Role of Ecumenical Divinity Schools in Catholic Theological Education

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Mon, 01/01/1990
End Date: 
Thu, 04/30/1992

The Roman Catholic Task Force of Yale University Divinity School undertook a study of the role of ecumenical divinity schools in Catholic theological education, under the direction of M. Shawn Copeland. Questionnaires were sent to 187 students and 239 alumni/ae from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, Harvard Divinity School, Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California, the University of Chicago Divinity School, and Yale Divinity School. Catholic enrollment at ecumenical divinity schools is a post- Vatican II development. These schools, closely allied with major secular universities, are independent of ecclesiastical control and mainly stand in the liberal Protestant theological tradition. The students who come to these schools -- seeking broader theological perspectives, greater academic freedom, and academic excellence -- are committed Catholics who hope to contribute their learnings to their church. Relative to the larger Catholic community, the schools are highly democratic and ecumenical and emphasize the scriptures and the person of Jesus more than the institutional church; personal commitment, discipleship, and a passion for integrity are believed to be the distinctive marks of Catholic witness. Female students value openness, academic freedom, and diversity more than do male students, express dissatisfaction with Catholic institutions as presently constituted, and are apprehensive about the future direction of the church.

As increasing numbers of Catholic students elect to study at these schools, questions are raised about curriculum, faculty composition, and liturgical and community life, as well as the degree to which these schools are truly "ecumenical" rather than merely "nondenominational."