Studies for the Priesthood
The first two years are spent studying philosophy at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas (also known as the Angelicum, after St Thomas, the Angelic Doctor). The university is run by the order to which St Thomas belonged, the Dominicans, who also teach many of the courses. However, there are also courses delivered by other professors (both clergy and lay) who are experts in their respective fields. All classes are taught in English.
The role of philosophy in the studies of a candidate for the priesthood is not limited to serving as a basis for theological studies and to counter the prevailing cultural subjectivism. Pope St John Paul II also highlighted, in Pastores dabo vobis, that philosophy is something which will continue past the two years of dedicated studies of the subject. Instead, it will have a constant role to play throughout seminary and into the years of priestly ministry.
Upon the completion of philosophical studies, the study of theology begins. Where the standard of Italian is deemed to be sufficient, the seminarian will move to the Jesuit-run Pontifical Gregorian University, whilst some remain at the Angelicum, where theology is offered in English. Over 25 years after it was written, Pastores dabo vobis is still key to the formation of new priests. In it, Pope St John Paul II identified the study of theology as that which the “intellectual formation of the future priest is based and built on…”. This point he developed further: “The value and genuineness of this theological formation depend on maintaining a scrupulous respect for the nature of theology.”
Currently, the program at the Scots College lays out three years of study for the Sacrae Theologiae Baccalaureus (STB); upon receiving this degree, the seminarian completes the first cycle of theological studies. The second cycle consists of participation in the Licentiate program, and it ends when he attains a licence. This qualification is similar to a Masters qualification; it offers the seminarian, by now accepted as a Candidate for Holy Orders by the Church, the chance to specialise in a particular field of theology, philosophy or canon law. With this specialisation, some will move to other pontifical universities, faculties and institutes. Licences have a special role within the Church: the holder of such a title may teach in Church colleges, universities and seminaries. However, the priest is also able to act as a theological resource in his diocese and for the Church in Scotland as a whole through the Bishops’ Conference. The new ratio concerning priestly formation identifies the role of men who complete their licentiate studies.