History of the Institute

At the conclusion of the 1980 Synod of Bishops devoted to the family, the Synod Fathers called for the creation of theological centers devoted to the study of the Church's teaching on marriage and the family. Accordingly, Pope John Paul II responded to the Synod with the establishment of the Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family and the Pontifical Council for the Family. The Institute's establishment was to be announced at the Holy Father's Wednesday audience on May 13, 1981. Because of the attempted assassination, the Institute's Apostolic Constitution, Magnum Matrimonii Sacramentum, was instead given on October 7, 1982, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. On that occasion the Institute was entrusted in a special way to the care of the most Blessed Virgin Mary under her title Our Lady of Fatima.

In 1987, His Eminence, James Cardinal Hickey, Archbishop of Washington, joined Mr. Virgil C. Dechant, then Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, in asking the Holy See for permission to establish a campus, or session, of the Institute in the Archdiocese of Washington to serve American and other English-speaking students. The permission was granted by the Congregation for Catholic Education on August 22, 1988, creating a session of the Institute in Washington, D.C., and empowering it to grant degrees. The Institute began its work in the fall of 1988. The Institute now offers studies leading to the Master of Theological Studies (M.T.S.), the Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.), the Doctorate of Sacred Theology with a Specialization in Marriage and Family (S.T.D.), and the Doctorate in Theology with a Specialization in Person, Marriage, and Family (Ph.D.).

In the United States, the Institute is under the authority of the Archbishop of Washington, who serves as Vice Chancellor (currently Donald Cardinal Wuerl), of a Vice President (currently Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus), and of a Provost/Dean for academic and administrative affairs (currently Rev. Antonio López, F.S.C.B.). The President of the Institute worldwide (currently Rev. Msgr. Livio Melina) is directly appointed by the Holy Father.

As a canonically recognized ecclesiastical faculty, the Institute is one of seven institutions in the United States that grants degrees by the authority of the Holy See.