Thursday, December 16, 2004

More Details

Okay, here are a few more details regarding my successful completion of the doctorate...

My dissertation is entitled, "The Sinfulness of the Justified in Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue in the United States of America". I sought to examine the Lutheran & Catholic scholarship on the issue of justification in general and concupiscence in particular to see if and how we might resolve our differences on the question of the simul justus et peccator (at the same time just and sinner); that is, can the sinful tendencies (concupiscence) which remain after baptism be described as sin (as Lutherans do) or not (the Catholic position)?

In order to complete my task, I examined virtually every piece of scholarship produced by American Lutherans and Catholics on these issues, and synthesized them according to argument. I then analyzed and critiqued each category of argument in order to find which was most likely to resolve the differences, and I then developed and elaborated the argument "most likely to succeed".

In the end, I argued that throughout the Catholic tradition, mortal sin is the only proper sense of sin, but that the term "sin" is applied in other instances in analogous sense (venial and original). I argued that an analogous sense of sin may also be applied to concupiscence, and hence that there was sufficient "room" in our dogmatic tradition to call concupiscence in the justified "sin". I also argued that we not only can do so, but should do so, for ecumenical reasons but also because it would help to heal that rift between dogmatic theology and spirituality which folks like Hans Urs von Balthasar have decried for so long.

So, that's the argument of my dissertation. It was approved for defense by my moderator (Rev. Fred Bliss, SM) and the censor/second-reader (Rev. Charles Morerod, OP). At the defense, I had 20 minutes to explain my dissertation & its arguments, and then addressed questions from my moderator (20 min.), from the censor (20 min.), and from others (that ended up being about 15 min.).

The panel (moderator, censor, and vice-dean) then left the room to consult, and after a few minutes, returned to inform me and the (naturally captive) audience that I was awarded the doctorate in sacred theology (the infamous acronym of STD, the canonical equivalent of a PhD).

I found out two days later that I received 19/20 on the dissertation, and 30/30 on the defense, scores which naturally pleased me. However (if that's the right word), the dissertation score is multiplied by just over 3, giving me (on a scale of 1-100) a score of 96.3. Because 97.5 is necessary to received summa cum laude, I received magna cum laude instead. But hey... a week before the defense, I was telling people that I didn't care if I got any honors... I just wanted to get through the defense! Of course, I would have loved to receive summa, but I'm very happy to receive the scores I did.

So there you have it -- how I achieved the title of Dr. Chris Burgwald. It took me three years in Rome and seven years overall, but I got that STD!

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