Licentiate in Sacred Theology of Marriage and Family (S.T.L.)
Modern man has “lost the soul of childhood.” So says the priest of Torcy in George Bernanos’s Diary of Country Priest. Yet, the priest continues, “God has entrusted the Church with rekindling that soul.” Perhaps paradoxically, this loss of childhood is felt most keenly at the heart of the marital and familial communities. Each of the issues confronting priests on a daily basis—lukewarm faith, the seeming irrelevance of a contemplative spirit to the pace of modern society, marital and familial strife, rampant consumerist attitudes, wide-spread contraceptive practices, the use of ARTs, “gay marriage,” and so forth—involves this loss of the “soul of childhood,” the ability to receive everything each day as a gift from the Creator, to sense the infinite significance of even the smallest fragment of God’s creation.
How can the Church’s pastors respond? The priest must himself recover childlikeness before he can help others. This task is accomplished first on one’s knees. But it is also an intellectual task that requires a careful and intelligent examination of the sources of our modern disaffection through serious intellectual engagement with the deepest roots of our social and anthropological maladies, which have suppressed and overwhelmed the soul of childhood.
St. John Paul II founded the Institute precisely to help priests and laity respond to the needs of the culture at the level of prayerful and intelligent profundity they require. His genius was to recognize that driving the issues du jour is a fundamental misunderstanding of the human person. The S.T.L. program offers precisely this rigorous formation in the theological tradition of the Church that will help recover the truth of the human person as a child of God.
The S.T.L. program prepares the graduate for teaching posts, especially in Roman Catholic seminaries, colleges, and universities, as well as for further studies at the doctoral level. This is a post-S.T.B. program offering further academic development and research skills in accordance with the mission statement of the Institute. As an ecclesiastical degree, the licentiate is granted by the authority of and in the name of the Holy See.
The S.T.L. program conforms in its specifications to the requirements set forth in Sapientia Christiana and Magnum Matrimonii Sacramentum.
Admission to the S.T.L. program requires the pontifical Bachelor of Sacred Theology (S.T.B.). Further requirements are enumerated in the application for the program.
S.T.L. students must complete 48 credits of prescribed three-credit courses, in addition to selected seminars as announced during the course of the school year, with a grade-point average of 3.0. S.T.L. students must write and defend a thesis and satisfactorily present a lectio coram in order to receive the degree.
Students are required to demonstrate reading proficiency in scholastic Latin by successful completion of a written examination administered by Institute faculty. This requirement is to be fulfilled during the first semester of residency.
Students must also demonstrate reading proficiency in a modern language from the following list: French, Spanish, Italian, German. Proficiency is demonstrated by successful completion of a written examination administered by Institute faculty. This requirement must be fulfilled by the end of the third semester, but students are urged to fulfill it by the end of the first year.
S.T.L. students must satisfactorily present a lectio coram during the final semester of study, following the completion and approval of the thesis. The lectio coram is a magisterial lecture, lasting a minimum of 45 minutes (20-minute lecture/25-minute question period) before a panel of three examiners, comprised of the thesis director and the two readers of the thesis. The lectio coram should demonstrate the candidate's competence in theology and as a teacher. It should be a lecture on a specific theological issue taken up during the course of studies for the licentiate. It must be clearly and logically organized, manifest the candidate's familiarity with a wide range of relevant literature, and exhibit soundness of theological judgment. The lectio coram is open to the public.
The topic for the lectio coram is drafted by the thesis advisor and is communicated to the candidate 48 hours prior to the lectio coram.
The candidate may present the lecture using a one-page written outline. The lecture may not be delivered from a written text. If an outline is used by the candidate, it must be submitted to the board immediately following the question period. After the lectio coram each examiner gives a secret grade, and the final grade is the average of the grades of the three examiners. If the candidate fails this examination, he or she is not permitted to defend the thesis, which defense otherwise occurs immediately following the lectio coram. The Provost/Dean, in consultation with the chairman of the panel of examiners, will determine whether the examination may be repeated. Should a student fail a second time, he or she ceases to be a candidate for the licentiate degree.
The thesis is an integral part of the S.T.L. curriculum, requiring several months' planning, research, analysis, exposition, revision, and discussion. It entails both the independent investigation of some significant question arising from the work of the program and a defense of the conclusions reached. It should give evidence of training in research and make a contribution to theological knowledge involving a limited, yet significant, problem of investigation. It must prove the student's familiarity with basic methods and techniques of research, mastery of the limited subject matter, and ability to exercise sound theological judgment and to formulate accurate conclusions. The thesis director, more a critic than a teacher, provides major assistance in defining the question to be examined. The student alone is responsible for working out the question and its resolution. The completed thesis must be judged worthy of publication, at least in part, in a scientific journal.
Schedule of Production of the Thesis
By the end of the first semester, and in consultation with the S.T.L. Program Advisor, the student asks a faculty member to direct his thesis. Once a faculty member agrees to direct the thesis, the Program Advisor, in consultation with the thesis director, appoints two other faculty members to a thesis board. One of the two faculty members is designated the first reader of the thesis.
By midterm of the second semester, and in consultation with the thesis director, the student prepares and submits to the Program Advisor a five-page proposal, including the title; a detailed statement of the proposed topic, its background, and its purpose; the methodology; and a proposed table of contents. In addition, a preliminary bibliography is submitted at this time.
Within two weeks, the thesis board meets with the candidate to discuss the proposal. The thesis director, other board members, and the Program Advisor may accept or reject the proposal, or they may specify required modifications to it (acceptance sub conditione). If substantial revision is required, the board meets again with the student, either accepting or rejecting the proposal or requiring further modifications. The proposal is deemed to be approved when it has been signed by the thesis director, the other two board members, and the Program Advisor. The proposal, with original signatures, is held in the student's official file.
Once the proposal has been approved, the student is free to commence writing the thesis in consultation with the thesis director and the other board members.
At least six weeks prior to the expected date of defense, the student must submit five copies of the completed thesis to the Program Advisor. The copies must be bound with a black plastic "comb binding," a black vinyl back cover, and a clear plastic front cover. The copies of the thesis are distributed to the thesis director and the other board members.
The thesis should be 60-70 pages in length and written according to The Chicago Manual of Style. Upon completion of the thesis, the thesis director and first reader signify their approval in writing. (The thesis director and first reader may judge the thesis substantively complete and worthy of defense, while noting some mandatory corrections to be made prior to final acceptance.) The date for the lectio coram and the thesis defense cannot be set prior to this written approval; approval must be received at least 30 days in advance of the defense. Also, the defense of the thesis cannot be scheduled until all language requirements have been met. The completed thesis must be defended within five years of the date the student entered the S.T.L. 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.L.
Defense of the Thesis
After successful completion of the lectio coram, the student must defend the thesis in an oral examination of approximately 30 minutes, to be conducted by the thesis board of three professors (the thesis director and the two readers). The student will begin with a presentation of his thesis no more than five minutes in length. At the end of the defense, the written thesis and the oral examination are graded separately by the members of the defense board. The votes are taken in secret and supervised by the chairman of the examination. The final grade is the average of the grades submitted by each board member. If a candidate fails this examination, he must obtain permission from the Provost/Dean to schedule another defense. 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 licentiate degree.
The S.T.L. program requires four semesters of full-time study in residence. In certain cases, the Provost/Dean will consider requests to fulfill course requirements on a part-time basis. All the requirements for the S.T.L. degree must be completed within five years of the date the student enters the S.T.L. program at the Institute. If a student does not complete all requirements within five years, the student may petition the Provost/Dean for a one-year extension. If a student fails to complete all requirements within this period, he or she ceases to be a candidate for the S.T.L. In all cases, total tuition payments for the degree must equal at least the cost of four full-time semesters.