In A.D. 2011 the Congregation for Catholic Education, at the direction of Pope Benedict XVI, issued its Decree on the Reform of Ecclesiastical Studies of Philosophy. The terms of this Decree apply to schools and departments of theology and philosophy residing in Roman Catholic Universities which are selected by dioceses for the theological formation of presbyteral candidates, diaconal candidates, and lay ministers.
The Decree consists of two parts. The first part is made up of the sixteen paragraphs constituting its new material. The second part consists of those parts of the Apostolic Constitution Sapientia Christiana (A.D. 1979, Pope John Paul II) addressing these same issues and which are, either, retained in whole or are modified in the current Decree.
The purpose of the articles which appear here is to present the parts of this document in sequential order and to offer additional commentary. The articles here will begin with the presentation of the first paragraph of the first part of the Decree. Subsequent articles will present/address the next part of the Decree. Scrolling down through the articles will bring the reader, in reverse order, to all parts of the document already considered.
Decree, Part 1, Paragraph 14:
“A clear distinction should be made between, on the one hand, studies in Ecclesiastical Faculties of Philosophy and, on the other hand, the course of philosophy that forms an integral part of the studies in a Theology Faculty or in a seminary. In an institution which simultaneously has both an Ecclesiastical Faculty of Philosophy and a Faculty of Theology, when the philosophy courses that are part of the five-year first-cycle of theology are taken at the Faculty of Philosophy (according to their specific nature and the existing norms), the authority who makes decisions regarding the programme is the dean of the Faculty of Theology, who will make those decisions in conformity with the law in force, and while favouring close collaboration with the Faculty of Philosophy.
This course in philosophy, being directed towards theological formation and structured according to that need, does not allow the student to obtain a academic degree in philosophy that is canonically valid. Instead, the course concludes with a certificate of the philosophical studies completed, which is devoid of value as an academic degree. The certificate merely attests, in keeping with the new norms, what courses have been attended and what credits have been obtained in the area of philosophical studies.
“ [No Footnotes cited]”
A distinction is made in paragraph 14 between philosophical studies which occur in Ecclesiastical Faculties of Philosophy and programs of philosophy which form part of studies in Theology and/or as part of the seminary formation for priesthood and diaconal preparation. Ecclesiastical Faculties of Philosophy refers to programs of instruction and to the teaching faculties one finds in dedicated Schools (or Departments) of Philosophy at Catholic universities. The course of studies found in these Ecclesiastical Faculties of Philosophy aim at helping the student acquire academic degrees in philosophy.
Programs of philosophy which form a part of the preparation for university instruction in theology and/or as a part of seminary preparation may or may not be degree resulting programs. The focus of this philosophical formation is dedicated to providing the student that philosophical knowledge which helps a student understand theology and helps a student theologize in a competent manner. In previous eras, this philosophical formation was spoken of as “the handmaid of theology” and as philosophia perennis. The word perennis is interesting in this regard because it has two meanings; perennial and unfailing. Such philosophical formation was perennial; that is, the way it (use to) always be done; and which was unfailing in accomplishing its goal of preparing good theologians.
A fuller description of these two philosophical preparation paths will be undertaken in the next paragraph of the Decree.