding sexual morality. However, in a self-proposed compromise, Father Curran agreed to stop teaching sexual ethics at the university.

The following year after Provost was granted tenure, he was named chairman of the university's canon law department. He continued to teach at CUA until 1999, completing 20 years of service to the Church and school.

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Scope and Contents

The James H. Provost Papers, divided into 4 series, documents the life of a renowned canonist and professor who faithfully served the Church until his untimely death at age 60 in 2000. Focusing on his controversial battle for tenure at The Catholic University of America, the papers also give insight into the important work Provost undertook regarding the interpretation and execution of Church law. The collection is subdivided into 4 series.

The first series, The Tenure Review Files, which documents Provost's two-year long controversial battle for tenure is divided into 3 subseries. Subseries 1, publications, contains two bound volumes of Reverend Provost's writings compiled for his tenure review process. The volumes contain 35 publications divided into 6 topics: Church governance issues, rights in the Church, the teaching office of the Church, canon law issues in ministry, the canon law on selected sacraments, and revision of the Code of Canon Law. Subseries 2, subject files, contains numerous files regarding the tenure review process from the Vatican, the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, the School of Religious Studies Committee on Academic Freedom, the School for Religious Studies Committee of Appointments and Promotions, and The Catholic University of America Board of Trustees. Found here are also the dubia and pro memoria from the Vatican detailing its objections to Provost's ecclesiology and a chronology of the tenure process put together by Provost. Subseries 3, correspondence, is organized by person and contains correspondence between Provost and University and Church officials, allowing a glimpse into the intricacies of the process.

The second series, Newspaper Articles and Press Releases, is arranged alphabetically by topic and contains several articles and press releases in which Provost appears regarding several Church issues. Journalist often sought the expertise of Reverend Provost on issues that ranged from abortion to theological dissent within the Church. Contained in this series are also news articles relating to his tenure battle and his death on August 26, 2000.

The third series, Synod and Committee Files, is arranged alphabetically by subject and contains several materials regarding synods and committees in which Provost participated. Spanning almost 30 years, these files reflect the issues the Church faced and documents her response. Found in this series are several documents from the Canon Law Society of America including the "Task Force Critiques of the Initial Schemata for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law." Symposium and committee topics range from marriage, the domestic Church, episcopal education, and Catholic education.

The fourth series, Family and Personal Items, contains 6 personal items of Provost giving an insight into his private life. Found in this series is his doctoral diploma from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome from which he graduated summa cum laude and awards given to him by the Canon Law Society of America. There is also a photo album which contains several color and black and white prints from 1965-1992 and a folder containing genealogical materials on the Provost family. One item of interest in this series is a contract with himself, allowing an insight into how Provost wanted to live his personal life.

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Arrangement

The James H. Provost Papers consist of 4 series:





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Restrictions

Restrictions on Access

A 50-year restriction from the date of creation has been placed on Series 1: Tenure Review Files with the exception of Subseries 1.1: Publications. Please contact the Archives for more information.

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Administrative Information

Acquisition Information

The collection was donated to the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives by multiple donors. In 2009, certain items were donated by Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak and the CUA Public Affairs Office. In 2012, certain items were donated by The John K. Mullen of Denver Memorial Library and the CUA School of Canon Law.

Processing Information

Processing completed in 2016 by Emmanuel A. Montesa. EAD markup completed in 2016 by Emmanuel A. Montesa.

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Related Material

James Parker Papers

Joseph A. Komonchak Papers

Msgr. Frederick R. McManus Papers

University of Notre Dame Archives: Canon Law Society of America Records

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Index Terms

This record series is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.


Persons:
Archbishop James A. Hickey
Father Charles E. Curran
Reverend Carl J. Peter
Reverend James H. Provost
Reverend Joseph A. Komonchak
Reverend William Cenkner, O.P.

Organizations:
The Archdiocese of Washington
The Canon Law Society of America
The Catholic University of America
The Diocese of Helena
The Jurist
The Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education

Places:
Helena, Montana
Rome, Italy
Washington, D.C.

Subjects:
Academic Freedom
Canon Law
Catholic Education
Controversy
Tenure


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Bibliography

Feinberg, Lawrence. "Priest Revises Writings, Wins Tenure." The Washington Post (Washington, D.C.), Aug. 29, 1986.

Green, Thomas J. "James H. Provost: From Life to Law." The Jurist 62 (2002): 1-2.

Hickey, James A., and James H. Provost. Statement of Archbishop Hickey and Father James Provost, August 26, 1986. Letter. From The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives. The James H. Provost Papers.

Hyer, Marjorie. "Third Professor at CU Under Vatican Scrutiny: Canon Law Teacher Questioned on Doctrine." The Washington Post (Washington, D.C.), Jul. 1, 1986.

Komonchak, Joseph A. "Canon Law in the Service of Communion: The Example of James H. Provost." The Jurist 63 (2003): 1-21.

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Detailed Description of the Collection

                       
Series 1: Tenure Review Files, 1982-1986 (Box 1-3)
Provost's two-year long controversial battle for tenure is well-recorded. Contained in this series are two bound collections of his publications compiled for his CUA tenure review. There are also many papers, notes, and memos from the Vatican and various committees regarding the tenure review process. Lastly, contained are the numerous correspondences between Provost and religious and school officials.
Subseries 1.1: Publications, 1982-1991, (Box 1)
 
Box Folder
1 1 Publications of James H. Provost: Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of Requirements for Promotion of Professor Volume 1, 1982-1991
  2 Publications of James H. Provost: Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of Requirements for Promotion of Professor Volume 2, 1982-1990
Subseries 1.2: Subject Files, 1982-1986, (Box 1-2) RESTRICTED
Box Folder
1 3 Animadversiones, 1986
  4 Appraisals Regarding Provost, 1984
  5 Canonical Statues, 1982
  6 Chronology-Provost Tenure Review Process, 1984-1986
  7 Comments on June 28, 1986 Statement, 1986
  8 Comments on Refusal of Nihil Obstat, 1986
  9 Committee of Appointments and Promotions of SRS, 1985-1986
  10 Committee of the Episcopal Members of the Board of Trustees, 1985-1986
Box Folder
2 1 Joint Statement by Hickey and Provost, 1986
  2 Memoranda, 1985-1986
  3 Personal Letter to Mother, 1986
  4 Pro Memoria-Provost, 1985
  5 Proposed Dubia-Provost, 1985
  6 Provost Handwritten Notes, ca. 1984-1986
  7 Provost Tenure Review Documents, 1984
  8 Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, 1981
  9 SRS Committee on Academic Freedom: Correspondence, 1985-1986
  10 SRS Committee on Academic Freedom: Letter to Dean, 1985
  11 SRS Committee on Academic Freedom: Personal Meeting Notes, 1985-1986
  12 Statement on Charles E. Curran, ca. 1986
  13 Substantive Issues Raised, 1986
Subseries 1.3: Correspondence, 1984-1986, (Box 2-3) RESTRICTED
 
Box Folder
2 14 Correspondence: Byron, Rev. William, S.J., 1985-1986
  15 Correspondence: Cenkner, Rev. William, O.P., 1985-1986
  16 Correspondence: CUA Board of Trustees, 1985-1986
  17 Correspondence: Frankino, Stephen P., 1986
  18 Correspondence: Green, Rev. Thomas, 1984-1986
  19 Correspondence: Hickey, Most Rev. James A., 1985
  20 Correspondence: Hickey, Most Rev. James A., 1986
  21 Correspondence: Kennedy, Robert T., 1985-1986
  22 Correspondence: Komonchak, Rev. Joseph A., 1985-1986
Box Folder
3 1 Correspondence: Letters in Support of Provost, 1984-1986
  2 Correspondence: McManus, Frederick R., 1984-1985
  3 Correspondence: Peter, Rev. Carl J., 1984-1986
  4 Correspondence: Waldschmidt, Rev. Paul E., 1985
                       
Series 2: Newspaper Articles and Press Releases, 1985-2000 (Box 3)
As an internationally recognize export in Church law, Provost was often consulted for his expertise. Contained in this series are several newspaper articles and press releases regarding Church issues in which he appears.
Box Folder
3 5 Newspaper Articles: Abortion, 1990-1992
  6 Newspaper Articles: Annulment of Marriage, 1997
  7 Newspaper Articles: Canon Law Regarding "Papal Succession", 2000
  8 Newspaper Articles: Death of Provost, 2000
  9 Newspaper Articles: James H. Provost Miscellaneous, 1987-1998
  10 Newspaper Articles: Mandatum, 2000
  11 Newspaper Articles: Married Priests, 1997
  12 Newspaper Articles: Miscellaneous Topics, 1993-2000
  13 Newspaper Articles: Pastoral Preaching, 1997
  14 Newspaper Articles: Provost Tenure, 1985-1986
  15 Newspaper Articles: Theological Dissent and "Ad Tuendam Fidem", 1998
  16 Newspaper Articles: Vatican Organization, 1996
                       
Series 3: Synod and Committee Files, 1970-2000 (Box 3-4)
Throughout his service to the Church, Provost was an active member of the Canon Law Society of America (CLSA) and also participated in many committees and synods regarding church issues from the domestic Church to the role of laity in the Church. Contained in this series are numerous papers and publications from these synods and committees.
Box Folder
3 17 1988 Synod of the Helena Diocese: Correspondence, 1987-1988
  18 1988 Synod of the Helena Diocese: Miscellaneous Files
  19 1988 Synod of the Helena Diocese: Synod Papers
Box Folder
4 1 Ad Hoc Committee on the Domestic Church-Nash, 1993
  2 Baltimore Province Tribunal Meeting-May 24, 2000
  3 Biographical Form-Provost, 1980, 1983
  4 "Certification of Religion Teachers" by Galetto, n.d.
  5 Correspondence: Miscellaneous, 1995-1996
  6 Correspondence: Smith, Anne, 1996-1997
  7 Curriculum Vitae-Provost, 1993
  8 CLSA Symposium on Laity in Church Law (#1 of 2), 1987
  9 CLSA Symposium on Laity in Church Law (#2 of 2), 1987
  10 CUA Dual Degree Program in Canon Law and Civil Law, 1990-1995
  11 Diocesan Policies on Marriage Preparation (#1 of 2), 1970-1981
  12 Diocesan Policies on Marriage Preparation (#2 of 2), 1970-1981
  13 "Emerging Governance Models for Catholic Schools" by Sheehan, 1997
  14 Episcopal Conference Symposium, 1988
  15 International Meeting of the Deans of Canon Law (#1 of 2), 1998
  16 International Meeting of the Deans of Canon Law 1998 (#2 of 2), 1998
  17 "Mixed Messages Revisited: Views of Bishops and Priests Concerning Catholic School" by Convey, 1997
  18 NCCB Committee on the Parish: The Diocese in Service to Parish Renewal, 1981
  19 NCCB Committee on the Parish: The Parish Project, 1980
  20 Report: Having Conferences, Changing Education, 1972
  21 Report to the Finance Committee of the Board of Trustees, 1977-1982
  22 Presbyterial Council Info for Parishes-Midwest (#1 of 2), 1987
  23 Presbyterial Council Info for Parishes-Midwest (#2 of 2), 1987
  24 Presbyterial Council Info for Parishes-Northeast, 1987
  25 Presbyterial Council Info for Parishes-South, 1987
  26 Presbyterial Council Info for Parishes-West, 1987
  27 "Sponsorship of Catholic Schools: Preserving the Tradition" by Mueller, 1997
  28 Visits to the Roman Curia by CSLA Officials 1984, 1986, 1988
  29 Visits to the Roman Curia by CSLA Officials, 1984-1990
  30 CLSA Task Force Critiques of the Initial Schemata for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law, 1979
                       
Series 4: Family and Personal Items, ca. 1965-1992, n.d. (Box 5)
This series allows a rare glimpse into the private life of Provost. Contained in this series are items regarding his personal life from a binder containing genealogical material on the Provost Family to the doctoral diploma he received from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.
Box Folder
5 1 Role of Law Award Presented to James H. Provost by The Canon Law Society of America, 1991
  2 Resolution of Appreciation passed by The Canon Law Society of America, 1986
  3 Doctoral Diploma in Canon Law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, 1967
  4 Photo album with several photographs, ca. 1965-1992
  5 Contract with himself from the North Central Career Development Center, 1975
  6 Folder containing genealogical materials, including photographs, on the Provost Family, n.d.

TABLE OF CONTENTS


Descriptive Summary

Biographical Note

Scope and Contents

Arrangement

Restrictions

Administrative Information

Related Material

Index Terms

Bibliography

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Tenure Review Files, 1982-1986

Series 2: Newspaper Articles and Press Releases, 1985-2000

Series 3: Synod and Committee Files, 1970-2000

Series 4: Family and Personal Items, ca. 1967-1992

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