The Catholic University of America

Licentiate in Canon Law

Students may choose to complete the program in two years, i.e., six consecutive semesters (fall, spring, and summer), in three years, excluding summer semesters, or in five summers.

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.




The purpose of the 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.



This Second Cycle lasts for a maximum 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 academic leave of absence has been granted.

Students may choose to complete the program in two years, i.e., six consecutive semesters (fall, spring, and summer), or in three years, excluding summer semesters.  The JCL may also be earned through our Summer Program.

The Summer Program requires students to be in residence during the summer for the months of June and July for five summers.  In addition, students must complete one course online during each of the intervening fall and spring semesters.  Necessary accommodations in students’ schedule must be made at home during the fall and spring semesters to view online classes weekly and complete class requirements on time.

         For housing and accommodations please click here.

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 or the canonical literature in a modern language is an integral dimension of formation as a canon lawyer and subsequent professional work.

The following policy of the School of Canon Law is designed to facilitate this formation within the licentiate program in canon law:

  1. Students are to demonstrate an ability to use canonical literature in Latin and in one of the following modern languages: French, German, Italian, or Spanish in the following manner:  satisfactory completion of a written examination in French, German, Italian, or Spanish, administered by the School of Canon Law; satisfactory completion of a credit course in canonical Latin offered by the School of Canon Law during the regular academic year.
  2. The purpose for the examination is to demonstrate a sufficient understanding of the material to be able to use it reliably in addressing a canonical issue. The material of the examination will usually be taken from a commentary on the code or from an article or monograph dealing with some aspect of the current law of the church.  You must provide your own dictionary for the examination.
  3. The emphasis in the examination is on your comprehension of the material. The examination is on a pass/fail basis. If you fail to pass, the language examination may be retaken. No grade is reported on your permanent record, only the report that the language requirement has been satisfied. 
Canon Law Latin Placement Exam
On behalf of the School of Canon Law, the Department of Greek and Latin offers a Latin placement exam to students who have previously studied Latin at a school other than CUA. The placement exam is administered by personal appointment with the department, and may be scheduled during weekday business hours.
The exam is designed to provide a graded approach to placement. It can be used for placement into LAT 501A/502A (Latin I, II) or LAT 505A (LAT III), or beyond LAT 505A (thus fulfilling the Canon Law Latin requirement).
The test has five parts and consists of 100 points. The first three parts are based on the classical Latin forms, syntax, and vocabulary taught in LAT 501A/501B. All the questions in these sections are multiple choice. The first part (1-30) tests morphology. The second part (31-60) tests simple sentences. The third part (61-80) tests complex sentences. The best resource for reviewing this material is the textbook used in LAT 501A/502A: Learn to Read Latin (Yale Univ. Press).
The fourth and fifth parts are based on passages of canonical Latin. Part four (81-90) asks multiple choice comprehension and grammar questions about two passages. Part five (90-100) asks for translations of two passages of canonical Latin.
Students are given 3 hours for the exam and are permitted to use a dictionary, but not a grammar (or dictionary containing a grammar).


Once the exam is taken, a member of the Greek and Latin faculty will grade it and determine placement on the basis of the scores achieved on different parts of the exam. Results are simultaneously reported by email to the student and the School of Canon Law.


Course Work

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. 


In the last year of the Second Cycle, the student is to write a thesis which 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.

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. Please note that both the School of Canon Law and Columbus School of Law require six semesters of study. For more information, contact the Dean of the School of Canon Law.

For more information concerning the Dual Degree Program (JCL-JD), please click here.

Transfer of Credits

Students entering into the Licentiate in Canon Law (J.C.L.) degree program in the School of Canon Law may transfer up to six credit hours from courses taken at other institutions toward completion of their degree requirements. The University requires that such courses be relevant to the degree program and that the courses be taken at institutions with accreditation from regional associations. All transfer courses must be approved by the Dean; inquiries may be directed to the Dean’s office during the admissions process to determine if proposed transfer courses could receive approval. 

Courses taken as part of a previously-completed degree program will not be accepted for transfer except in limited cases when students have already earned a civil law degree from an accredited institution. In these cases, the Dean may do the following:
1. If the student has earned a degree from a U.S. law school, CL 715 American Law for Canonists is waived.
2. If the student has completed a course on the First Amendment or in Church – State issues, CL 716 Religious Liberty may be waived in consultation with the Dean and Professor.
3. Depending on the transcript from the law school, CL 727, Philosophy and Theology of Law may be waived in consultation with the Dean and Professor.


For more information concerning the Doctor of Canon Law program, please click here.