Is a degree an absolute requirement to receive Holy Orders?


#1

I was discussing this with a friend and we were not sure.

  1. Is an undergraduate degree (or even a graduate degree) an absolute requirement to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders? A degree, after all, does not necessarily reflect a person’s level of intelligence or academic capabilities or infer some incapability to be an excellent and well learned priest filled with the wisdom of Christ. At least I would not think so.

  2. If the Church does not require it, what are the routes available to someone who feels the call of God upon their life to practice this vocation?


#2

[quote="Medic_Mark, post:1, topic:222557"]
I was discussing this with a friend and we were not sure.

  1. Is an undergraduate degree (or even a graduate degree) an absolute requirement to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders? A degree, after all, does not necessarily reflect a person’s level of intelligence or academic capabilities or infer some incapability to be an excellent and well learned priest filled with the wisdom of Christ. At least I would not think so.

  2. If the Church does not require it, what are the routes available to someone who feels the call of God upon their life to practice this vocation?

[/quote]

In the United States the Masters of Divinity (or equivalent Pontifical degree) is required for ordination to the priesthood in the Catholic Church.

For the diaconate it is different but there is a requirement of having an undergraduate degree that it seems most dioceses will not budge on. Also it is a 4 to 5 year program of part time study.

I know some Orthodox Churches have a certificate program at their seminaries for those who are older and do not have the undergraduate requirements but what it amounts to is taking all the graduate courses a regular seminarian takes just not getting the degree because of lack of undergrad requirements.


#3

It's not an absolute requirement in the sense that ordination of a man who does not have an academic degree is perfectly valid. Before the Council of Trent, the vast majority of priests did not have degrees (including of course all the priests of the first few centuries of the Church, before universities were invented - universities were originally monasteries).

But in practice you'll probably find that all dioceses and religious orders require a man to have an academic degree (in theology and philosophy) before ordination. Possibly this is even a Canon Law requirement.

The Church doesn't want to ordain priests who are ignorant or poorly trained. That was one of the problems that led to the protestant revolt. But if an otherwise worthy candidate has trouble with academic study, the diocese or order may well make special efforts to coach or ease him through his degree (though without compromising academic standards). e.g. St John Vianney.

If you are saying that you can't or don't want to obtain a degree, no matter how much help you get to help you complete it satisfactorily, perhaps you could consider a vocation as a monk, friar or religious brother? And yes I know that that is a very different vocation to that of a priest.

It's gtreat if you feel God calling you to be a priest. But that is not the only thing necessary. A bishop has to freely choose you to be a priest. It's not just between you and God.


#4

[quote="Petergee, post:3, topic:222557"]
But in practice you'll probably find that all dioceses and religious orders require a man to have an academic degree (in theology and philosophy) before ordination. Possibly this is even a Canon Law requirement.

[/quote]

This is the case for most of the new world and Europe, however many religious orders in Oceania don't require a degree, but are trained in house (especially in monasteries).
It is not a cannon law requirement (at least to my knowledge, and those who I view as knowledgeable), however USCCB requires it now. Most English speaking countries and most NE Asian countries follow whatever USCCB writes, and therefore a large chunk of the RC world requires degrees.


#5

[quote="Saint_Macarius, post:4, topic:222557"]
This is the case for most of the new world and Europe, however many religious orders in Oceania don't require a degree, but are trained in house (especially in monasteries).
It is not a cannon law requirement (at least to my knowledge, and those who I view as knowledgeable), however USCCB requires it now. Most English speaking countries and most NE Asian countries follow whatever USCCB writes, and therefore a large chunk of the RC world requires degrees.

[/quote]

While Canon Law does not require a degree, it does require studies.
Can. 1032 §1 Aspirants to the priesthood may be promoted to the diaconate only when they have completed the fifth year of the curriculum of philosophical and theological studies.


#6

[quote="ByzCath, post:5, topic:222557"]
While Canon Law does not require a degree, it does require studies.
Can. 1032 §1 Aspirants to the priesthood may be promoted to the diaconate only when they have completed the fifth year of the curriculum of philosophical and theological studies.

[/quote]

This is what I meant by being trained "in house." Thanks for the clarification.


#7

[quote="ByzCath, post:5, topic:222557"]
While Canon Law does not require a degree, it does require studies.
Can. 1032 §1 Aspirants to the priesthood may be promoted to the diaconate only when they have completed the fifth year of the curriculum of philosophical and theological studies.

[/quote]

And given the difficultly of those studies, I doubt someone without sufficent background would be able to get through it. Also, at least here in the US, in many many parishes the parishioners themselves are highly educated and it would be difficult for someone without higher education and a graduate degree to be on the same level with them. I know in some countries you can be ordained with a bachelors degree but many go on for graduate degrees.


#8

Interesting stuff thus far.

How does a monastic, who has taken a vow of poverty, afford seminary in the United States?


#9

[quote="Medic_Mark, post:8, topic:222557"]
Interesting stuff thus far.

How does a monastic, who has taken a vow of poverty, afford seminary in the United States?

[/quote]

All religious with a vow of poverty have the costs of schooling covered by their orders. Religious institutes/congregations who do not take vows (and therefore are not religious orders) may cover the cost or may have some of the cost covered by the candidate.

I know those who enter the seminaries for the FSSP and ICKSP have a certain amount they must pay each year for their studies. These men work over the summer and try to get donations to cover their costs.


#10

[quote="Medic_Mark, post:8, topic:222557"]
Interesting stuff thus far.

How does a monastic, who has taken a vow of poverty, afford seminary in the United States?

[/quote]

This is a hot button issue, especially among the non-teaching order monastics. A few monasteries have their seminarians finish or do their undergraduate studies online entirely to save money.

Communities such as OP, OSB, SJ, and CM have their on seminaries, and so it's cheaper for them to form their own priests.


#11

[quote="ByzCath, post:5, topic:222557"]
While Canon Law does not require a degree, it does require studies.
Can. 1032 §1 Aspirants to the priesthood may be promoted to the diaconate only when they have completed the fifth year of the curriculum of philosophical and theological studies.

[/quote]

We can assume that "completed" implies "successfully completed". So having studied and passed tests for 5 years of tertiary education, we can say that all priests must have a degree or at least have successfully completed studies equivalent to a degree (which normally takes 3 years of full time study after completing secondary [high school] education).


#12

[quote="Joannm, post:7, topic:222557"]
Also, at least here in the US, in many many parishes the parishioners themselves are highly educated and it would be difficult for someone without higher education and a graduate degree to be on the same level with them.

[/quote]

I hear that said about Australian congregations but I doubt it's true or a valid reason. Many people's minds seem to have been narrowed rather than broadened by their tertiary education. And I know many people such as my wife who don't have a tertiary education and in some cases have never even successfully completed secondary education, who are more than able to talk on the same level as those with several tertiary degrees.

And I'm sad to say this but in many cases it's the laymen with a theology degree who are the worst of all. All they seemed to have learned from their studies is to adopt from one or more of their lecturers a pig-headed attitude that the Church is wrong about just about everything and that only they the blessed elite of laymen with theology degrees know the real truth about how the Church should be run and what doctrines she should espouse. "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing" sometimes.


#13

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