The Catholic University of America

Doctor of Philosophy in Spirituality

The PhD degree in Spirituality prepares a student for advanced research, writing, and teaching at the college, university, and seminary levels. Since Christian Spirituality is an academic discipline that, of its nature, is interdisciplinary, the course of study includes biblical, liturgical, historical-systematic, and moral disciplines. In addition to the general requirements outlined in the Civil Degrees for the PhD program, the PhD in Spirituality requires the following:


A Master of Arts degree in Theology or Religious Studies or an equivalent degree is required with a cumulative GPA of 3.3 or higher. The area director may require additional prerequisite coursework when deemed necessary for the student's successful completion of degree requirements, especially in the areas of theology and language skills. A proficiency in Latin and French are required by the end of the first semester of doctoral course work.  

Students whose native language is not English must meet the university requirements for proficiency in that language. Three letters of recommendation from persons able to evaluate an applicant's ability to successfully complete graduate studies are required.  A report of scores obtained from the General Aptitude Test of the Graduate Record Examination is required.


A minimum of four semesters of full-time residence is required.

Course Requirements

 Assessment Interviews that take place prior to registration and then at midterm of the first semester.

  • A minimum of 30 hours of course work after the M.A. degree; 36 hours if the student’s M.A. is from another institution.
  • Students are to maintain a 3.3 GPA.
  • With the advice of the academic advisor 12 credit hours are to be taken in disciplines related to Christian spiritual life: biblical, liturgical, historical-systematic, or moral theology at the 700-level (lecture) and 800-level (seminar).
  • With the advice of the academic advisor 9 credit hours in a minor area of these disciplines may be taken: biblical, liturgical, historical-systematic, or moral theology at the 700-level (lecture) and 800-level (seminar).
  • With the advice of the academic advisor 9 credit hours may be taken in an allied area outside the major area of concentration. With the approval of the academic area director, these courses may be taken in other graduate schools of the University.
  • Completion of the Pro-Seminars for doctoral students.

Research Papers

In conjunction with courses taken on the 700 and 800 levels, students are required to produce four research papers that will become a part of the student's permanent file. The Spirituality faculty will review these research papers prior to the student being admitted to doctoral candidacy. All four of these papers should deal explicitly with Spirituality and give evidence of the student's proficiency in doing research using foreign languages. Each paper is to be evaluated by the course professor and given a letter grade before it is submitted to the student's advisor who will place it in the student's file following review and acceptance.

Language Requirement

Candidates for the Ph.D. must demonstrate a reading knowledge of the following languages:

  • Latin: Reading knowledge of Latin must be demonstrated by successful completion of the Latin Proficiency Exam administered by the Department of Greek and Latin or by a course in Patristic or Medieval Latin. Ordinarily, the Latin requirement should be satisfied during a student's first semester in the program.
  • A Major Modern language: Reading knowledge of a modern language - in addition to French required as for the MA because of its extensive literature in spirituality - Italian, Spanish or German; proficiency must be demonstrated by passing an examination administered by the Department of Modern Languages.
  • Greek: Reading knowledge of either biblical or patristic Greek may be required either by the successful completion of a reading course in biblical or patristic Greek-depending upon the student's area of concentration-or by an examination administered by Department of Greek and Latin.

Comprehensive Exam

The examination is based upon a reading list drawn up by the student in consultation with three members of the examining board.  The list should include approximately fifty substantive titles drawn from both primary and secondary sources.  Titles may be books, or a combination of articles equivalent to a scholarly book length.  The list should consist of twenty books related to Christian Spirituality, fifteen books related to the minor area, and fifteen books related to the allied field.

Three days of written comprehensive examinations (three hours each day) are taken within the span of one semester's time on dates designated by the University academic calendar. The examining board evaluates the Comprehensive examination on a pass/fail basis.

Admission to Ph.D. Candidacy

After notification of the successful completion of the comprehensive examination, the student must apply for candidacy. The faculty of the academic area votes on Ph.D. candidacy.

Ph.D. Dissertation Proposal

Upon admission to candidacy, students prepare their dissertation proposals in accord with the guidelines of the School of Theology and Religious Studies.