The Catholic University of America

Degree Programs

The School of Canon Law is an ecclesiastical faculty preparing 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.

PREREQUISITE FOR THE STUDY OF CANON LAW:  theological and philosophical background, known as the FIRST CYCLE.

FIRST CYCLE: The study of canon law presupposes a theological foundation.  For those who do not possess an advanced degree in theology or who have had no previous training in philosophy, 24 graduate credits in theology (8 courses or two semesters) are required, covering (in general) dogmatic theology, ecclesiology, sacramental theology, and moral theology.  More specifically, these courses should include the following topics:

  • Elements of philosophy: philosophical anthropology, metaphysics, ethics.
  • 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.
  • Fundamental institutes of canon law.
  • Latin


The School of Canon Law and Franciscan University of Steubenville [=FUS] have developed a program of study at FUS which could fulfill the requirements for the First Cycle and also provides, for comparison purposes, a listing of courses that would fulfill the First Cycle Requirements; click here for more information.


The FIRST CYCLE completion qualifies a student to enter the SECOND CYCLE (the regular Licentiate in Canon Law [J.C.L) degree program).


Students interested in applying to the SECOND CYCLE and who have earned an undergraduate degree (or minored) in theology or have taken graduate theology courses are invited to submit an unofficial transcript of their coursework and course descriptions to the Admissions Committee of the School which will determine if this background suffices to enter theSECOND CYCLE.


SECOND CYCLE refers to the six semesters in which students study the governing norms of the Catholic Church; upon successful completion of the requirements, the student earns the LICENTIATE IN CANON LAW.

The purpose of the six-semester 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 and briefs.

THIRD CYCLE refers to further juridical formation and the writing of the doctoral dissertation; upon successful completion of the requirements, the student earns the doctor of canon law degree.

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-.

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. Fulfilling these requirements allows the student to request the Faculty admit the student into the DOCTORAL PROGRAM.