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 APPLICATION [Ordinationes; Articles 51, 52, 52 bis, 59, 60, 61, 62, 62 bis, 65. 66]
“In the five-year basic cycle, diligent care must be exercised that all the disciplines are taught with order, fullness, and with correct method, so that the student receives harmoniously and effectively a solid, organic, and complete basic instruction in theology, which will enable him either to go on to the next cycle’s higher studies or to exercise some office in the Church.”
A systematic, complete, and correct instruction in theology includes the following elements.
Ecclesiology; the study of the history of the Church.
Scriptural Theology; the study of the New and Old Testaments.
Canon Law; the study of the law, customs, mores, rules, norms of the Church.
Soteriology; the study of the theology of salvation. This includes the study of what is found on the topic of salvation within the writings of the sacred scriptures, the study of what is found on this topic within the official writings of the Church, and speculative thought about the topics how we are saved by the paschal mystery of Jesus and how we participate in that salvation already obtained for us.
Parousialogy and Eschatology; the study of the second coming of Christ and the study of the end times of human existence within the created universe; as these topics are presented and dealt with within sacred scriptures, official Church teaching, and speculative theology.
Pastoral theology; the study of the theological framework supporting and directing pastoral activity. This may include or may serve as a preparation for practical experiential training in pastoral ministry.
Liturgical theology; the study of the worship of the Church with a primary focus on its rituals and worship activities. This includes a special focus on the wording and meaning of the texts used in worship and rituals. This also includes a study of the various music forms utilized by the Church.
Sacramental theology; a special focus on the scriptural basis of the sacramental rituals of the Church, on the official teachings of the Church, and on the use of speculative theology to understand and present the meaning of the sacraments.
Homiletics; instruction and practice in preparing and presenting homilies. Sometimes this activity is referred to as preaching. When referred to as preaching, it often happens that the activity is referred to as sermons. However, there is an important difference between a sermon and a homily. Simply put, the preacher of the sermon selects a worship text and then creates a sermon around the content of that chosen text. The homilist is presented and required to focus his homilizing on the content of the texts provided him by the official lectionary of reading of the Church for the given day on which he gives his homily. The homily also is to apply the teaching of the biblical readings used in the ritual to the lived lives of those who are the hearers of the homily.
Christology; the study of the manner in which Jesus the Christ is presented in the Sacred Scriptures and in the official writings of the Church, and how these presentations are to be understood. This study also includes the use of speculative theology to explore ramifications and deeper pastoral insights which are present but not yet seen in these writings.
Pneumatology; the study of the reality and meaning of the Holy Spirit. To this end, texts about the Holy Spirit are obtained from both Sacred Scripture and the official teachings of the Church.
Moral Theology; the study of Christian morality.
Theological anthropology; the study of the reality of human kind as presented within the writings of the Sacred Scriptures and the official teachings of the Church. Speculative theology is used to explore the meaning of the human person as presented in these teachings and to discover and reveal deeper aspects of human nature and human society which are present in those writings but which not yet be fully understood or apparent.
Prolegomena; a study of the first principles upon which a sound theology is built. This prolegomena includes the methods of the various theologies, the use of logic and dialogue, categorization and phenomenological perception. This also includes basic principles about the nature of theological subjects.
Theology (proper); an introduction to the basic vocabulary of theology and the meaning of the terms which are used.
There may also be specific focus or even specific courses on Mariology (the study of Mary), Prayer, Angelology (the study of angels), catechetics (instruction as to how to proper teach others about the faith), parish management, natural theology (what can be known about God from the study of created reality), reformation theology (study of the history of the development of the non-Catholic Christian communities and a study of their doctrines), ecumenical theology (study of the history and current efforts to re-unify Christian faith communities).