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 Sapientia Christiana and Magnum Matrimonii Sacramentum.

Admissions Requirements

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. Other requirements are enumerated in the application for the program. 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.

Degree Requirements

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.

Languages

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 demonstrated by successful completion of a written examination.  This requirement must be fulfilled by the beginning of the third semester of the program.

Schedule of Production of Dissertation

By the end of the first semester, and in consultation with the S.T.D. Program Advisor, the student asks a faculty member to direct his or her dissertation. The Program Advisor, in consultation with the dissertation director, appoints two other faculty members to a board under the chairmanship of the dissertation director.

By midterm of the second semester, and in consultation with the dissertation director, the student prepares and submits to the Program Advisor a ten-page dissertation proposal, including the title; a brief presentation of the background of the topic and the current state of relevant research; a detailed, four- to five-page statement of the proposed thesis of the dissertation; a statement of the contribution and originality of the thesis; a statement describing the methodology of the dissertation; and a proposed table of contents. A preliminary bibliography containing the most important primary and secondary sources must be submitted with the proposal.

Once the dissertation director deems the proposal acceptable, it is circulated among the entire faculty. Within two weeks of the reception of the proposal, every member of the faculty is expected to submit his or her approval, comments, objections, and questions to the thesis director and Program Advisor. After this review, the student may defend his or her proposal before the board, comprised of the director and two readers.

The proposal is deemed to be finally approved when it has been signed by the dissertation director, the first and second readers, and the Program Advisor. The proposal, with original signatures, is held in the student’s official file.

The proposal may be considered passable, passable with modifications, or not passable. If substantial revision is required, the board and Program Advisor meet again with the student, either accepting or rejecting the proposal or requiring further modifications. Results of the proposal defense will be communicated to the student in written form within a week of the defense.

The proposal should be submitted before the end of the second semester, but must, in any case, be submitted within two years of beginning S.T.D. studies at the Institute. A student who fails to submit this proposal within this two-year period ceases to be a candidate for the S.T.D.

Once the required revisions to the proposal have been approved, the student is free to commence writing the dissertation in consultation with the dissertation director and the other two board members.

At least eight weeks prior to the expected date of defense, the student must submit six copies of the completed dissertation and six copies of an abstract of 350 words to the Program Advisor. The dissertation copies must be bound with a black plastic "comb binding," a black vinyl back cover, and a clear plastic front cover. At this time, the S.T.D. Program Advisor, in consultation with the dissertation director, selects a reader who is not a member of the Institute faculty to participate at the defense. The Office of the Provost/Dean distributes the copies of the dissertation to the dissertation director and the other board members. The exact date for defense cannot be set prior to approval by the dissertation director and the board members who are Institute faculty; approval must be given at least 30 days before the date of the defense. Also, the defense of the dissertation cannot be scheduled until all language and course-work requirements have been met.

The completed dissertation must be defended within five years of the date the student enters the S.T.D. program at the Institute. If the student is not able to defend the thesis within five years, the student may petition the Provost/Dean for a one-year extension. If a student fails to defend the thesis within this period, he or she ceases to be a candidate for the S.T.D.

Dissertation

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.

Defense of the Dissertation

After acceptance of the dissertation by the dissertation director and readers, the student must defend the dissertation in an oral examination of at least two hours. The student will begin with a twenty-minute presentation of his 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 must obtain permission from the Provost/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.

Residency

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 Provost/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.