The Pre-Theology Program at St. John Vianney is a two- or three-year cycle of courses which includes three essential components: philosophy, introductory courses in theology, and languages. These elements are designed to promote the intellectual formation of the seminarian and to provide a solid foundation for advanced theological study. Seminarians may choose between degree and non-degree programs in philosophy to meet the entrance requirements for the four-year Theology Program. However, all seminarians are required to complete the same basic curriculum of undergraduate theology and language courses in order to fulfill the requirements of the USCCB’s Program for Priestly Formation (PPF) and the entrance requirements for the Sacred Theology Baccalaureate Degree (S.T.B.) and Master of Divinity Degree (M.Div.) programs.
The study of philosophy is central to our Pre-Theology Program. The goal of the philosophy curriculum is “to develop a reflective awareness of the fundamental relationship that exists between the human spirit and truth, that truth which is revealed to us fully in Jesus Christ” (Pastores Dabo Vobis, 52). This includes both theoretical and practical knowledge of the identity and dignity of the human person and of the real possibility for discovering objective truth. It considers the role of reason in determining man’s true good, ethical norms, the origin of values, the existence and nature of God, and the integral foundations for building the common good. These are the subject matter of philosophy as an autonomous discipline, based on its own methodology and the light of human reason.
Philosophy also has an important value in relation to theology. By studying philosophy in the light of faith, seminarians are formed in the following capacities:
- to think logically and critically as well as to express, in writing and speech, a coherent line of reasoning, which will serve as an aid in catechesis and homiletics;
- to understand the roots of contemporary cultural trends, so he may enter into serious dialogue with persons who have different views, and offer valid reasons that support positions consistent with Catholic teaching;
- to understand the historical roots of Catholic philosophy, its variety and richness, and its continued relevance for men, women, and families, as they face contemporary challenges to the common good; and
- to develop the capability to make careful and accurate ethical distinctions as aids to counseling others in spiritual direction, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or in other encounters with people they meet.
St. John Vianney Theological Seminary offers three undergraduate programs of philosophical study to achieve these objectives: the Standard Program in Pre-Theology, the Bachelor of Philosophy (BPhil) Degree, and the Bachelor of Arts (BA) Degree with Philosophy Major. All three of these programs also include the study of languages and introductory theology courses.