The Catholic University of America

School of Canon Law

Officers of Instruction


Sister Rose McDermott, S.S.J., J.C.D.
Interim Dean and Associate Professor
Rev. John P. Beal, J.C.D.
Rev. Phillip J. Brown, S.S., J.C.D.
Assistant Professor
Rev. John J.M. Foster, J.C.D.
Assistant Professor
Monsignor Thomas J. Green, J.C.D.
Stephan Kuttner Professor of Canon Law
Rev. Robert Kaslyn, S.J., J.C.D.
Associate Professor
Kurt Martens, J.C.D.
Assistant Professor
Kenneth J. Pennington, Ph.D.
Kelly-Quinn Professor of Ecclesiastical and Legal History
Rev. John E. Lynch, C.S.P., Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
Rev. Ladislas M. Orsy, S.J., J.C.D.
Professor Emeritus
Monsignor Brian E. Ferme, J.C.D.
Adjunct Professor
Monsignor Ronny Jenkins, J.C.D.
Adjunct Associate Professor
Rev. Robert T. Kennedy, J.U.D.
Distinguished Lecturer
Monsignor John A. Alesandro, J.C.D.
Monsignor J. James Cuneo, J.C.D.
Rev. Joseph Fox, O.P., J.C.D.
Sister Sharon Euart, R.S.M., J.C.D.
Monsignor Roch Pagé, J.C.D.
Catherine M. Sullivan, M.A.
William J. Wagner, J.D.


Graduate study in canon law has been part of the plan for The Catholic University of America since its inception in 1887. Instruction in canon law actually began in 1891 with the appointment of Sebastian Messner, later archbishop of Milwaukee, to the Myles O'Connor Chair of Canon Law. In 1923, canon law was separated from the School of Theology and erected as a school in its own right. In 1976, the School of Canon Law was integrated as a department into the new School of Religious Studies. In 2002, canon law was re-established as an independent school within the university. The School of Canon Law remains the only graduate program in canon law in the United States.


The School of Canon Law's ecclesiastical faculty prepares students for licentiate and doctorate degrees authorized by the Apostolic See. The school is a community of students, faculty and staff working together for the purpose of the study of canon law in service to the Catholic Church, with particular attention to the needs and opportunities of the Church in the United States.

The purpose of instruction in this school is to familiarize students with the body of law of the Catholic Church, its development, interpretation and application.

The courses are planned to prepare for the professional practice of canon law in diocesan and religious administration, ecclesiastical tribunals, the teaching of canon law, and for scientific and canonical research.

In accord with this purpose, the canonical degrees, Licentiate in Canon Law, J.C.L., and Doctorate in Canon Law, J.C.D., are awarded.

The primary focus of courses offered in the school is the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church, promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1983. Attention is also given, as appropriate, to the Code of Canons in Eastern Churches, promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1990. A proper understanding and implementation of the provisions of the current law of the Church require not only acquired skill in the technicalities of legal interpretation, but also a broad grasp of the historical, theological and sociological factors which have contributed to its development and a sensitivity to the law's pastoral application. Proper service to the Church as a canonist also requires skill in evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the law in order to contribute to its ongoing development.

In keeping with the Declaration on Christian Education (n. 11) of the Second Vatican Council, the curriculum affords clergy, religious, and lay persons a thorough, contemporary, scholarly, pastoral preparation for service to the Church in positions of canonical responsibility.

The personal guidance of the faculty is directed at every level of instruction and inquiry to the practical needs of canonists at the present time, as well as to thesis and dissertational work that will acquaint and equip students with the applied methods of canonical research and writing needed by both practitioners and scholars.


All applicants should submit an application form with the required application fee no later than one month prior to the beginning of the academic term. (Application forms may be obtained from the Office of Graduate Admissions or from the Office of the Dean of the school.) Part-time students and those desiring to audit courses should consult the dean of the school.

Admission to study is open to properly qualified persons who meet the following requirements: a bachelor's degree or its equivalent, superior achievement, and ability to pursue graduate studies. The ability to pursue graduate studies will be evaluated on the basis of the following information, which should be submitted by the applicant together with his or her application:

1. Official transcripts of undergraduate studies and any postgraduate studies.

2. Two or more letters of recommendation from officials or faculty members of institutions previously attended.

3. Results of the Graduate Record Examination, taken within the past five years.

After a preliminary decision has been made to admit an applicant to the school, candidates for orders, deacons, priests and religious will be asked to submit a letter of support from their bishop or religious superior.

First or Preparatory Cycle

The study of canon law requires an adequate understanding of the Church, its life and ministry. A preliminary background, evidenced by a master's degree in theology or its equivalent, such as the completion of the philosophical and theological program required for priestly ordination, is required before being admitted to the regular licentiate program. For persons who do not yet have this background, the School of Canon Law, in conjunction with the School of Theology and Religious Studies, offers the First Cycle.

For those who have no previous training in philosophy or theology, the First Cycle lasts for four semesters or two years. The following disciplines are obligatory:

1. Elements of philosophy: philosophical anthropology, metaphysics, ethics.

2. Elements of theology: an introduction to sacred scripture; fundamental theology; the transmission and credibility of divine revelation; Trinitarian theology; Christology; divine grace; in a special way, ecclesiology; general and special sacramental theology; fundamental and special moral theology.

3. Fundamental institutes of canon law.

4. Latin.

The First Cycle does not itself result in a degree, but qualifies a student to enter the Second Cycle. Graduate credits from other universities or theologates in the above areas of study and related areas may be transferred with the approval of the dean.

If the requirements of the First Cycle have been satisfied, an applicant may be admitted directly to the Second Cycle. In individual cases minor deficiencies may be supplied during the regular course of studies in the Second Cycle.

Licentiate in Canon Law

The purpose of the six-semester or three-year licentiate program is to help the student become acquainted with the whole corpus of Church law, understand it in terms of its theological, philosophical and historical background, and learn the method and practice of scientific research. The level of research for the licentiate is that expected of professional canonists, specifically the exacting investigation of canonical questions encountered in curial, tribunal and similar practice, and the articulation of one's findings in written opinions, briefs and the like.


The Second Cycle lasts for a minimum of three years or six semesters, which fulfill the residence requirements for the licentiate. The actual time necessary to complete the requirements of the degree program will, of course, vary from student to student. Continuous enrollment is required unless an authorized leave of absence has been granted.

Language Requirements

Canon law is an international law. The official texts of the law and of many documents with canonical importance are in Latin. Other texts appear from time to time in various modern languages. Many of the significant commentaries on the law and studies about canon law topics appear in languages other than English.

In order to understand this law more accurately, to interpret and apply it more fully and to instruct others more effectively as to its meaning and proper application, it is important to have access to more than the limited amount available in English translations or studies concerning canon law. The development of an ability to use canonical Latin and the canonical literature in a modern language is an integral dimension of formation as a canon lawyer and subsequent professional work.

Before a formal submission of the proposal for the licentiate thesis, a candidate must demonstrate a fluency in canonical Latin and pass a proficiency examination in one modern language (Italian, German, Spanish, French) administered by the School of Canon Law.


The course of studies is divided into six semesters (A-B-C-D-E-F). Semester A is a prerequisite for the other semesters. These courses include required courses and various elective courses offered in the School of Canon Law or in other schools of the university.

The course of studies normally is as follows:

Semester A

CL 701 History of Canon Law
CL 711 General Norms I
CL 721 Structures of the Particular Church
CL 734 Juridical Structure of Marriage
  Latin I

Semester B

CL 712 General Norms II
CL 715 Elements of American Law
CL 720 Ordained Ministry
CL 731 Sacramental Law
  Latin II

Semester C

CL 724 Consecrated Life
CL 741 Procedural Law
CL 744 Temporal Goods


  Latin III

Semester D

CL 726 Lay Ministry
CL 728 Supra-Diocesan Structures
CL 739 Matrimonial Jurisprudence
CL 746 Protection of Rights
  Latin III

Semester E

CL 716 Religious Liberty
CL 750 Teaching Office
CL 751 Sanctions

Semester F

CL 727 Philosophy and the Theology of Law
CL 760 Roman Law
CL 771 Oriental Law



In the third year of the Second Cycle, or its equivalent, the student is to write a thesis that investigates a minor but significant problem. It must demonstrate the student's familiarity with basic methods and techniques of research, technical mastery of a limited subject matter, and ability to exercise sound canonical judgment and formulate accurate conclusions.

Comprehensive Examination

Besides the regular course examinations or equivalent tests in the various disciplines, at the end of the Second Cycle there is a comprehensive oral examination whereby the student is expected to demonstrate mastery of the whole corpus of Church law. A student who twice fails the comprehensive examination is no longer eligible to receive the licentiate.

Summer Program

The school also offers a Summer Program leading to the Licentiate degree, J.C.L. Courses are taught both during the summer (June-July) and during the fall and spring semesters by distance learning.

Dual-Degree Program

In conjunction with the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America, the School of Canon Law offers a dual-degree program for students who qualify for admission to the canon law program and to the law school program. The dual-degree program makes it possible to earn a J.D. degree in American law and a J.C.L. degree in canon law. Requirements of the respective degree programs must be met, but some courses in the law program are accepted as electives for canon law, and some canon law courses are accepted as law electives. For more information, contact the dean of the School of Canon Law.

Doctorate in Canon Law


For admission to candidacy for the doctorate, the student must have successfully received the licentiate degree and demonstrated superior academic ability as demonstrated by achievement of an overall A- average in the various components of the licentiate program (i.e., coursework, thesis, comprehensive examination) taken in the aggregate. However, within this overall average, the grade for the thesis must be at least A-. During the residency requirement, a candidate must have completed the Seminar in Sources (CL 702).

Before a formal submission of the proposal for the doctoral dissertation, a candidate must demonstrate a fluency in canonical Latin and pass proficiency examinations in two modern languages (Italian, Spanish, German, French) administered by the School of Canon Law.


The residency requirement for the Third Cycle is one year or two semesters. The actual time necessary to complete the requirements of the degree program usually extends to three or four semesters, chiefly dependent on the time needed to complete the dissertation (below).

Continuous enrollment is required unless an authorized leave of absence is granted for very serious reasons; such a leave cannot be longer than a maximum of four semesters.


During this cycle the candidate is to be registered for dissertation guidance and is to complete four courses or seminars.


The candidate must submit a written dissertation to the faculty, reflecting a level of research expected of Ph.D. candidates. The candidate must defend the dissertation in a public examination on the dissertation and on 10 theses closely related to it or subjects of special study. If the dissertation is approved, the specified number of printed copies must be deposited in the Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies.

Courses Offered

Please consult the registrar's Web site at for descriptions of courses offered in the current semester.

CL Course Title
701 History of Canon Law
702 Seminar in Sources
711 General Norms
712 General Norms II
715 American Law for Canonists
716 Religious Liberty
717 Selected Issues in Canon and Civil Law
718 Constitutional Law of the Church
719 The Second Vatican Council and the Code of Canon Law
720A Ordained Ministry
721 Structures of the Particular Church
722 Administration in the Diocesan Curia
723 Jurisdiction
723A Selected Issues in Particular Church
724 Law for Consecrated Life
725 Selected Issues in Consecrated Life
726 Special Issues in Lay Ministry
727 Philosophy and the Theology of Law
728 Supradiocesan Structures of the Church
729 Liturgical Law
730 Liturgical Law: Selected Issues
731 Sacramental Law: Selected Issues in Discipline of Church's Sanctifying Office
732 The Sanctifying Office: Parts II and III
734 Juridical Structure: Sacrament of Matrimony
735 Selected Issues in Marriage
739 Matrimonial Jurisprudence
740 Selected Issues in Matrimonial Jurisprudence
741 Procedural Law
742 Selected Tribunal Issues
744 Temporal Goods
745 Due Process, Hierarchical Recourse and Human Rights.
746 Protection of Rights in Administrative Life of the Church
747 Selected Issues in the Law on Clergy
750 Teaching Office of the Church
751 Sanctions
757 Selected Issues in Chancery Practice
758 Special Procedures Grave Delicts
760 Roman Law
771 Survey of Eastern Canon Law
784 Ecumenism and Canon Law
790 Contemporary Ecclesiastical Latin Usage
795 Latin for Canonists I
796 Latin for Canonists II
797 Latin for Canonists III
800 Seminar in Canonical Studies
801 Readings
802 Readings in General Norms
803 Readings in Clergy, Laity, Ministry
804 Readings in Church Structures
805 Readings in Religious Law
806 Readings in the Church's Office of Teaching
807 Readings in the Church's Office of Sanctifying
808 Readings in the Church's Office of Governance
809 Readings in the Law on Temporal Goods
810 Readings in the Law on Penalties
811 Readings in Procedural Law
996 Licentiate Thesis Guidance
997 Doctoral Dissertation Guidance