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 II: NORMS of the Apostolic Constitution Sapientia christiana
“The parts of the Apostolic Constitution Sapientia christiana which remain unchanged are quoted in italics. Articles 72 a, 81, 82 and 83 are revised as following:
Art. 81 [The Curriculum of Studies in an Ecclesiastical Faculty of Philosophy]
a) the first cycle, basics, in which for three years or six semesters an organic exposition of the various parts of philosophy is imparted, which includes treating the world, man, and God. It also includes the history of philosophy, together with an introduction into the method of scientific research;
b) the second cycle, the beginning of specialization, in which for two years or four semesters through special disciplines and seminars a more profound consideration is imparted in some sector of philosophy;
c) the third cycle, in which, for a period of at least three years, philosophical maturity is promoted, especially by means of writing a doctoral dissertation.”
To be properly prepared for the study of theology, leading to the performance of ministries such as a catechist or homilist or pastoral minister or liturgist, one requires a number of years of systematic study of philosophy in a credentialed Roman Catholic department or school of philosophy. It is not necessary that the candidate for Roman Catholic ministry attain a graduate degree in philosophy. It may not be necessary for this candidate to attain an undergraduate degree in philosophy, as long as the course of philosophical study indicated is carried out and attained. This basic level of sound instruction in philosophy allows the possessor to be aware of the philosophical contents and ramifications found in her/his catechesis, homilies/sermons, pastoral counseling and guidance, and in the selected liturgical content found in music and ritual. This basic level of philosophy also helps the possessor avoid egregious errors of logic, consistently utilize dialogical courtesy, and identify and abstain from the use of rhetoric(al manipulations) in her/his professional speech and writing.
Attaining a Roman Catholic master’s degree allows one the ability to guide a dialogical community through the reading and discussion of philosophical texts. Similarly, the possession of the skills associated with attaining this degree allows one the ability to help an intended audience understand the philosophical elements of any text (for instance, a theological text) or of any discussion (for instance, a discussion of an issue of science or politics). The holder of the master’s degree in philosophy will have obtained an ability to guide others in a dialogical investigation of philosophical issues.
Attaining a Roman Catholic doctoral degree allows one the ability to evaluate philosophical texts and issues, comment about the meaning and value of philosophical texts and issues, and to formulate philosophical theories of one’s own. These skills are attained as a result of the additional years one spends studying philosophy, by being guided through the process of writing a doctoral thesis, and by additional exposure to the best teachers of philosophy.