The Catholic University of America

Doctor of Philosophy in Moral Theology & Ethics

In addition and specific to the general requirements for obtaining a civil degree, the Moral Theology and Ethics area requires the following:


  • Applicants should possess an M.A. in theology as offered by this faculty, or the equivalent of this degree.
  • Ordinarily, applicants will have obtained twelve credit hours of undergraduate or graduate philosophy.
  • Students who enter the Moral Theology/Ethics (MT/E) Ph.D. program with academic deficiencies will be encouraged to audit courses to complement their doctoral level courses.

Course Requirements

  • 36 credit hours of course work after the M.A. degree.
  • Eighteen of those hours are to be taken in the area of MT/E, including the four MT/E core courses.
  • An additional six hours are electives, to be taken in any of the academic areas of the School of Theology and Religious Studies or within other Schools of the University.
  • At least nine hours of course work in one minor area.
  • The doctoral-level required prerequisite course.
  • Completion of a program proposal during the second semester of doctoral study.
  • Completion and filing of four research papers.

Language Requirements

Reading proficiency and facility for use in theological research in two modern languages (normally French and German) and either Latin or Greek.

Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination

  • The comprehensive examinations include both written exams and an oral exam.

  • There are three written examinations, in the following areas:
    • general moral theology
    • the student's area of specialization within MT/E
    • the student's minor areas.
  • Each written exam is four hours in length. If a student only has one minor area, the minor area exam is only two hours in length.
  • The subject matter of each examination will be based on a reading list, compiled by the student in consultation with, and pending the approval of, the student's comprehensive exam committee.
  • The comprehensive exam committee will consist of four examiners. Ordinarily, three examiners will come from the MT/E and the fourth examiner from a minor area.
  • The written exams may be scheduled over a period of up to seven days.
  • Following successful completion of the written portion of the comprehensive examinations, students will be given a ninety-minute oral examination.
    • The subject matter of the oral exam is the entirety of the book lists for the written exams.
    • The oral examination is to be scheduled approximately one week following the completion of the written comprehensive examinations.
  • Upon successful completion of comprehensive exams, the student will apply to the academic area director of MT/E for candidacy. The MT/E faculty will evaluate the student's application for candidacy.