Educating in Truth

Vatican releases new document on requirements for Church-recognized philosophy degrees.

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) — When training priests and educating students in philosophy, the Catholic Church must combat a widespread sensation that there really is no such thing as permanent, objective truths, a new Vatican document said.

Because so many students are influenced by the cultural suspicion of truth, the Vatican said it will require an extra year of study before a student can earn a Church-recognized bachelor’s degree in philosophy.

“Decree on the Reform of Ecclesiastical Studies of Philosophy,” released March 22 at the Vatican, updated norms issued in 1979. The decree was signed and presented by Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education.

The decree’s introduction said the reform is needed primarily because of a shift in the cultural understanding of “the concept of truth. In fact, there is often mistrust in the capacity of human intelligence to arrive at objective and universal truth — a truth by which people can give direction to their lives.”

The document said people must realize that unless there is such a thing as truth, there is no such thing as real charity or love.

The study of philosophy helps people recognize the importance of human reason and helps them hone the ability to reason in order to discern the truth, the document said. At the same time, philosophy studies prepare them for the study of theology by helping them see that knowledge and truth are not limited to what they can see and touch, it said.

The new document sets a minimum of three years of philosophy studies — instead of two — for an ecclesiastical bachelor’s degree in philosophy. The second degree, a license that allows a graduate to teach in a seminary, continues to be a two-year program after the bachelor’s, and a doctoral program must include at least three years of additional research, it said.

The decree also included a broad outline of what must be taught in the bachelor’s program; a brief explanation of the philosophy study needed before studying theology; and requirements such as the number of professors a department must have before the Vatican will recognize it as an ecclesiastical faculty of philosophy.

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