Doctorate in Sacred Theology with a Specialization in Marriage and Family (S.T.D.)

“The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light.” These famous words from Gaudium et spes sum up the central insight needed to meet the intellectual and pastoral challenges of our day. Modernity has not so much attacked the existence of God as it has reduced God to an unnecessary concept that can be safely set aside or simply and undramatically dismissed. It seeks to explain reality as a whole without recourse to what seems merely superfluous. Man is then a being without need of prayer or gratitude. If our intellectual climate is willing to grant that God is a “mystery,” therefore, its doing so would only indicate the manner of His irrelevance. The Council Fathers’ lapidary statement then serves to remind us not simply that God is a mystery. Rather, it reminds us even more pertinently that Christ’s mission recalls to us that man and woman are a mystery and that until we understand this fundamental point we cannot understand who and what the human person is at all. Indeed, we cannot understand what the world or reality as a whole is. As the Council Fathers point out, without the Creator, the creature and all of its mystery disappears. The greatest intellectual and pastoral service we can offer the modern world then is to rekindle a sense of the mystery that lies at the heart human existence and created reality.

As a capstone to the S.T.L., the S.T.D. program seeks to complete an intellectual formation with precisely this goal in mind. It qualifies the graduate for teaching posts in Roman Catholic seminaries, colleges, and universities. As an ecclesiastical degree, the S.T.D. is granted by the authority of and in the name of the Holy See.

The S.T.D. conforms in its specifications to the requirements set forth in Veritatis Gaudium.

Featured Alumni

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Fr. Steven Costello, '14 and '19

"When I preach on the inherent goodness of creation and how God’s grace enters right into the heart of his creation, even when it has fallen, I can see how many in the congregation perk up. I credit much of this approach to what I acquired during my years at the John Paul II Institute."

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Fr. Andrew LaFramboise, '19

"Through my experience at the Institute, the munus docendi was strengthened and my passion for the beauty of the faith was deepened. It helped me see the importance of wonder in teaching the faith. It is not only about passing on what we believe. It is also about helping people ask the right questions, helping them appreciate the mystery. "

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General Information

Admission to the S.T.D. program requires the S.T.L. degree (magna cum laude or higher) from a session of the John Paul II Institute. While the S.T.L. degree, magna cum laude or higher, is a prerequisite for consideration for admission into the S.T.D. program, possession of this degree does not guarantee admission.

Application FormThe application form may be completed online or by PDF. Links to both options are available on the Apply page.
Application FeeThe application fee is $75 and is non-refundable.
References  At least three letters of recommendation from faculty members of academic institutions formerly attended. Please ask the professors to compare your achievement with that of other students at your level and to evaluate your readiness for graduate studies.

These letters must be sent directly to the John Paul II Institute by the recommender through our online portal, by mail, or by email to [email protected].

You will need to complete a waiver for each reference letter. If you are completing the application online, the waiver form is included in the online application form. If not, a copy of the waiver form must accompany the mailed or emailed letter.
Essays1. In a 1500-word essay, explain your intellectual interests and their relation to the mission of the Institute relative to the current cultural situation. You may wish to refer to the brochure “The Nature and Purpose of the Institute.”

2. Read this excerpt from Josef Pieper’s Leisure as the Basis of Culture. Write a 1500-word essay, commenting on the significance of the philosophical act in Pieper’s sense, in light of the mission of the Institute.

Your essays should be formatted in double-spaced, 12-point font, and may be uploaded as part of the online application or emailed to [email protected].
Transcripts and Graduation Documentation1. Official transcripts of all post-secondary education (sent by the institution).
2. An official copy of your high school diploma or transcript.
GRE ScoresOfficial Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores are required for admissions to all degree-seeking programs at the time of application.  Our institutional code is 3533, and we are listed as the Pontifical John Paul II Institute.
Identification1. Electronic photo (headshot). May be uploaded as part of the online application or sent to [email protected].
2. A copy of your birth certificate and driver’s license/state ID, or a copy of your passport.
TOEFL Scores and Admissions Supplement (International Students Only)1. Applicants for whom English is a second language must submit TOEFL scores. Our TOEFL code is 8751.
2. Applicants who are not U.S. citizens must submit a completed Admissions Supplement Form
Letter of Permission (Clergy and Religious Only)A letter of permission to study from your bishop or provincial.
Letter of Presentation (Lay applicants only)A letter from a priest who attests that the applicant is a practicing Catholic in good standing.

S.T.D. students are required to complete four doctoral seminars. Competency in four languages must be demonstrated by S.T.D. students before the second year of the program, in preparation for the dissertation research. The dissertation must be defended within five years of the student’s entry into the program.

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This degree program requires two semesters of full-time study in residence. The completed dissertation must be defended within five years of the date the student enters the S.T.D. program at the Institute. If a student is unable to defend the dissertation within five years, the student may petition the Dean for a one-year extension. If a student fails to defend the dissertation within this period, he or she ceases to be a candidate for the S.T.D. In all cases, total tuition payments for the degree must equal at least the cost of two full-time semesters.

Program Elements

Reading proficiency in scholastic Latin is presupposed at admission and must be demonstrated by successful completion of a written examination. This requirement must be fulfilled during the first semester of residency.

Students are required to demonstrate reading proficiency in biblical Greek by successful completion of a written examination. This requirement must be fulfilled during the first year of residency.

Students must demonstrate reading proficiency in two modern languages from the following list: French, Spanish, Italian, German. Proficiency is ordinarily demonstrated by successful completion of a written examination. This requirement must be fulfilled by the beginning of the third semester of the program. In the case of French or German, successful completion of certain language courses at the Catholic University of America may be substituted for the written exam.

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The dissertation should demonstrate maturity of theological judgment based on advanced graduate study. It should give evidence of research skills commensurate with advanced study, ability to perform independent scientific work, and mastery of the candidate’s chosen field of study. The dissertation should be of sufficient quality to constitute a genuine contribution to that field of study and to warrant publication. The dissertation should be 175 to 300 pages in length.

After acceptance of the dissertation by the dissertation director and two readers, the student must defend the dissertation in an oral examination of at least two hours. The student will begin with a fifteen-minute presentation of his or her dissertation. At the end of the defense, both the written dissertation and the oral examination will be graded. A vote will be taken in secret and supervised by the chairman of the examining committee. The final grade is the average of the grades submitted by each board member. If a candidate fails the oral examination, he or she must obtain permission from the Dean to repeat the examination. A candidate will not be permitted to retake the examination until at least one semester, or an equivalent period of time, has elapsed since the date of the failure. If the student fails a second time, he or she ceases to be a candidate for the S.T.D. degree.