Doctor of Tribunal Studies in Canon Law (D.Tr.S.)


The Doctor of Tribunal Studies in Canon Law is designed for chancery and tribunal personnel who are engaged in advanced study and research in the academic field of canonical studies as reflected in the dynamics of analysis, theory, and application of various dimensions of tribunal doctrine and practice as mandated by the Second Vatican Council, the Code of Canon Law, current papal teaching, and Roman practice.  This online learning program involves graduate Units of Study designed to develop overarching perspectives on significant areas of theology and canon law, further graduate casework in the candidate's specialized interest, and produce a research thesis of creative scholarship, culminating in an oral defense to demonstrate professional competence in tribunal studies. 
This academic degree is a 42 credit program that may be completed in no less than eighteen months and no more than four years.
  • 30 credits (10 courses)
  • 6 credits (practicum)
  • 6 credits (thesis)
(Note: Because the D.Tr.S. requires a thesis rather than a project, it is considered an academic rather than a professional degree.)

Would you like to be put in touch with a member of the Canon Law faculty? Click here

Admission Requirements 
  1. Bachelor’s degree and the M.Tr.S. degree or J.C.L. validated by a transcript. Civil lawyers holding the J.D. and lay persons holding a Masters in theology are exempt from holding the M.Tr.S.
  2. Five years of professional experience, salaried or volunteer, in tribunal-related work for the diocese verified by a chancery letter.
  3. Completion of the application process. 

Program Requirements
  1. Completion of ten Units of Study (30 graduate credits). Six Units of Study must be taken from the Tribunal Studies Curriculum and three electives from either the Theology, Biblical Studies or the Pastoral Care and Counseling Psychology E-Tutorial Roster and the Research Methodology course.
  2. Participation in the five-day residential Case-Based Tribunal Studies Practicum (6 graduate credits).
  3. Completion of a 40,000 to 45,000 word thesis written under supervision by a faculty member of the GTF (6 graduate credits). 

Total Program Cost:  $20,425
Degree candidates are bound by the regulations of the Student Handbook of the year in which they are accepted into their program of study. Tuition fees will not change during a student’s course of study, providing the student submits payments and papers on schedule and completes the degree program within the prescribed time. If the student does not conform to scheduled payment and/or paper submission deadlines, the student’s file will be deactivated. Upon reactivation, the student will be responsible for the tuition and degree requirements which are current at the time of reactivation. 
Tuition payment schedule
1/3 of total fees paid within 30 days of acceptance
1/3 of total fees paid within one year of the date of acceptance
1/3 of total fees paid by March 1 of the year of graduation
Payment Plan Option
Students who are unable to make tuition payments in three installments may request to be placed on a payment plan.  The payment plan option allows the student to make small monthly or quarterly tuition payments for the duration of the degree program.  There is no interest charged on payment plans.  If a student requests a mailed invoice as a reminder to make payment, there is a ten dollar fee per invoice.

Tribunal Studies Practicum
The Practicum is based on case studies and is a five-day residential experience. The student will participate with five to ten other students (when enrollment exists) or the student will engage one-on-one with a Tribunal Studies faculty person in a tutorial format for the five days. The venue is in Chicago and recommendations for accommodations are provided. There is no fee for this Practicum but the student is responsible for room and board costs. Hosted by Tribunal Studies faculty, the dates are arranged for the convenience of both students and faculty.
Language Requirement
In instances where the doctoral thesis topic requires competency in one or more languages (e.g., Latin) as determined by the Thesis Supervisor, the student must produce either a transcript of two academic semesters of language courses or some other means of demonstrated competency to the satisfaction of the Thesis Supervisor and the Office of Academic Affairs.

Thesis Proposal
The student will submit a thesis proposal to the GTF. This will be the first working document generated from the relationship between the student and the Thesis Supervisor. The proposal will include a brief description of the proposed thesis, a working title and a brief bibliography.

After completing all coursework for the Doctor of Tribunal Studies (D.Tr.S.), a candidate undertakes the writing of a doctoral thesis of 40,000-45,000 words in the field of canon law which is clearly a work of applied scholarship making a contribution to tribunal studies. The thesis must be written in 12 point Times New Roman (or comparable) font, double-spaced and with the appropriate table of contents and bibliography.
The thesis is shaped as a written work of case-based applied research with a demonstrated familiarity with the appropriate scholarly and professional literature. It should be noted that the written form of the thesis is to be in the style of an actual scholarly paper suitable for publication.
When the thesis in its final form has been reviewed and approved by the student’s Thesis Supervisor, it must be submitted to the GTF for final review. The thesis, abstract, cover sheet and biographical statement must be submitted by email to the Office of the Registrar a minimum of three months prior to the intended date of oral defense.  Click here to fill out the form to request the email address of the Office of the Registrar. 

Thesis Style Statement
There are several internationally recognized dissertation styles acceptable in the academic community. In light of the fact that the GTF has a rather large international student body, the GTF has not adopted a single style form acceptable for thesis writing. The GTF will, rather, accept any of the internationally recognized styles, given that the student consistently employs the same style throughout the writing of the thesis. Those most commonly used but not required include Turabian, MLA, APA, as well as others known and recognized universally.

Thesis Supervision
When degrees first began to be awarded by universities in the twelfth century in Bologna, Paris, and Oxford, the doctor’s degree was recognized as a universal authentication of scholarship. The doctorate was not earned by attending classes but by sustained residency and demonstrated scholarship. The credential was awarded by the faculty of the university on the basis of a thesis which was submitted by the candidate and followed by an oral defense of the document before the gathered academic community.

Times have changed but much of the doctoral process has endured. The Graduate Theological Foundation requires a demonstration of academic research considered by the faculty to be an original work of scholarship and a contribution to the field. After the doctoral candidate has completed residency and language requirements (if required), the development of the thesis is initiated under the direct supervision of the Thesis Supervisor.

The Thesis Supervisor, in this style of learning, is specifically mandated to work closely with the candidate in the development of the thesis topic and through its evolving refinements leading to the finished product.

Selection of Faculty Thesis Supervisor and Nomination Procedure 
Fr. John Mulvihill, (Profile), Gratian Professor of Canon Law, will serve as thesis supervisor to students in the D.Tr.S. degree program. This enables the student to receive helpful and pragmatic evaluative feedback from a member of the faculty in the developmental process of producing the doctoral thesis. The role of the faculty Thesis Supervisor is responsive and suggestive. The faculty person is encouraged to limit feedback to pragmatically helpful hints and suggestions and not to attempt any censorship of the thesis. The exercise of discretion with respect to time demands is very important for both the student and faculty member. The faculty Thesis Supervisor must give final approval of the student’s work by submitting the Thesis Supervisor Report Form.
  • The student will work with Father John Mulvihill (Profile), Gratian Professor of Canon Law, as thesis supervisor.
  • When the student is ready to begin the writing of the doctoral thesis, the student completes the online Faculty Thesis Supervisor Nomination form, nominating Fr. John Mulvihill to serve in that capacity.
  • Academic Affairs informs the student and faculty member of relationship approval and contact information is provided.  

Doctoral Committee
Every student admitted into an academic doctoral program, either the Ph.D. or the Th. D., will be assigned a Doctoral Committee prior to the scheduling of the doctoral defense.  The members of the committee are as follows
  • Thesis Supervisor
  • Two Faculty Readers
  • Two Defense Panel members
  • Defense Chair
These six individuals are not asked to agree with the observations or conclusions drawn by the doctoral candidate in the thesis, but the committee must finally concur that the thesis is worthy of scholarly recognition based on traditional standards of scholarship, research and presentation. 
To read a full description of the Academic Doctoral Committee, members, roles, procedures, etc., please click here.

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Doctoral Oral Defense
Orally defending the doctoral thesis is the last step in earning the academic doctorate. The intent is for the defense experience to be an opportunity for the student to demonstrate competency in the general field of study and expert scholarship on the topic itself. While institutions vary in terms of defense panel chair and composition, length of the defense, discussion protocol during the defense, and evaluation gradations, that the student has made an “original contribution to the field of study” is the primary requirement for a successful defense. At the GTF the defense panel is made up of three or more faculty persons conversant with the student’s thesis and chaired by a senior member of the faculty. The student’s thesis supervisor is customarily not present during the defense, thereby assuring objectivity in the evaluation process. The time taken is two hours or less and the levels of evaluation are (1) accepted as presented, (2) accepted with minor revisions, and (3) accepted with major revisions.
The doctoral defense will be scheduled no sooner than 90 days and no longer than 180 days from the time that all academic and financial obligations have been met. You will be notified by the Office of the Registrar of your eligibility to schedule a defense after the following have been received by the Office of the Registrar:
  • Thesis Proposal
  • Thesis Cover Sheet
  • Abstract and Biographical Statement
  • Thesis Supervisor Report Form answering the six key points within the thesis (this form is mailed directly to our offices by the Thesis Supervisor)
  • One electronic copy of the thesis (PDF or MS Word format)
For scheduling procedures click here.

Professional associations in Canon Law
  • Canon Law Society of America
  • Canon Law Society of Canada
  • Canon Law Society of Australia and New Zealand
  • Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland
  • Canon Law Society of India

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