Pontifex University

Master of Arts:

The Theology of the Body and the New Evangelization

Pope Saint John Paul II was the first to call for a “New Evangelization, new in its ardor, methods and expression.” [1]  He also emphasized that in order to communicate appropriately the message entrusted to her, “the Church needs art[2] and “the theology of the body … is quite indispensable.”[3]  Inspired by these truths, Theology of the Body Institute and Pontifex University have formally partnered to offer a unique Master’s degree that guides students along the via pulchritudinis (“the way of beauty”) and equips them with the necessary catechetical tools and theological and cultural understanding to engage a world desperately in need of revitalization. The program includes the study of the history, theology and philosophy of Catholic culture, with a focus on the sacred arts, and the writings of Pope St. John Paul II with a particular emphasis on his “Theology of the Body” teachings.

As St. John Paul II’s masterwork, the Theology of the Body (TOB) is a collection of 129 audiences delivered between 1979-84 that provide beautiful and compelling answers to the deepest questions we all ask ourselves: Who am I? Why am I here? How can I be happy? Why do I experience all these deep longings in my body and soul and what am I to do with them? What is my ultimate destiny and how do I get there? In the midst of the profound sexual crisis that is wreaking havoc in both the secular world and in the Church, the TOB offers the hope of healing and restoration we all so desperately need, enabling everyone to rediscover not only the meaning of our creation as male and female, but through that, “the meaning of the whole of existence, the meaning of life” (TOB 46:6).

This Master of Arts degree in the Theology of the Body and the New Evangelization is granted by Pontifex University and is awarded after the successful completion of 36 credit hours, an exam for each course, and a final project. Twenty-two (22) of these credits will be acquired by completing eleven (11) five day on-site courses offered by the Theology of the Body Institute. The remaining fourteen (14) credits will be acquired via Pontifex University’s online platform.

The courses offered by the Theology of the Body Institute are divided into the following categories:

Core Courses: (Master’s Students complete all of these courses)

  •     Theology of the Body I: Head & Heart Immersion Course (2 credits)
  •     Theology of the Body II: Into the Deep (2)
  •     Theology of the Body III: The New Evangelization (2)
  •     Catholic Sexual Ethics (2)
  •     Love & Responsibility (2)
  •     The Writings of Pope Saint John Paul II on Gender, Marriage, and Family (2)
  •     The Philosophy of Pope Saint John Paul II (2)
  •     Theology of the Body & Art: A Way of Beauty (2)

Elective Courses: (Master’s students complete three of these courses)


  •     Theology of the Body & the Interior Life (2)
  •     Theology of the Body & Spiritual Direction: The Art of Accompaniment (2)
  •     Theology of the Body & Vatican II (2)
  •     Theology of the Body & Mariology (2)

(Please note that the elective course list may increase or change, according to availability.)

The remaining fourteen (14) credits are offered by Pontifex University via the online platform:

  •     Old Testament in Words and Images (3);
  •     New Testament in Words in Images (3);
  •     A History and Practical Theology of Images (3);
  •     The Bible and the Liturgy (3).

And, two (or more) credits from

  •     Harmony and Proportion – The Mathematics of Beauty (2) or
  •     The Christian Humanism in Modern Cinema (1)
  •     Christian Architecture (1).
  •     An Introduction to Traditional Sacred Music (for non Musicians) (1)

The shared vision of the Theology of the Body Institute and Pontifex University is that graduates will actively participate in:

  • preaching to those who have never heard the Gospel (ad gentes),
  • preaching to those Christian communities where the Church is present and who have fervor in their faith, and
  • preaching to those Christian communities who have ancient roots but who ‘have lost a living sense of the faith, or even no longer consider themselves members of the Church, and live a life far removed from Christ and his Gospel. In this case what is needed is a ‘new evangelization’ or a ‘re-evangelization[4].’”

Preaching, in this context is the communication of the gospel by both words and deeds. It is understood that it is by the beauty and joy of our daily lives and especially through the loving interaction with our fellows; and by the beauty of Christian culture, that people become open to the reception of the Word. 

[1] (John Paul II, Address to CELAM – Opening Address of the Nineteenth General Assembly of CELAM, 9 March 1983, Port-au-Prince, Haiti – L’Osservatore Romano English Edition 16/780 (18 April 1983), no. 9.)

[2] Letter to Artists 12

[3] TOB 59:7 (see also TOB 23:4; 59:3-4)

[4] Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II On the Permanent Validity of the Church’s Missionary Mandate. Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 1990.

Enrollment Process 

  • For the program as a whole: Enroll online at www.Pontifex.University indicating that you wish to follow this program.
  • For Theology of the Body Institute classes: Enroll as usual for the Theology of the Body Institute classes. To join in Theology of the Body classes, please contact Jennifer Settle, Director of Programs at jsettle@tobinstitute.org. You will pay the Theology of the Body Institute directly for their classes. Indicate to them that you wish to take the course for credit offered by Pontifex University. The Theology of the Body Institute faculty will set a final exam and grade it. When you receive your grade, register for the class online and pay the fee for credit, $150 per credit. Your professor will subsequently enter your grade. 
  • For Pontifex University Classes: Register online at www.Pontifex.University. Classes are taught exclusively online and cost $300 per credit.
  • For the Thesis/Project: This will be a 10,000-word essay supervised by the Theology of the Body Institute faculty. Once it has been completed and graded, the student will register online and pay a fee of $300.

Theology of the Body Institute Faculty

Reverend Thomas Acklin, OSB (Theology of the Body & Spiritual Direction: The Art of Accompaniment)

Fr. Thomas Acklin, OSB, is a Benedictine monk of St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. He earned an MA in philosophy at Duquesne University as well as an STD in theology and a Ph.D in religious studies at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium where he specialized in psychology of religion. He is a psychoanalyst as well as a spiritual director and has been a professor at St. Vincent Seminary where he also served as rector. Fr. Acklin is the author of The Passion of the Lamb and The Unchanging Heart of the Priesthood.

Reverend Benjamin Bradshaw, STL (Theology of the Body & Vatican II)

Father Ben Bradshaw, STL is a priest of the Diocese of Memphis. Fr. Ben holds a Licentiate degree in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C. He also holds a Masters of Arts and Masters of Divinity in Sacred Theology. His Licentiate dissertation focused on the response of the Catholic Church to the issue of Same-Sex attraction. Fr. Ben has attended courses at TOBI and has served TOBI as a course chaplain. He also consults on the development of TOBI’s Clergy Enrichment Program.

Peter Colosi, Ph.D. (The Philosophy of Pope Saint John Paul II)

Dr. Peter Colosi is assistant professor of philosophy at Salve Regina University in Newport RI. From 2009 – 2015 he was assistant/associate professor of moral theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, PA. From 1999 – 2007 he was instructor/assistant professor of philosophy for Franciscan University of Steubenville at their program in Gaming, Austria. He earned his BS in mathematics from Franciscan University, an MA in Franciscan Studies from St. Bonaventure University, and his M.Phil and Ph.D from the International Academy of Philosophy in the Principality of Liechtenstein. Since 2007 he has been organizing, with friends in Europe, a series of International Symposia on St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. There have been 4 Symposia thus far, in Austria, Ireland, England and Portugal. All of the Symposia talks can be viewed at www.tobinternationalsymposia.com. Dr. Colosi is a recipient of the Theology of the Body Institute Award for this international work in spreading knowledge of Theology of the Body.

Bill Donaghy (Theology of the Body I and Theology of the Body & Art: A Way of Beauty)

Having worked in mission, evangelization, and education since the early 1990s, Bill joined faculty of the TOB Institute in 2010 and became a full-time member of the team as content specialist in 2013. With a background in visual arts, philosophy, and systematic theology, he has given talks and retreats to bishops, priests, deacons, religious, and the lay faithful throughout the country and internationally. Bill is the co-author with Chris Stefanick of the popular program RISE: 30 Day Challenge for Men and is a proud husband and father of four.

John M. Haas, Ph.D., S.T.L., K.M. (Catholic Sexual Ethics)

John M. Haas is the President of The National Catholic Bioethics Center. The Center was established in 1972 to apply the teachings of the Catholic Church to ethical issues arising from developments in medicine, the life sciences and civil law. It is the largest Catholic publisher of books and periodicals on bioethics in the country. Dr. Haas received his Ph.D in Moral Theology from The Catholic University of America and his S.T.L. in Moral Theology from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. He also has a Master of Divinity degree and has studied at the University of Munich and the University of Chicago Divinity School. Before assuming the Presidency of The National Catholic Bioethics Center, Dr. Haas was the John Cardinal Krol Professor of Moral Theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Adjunct Professor at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies in Marriage and the Family, Washington, D.C.

Reverend Boniface Hicks, OSB (Theology of the Body & Spiritual Direction: The Art of Accompaniment)

Fr. Boniface Hicks, OSB, is a Benedictine monk of St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. He has provided spiritual direction for many men and women, including married couples, seminarians, consecrated religious, and priests, even while completing his Ph.D in computer science at Penn State University. He became the programming manager and an on-air contributor for We Are One Body Catholic Radio in 2010 and has recorded thousands of radio programs on theology and the spiritual life. He has extensive experience as a retreat master for laity, consecrated religious, and priests. He became the Director of Spiritual Formation for St. Vincent Seminary in 2016.

Reverend Timothy M. Gallagher, OMV (Theology of the Body & the Interior Life)

Father Timothy Gallagher was ordained in 1979 as a member of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, a religious community dedicated to retreats and spiritual formation according to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Having obtained his doctorate in 1983 from the Gregorian University, he has taught (St. John’s Seminary, Brighton, MA; Our Lady of Grace Seminary Residence, Boston, MA), assisted in formation work, and served two terms as provincial in his own community. He has dedicated many years to an extensive international ministry of retreats, spiritual direction, and teaching about the spiritual life. He is a frequent speaker on EWTN, and his digitally recorded talks are utilized internationally. He currently holds the St. Ignatius Chair for Spiritual Formation at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver.

John Grabowski, Ph.D. (The Writings of Pope Saint John Paul II on Gender, Marriage, and Family)

Dr. John Grabowski earned his B.A. at the University of Steubenville and his Ph.D. at Marquette University. For the last twenty-two years he has been on the faculty of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. where he is currently Associate Professor of Moral Theology with continuous tenure, and the Director of the Moral Theology/Ethics area. From 2005-2009 he served as theological advisor to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Subcommittee on Marriage and Family. He and his wife were appointed to the Pontifical Council for the Family by Pope Benedict XVI in the fall of 2009. Dr. Grabowski and his wife Claire have five children and reside in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Janet E. Smith, Ph.D. (Love & Responsibility)

Janet E. Smith, Ph.D., holds the Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. She is an acclaimed author, regular columnist and blogger, and has appeared on various television shows. More than two million copies of her talk, “Contraception: Why Not” have been distributed.

Christopher West, STL (Theology of the Body I, Theology of the Body II, Theology of the Body III, Theology of the Body & Our Lady)

As one of its founders, Christopher has served the TOB Institute in various capacities since 2004: as the leading faculty member, as a board member, a research fellow, and a curriculum advisor. He was appointed President in 2018. His global lecturing, best-selling books, multiple audio and video programs, and popular podcast (co-hosted by his wife Wendy) have made him one of the world’s most recognized teachers of St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. Of all his titles and roles, however, he is most proud to call himself a devoted husband and father.

For Pontifex University faculty information, click here.