Decree on the Reform of Ecclesiastical Studies in Philosophy (Part II, Ordinationes; Article 52 bis)

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]

“Art. 52 bis [Qualifications of the Professors of Philosophy in a Faculty of Theology]

“The number of professors who teach philosophy must be at least three, who have the required degrees in philosophy (q.v. Ord., Art. 17 e 61, b). They must be dedicated full-time to the teaching of philosophy and to research in that field.”

 

Commentary:

Those who teach philosophy to future presbyteral, diaconal, and lay ministers in the Church must be proficient in philosophy.  To this end, these professors of philosophical instruction must have the skill set constitutive to excellent philosophical instruction.  This skill set includes those post-graduate degrees in philosophy aimed at teaching philosophy and doing philosophical research, and experience and aptitude in providing philosophical instruction.

What is to be avoided is the ministerial formation equivalent of the high school hiring of a coach who also possesses the minimum skill and credentialing to teach a subject area or vice-versa.  Those who teach philosophy must understand clearly what philosophy is, must have experience in having received excellent philosophical instruction, must have an aptitude for teaching philosophy, must enjoy teaching philosophy, and must be enabled to focus on teaching philosophy in the given institution of ministerial formation which employs them.

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Decree on the Reform of Ecclesiastical Studies in Philosophy (Part II, Ordinationes; Article 52)

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]

“Art. 52

“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.”

 

Commentary:

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).

Decree on the Reform of Ecclesiastical Studies in Philosophy (Part II, Christiana Sapientia; Article 83)

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. 83 [Diplomas Required of the Students]

“To enroll in the first cycle of a Faculty of Philosophy, the student must have done the previous studies called for in accordance with Article 32 of the Constitution.

If a student, who has successfully completed the regular philosophy courses in the first cycle of a Theology Faculty, wants to continue philosophical studies in order to obtain the Baccalaureate in an Ecclesiastical Faculty of Philosophy, due account must be taken of the courses that the student has attended during the aforementioned studies.”

[Sapientia christiana; Article 32.  n. 1. To enroll in a Faculty in order to obtain an academic degree, one must present that kind of study title which would be necessary to permit enrollment in a civil university of one’s own country or of the country where the Faculty is located.  n. 2. The Faculty, in its own Statutes, should determine what, besides what is contained in n. 1 above, is needed for entrance into its course of study, including ancient and modern language requirements.]

 

Commentary:

Up into the A.D. 1970s, the education of many future priests began in high school seminaries.  This four years of secondary preparation was followed by three to four years of undergraduate college in which seminarians were exposed to a great deal of philosophy.  After this the diaconal/presbyteral candidates received four years of theological education.  During these twelve years of preparation the future priest, or deacon could expect to receive formal education in at least two  and perhaps three classical languages (Latin, Greek, Hebrew) and in two or more modern european languages (French, German, Spanish or Italian).  S/he who entered into the same undergraduate (philosophy) and graduate (theology) tracks, with the intent of becoming a lay minister, would also have to demonstrate proficiency in a number of these classical and modern languages.

One reason for these requirements was that a great deal of that philosophy and theology taught in Roman Catholic universities is obtained through a dialogical investigation of primary source texts.  Many of these primary source texts were written in one of these classical or modern languages.  Though good translations of most of these can be found in the vernacular (i.e. English, in English speaking countries) there are times that a translation cannot capture subtle nuances of meaning in the original text.  Consider the following example.  A common English verb “to loosen” has fifty some different forms of voice, mood, tense, and person.  The koine Greek verb λὑω (pronounced loo-oh and which also means “to loosen”) has around 250 different forms of voice, mood, tense, and person.  This Greek language permits the expression of some 250 shades of meaning whereas English permits maybe fifty shades of meaning.  Quite often, the translation from a Greek New Testament text or from a philosophical or theological text written in Greek, is a straightforward affair which allows the full meaning of the Greek text to be adequately translated into English.  However, there are times when the Greek language author/writer wishes to communicate a subtle meaning which is made possible by the multitude of different forms allowed by Greek language verbs.  Attempting to translate these subtle nuanced texts into English proves quite difficult.  An analogy to understand this difficulty might be to consider being provided a Crayola Eight Pack and the original of one of Claude Monet’s paintings of water lilies and the Guverny Bridge.  Imagine then that one is then instructed to make as close a copy as one can of this original impressionist masterpiece using only these eight crayons.  The task would be difficult.

A second reason one should have a working familiarity with foreign languages is to allow a full access to the intended meaning of Vatican documents written originally in Latin and full access to the intended meaning of the various documents of regional episcopal conferences.  One thinks of the value of being able to read the Spanish language version of the Medellin Documents which coined and used the phrase “preferential option for the poor”.

A third reason is that, in our modern world, the original teaching of many core theological and philosophical concepts are in some language other than the vernacular.  It is good to be able to access these teachings in their original languages.  There are many examples.  A correct understanding of the ethics espoused by Immanual Kant may well be facilitated by accessing his writings in their original German.  Due in part to the terms he creates and the unique definitions he assigns those terms in his writings, Kant’s German is difficult to understand.  This difficulty complicates the production of adequate translations.  And yet, an adequate understanding of Kantian ethics is essential for the homilist or catechist to detect when a Kantian version of Aristotelian continence is being called a Christian morality, which it is not.  Another example is the value of being able to access the nuanced meaning of phenomenological investigation as it was expressed by Edmund Husserl, Franz Brentano, max Scheller, Martin Heideggar, Karol Wojtyla (John Paul II), Edith Stein (Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross), Hannah Arendt, et alii.  Finally, there is the issue of having access to the meaning of a text or teaching when access to the same is only available in the original language of the writer or speaker.  The story is told that a class in ethics was being taught at one of the Vatican universities.  The professor was giving his instruction in Italian to a large group of students who came from dozens of different nations.  For many of these students, their first language was something other than Italian.  At some point during the lecture a student, having obtained the attention of the professor, made the statement that he was unable to understand the professor because his lecture was in Italian.  To this the professor responded, “Perhaps you should learn Italian.”

A final reason for an ability to speak and write in a number of languages is that our parishes often have members whose first, and sometimes only, language differs from what might be called the predominant or original language of the parish.  It might be necessary to be able to have catechetical ministers, pastoral ministers, liturgists, and homilists who can competently translate an important idea or statement or text from one of these languages into another.  Imagine a parish in which the predominant language is Spanish.  Over time, the culture in which these persons find themselves grows increasingly consumeristic and materialistic.  Imagine further that due to changing demographics and economic realities, many middle class English speaking persons are moving into this parish and becoming its members.  Finally, imagine a parish education event in which the issue of serving the needy is to be considered.  At such a point, the English speaking members might find valuable an accurate nuanced translation of the Medellin Document‘s section which addresses the issue of “la opción preferencial por los pobres” (the preferential option for the poor).