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As the due date for the prospectus approaches, I want to give you some guidance on the paper and the prospectus for it.
The purpose of the paper is to explain clearly and accurately what specifically the Church teaches on your chosen topic and to explain why the Church holds that teaching. The topic should be a specific topic on which the Church has some definite teaching. Further, the topic should not be a specifically moral teaching (so not euthanasia, not abortion, not our obligation to protect the environment).
Some examples of general topics (follow by specific teachings) off the top of my head:
The Trinity, for example:
that there are three divine Persons in the one God
that the Son eternally proceeds from the Father.
Christ, (just a few of very very many possible topics),
That Christ is a divine Person
That Christ had both a divine and human nature
That Christ could suffer and feel pain
That Christ had a human intellect and will
That Christ atoned for our sins by His passion and death
Mary, e.g.,
that she was conceived without original sin,
that she is the Mother of God,
that she was assumed into heaven at the end of her earthly life (This one could be difficult).
Sacraments (again, only a very few out of very many),
That Christ is truly and substantially present in the Eucharist
That the Church has the power to forgive sins
That baptism cleanses from all prior sin
That the sacraments work ex opere operato (they aren’t magic, but they also aren’t just ordinary prayers)
That the orders of deacon, priest, and bishop were instituted by Christ.
That the Church does not have the power to ordain women to the priesthood.
The Last Things
That every individual will be judged immediately after death
That heaven includes the immediate vision of God in Himself
That there is a purgatory
That those who die unrepentant of moral sins immediately descend to hell.
That there is a general resurrection.
This really is only a few. If you look at Ott or Pohle-Preuss (see below) you can find lots of further ideas.
Again, the purpose of the paper should explain what the Church holds and why it holds it. To break that down further:
What the Church holds . . .
The topic of the paper (what the prospectus is laying out) should be able to be formulated in the form, “The Church teaches that . . .”; So it should be a specific proposition that the Church holds, (e.g., “Mary is mother of God” or “Mary was conceived without original sin”) rather than a general topic (e.g., Mary). You should be careful, as you write your paper, to be sure it stays on topic.
As part of showing what the Church teaches, the paper should explain any difficult or easily misunderstood phrases in the teaching. (e.g., if one is explaining that “Mary was conceived without original sin” it would be helpful to explain briefly the Church’s understanding of original sin).
Here is a good place to bring up Magisterial statements that actually show, in the Church’s own words, what the Church teaches.
Also, the Church’s teaching is often most clear when it is rejecting or condemning theories that it holds are incompatible with the faith. The Church is often happy to let theologians hold their theories and tends to only offer definitive teaching when someone advances a theory that the Church holds is error. So, in clarifying what the Church holds, it is often just as important to look carefully at what the Church doesn’t hold. So consider any related condemned positions.
Why the Church holds it . . .
Whatever the Church teaches, she teaches because she holds that it is somehow connected to the deposit of faith. So how can the teaching in question be found in or derived from the deposit of faith? Where is it in Scripture? Where is it in the fathers? Is the teaching implied by another teaching?
As you write your paper, be sure to stick to the purpose of the paper: Explaining clearly what the Church teaches, and why it teaches what it teaches. I have found that students sometimes treat these papers as opportunities to explore their personal musing on life, the universe, and everything. Such musing may or may not have much value, but in either case sharing them isn’t the purpose of the paper.
Also be especially careful to be precise and accurate in describing the Church’s teaching. This is not the place for sloppy paraphrases that kinda-sorta give the general idea. This the place for precision of language. As to sources,
In order to complete the assignment, the paper must actually make use of five sorts of sources:
(1) at least one relevant patristic source
(2) at lease one relevant passage of scripture
(3) at least one relevant magisterial source
(4) any relevant passages from either the Catechism of the Catholic Church or the Roman Catechism (I expect that you will find at least one)(5) at least one relevant and approved systematic work of theology.
‘Relevant’ should be taken to mean that the specific passage being used directly relates to the topic of the paper.
(And to remove ambiguity: The early ecumenical councils will count as magisterial sources rather than as patristic sources. Likewise early official papal documents, though not works of theology that happened to be authored by popes–like Gregory the Great’s Moralia. If you have questions about how a particular early source will be counted please reach out to me.)
As to (4), you should already have access to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Roman Catechism is widely available, both in print and online, for example, here: http://www.saintsbooks.net/books/The%20Roman%20Catechism.pdf .
The pre-approved, systematic treatments (5) are:
–Ludwig Ott, _Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma_ (one of the recommended texts for the course, see the syllabus)–this is a one-volume handbook of Catholic theology. It tends to be very brief in its treatment of individual points (since it is a handbook), but it usually cuts to the heart of the argument. This is not out of copyright, but in the past it has been available online.
–Pohle and Preuss are author and editor/translator of a series of books on Catholic systematic theology. (Digitized and available for free via Google books among others). These books are like Ott, but longer, more in-depth, and somewhat easier to read (in part because it is longer; links to all twelve volumes are available here: http://iteadthomam.blogspot.com/2017/09/pohle-preuss-dogmatic-theology-12-vols.html .)
–The old Catholic Encyclopedia (also out of copyright and freely available online from multiple sources, e.g., here: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/ ).
–The New Catholic Encyclopedia (available in the reference room in the library.)
In general starting with a couple of good systematic treatments of your topic is usually best. Then you can look at the sources that the systematic treatment cites.
Aside from the resources already mentioned a couple further sources you might want to be aware of:
–J.N.D. Kelly, _Early Christian Doctrines_ (also a recommended text) has good, detailed, scholarly treatment of the history of the development of key doctrines.
–Jaroslav Pellikan, _The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Vol. 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600)_ is similar to JND Kelly. Very scholarly. Lots and lots of citations of primary (patristic) sources.
Either of these two should be useful in finding passages that satisfy requirement (1) above.
Some other non-systematic references you may wish to use:
Early Church Fathers (digitized on New Advent)–There is a late-nineteenth-century (38 volume) set of patristic and early Christian writings that have been translated to English. This may be particularly relevant for finding a passage that satisfies requirement (1) above. The set is certainly not comprehensive, but there is quite a bit there. It has been digitized and you can view it online on newadvent.com/fathers or at https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/sbook2.asp#ecf . You probably want to have a citation of a relevant passage before you spend too long looking for material here. More recent translations of the fathers should be available in the library.
Denzinger (also a recommended text for the course, see the syllabus) is a chronological compilation of significant magisterial statements. If you have it in hard-copy, it has a topical index in the back (so if you are looking for magisterial statements–i.e., to satisfy requirement (3) above–relating to a particular topic, this is the place to go.)
Now as to the prospectus: The overall point of the prospectus is to show me that you have a viable project underway: you know what you are writing on, and you have a road-map of what you need to do to finish the project. The prospectus is to lay out the topic of the paper briefly (think one or two short paragraphs).
The prospects should also include an annotated bibliography. By “annotated bibliography” I mean a bibliography (in Chicago/Turabian format) that includes after each entry a brief explanation of what the source is and why the source is relevant to your project. Essentially, I want to see that you didn’t just walk into the library, pick some random books off the shelves, and type them up as a bibliography. For example: if you have already read the source, you might mention briefly what you have found in the work that you plan to use in the paper; if you have not yet read it, you might briefly explain why you are planning to read it and what you hope to find in it.
You should also review the syllabus if you haven’t recently, as it contains relevant instructions and policies for the paper and prospectus (including some particulars about format that I have not mentioned here).
If you have questions that might be of interest to the rest of the class please post them to Blackboard under “General discussion of course requirements”; if you have more specific questions, please feel free to reach out by email.

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