Loyola University Chicago

John Felice Rome Center

Theo 179 / cath 179: Roman Catholicism

 Spring 2012

Course Description:

Roman Catholicism is the largest Christian denomination in the world. Taking the opportunity of the “genius loci” (the JFRC being located right at the heart of Roman Catholicism), this class examines the foundational Catholic beliefs together with attention to the church’s institutional structure. By the end of the course, students will be familiar with the major facets of the complex reality that is the Roman Catholic Church and have a good grasp of the rationale behind the worldview of Roman Catholics to face the struggles regarding the future of society and individuals.


Knowledge Area Satisfied: Theological and Religious Studies Knowledge

Skills Developed: Critical Thinking Skills and Dispositions

Values Area (Understanding Spirituality or Faith in Action in the World):


Knowledge Area: Theological and Religious Studies Knowledge

By taking this course, students will be able to demonstrate knowledge, with attention to historical development, of the central texts, beliefs, ethical understandings, and practices of Roman Catholicism. By way of example, students who take this course should be able to:  (1) name and discuss some of the most important Roman Catholic beliefs; (2) Articulate the general outline of the historical evolution of Roman Catholicism and, in particular, the impact of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965); (3) Define and discuss key Roman Catholic concepts, terms, values, and religious practices; and (4) recount and analyze the main lines of current Roman Catholic debates about its identity in today's world.

The course also addresses other competencies as well.  By taking this course, for example, students should be able to analyze and interpret Roman Catholic religious texts, beliefs, and practices using standard scholarly methods and tools (competency a). For example, students should be able to analyze and interpret some papal and conciliar statements and discuss the role of these texts in the lives of believing Roman Catholics. Students taking this course will also be able to demonstrate knowledge of the central ethical teachings and perspectives of Roman Catholicism (competency e), e.g., the role and meaning of "natural law." Finally, students taking this course will be able to evaluate the religious perspectives of Roman Catholics (competency d) in light of what they learn about the teachings and practices that are foundational to Roman Catholicism.


Skills (Critical Thinking Skills and Dispositions):

Students will:

1. "comprehend, paraphrase, summarize, and contextualize the meaning of varying forms of communication." 

In class discussions, quizzes, and/or examinations, students will demonstrate the ability to comprehend, paraphrase, summarize, and/or contextualize a variety of religious texts, histories, and ideas, as well as scholarly arguments about those texts, histories and ideas. 

2. develop "strategies for seeking and synthesizing information to support an argument, make a decision, or resolve a problem."

In class discussions, quizzes, and/or examinations, students will be encouraged to articulate reasoned arguments about materials studied in the course or to critique arguments to which they are exposed in the class.

3. monitor students' own "individual thinking or behavior" in relationship to Roman Catholicism "in order to question, confirm, validate, or correct" their presuppositions and prejudgments. 

Class discussions will require students to reflect on their own presuppositions and correct erroneous opinions by appealing to data and reasoned argumentation.


Values Area (Understanding Spirituality or Faith in Action in the World):

1. Students who identify themselves as Roman Catholic or claim a Catholic heritage in some way will be enabled to "demonstrate knowledge of and . . .  to articulate the foundations of one's own . . .  beliefs or faith traditions." Similarly, non-Catholic students will be enabled to "demonstrate knowledge of and . . .  to articulate the foundations of . . . others' beliefs or faith traditions" (competency a). Such competency will be promoted by the required reading, class discussions, student writing, and examinations.

2. In the Roman Catholic ethos, belief and worship are gradually but surely to shape one's way of life. Thus, a study of Roman Catholicism will enable students to "demonstrate how faith traditions or belief systems have been or can be related to intellectual and cultural life" (competency b).  Such competency will be promoted mainly by class discussions and student writing.

3. Since Roman Catholicism focuses upon fundamental issues of personal identity and meaning, the study of Roman Catholicism in this course will "develop an ability to reflect upon the applications of one's beliefs or faith traditions to decisions in one's personal, professional, and civic life" (competency c). Such competency will be promoted mainly by class discussions and student writing.


Assigned Readings:

·  Lawrence S. Cunningham, An Introduction to Catholicism (Cambridge, 2009)

·  The Catechism of the Catholic Church     [abbreviated CCC], available for free on-line at www.vatican.va/archive/ccc/index.htm and http://www.usccb.org/catechism/text/entiretoc1.shtml 

·         Additional reading assignments made available on BLACKBOARD


Course Requirements:

Regular attendance (unless you have prior permission from the instructor, the Rome Center direction, or a documented medical condition) and active participation in class discussions are expected. Active participation in discussions depends on the completion of the weekly reading assignments. Class will consist of an introductory lecture and the discussion of the primary texts and secondary literature. Bring Catholic Christianity (and the additional reading material) to class.


Course evaluation:

The mid-term (2x) plus quizzes          33 %

The final examination                                     33 %

Writing assignment*                           33 %

Active participation in all stages of the course will be taken into account for the final grade. 

* These assignments (length of essay: 5-7 pages, bibliography not counted) are to be submitted by hard copy not later than the beginning of the class they are due. Specific information will be provided at appropriate time.


Grading Scale:

A = 4.0; A- = 3.67; B+ = 3.33; B = 3.00; B- = 2.67; C+ = 2.33; C = 2.00; C- = 1.67; D+ = 1.33; D = 1.00; F = 0; WF = 0.

Determination of grades ultimately resides in the judgment of the instructor; however, if you ever feel that you have been graded inaccurately, please come to see me.


Academic Integrity

Failure to comply with the standards and regulations of academic integrity will be reported and Loyola University Chicago’s policy will be enforced.




                            (I)               Introduction to the course; What is “Catholicism” ?


                            (II)              Catholicism and the City of Rome

            Required Readings: An Introduction to Catholicism, Ch. 1-2.


                            (III)             Catholicism in Place and Time

            Required Readings: An Introduction to Catholicism, Ch. 3-4


                            (IV)            The Sacraments

      Readings: An Introduction to Catholicism,Ch. 5


                            (V)              The Eucharist

            Required Readings: Paul Haffner, The Sacramental Mystery (Hereforshire: 1999),
               pp. 75-112
(Blackboard and JFRC library)


                            (VI)            Faith and Tradition

            Required Readings: An Introduction to Catholicism, Ch.6


                            (VII)           MID-TERM EXAMINATION


                            (VIII)          Faith and Reason

                         Required Readings:Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity (San Francisco: 2004), pp. 151-161 (Blackboard and JFRC library)

                            (IX)             Catholic Spirituality

            Required ReadingsAn Introduction to Catholicism, Ch.7, 147-162




                          (X)            The Blessed Virgin and the Saints

            Required Readings: A)An Introduction to Catholicism, Ch.7, 163-171

                                            B) Jaroslav Pelikan, Mary through the Centuries: Her place in the history of culture (Yale: 1996), pp. 189-223  (Blackboard)

                             (XI)             Vatican II

            Required Readings: An Introduction to Catholicism, Ch.9


                            (XII)           The moral Life

            Required Readings: An Introduction to Catholicism, Ch. 10



                                (XIII)      Catholicism and World Religions

            Required Readings: An Introduction to Catholicism, Ch. 11


FINAL EXAMINATION (as scheduled by the JFRC)