Theological education in American Catholic higher education, 1939-1973

Pamela Catherine Young, Marquette University


This dissertation is a comparative historical-theological analysis of theological education in American Catholic colleges and universities during the years 1939-1973. The analysis begins with the published papers from the Man and Modern Secularism Conference held in 1939, which marked the opening of a public debate over the aims and methods of theological education (living vs. knowing one's faith). The study concludes with the 1973 decision to consolidate the theological and religious schools and departments at The Catholic University of America into a School of Religious Studies, which appeared to signal a resolution of the contending aims of theological education. However, because educators then did not actually bridge the chasm between the two major concepts of theology, current discussions of the content and purpose of theology courses are actually rooted in unresolved issues from the past. The comparative emphasis of this dissertation lies in the examination of changes in the perception of the ends of theological education at three schools: The Catholic University of America, Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame, Indiana, and Marquette University. The methodology involves comparing and contrasting the developments at these schools in order to suggest how the goals and methods of theological instruction and curricula were shaped by different understandings of the nature and function of theology, by the needs of students, and by the change from a totally clerical to a diverse faculty and student composition. While theological educators attempted to define the aims and methods of their discipline as well as to professionalize their enterprise during the period 1939-1973, they were also forced to respond to various internal and external currents. As a result, theological education's self-definition still lacked clarity by 1973 and its path toward professionalization indicated a separation between knowing and living one's faith. This separation was intensified by the division of labor that resulted from the professionalization of campus ministry and the academization of theological education. Not until theological educators define the aims and methods of their discipline will they be able to articulate the role of theological education in American Catholic higher education.

Recommended Citation

Young, Pamela Catherine, "Theological education in American Catholic higher education, 1939-1973" (1995). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9600867.