Decree 9: “The Training of Scholastics Especially in Studies,” General Congregation 31 (1966)

Academic formation of young Jesuits proved a popular topic in advance of the 31st General Congregation, as historian John Padberg notes that some 600 postulta (or petitions) were received from across the Society of Jesus (see Jesuit Life & Mission Today (2009), pg. 19–20). The delegates responded with the following decree, which begins with the statement that “the training of scholastics should be apostolic in its orientation.” Critical to the apostolic quality is the scholastics’ acquisition of a “breadth and excellence in learning which are required for our vocation to achieve its end.” The decree also recommends a revision of “the entire Ratio studiorum” and that scholastics have a “sufficient” knowledge of Latin and have “suitable opportunities” to access audio-visual media. The decree outlines the requirements in the study of philosophy and theology and offers examples of “special studies” for a Jesuit’s specialized work.

For more from the 31st General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, please consult this page.



I. Training in General

1.     The training of the scholastics should be apostolic in its orientation; namely, that Jesuits may be able “with the help of God to benefit both their own souls and those of their neighbor.” Therefore, the scholastics, called by Christ our Lord to serve the universal Church as future priests, should prepare themselves, with the help of divine grace, “for the defense and propagation of the faith and the growth of souls in Christian life and doctrine.” The result should be that, living in close familiarity with God, through a profound understanding of the faith and a vital knowledge of men, they will become true ministers of Christ, who make the presence of God felt in the modern world.

2.     There should be an organic unity in the whole training of the scholastics. Thus, beginning with the novitiate and throughout the entire course of studies there should be a close integration of spiritual formation, the work of study, and apostolic activity. All who have charge of the training of Jesuits, either in government or in teaching, should diligently and harmoniously work together for this integration.

3.     The scholastics should base their lives on the principles of the spirituality of the Society, as explained in the decrees on the spiritual life. They should strive for the fullness of Christian life in charity. They should practice a true self-denial, especially in faithful application to study, should come to an intimate knowledge and a generous observance of the Constitutions, and should continuously foster, in intimate prayer and the mysteries of the sacred liturgy, a personal union with Christ their Lord, who calls them to share in his priesthood.

4.      In the whole course of training, apostolic experiments of a suitable nature should be undertaken. These experiments should be carefully directed by experts, who are themselves so filled with the priestly and pastoral spirit that the training, both spiritual and intellectual, will be filled with that same spirit. An additional help to this end will be frequent meetings with those who are already working in the apostolate.

5.     Provision should be made in each stage of the training for personal maturity, especially of the emotions; the advice of trained psychologists should be used when it is necessary. In this way, the balanced development of the spiritual, intellectual and affective life will be secured, and the true maturity of the whole person will be achieved.

6.     The scholastics, in their whole course of studies, should try to develop a sense of genuine and sober responsibility, rejecting every form of immaturity which would make them unable to face the difficulties of life. Therefore, frequent occasions should be given them for exercising responsibility, in leading the spiritual and intellectual life more actively and spontaneously, in doing some work in the house, and in vigorously carrying on various apostolic experiments as well.

7.     Great care should be taken that each scholastic be directed according to his own gifts, both natural and supernatural. At the same time a sense of solidarity and collaboration should be fostered in the whole period of training, so that every trace of that egoism which is rightly criticized may be removed from our training.

8.     The discipline of common life is to be embraced from the inner law of love, as a necessary element in our training; namely, to follow the divine will faithfully in daily life, to promote solid personal maturity, to practice the duties of charity toward fellow religious. Let the practice of this discipline be such that the scholastics, following Christ their Lord and Master in humble reverence and obedience, may enjoy the true freedom of the children of God in the Holy Spirit.

9.     Care is to be taken that the number of scholastics in the houses of formation be not too large, so that mutual relations can be spiritual and fraternal, the discipline may be that of a family, and the government truly paternal.

10.     True dialogue should exist between superiors, professors, and scholastics. It should be possible for all to express opinions and make suggestions with openness and candor. Thus in the final decision, which belongs to the superior, there will be closer consensus and obedience, and a filial spirit and fraternal communion of mind will grow continuously within the community.

11.     The scholastics should have suitable contacts with outside university groups, with clerics and religious, and also with laymen both of their own and of other nations. This, of course, should be arranged with prudence. In this way, ridding themselves of nationalism and every other form of particularism, they will acquire the universality of mind and openness toward different forms of culture and diverse civilizations and mentalities which our apostolic vocation demands.

12.     The entire training of the scholastics should be inspired by the spirit of the Second Vatican Council as manifested in its constitutions and decrees, namely in the constitutions on the Church and the Sacred Liturgy and in the decrees on priestly formation, on the appropriate renewal of the religious life and on ecumenism.


II. On Studies

13.     The purpose of studies in the Society is apostolic, as is the purpose of the entire training. Through their studies the scholastics should acquire that breadth and excellence in learning which are required for our vocation to achieve its end.

14.     The education given through our studies is both general and special: the general education which is necessary for all priests in the Society; the special education which is daily more necessary for the various tasks for which Jesuits are to be prepared. Their general education should give to the minds of the scholastics that Christian vision which will illuminate the entire field of future special study and work, and also bring light to others with whom they work.

15.     To insure that the intellectual formation of Jesuits is ordered to meet the needs of the times, the entire Ratio studiorum shall be revised. Considering the great diversity of regions and circumstances, this Ratio shall determine only general norms. It should have due regard both for the laws of the Church (those now in force as well as those to be passed by the Council or after the Council) and for the laws passed by the present General Congregation. The new Ratio studiorum can depart from the decrees of preceding general congregations as this is opportune, until the next general congregation makes a final decision. In the meantime, some definite experiments, with the approval of Father General, can be carried on; the results of these experiments are to be accurately reported to the commission on the Ratio studiorum.

16.     In the different regions, it will be the task of the (group of) provincials to have a special Ordo Studiorum drawn up, which will adapt and fill out the general norms, considering the special circumstances of each region. These special Ordinations, which must be approved by Father General, are to be regularly revised, so that the training of Jesuits may always correspond to the apostolic needs of each region.


A. The General Curriculum of Studies

17.     Before they begin philosophy and theology, the scholastics should have completed that training in letters and sciences which in each nation is required before specialization is begun. Their knowledge of Latin should be sufficient for them to understand and use with ease the sources of the sacred sciences and the documents of the Church. This training in letters and sciences, if it has not been completed before entrance into the Society, shall be completed in the novitiate; and, if necessary, in the juniorate.

18.     In those provinces in which, according to their special Ordinations, higher studies are pursued in the juniorate, they should be capable of developing in the juniors a well-balanced religious and human maturity, and they should give them as well a vital knowledge of man and of the modern world. This humanistic training is to be achieved by the study of ancient and modern literature, and also of history and the sciences. Furthermore, the juniors should endeavor early to develop their aesthetic sense. It is urgently desired that the scholastics early in their studies learn one or more modern languages in addition to their own. Finally, in the entire course of studies, but especially in the juniorate, the scholastics should practice those means of expression which are suited to the people of our age. Skilled in the arts of writing and speaking, they can become better preachers of the Gospel of Christ.

19.     Since in modern civilization, the audio-visual media are most effective in moving the souls of every class of people, the scholastics shall have suitable opportunities for access to them, and also of learning how they can be used successfully in the apostolate.

20.     In the novitiate or the juniorate or at least in the beginning of the course of philosophy, the scholastics shall receive an appropriate introduction to the mystery of Christ and the history of salvation; this should give them a vision of the meaning, order, and apostolic purpose of all their studies; it should likewise help to ground their own religious life in faith, and strengthen them in their vocation. The methodical reading of Holy Scripture shall be begun with a gradual initiation in the novitiate. Likewise, throughout the whole course of training they shall learn to take an active part in the liturgy, and come to understand it more deeply.

21.     The courses in philosophy and theology shall be so fitted to each other, and the disciplines shall be so arranged, that all of them harmoniously work together to attain the apostolic end of our studies. This end will not be obtained in the Society unless apostolic men trained as well as possible in these studies are prepared. Therefore, as a general rule, our scholastics should work for those academic degrees in philosophy and especially in theology, which can be obtained in our course of studies and help towards our apostolic purpose.

22.     All scholastics shall study philosophy for at least two years. The introduction to the mystery of Christ is to be their guiding light; the patrimony of a perennially valid philosophy is to be the foundation of their thinking. Thus they can be brought to a personal and truly philosophical reflection on human existence, and especially on Christian existence. This reflection should take account of the progress of both philosophy and science, and try to respond to the vital problems of contemporary men, especially of those who have a greater influence in the territory. Through this reflection they should gain an insight into the whole of reality according to its metaphysical structure; it should lead to a knowledge of God, and in this way prepare the way for theology.

23.     The instruction in theology for all scholastics shall be given for four years. This instruction shall be pastoral, in the sense that by an accurate study of the sources and by an investigation of the meaning of the faith, the scholastics shall so deeply penetrate the richness of divine revelation, that the word of God will nourish their own personal spiritual life and will be able to be effectively communicated in the priestly ministry to the people of their own time. They shall seriously study Sacred Scripture, so that it will be the very soul of all the other disciplines, by means of accurate exegesis and a suitable doctrinal synthesis. To reach this deeper understanding of the faith, so necessary for our times, they shall reverently, without preconceived opinions, study the relation of the mysteries among themselves as well as their relation to the urgent philosophical questions of their time. In all this they shall loyally follow in the footsteps of the Fathers both of the East and of the West and of the great Doctors of the Church.

24.     Separate classes for long and short course are not required in theology. Nonetheless, individual care should be given to the scholastics so that they will be better trained according to their individual aptitudes and their special future assignments.

25.     The programs of the entire philosophical and theological curriculum shall be revised, so that disciplines can be taken in their entirety, the matter be distributed more systematically, unnecessary repetitions can be avoided, obsolete questions can be omitted, and those which have an influence at the present time can be treated more profoundly. New disciplines should not be lightly introduced, but rather new questions should be taken up in the appropriate places in already existing disciplines. For the social formation of the scholastics, in addition to special courses, care is to be taken that in other philosophical and theological disciplines their social aspect and dimension be developed more fully.

26.     The methods of teaching shall be revised. The hours of class shall be reduced when circumstances require it; correspondingly, the active participation of the scholastics shall be increased, and encouragement shall be given to their mutual cooperation, under the personal direction of the professors, in seminars, written papers, private study, and small groups.

27.     It is also desirable that each scholastic, under the direction of the prefect of studies, find some field of specialization according to his individual talent; he should work on this in the time left over from the ordinary studies; he should foster a personal interest in studies, and prepare himself remotely for his own future apostolate in the modern world.

28.     Examinations should be genuine tests. According to the norms to be determined in the Ratio studiorum, they can be both oral and written; but in a principal discipline they may not be merely written. The examiners shall make a personal and free judgment; it is permissible for them to consult together after the examination. Examinations can be repeated once; but those who do not pass the second examination in a principal discipline lose the right both to a licentiate and to the profession in the Society.

29.     The matter for the examen ad gradum is the whole of theology. Philosophical questions are to be included insofar as they are related to theological ones. The examination will last one hour and a half, and the candidate shall be examined by each examiner for about twenty minutes. This examination also can be repeated once. It is permissible, however, for the examiners to consult together; they can make their judgment also from knowledge they have outside the examination and can take account of the grades given through the entire course; therefore these grades should be available to the examiners.

30.     Regency can be made after philosophy, or, where it seems better, deferred until after theology, or omitted, or joined with special studies. But when it is omitted, care should be taken to secure the purpose of the regency by various apostolic works. These works should be set up during the entire period of training (see No. 4), especially during the annual vacation, arranged with prudence, without harm to studies, and under the direction of a man of experience.

31.     Ordination to the priesthood, especially when regency does not take place before theology, can suitably be deferred, according to the special norms to be approved by Father General for the needs of a particular region.

32.     In the houses of study there should not be too many scholastics for the reasons given in No. 9. But since a sufficient number of professors, a good library and other scholarly helps are necessary for intellectual training, schools and faculties should not be multiplied; but, where this can be conveniently done, let there be several religious communities, the scholastic members of which attend the same school or faculty. Indeed, let there be concern, as far as it is possible, that our houses of study be built near university centers, so that the scholastics can also have the advantage of other professors and libraries; care should be taken, however, that their training, far from being injured thereby, become better.


B. Special Studies

33.     Since it is daily more necessary that not only those who are destined to teach, but also those who exercise other ministries of the Society, have special preparation, the provincials should provide for the training of an ample number of competent men for the various tasks, keeping in mind both the needs of the apostolate and the talents and preference of the scholastics.

34.     Those who are to have special studies should be chosen carefully and in good time; they should be directed by a special prefect of studies even during the period in which they are still following the general curriculum; they should devote themselves to their specialization generously and exclusively, and continue in it so that, as far as possible, they become outstanding.

35.     Likewise, those who are destined for administrative functions in large houses, especially in houses of study, should have some advance preparation. This may include special studies, and, in any case, it presupposes the natural and supernatural gifts required for such offices. This is especially true for treasurers of large houses or provinces.

36.     Special care should be given to the preparation of spiritual fathers of Jesuits and of externs. This can be done in special courses in Rome or elsewhere, or privately, under the direction of a trained, experienced man, or with some other suitable preparation, according to decree 40 of the 30th General Congregation. This is especially true of those destined to be masters of novices and instructors of tertians.

37.     Those who are to teach the sacred sciences in major seminaries and especially in Jesuit faculties, should take special studies either in the international institutes in Rome or in other universities, as the provincial, with the advice of experts, shall think best. They are to obtain the appropriate academic degrees, especially ecclesiastical ones, and to be well prepared for teaching.

38.     Scientific and technical advancement is a major factor in our times. The positive sciences exert an ever increasing influence on the mentality of men and on the very structure of our daily lives. Hence those who are destined for scientific research and for teaching the secular sciences should have special training to fit them for the scientific apostolate which is so very important. In fact, the Society should have men with doctoral degrees who become truly eminent in these fields.

39.     Men skilled in pastoral work should also be trained with special studies. This will enable them to promote the proper arrangement of our ministries and their adaptation to modern times and special circumstances.

40.     Those who are destined for other regions, in addition to the general preparation, should, where it is necessary, have a specialization before they go to that region, with a view to the circumstances of that region.


C. Doctrine and Teaching

41.     The purpose of our studies is to train Jesuits to proclaim and transmit the truth revealed in Christ and entrusted to the Church. Our teaching therefore should faithfully adhere to what “was once given to the holy men of the faith,” and should be such that, accommodating itself to changing ways of speaking and thinking, and adapting itself to the diverse cultures of the whole world, it can continually revivify that faith in the hearts of men.

42.     Let Jesuits put their trust in the strength of the divine truth, and in that inner unction of the Holy Spirit which leads the Church of Christ to all truth. Therefore let them join to their studies a close familiarity with God, and in this secure way they will be safe from timidity as well as from thoughtless innovation. Let them in all matters see that their knowledge is well-grounded, according to the norms which the Holy See has given us.

43.     Professors should bear in mind that they do not teach in their own name, but that their mission is in the Church and from the Church, and that they are joined in charity in the Society of Jesus. Hence they should let themselves be guided by the mind and will of the Church, show proper respect for the teaching authority of the Church, and have regard for the building up of the faith in their students and in all the faithful. At the same time they should keep in mind those who are separated from us.

44.     Let both professors and scholastics faithfully adhere to and diligently study the word of God in Scripture and Tradition. Let them also have high regard for the holy Fathers and other Doctors, and for those authors of the Society who are highly regarded in the Church. Let them follow principally the mind and principles of St. Thomas; his works should be well known to them.

45.     Professors should clearly distinguish between matters of faith to be held by all and teachings approved by the consent of theologians. Probable, new, and merely personal explanations are to be proposed modestly.

46.     For more secure and profitable progress in doctrine, it will be very helpful if the professors freely and sincerely communicate to their colleagues their new ideas, even before they are published. Thus, if necessary, they can be corrected, and can perhaps also be of benefit to others.

47.     The scholastics during their course of studies should learn, under the direction of their teachers, to read critically and use prudently the works even of non-Catholics, especially of those who have great influence on the modern mind. Thus they should learn how to retain what is good, and correct what is unacceptable.




Original Source (English translation):

Jesuit Life & Mission Today: The Decrees & Accompanying Documents of the 31st35th General Congregations of the Society of Jesus, ed. John W. Padberg. St. Louis, Mo.: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2009, General Congregation 31, Decree 9, “The Training of Scholastics Especially in Studies,” pg. 81–89 [141–187].

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