USML | Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology (S.T.B.)

Pontifical Faculty of Theology

Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology (S.T.B.)

The first cycle of theological studies is a three-year introduction to the study of theology in the Roman Catholic tradition that leads to the Baccalaureate of Sacred Theology. The S.T.B. represents ecclesial certification that a person has studied and is knowledgeable in all the major areas of Catholic theology.

S.T.B. Admission Requirements

  • Completion of the Application Form. 

  • Completion of the Required Immunization Information Form which is mandated by the State of Illinois, Acts 85-1315. (Current M.Div. students should already have this form on file). All this material can obtained from the Office of Registrar or the website. 

  • An accredited bavhelor's degree with: 
      1. a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.2 

      2. twelve semester hours of theological or religious studies (including introductions to the Old and New Testaments)

      3. thirty semester hours of philosophical studies oriented toward Catholic theology (including an introduction to philosophical questions and method, medieval philosophy, and modern or contemporary philosophy).
  • Official transcripts of undergraduate and post-college academic work 
  • A personal essay of approximately 1000 words explaining the applicant’s intellectual interests and reasons for pursuing the degree 

  • Completion of all requirements must be submitted to the Registrar

S.T.B. Program Requirements

  • Completion of the S.T.B. Core Curriculum with a minimum  cumulative GPA of 3.2 

  • Research Requirement: A student enrolled in the S.T.B. program will select three courses (nine hours) from the existing 3-hour courses that are required by the Dogmatic Theology, Biblical Studies, Spiritual Theology, or Moral Theology departments and that are not introductory courses. In addition to the regular coursework required for each of these courses, the student will write a 15-20 page research paper. The course instructor must approve the topic of the paper and once graded, will submit a graded copy to the Registrar for inclusion in the student’s file.  

  • Successful completion of a Comprehensive Exam that demonstrates the candidate’s mastery of theology.  A list of topics for the exam is given below. A student passes this exam by earning at least a B (86%), and passes “with distinction” when each question receives a grade of A (95%) or higher.

    A student fails the exam if one question receives a failing grade.  Those who fail the examination may be retested once in the area(s) which they failed.

S.T.B. Core Curriculum

  • Those courses marked with an * are designated introductory courses and may not be used for the research requirement.  

Biblical Studies & Homiletics (18) 

*Introduction to Biblical Studies, Psalms and Wisdom (3)
Pentateuch and Histories (3)
Pauline Literature (3)
Synoptic Gospels and Acts (3)
Prophets (3)
Johannine Literature (3)

Dogmatic Theology (22) 

*Fundamental Theology (2)
*Doctrine of God, One and Three (3)
*Christology and Soteriology (3)
*Anthropology, Creation, Grace and Eschatology (3)
Ecclesiology and Mariology (3)
Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue (2)
Sacraments of Eucharist, Baptism, and Confirmation (3)
Sacraments of Healing and Vocation (2)
Doctrine of Priesthood (1)

Church History (12)

American Church History (2)
Formation of Catholic Tradition (3)
Medieval & Early Modern (2)
Ages of Reformation and Revolution (3)
Modern Church History (2)

Moral Theology (11)

Fundamental Moral Theology (3)
Medical Ethics and Suffering (3)
Sexuality and Vocation (3)
Social Justice (2)

Spiritual Theology (3)

*Spiritual Theology (3)

Canon Law (4) 

Canon Law I (2)
Canon Law II (2)

Liturgy and Music (3)

*Principles of Sacred Liturgy and Music (3)


Topics for S.T.B Exam

The topics that are to be mastered in preparation for the S.T.B. examination are the following:


Biblical Studies & Homiletics 


The historical-critical method according to the official documents of the Church

The authorship of the Pentateuch and implications regarding inspiration

Johannine Literature

What are some of the major ways in which the Gospel of John differs from the synoptic gospels in its narrative, portrayal of Jesus, and its theological emphases?

What was going on in the Johannine community?

Introduction to St. Paul

The New Perspective on Paul: How does it contrast with the old perspective?

The background, structure, and major themes of 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, Romans, and Philippians

Synoptic Gospels

What do we find when we compare the Synoptic gospels? What is the best explanation for their relationship?

What are some of the distinctive theological and literary features of each of the synoptic gospels?


Description of biblical prophecy and of the prophetic task

Why the historical critical method is essential for understanding accurately prophetic texts


Discuss the “ecumenical” aspect of Hebrew Wisdom literature; in what ways does it share forms and interests with the larger ancient near eastern world

Discuss the literary genres found in the Psalter, particularly Hymns of Praise, Laments, Covenant Psalms, and Psalms of Thanksgiving and Trust. How does the knowledge of a literary genre help in understanding the background of the psalms and their exegesis? How can it help in modern applications of these texts?

Dogmatic Theology

Fundamental Theology

Catholic Approaches to Inspiration (especially Dei Verbum)

Scripture and Tradition (Trent and Vatican II)

Arguments for God’s existence

God and the problem of evil

Doctrine of God

Father, Son, & Holy Spirit as one God and three distinct persons

The relationships among the persons

The “filioque

The divine attributes


The development of the dogma of the person of Christ in the responses of the first six ecumenical councils to doctrinal propositions on the relation of the divine and human natures of Christ

The central concepts of Catholic soteriology: objective redemption, subjective redemption, solidarity, substitution, satisfaction; the satisfaction theory of Anselm as foundational theory and the Protestant theory of vicarious penal substitution as deviant development from Anselm


The marks of the Church: one, holy, catholic, apostolic

The one Church of Christ subsisting in the Catholic Church

Sacraments of Initiation

The development of the Church’s understanding of sacraments in general and the seven canonical sacraments

The influence of twentieth century theology on the contemporary understanding of sacraments

Sacraments of Healing and Vocation

Ecclesial penance in the early Church and the developments beginning in the 6th century

The sacramental character received in Holy Orders

Doctrine of Priesthood

Name and describe the four pillars of priestly formation

The development of the Church’s doctrine on the Sacrament of Holy Orders from the Council of Trent to the present day

Theological Anthropology

God’s creation of the universe and human beings (Creation and science; evolution; humanity in creating; humanity’s imaging of God)

The entrance of sin in the world and its effect today (peccatum originale originans and peccatum originale originatum: the state of the doctrine in tradition and to day)

The human person as spirit and body

Grace as a call to participation and growth in God’s own life

The justification of the sinner by grace (Council of Trent)

The priority of divine freedom over human free will (including the genuineness of human freedom)

Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue

The relationship of the Catholic Church to other churches and ecclesial communities

The theological status of non-Christian religions

Moral Theology

Objective morality and the natural law

The four sources of moral theology

The four cardinal and three theological virtues and opposing  vices

The human person: dignity, freedom, human rights, the common good, economic justice

Artificial contraception, NFP, and the virtue of chastity

Sexual sins: pornography, masturbation, fornication, homosexual acts, adultery

Ordinary and extraordinary means in life saving medical treatment

The notes of conjugal love and the relationship of the conjugal act to conjugal love

Spiritual Theology

Definition of holiness, the “Four Marks of Apostolic Charity”

Definitions of Christian and Generic spirituality

Apatheia and the Triple Way

The Stages of Prayer

Definitions of asceticism, mysticism, contemplation



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