Course Description:

This course is designed to advance the students’ understanding of the sacraments according to the teaching and tradition of the Catholic Church, including some of the pivotal theological questions the Church has considered, concerning the sacraments, in the course of the centuries, and is considering today.  Our intention is to move beyond a merely catechetical understanding of the Church’s formal propositions regarding the sacraments, to a deeper theological appreciation of the reasons behind these propositions, founded in Scripture and Tradition as they have been engaged by reason throughout the life of the Church.


Students who complete this course will be equipped to:

  • Offer a coherent and nuanced definition of the concept of sacrament according to Catholic teaching, as distinct from other sacred acts and objects entrusted to the Church;
  • Name each of the seven sacraments recognized by the Catholic Church and explain how each relates to the process of salvation, so as to be necessary for the life of the Church, according to God’s design for the Church, accounting for different senses of the phrase, “necessary for salvation” as applied to the sacraments;
  • Identify several major historical controversies surrounding the sacraments, explaining what was at stake, theologically, in those controversies and how the Church’s teaching developed in response to them;
  • Explain the sense in which the Church itself can be seen as a “sacrament”.

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