Last Updated on December 24, 2022
A pontifical university is a Catholic university established by and directly under the authority of the Holy See. It is licensed to grant academic degrees in sacred faculties, the most important of which are Sacred Theology, Canon Law, Sacred Scripture and Philosophy. Pontifical universities follow a European system of degrees in the sacred faculties, granting the baccalaureate, the licentiate, and the doctorate.
Independent institutions or individual faculties at non-pontifical universities may also be given charters by the Holy See to grant pontifical degrees, usually in one or two specific fields. These are referred to as a “pontifical faculty” or “pontifical institute” to distinguish it from an entire “pontifical university.”
As defined by the Code of Canon Law:
Can. 815 Ecclesiastical universities or faculties, which are to investigate the sacred disciplines or those connected to the sacred and to instruct students scientifically in the same disciplines, are proper to the Church by virtue of its function to announce the revealed truth.
Can. 816 §1. Ecclesiastical universities and faculties can be established only through erection by the Apostolic See or with its approval; their higher direction also pertains to it.
§2. Individual ecclesiastical universities and faculties must have their own statutes and plan of studies approved by the Apostolic See.
Can. 817 No university or faculty which has not been erected or approved by the Apostolic See is able to confer academic degrees which have canonical effects in the Church.
The Vicariate (diocese) of Rome has established an office for campus ministry and the pastoral care of students, the Office of Pastorale Universitaria. This office serves students at the pontifical universities as well as those enrolled at state universities.
Pontifical universities in Rome accept students from around the world, whether clergy or laity. With special permission and motivated, even non-Christians may be admitted.
Students are normally classified into normal students,[ extraordinary students and guest students.
Admission to courses of the Faculties or Institutes of a pontifical university may be conditional on the knowledge of Latin, Greek or other foreign languages.
In Rome, the following seven pontifical universities qualify with respect to Can. 815:The Religious Order or other ecclesiastical body responsible for the administration of the university is listed in parentheses.
- Pontifical Gregorian University ‘Gregoriana’ (Society of Jesus; ‘Jesuits’)
- Pontifical Lateran University ‘Lateranum’ (Diocese of Rome)
- Pontifical Salesian University ‘Salesianum’ (Society of St. Francis de Sales; ‘Salesians of Don Bosco’)
- Pontifical University of the Holy Cross ‘Santa Croce’ (Personal Prelature of the Holy Cross; ‘Opus Dei’)
- Pontifical University of St. Anthony ‘Antonianum’ (Order of Friars Minor; ‘Franciscans’)
- Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas ‘Angelicum’ (Order of Preachers; ‘Dominicans’)
- Pontifical Urban University ‘Urbaniana’ (Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples; ‘Propaganda Fide’)
Pontifical Athenaea and Institutes
In Rome, the following institutes of higher education qualify with respect to Can. 814:
- Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum
- Pontifical Athenaeum for Liturgy ‘Sant’Anselmo’
- Pontifical Institute for Patristic Studies ‘Augustinianum’
- Pontifical Academy of Moral Theology ‘Alfonsiana’
- Pontifical Institute for Spirituality ‘Teresianum’
- Pontifical Institute for Biblical Studies ‘Biblicum’
- Pontifical Institute for the Eastern Churches ‘Orientale’
- Pontifical Institute for Marriage and Family Life ‘John Paul II’
- Pontifical Institute for Consecrated Life ‘Claretianum’
- Pontifical Faculty of Education ‘Auxilium’
- Pontifical Faculty of Mariology ‘Marianum’
- Pontifical Theological Faculty of St. Bonaventure ‘Seraphicum’
- Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music ‘PIMS’
- Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies ‘PISAI’
- Pontifical Institute for the Theology of Pastoral Health Care ‘Camillianum’
- Pontifical Institute for Christian Archaeology ‘PIAC’
Pontifical Universities In The United States
The Catholic University of America (CUA) is a private, non-profit Catholic university located in Washington, D.C., in the United States. It is a pontifical university of the Catholic Church in the United States and the only institution of higher education founded by the U.S. Catholic bishops. Established in 1887 as a graduate and research center following approval by Pope Leo XIII on Easter Sunday, the university began offering undergraduate education in 1904. The university’s campus lies within the Brookland neighborhood, known as « Little Rome », which contains 60 Catholic institutions, including Trinity Washington University and the Dominican House of Studies.
CUA has environmental sustainability programs, including participation in Earth Day, Casey Trees tree planting, and Campus Beautification Day. CUA constructed its most recent building, Opus Hall, as LEED-compliant, and purchases 30% of its electricity from green sources. The university is participating in the 2010 College Sustainability Report Card rating.
In 2009, the School of Architecture and Planning introduced a Master of Science in Sustainable Design program.
Catholic University has 12 schools:
- School of Architecture and Planning
- School of Arts and Sciences
- Tim and Steph Busch School of Business and Economics
- School of Canon Law
- School of Engineering
- Columbus School of Law
- Benjamin T. Rome School of Music
- School of Nursing
- School of Philosophy
- Metropolitan School of Professional Studies
- National Catholic School of Social Service
- School of Theology and Religious Studies
in addition to 21 research centers and facilities.
In Fall 2013, the School of Library and Information Science became a department of the School of Arts and Sciences, giving the university its present composition.
The 12 schools offer Doctor of Philosophy degrees (or appropriate professional degrees) in 66 programs and Master’s Degrees in 103 programs. Undergraduate degrees are awarded in 72 programs by six schools: architecture and planning, arts and sciences, engineering, music, nursing and philosophy.
Undergraduates combine a liberal arts curriculum in arts and sciences with courses in a major field of study. The Metropolitan School provides programs for adults who wish to earn baccalaureate degrees or participate in continuing education and certificate programs on a part-time basis. 88% of undergraduates and 61% of graduate students are Catholic.
Catholic University is the only U.S. university with an ecclesiastical faculty of canon law (established by the Holy See in 1923) and is one of the few U.S. universities with ecclesiastical faculties of philosophy and sacred theology. Theological College, the university seminary, prepares men for the priesthood. The School of Theology and Religious Studies is a member of the Washington Theological Consortium.
The School of Theology and Religious Studies is a pontifical faculty, accredited by the Holy See according to the norms of Sapientia Christiana (1979) and Veritatis Gaudium (2018). The rigorous academic standards required by the Holy See ensure not only academic excellence but also a truly global vision of theological education, faithful to the Catholic intellectual tradition and in conversation with the Church throughout the world.
As a pontifical faculty, the School of Theology and Religious Studies is authorized to grant ecclesiastical degrees in theology: the Bachelor’s in Sacred Theology (S.T.B.), the Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.), and the Doctorate in Sacred Theology (S.T.D.). Recognized worldwide, ecclesiastical degrees require students to acquire a well-rounded mastery of the theological sciences and certify significant achievements in theological competence.
Among pontifical faculties in the United States, of which there are only several, the School of Theology and Religious Studies stands out as the only one situated at a major research university. It thus provides students with a unique environment in which to pursue their theological studies, whether or not they pursue one of the ecclesiastical degrees.