The Doctorate in Sacred Theology (S.T.D.)
The doctoral program, which is the third cycle of theological studies, is a minimum two-year program of specialized research in systematic theology. At the University of Saint Mary of the Lake the doctoral program, like the licentiate, concentrates on the study of the doctrine of God, Christology, theological anthropology, theological method, sacramental/liturgical theology, or the spirituality of diocesan priesthood. The program presumes superior achievement at the licentiate level.
The Doctorate in Sacred Theology is the terminal research degree. Its focus is to perfect the skills of the candidate in the scientific study of theology and to develop the research skills necessary for treating theological questions in depth. As a terminal research degree, the doctorate prepares students to be university professors, researchers, expert resource persons. A graduate of the S.T.D. program is prepared to teach theology in a college, seminary, or university, to conduct independent research and publishing and to act as a theological resource for a diocese and diocesan agencies.
The doctoral program is very selective. Usually admission to the program is by invitation. Applicants will usually have received the STL magna cum laude. Further, admission is based on the appropriateness of the doctoral research to the interests of the Pontifical Faculty.
The Doctoral program ordinarily extends over two years and aims at the completion of the student’s scientific formation especially through the writing of a doctoral dissertation.
Applicants must present evidence of possessing a licentiate in sacred theology (S.T.L.) or equivalent and competences in the languages and other research tools needed for their research.
Applicants with an S.T.L. degree from another faculty will have their work evaluated to assure that their preparation is substantially equivalent to the USML S.T.L. degree. In addition to the requirements connected with the dissertation (see below), there may be further requirements (e.g., course work, examination) according to the decision of the
President in consultation with the Graduate Board (Statuta, Art. 57 b).
Length of Program
The third cycle is normally at least two years in duration with at least one year devoted full time to research.
The dissertation must be on an important theological question, selected by the candidate and approved by a professor who is an expert in the field with the consent of the Graduate Board.
The dissertation must be a specimen of the candidate’s erudition, judgment, and knowledge of Catholic doctrine, demonstrating his or her skill in positive and speculative theology and the ability to do scientific investigation which is original and contributes to the advancement of theological knowledge. It must be of sufficient length to constitute a truly scientific study. Normally, the dissertation will be not less than 150 pages or more than 400 pages. Any exceptions must have the approval of the President.
The candidate must pass an examination on his or her dissertation ordinarily before five professors. This board is appointed by the President. Three of these professors will be the director and the Second and Third Readers. The director and the Second and Third Readers must approve the dissertation for defense before the defense date can be set. The Fourth and Fifth Readers will then be appointed. The Defense Date should be set so as to give these last appointed Readers adequate time to review the dissertation. Normally, this time period will be one month from the date the dissertation is approved for defense.
The student must defend the dissertation in a public, oral examination of 90 minutes. The candidate will begin with a twenty-minute presentation of his dissertation. Questions will then be addressed to the student by each member of the Board in turn for ten minutes each. Then questions will be invited ex corona for the remaining 20 minutes.
For further information on Grading for the Defense, Publication of the Dissertation, and Fees related to the Doctoral Program, see the latest Bulletin of the Pontifical Faculty.