Master of Theological Studies: Marriage and Family (M.T.S.)

The central presupposition of the M.T.S. in Marriage and Family program is the teaching of St. John Paul II that the human person, and indeed the whole of reality, are best understood in terms of the trinitarian love of God revealed in Christ, and that this love is expressed in a privileged way in marriage and the family. "The primordial model of the family is to be sought in God himself, in the trinitarian mystery of his life" (Letter to Families, 6). The curriculum of the Marriage and Family program approaches the realities of the person, marriage, and family in light of the central mysteries of Christian revelation and in dialogue with Western/modern assumptions regarding the nature of the person and the meaning of freedom. The aim of the program is to promote a "culture of life": a culture whose members "see life in its deeper meaning, its beauty and its invitation to freedom and responsibility"; who do not so much "presume to take possession of reality" as to "accept it as a gift, discovering in all things the reflection of the Creator and seeing in every person his living image" (Evangelium vitae, 83).

In light of the mission statement of the Institute, the M.T.S. Marriage and Family program prepares students for further academic study in higher degree programs as well as for professional work in a variety of contexts such as high school education, diocesan family bureaus, pro-life organizations, and legal, governmental, medical, and public policy fields.

The M.T.S. conforms to the special provisions of Magnum Matrimonii Sacramentum, which establish a basic pontifical degree program for students who have completed an undergraduate liberal arts curriculum.

Admissions Requirements

Applicants must possess an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution in the United States or from its equivalent in foreign countries. While it is advisable that applicants for admission have a previous background in philosophy and theology, students without a background in philosophy and theology are strongly encouraged to apply. Further requirements are enumerated in the application for the program.

Degree Requirements

M.T.S. students are subject to the degree requirements of the academic catalog of the year in which they were first enrolled as degree-seeking students.  M.T.S. students must complete 48 credits of course work, in addition to a certain number of audits, as announced during the course of the school year, with a grade-point average of at least 3.0 on a 4.0-point scale. Additionally, students must pass a comprehensive examination administered in the final semester of study.

As part of the M.T.S. curriculum, master's students are expected to participate in the Book Forum during the second and third semesters of their degree program.

Comprehensive Examination

The comprehensive examination is based on the areas of study in the M.T.S. curriculum, including the areas of Sacred Scripture, patristics, fundamental and systematic theology, philosophy, moral theology, law, and science. Each of the M.T.S. specializations has its own examination, in accordance with the differences in the two curricula. In either case, the purpose of the comprehensive examination is to assist the candidate in synthesizing and integrating his or her knowledge in the specialization.

The examination consists in three two-hour written examinations. All components are graded on a pass-fail basis. If a student should fail any one of the questions, he or she may be required to retake the examination in whole or in part. If a student fails the second time, he or she will cease to be a candidate for the degree.

In the examination, the student must demonstrate a mastery of the material covered in the program commensurate with graduate study, including concrete historical and theoretical bases, and offer substantive interpretations, pertinent interrelationships between fields, and relevant concluding judgments.

Book Forum

The Book Forum consists in a series of evening lectures followed by discussion on selected works of literature. The purpose of the Forum is to promote common reflection and conversation around the themes of person, God, love, marriage, and family as these have been articulated especially within the great tradition of twentieth-century Catholic/Christian authors in fiction, poetry, drama, essays, and the like. The authors to be read will include Bernanos, Chesterton, Claudel, O'Connor, Péguy, Berry, (possibly Eliot, Waugh, Percy, and others). In the words of Joseph Ratzinger, "culture at its core means an opening to the divine." At the heart of every culture is an implicit understanding of ultimacy. . .  of the meaning of our existence in relation to God. It is this relation to God that endows all of the activities of a culture—raising and educating children, marriage, music, dance, architecture, economy, etc.—with their deepest significance. Reciprocally, in order to discern how a culture conceives the human being's relation to God, all the aspects of that culture should be considered. Reflection on great works of literature is integral to cultural discernment, and thus integral to the educational mission of the Institute.

Students receive a "pass" or "fail" grade for the Book Forum based on attendance and participation in the discussion and on a short paper, to be submitted the day before the meeting.


This degree program requires four semesters of full-time study in residence. Part-time study is also possible at the M.T.S. level. Please discuss this option with the Director of Admissions if part-time study becomes necessary. In all cases, total tuition payments for the degree must equal at least the cost of four full-time semesters.