Ignatius-Angelicum Great Books Program

  • Ignatius-Angelicum Great Books Program


  • Ignatius-Angelicum Great Books Program


  • Ignatius-Angelicum Great Books Program


  • Ignatius-Angelicum Great Books Program



The Ignatius-Angelicum Great Books Program (“GBP”) is an online liberal arts program, celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2019, which offers college-level courses to homeschool, high school, college, and adult students. Course credits can be applied toward accredited associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, through colleges that have agreements with the GBP or which accept American Council for Education (ACE) recommended credits.

Since 2010, the GBP has combined the four-year, Angelicum Academy’s Great Books program (open to 9th graders and up)with four theology courses taught online by Ignatius Press founder Father Joseph Fessio, S.J. (open to 11th graders, and up). 

Launched in the year 2000, the Great Books Program was inspired by the late philosopher-convert, Dr. Mortimer J. Adler, who advocated the “great books” approach to education that is used in dozens of liberal arts colleges and universities. But Adler hoped to see the study of these important Western texts begin in high schoolas did Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain, so founders Patrick Carmack, J.D., and Dr. Peter Redpath of St. John’s University in New York developed this online program. Now partnered with Ignatius Press’s founder, Fr. Fessio—a former student of Pope Benedict XVI and former chancellor of Ave Maria University—the program has nearly 300 students taking its online courses. 

The Great Books curriculum involves reading all or part of a Great Book each week and meeting online for a two-hour Socratic discussion of the reading. The discussions are live and conversational, usually including between 15 and 20 students and two moderators, at least one (often both), of whom is a Catholic university professor.  Students submit weekly short written answers to questions about the reading and two 1,500- to 1,800-word essays per semester.

With the addition of Fr. Fessio’s theology courses, the GBP’s undergraduate-level courses can count toward a degree at numerous colleges and universities, with the Great Books and theology online courses accepted for as many as 60 college credits. 

As of 2016, GBP students in 11th and 12th grade may also take 15 credits at Holy Apostles college online, and earn their associate’s degree and up to 75 college credits by the time they complete 12th grade. They can then go on to complete their bachelor’s degree in as little as one additional year. The first students to begin this program graduated from Holy Apostles college with bachelor’s degrees five years from beginning 9th grade. They all earned their associate’s degrees by 12th grade and their bachelor’s degrees one year later.

While there are limitations to an online program, Catholic families may find much to admire in a classical Catholic curriculum that allows students to stay home while they earn substantial college credits, beginning as early as 9th grade, at a very low cost. The Great Books Program tuition of $1,495 per semester or $2,990 per year for college-level credit has not changed in 20 years, and GBP offers an April-May early enrollment discount. The theology courses are $250 per credit hour, with the same early enrollment discounts. The accredited associate’s degree costs under $15,000, and the credits to complete an accredited bachelor’s with Holy Apostles costs another $15,000.  The total cost is substantially lower than the national average cost for a bachelor’s degree from a private, residential college. 

Fr. Fessio serves as Ignatius-Angelicum GBP chancellor. President Carmack participated in Dr. Adler’s last several Socratic discussion groups in 1999 and 2000 and studied at the Institute of Spirituality at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. Carmack’s varied background includes serving as a former administrative law judge at the Oklahoma State Corporation Commission, member of the U.S. Supreme Court Bar, former CEO of an independent petroleum exploration and production company, and founder and former chairman of the International Caspian Horse Society. Dr. Redpath, a respected Thomist philosopher, chairs the Angelicum Academy portion of the program.


Dr. Mortimer Adler believed that conversation (the dialectic) aims at teaching students how to think critically and thus attain wisdom, as opposed to a monologue (such as a lecture), which tends to result in indoctrination and mere memorization.  In Reforming Education, written in the 1940s, Adler already saw that many Catholic schools were losing their way and following the path of public institutions towards the latter, to the complete exclusion of the dialectic manner of education and learning how to think for themselves.

Taking a different path, students in Ignatius-Angelicum Great Books Program start discussing the ancient Greeks the first year, followed by the ancient Romans, the Medievals, and the Moderns’ great books.  Students are exposed to many great works, in different genres, including Sacred Scripture, St. Augustine’s Confessions and City of God, St. Thomas’ Summa Theologiae, Dante’s Divine Comedy, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Cervantes’ Don Quixote, St. Thomas More’s Utopia, Shakespeare’s great plays, and a short story by Flannery O’Connor. The program also includes exposure to Catholic ascetical and mystical theology, including `a Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ, and, soon to be added: St. Teresa of Avila’s autobiography, and St. John of the Cross’ Dark Night of the Soul.

The readings are accompanied by more than 2,400 pages of study guides by Dr. Robert and Suzanne Alexander, edited by author Joseph Pearce and three Thomist philosophers to provide a proper Catholic understanding.  Students will read about 45-60 minutes a night for four or five nights a week, depending on the reader and specific text.

Identical, live first-year classes are scheduled online at different times of day to give students a time that fits their schedules. Although the program is online, there is opportunity for interaction in the live classes. Students meet in the online classrooms, may become friends through e-mail exchanges, and sometimes meet during or at the end of the academic year.

The four GBP theology courses are asynchronous and so may be taken at any time of year.

Students who complete the 60 credit hours can earn a degree from an accredited college in an additional two years, where GBP credits are accepted. For example, GBP has degree-completion agreements with Holy Apostles, Benedictine College, Campion College in Australia, Catholic Distance University, Bethel University, Harrison Middleton University, and others. Although hundreds of colleges accept ACE-recommended credits, not all do; students should inquire with colleges they may be considering. 

Most students begin this college degree program in 9th grade (age 14 and up) and may earn their associate’s degrees by 12th grade and their bachelor’s degree in as little as one year later.  Students who start GBP’s program after high school will need between two and four years to complete the 48 credit hours in the Great Books program (some students take two years simultaneously) and two years to complete the theology courses, which may be taken with the Great Books courses. But some colleges—including Catholic Distance University and Holy Apostles —allow students to take GBP courses at the same time or even after their own courses.

Other students may be content to spread out their studies over four to five years, thereby reducing annual costs and simultaneously getting a head start on a degree or career, or exploring a religious vocation.

Bottom Line

Families considering taking advantage of the Ignatius-Angelicum Great Books Program or any part of it should be prepared to do a little extra homework and study the options and institutions. They should also carefully consider the cost and time implications of distance learning and how to provide for a student’s ongoing personal and spiritual development outside of a four-year campus experience.

Having done that, many students will find the Ignatius-Angelicum Great Books Program enticing. It offers something unique in Catholic higher education: worldwide access to a relatively inexpensive, authentically Catholic, high-quality, liberal arts Great Books Program that can be accessed from home and commenced during high school years.

Questions & Answers

Each year, the Newman Society asks the colleges recommended in The Newman Guide to answer the following questions. Below you will find the responses that we received directly from Ignatius-Angelicum Great Books Program.

Is your institution accredited by at least one regional or national education association?

The American Council for Education (ACE CREDIT) has recommended all of our courses (60 credit hours) for college credit. However, we are not a degree-granting institution which is a requirement for institutional accreditation. Our students complete their degrees at one of the many accredited, degree-granting institutions that accept ACE credits or with whom we have credit transfer agreements

Please identify each accreditor and indicate whether it is approved by the U.S. Department of Education.

See above.

Please identify any notable public recognition of your institution’s academic quality in the last three years, such as rankings, awards, etc.

In 2013 the American Council for Education (“ACE”) reviewed the GBP Program and recommended 60 college credits for the GBP courses. 

What is the median SAT and ACT of your incoming class? (Note that some colleges may not require one or both scores from all students) 



Additional Academic Quality information, clarification or description (optional)

Nearly 2,000 colleges and universities are affiliated with ACE, which reviews programs and courses offered outside the traditional four year institutions to make college credit recommendations for programs and courses such as ours. Numerous accredited colleges and universities have accepted our courses for college credit and we have formal agreements with a number to do so.

Are more than half of the current members of your faculty practicing Catholics?


Approximately what percentage of your current faculty members are practicing Catholics?


Are members of your faculty officially informed of their responsibility for maintaining and strengthening the Catholic identity of the institution?


Are members of your teaching faculty expected, as a condition of employment, to respect Catholic teaching and comply with Catholic morality in their public actions and statements both on and off campus?


Please identify key undergraduate faculty who are noted experts in their field, have produced important publications, have leadership roles in academic associations, etc. and briefly describe such accomplishments (optional):

Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J. Th.D., student of Pope Benedict XVI who was his doctoral director in theology while Cardinal Ratzinger. Fr. Fessio has taught theology for over 35 years and is the founder of Ignatius Press, the largest Catholic publisher in the English-speaking world. He was also founder of the St. Ignatius Institute, a Great Books-based program at the University of San Francisco. He is also one of our weekly Great Books Moderators.  

Peter A. Redpath, Ph.D., Rector of the Adler-Aquinas Institute (adler-aquinasinstitute.org) taught philosophy at St. John’s University in NY for many years. He is a widely respected Thomist philosopher, author and lecturer, and Chairs the Angelicum  Academy Homeschool Program and the Great Books Program (angelicum.net).

Our other online moderators include Catholic scholars and  educators:

Dr. Curtis Hancock (former President of American Maritain Association: President of the Gilson Society; Prof. of Phil. and Chair of Philosophy, Rockhurst U., Lecturer in Great Books Program, “Return to the Classics”)

Dr. James Taylor (author of Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education; teacher of English and American literature, Humanities, Western Civilization, and Phil. of Education)

Dr. Kent Lasnoski, B.A. (English), University of Pennsylvania; M.A. and Ph.D., Marquette University. Dr. Lasnoski is a founding board member and Associate Editor of the Catholic literary and arts journal Dappled Things, serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Moral Theology, and is the Editor of the Proceedings of the Catholic Theological Society of America. He has published a monograph on marriage and consecrated life (Vocation to Virtue: Christian Marriage as a Consecrated Life), and together with his wife designs and participates in diocesan programs of marriage preparation and formation.

Dr. Henry T. Zepeda, earned his B.A. (Great Books) from Thomas Aquinas College, CA; his M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Oklahoma. He joins our classes online from Munchen, Germany, where he is doing postgraduate work on the History of Science, Technology and Medicine.

Patrick S.J. Carmack, JD (online educator, founder of the Angelicum Academy, the Ignatius-Angelicum Liberal Studies Program, the Great Books Academy; recipient of the International Etienne Gilson Society’s John Paul the Great Thomist Humanist Award)

Stephen Bertucci, Director of Online Classes, educator (having conducted thousands of online Great Books discussions since 2000 when he attended Dr. Adler’s last Socratic discussions groups)

Heather M. Erb, Ph.D., has taught philosophy and religious studies at a variety of universities, including Penn State, Fordham, and University of Toronto. She holds degrees in philosophy and religious Studies (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, and St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto) and a Masters and Doctorate in philosophy on the metaphysics of St. Thomas Aquinas. She has designed and taught Philosophy for Theology for Catholic Distance University, and has taught seminarians, religious, and Catholic schoolteachers in a variety of settings. Peer-reviewed publications include many chapters in Catholic University of America and Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas (Vatican City) collections, articles in New Oxford Review and others

Additional Faculty information, clarification or description (optional):

Our faculty are the pioneers in online Great Books education, beginning in 2000 AD and remain at the forefront of online education. All of them have lectured on education and educational philosophy in the US and many in Europe, and have advanced Catholic liberal education on the internet for many years. See the complete, current list online at angelicum.net

GBP students in CA, OR, WA, ID, HI and AK are often eligible for state tuition reimbursement through the related Great Books Academy.

Does the institution have a department of Catholic theology, distinct from “religious studies” and other disciplines?


Are courses in Catholic theology clearly identified and distinguished from other courses dealing with religion?


Do all faculty in the theological disciplines have a mandatum according to the procedures established by the local bishop or other competent ecclesiastical authority?


Do all faculty in the theological disciplines make the Catholic Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity?


Does your institution require that all theology courses be taught in a manner faithful to Scripture, Tradition, and the Church’s Magisterium, and also to the principles and methods proper to Catholic theology?


Please identify the theology courses that are included in the undergraduate core or distribution requirements and the professors who routinely teach those courses:

Fundamental Theology: Revelation and Christology
Fundamental Theology: The Creed
Biblical Theology: Jesus of Nazareth
Ecclesiology: The Liturgy
All taught by Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J., Th.D.

Please describe the place of Catholic theology in your institution’s undergraduate curriculum and how it is distinct from other institutions.

After the propaedeutic Great Books studies, which prepare students in a generalized, interdisciplinary way, being so critically important theology is given added emphasis with the four systematic theology courses above. 

Additional Theology information, clarification or description (optional):

Our theology professor, Fr. Joseph Fessio’s doctoral director was Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, whose publisher in the English-speaking world is Fr. Fessio and Ignatius Press which he founded. Fr. Fessio has taught Catholic theology for over 35 years.

Please identify any course that every undergraduate student must take:

None. Students may take any or all of our online courses.

Please identity the courses that students may choose from in order to satisfy common curriculum distribution requirements:

The 8 Great Books Program Course Titles (one semester each):

1.) Great Books of the Ancient Greeks I

2.) Great Books of the Ancient Greeks II

3.) Great Books of the Ancient Romans I

4.) Great Books of the Ancient Romans to the Early Middle Ages

5.) Great Books of the High Middle Ages to the Renaissance

6.) Great Books of the Renaissance to the Enlightenment

7.) Great Books of the Enlightenment to the Modern Era

8.) Great Books of the Modern Era

[Approximately 15 books (or major excerpts) plus c. 300 pages of GBP Study Guides are read in each semester. 80% of the books may be found in Britannica’s Great Books of the Western World set edited by Dr. Mortimer J, Adler, 1990. Other Catholic titles have been added. All are available in libraries and/or online.]

How many credits are required for graduation and what percent are from core / distribution courses?

The GBP courses are not a degree-granting institution, hence it has no graduation. Students may gain their liberal education, and theology credits, with us, many while in high or home school – now up to 75 credits – and transfer to other institutions to complete their degrees and for subsequent graduation if so desired. Students may earn 15 credits and their Associate’s degree directly from Holy Apostles College, while in our 9th-12th grade program and online. 

Is every undergraduate student required to take one or more courses in which they are taught authentic Catholic doctrine and practice?

Authentic Catholic doctrine is taught directly or indirectly in all of our courses – in the Great Books program in an interdisciplinary context, directly in the four GBP theology courses. None of our courses are strictly “required” as we do not grant degrees.

If yes, please describe them generally and note how many courses are required?

Is every undergraduate student required to take one or more interdisciplinary courses relating theology or philosophy with other disciplines?

Yes, that is exactly what happens in our Great Books program. However, a student could just enroll in our theology courses, which are not interdisciplinary.

Additional Core Curriculum information, clarification or description (optional):

Our students may take any or all of the courses we offer.  At present this includes eight Great Books courses and four theology courses, for a total of 60 possible college credit hours, plus another 15 college credits directly from an accredited college online. More courses are in development. Since we are not a degree granting institution, our students typically transfer from our program (or transfer credits from our program) to other institutions of higher learning to complete their degrees. Those institutions typically do have required core courses which students must complete. The ACE recommendation and our articulation agreements with various colleges and universities are designed to make the transfer to them by our students seamless and with assured credit transfer, known and agreed to in advance. More information is available on our website.

What are the three most popular majors or specialty disciplines for undergraduate students, and about what percentage of undergraduate students specialize in these disciplines?

Liberal Arts and Philosophy (studied in the interdisciplinary Great Books Program), and Theology 

Does each undergraduate degree program require Catholic ethical formation related to the student’s major field(s) of study?

N/A – we do not have majors. 

Does your institution require cooperation among faculty in different disciplines in teaching, research and other academic activities?

Yes, mainly in the interdisciplinary context of studying the Great Books.

Additional Programs of Study information, clarification or description:

The study of the Great Books is inherently interdisciplinary–that is really a large part of the benefit of such study, to avoid the limited vision the now-standard breakdown of knowledge into numerous categories so often results in. The authentic Catholic vision views truth as one, and hence integrated, and as best studied as one, at least in the context of the study of the Great classics of our civilization and liberal education. 

Does the local bishop (or other competent ecclesiastical authority) select or approve the appointment of your chaplain?


Has your institution’s diocesan bishop (or other competent ecclesiastical authority) officially recognized the institution as Catholic?


Do your institution’s governing documents include or reference the General Norms and Particular (United States) Norms of Ex corde Ecclesiae?


Do your institution’s governing documents or institutional policies require conformity to the General Norms and Particular (United States) Norms of Ex corde Ecclesiae?


What is your institution’s mission statement:

To promote the early study of the Great Books as the best preparation for the serious study and appreciation of the Catholic faith.

What is your institution’s policy for approval of speakers and honorees?

As an online program, our speakers and honorees meet our students online, in virtual classrooms. We only invite speakers, or honor them, in accordance with the norms of Ex corde Ecclesiae and “Catholics in Political Life.” As a practical matter, we only invite to speak, or honor, men and women of exemplary Catholic character and faith.

Additional Institutional Identity information, clarification or description (optional):

Now with 60 recommended college credits – two years of college – this unique educational effort is fast advancing towards its goal of offering Catholic students worldwide, in the high-school-age years,  means to complete their entire college and university careers via distance education including excellent online classes, from their homes (or with minimal on-campus requirements from affiliated colleges) at very low cost. 

Describe the makeup of your institution’s undergraduate student body with regard to sex, religion, home state/country and type of high school (public, private, homeschool):

Total number of undergraduates: 285

Male: 55% Female: 45% 

Catholic: 95% 

Number of states represented: 35 

Top three states: Texas, California, Virginia 

Students from top three states: 65 

Catholic HS: N/A    Homeschool: 90% 

Private HS: 5% Public HS: 5% 

Most up-to-date information provided by the Insitution

Additional Student Body information, clarification or description  (optional):

We have a younger student body (by 1-4 years) then most college programs, as we follow Dr. Mortimer Adler’s and Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain’s advice to begin educating high school students with the Great Books, as the backbone of their liberal education and subsequent specialization.

Are prospective and current members of your institution’s governing board(s) informed of their responsibility for maintaining and strengthening the Catholic identity of your institution?


Are more than half of the current members of your institution’s governing board(s) practicing Catholics?


Do Catholic members of your institution’s governing board(s) make the Catholic Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity?


Is your institution’s president a practicing Catholic?


Does your institution’s president make the Catholic Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity?


A Message from the President

The main purpose of this online Great Books Program – now in our 20th year – is to open to enterprising and purposeful 9th-12th graders a new door to learning via the internet and distance education, affordable for their families, to reveal anew the treasures of reason and truth, Divine revelation and faith, and the beauty of the sublime heritage of Western culture through the early study and online discussion of great books, rather than largely waste the high school years as so often happens. Students are not learning or being intellectually challenged sufficiently in those critically important formative years. Nearly all high school curricula-and homeschool curricula based on them-have been “dumbed down” as John Gatto famously put it, and as we all know. It’s time to upgrade the system.

Mortimer J. Adler, the philosopher, convert and educator who did so much to create our Great Books program of learning, spent much of his life championing the notion, propounded by Plato, Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, that truth and values are absolute and unchanging. ”The fundamental ideas and concepts upon which education should be based are not merely the mores and beliefs which happen to be current in America,” he once wrote. ”They are universal truths about what constitutes a good education for all men at all times and places simply because they are men.” To promote that education, he helped devise the Great Books program, a course of study in classic Western literary and philosophical texts as the foundation for a liberal, generalist education, to be completed in secondary education before specialization later in college, and before the prevailing culture of doubt about truth and in our ability to discover it, damages the minds of our youth.

As Adler noted and as Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain agreed: “If we are going to have general human schooling in this country, it has to be accomplished in the first twelve years of compulsory schooling.”  To that end we have developed a new approach to education – offering the collective wisdom of our civilization’s sages in a unique online great books program with live, weekly Socratic discussions conducted from students’ and moderators’ homes scattered worldwide, via the internet, to students willing to do the reading and thinking necessary to profit from it. We have many students beginning at age 14 (9th grade), and as old as 87, in numerous countries on six continents.  We have been offering this program to a continually growing number of students since 2000.  Adler and Maritain were right: it works, if the student will. If you are 14, or older, and do not want to waste valuable time, intellectually bored, waiting for college finally to challenge you, or if you are a college student who missed a foundational liberal education or are too narrowly specialized where you are, we invite you to join us.

The American Council for Education (“ACE CREDIT”) has now twice reviewed and recommended all of the Ignatius-Angelicum courses for college credit – that’s 60 credit hours (48 credit hours of live Great Books courses + 12 of Theology taught asynchronously by Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J., Th.D.), which equals two years of college, to its nearly 2,000 affiliated colleges and universities. Nearly all of our superb faculty are Fellows of the Adler-Aquinas Institute (adler-aquinasinstitute.org).

In 2016 we began a joint degree program which allows our 11th and 12th grade homeschoolers and high school students to complete an additional 15 credit hours online with Holy Apostles College. This enables our students to earn online up to 75 credit hours towards four bachelor’s degrees in: Theology, Philosophy, English in the Humanities, and History in the Social Studies. It also enables our students to complete the 60 credits necessary for accredited Associates degrees (A.A.) from Holy Apostles by the time they complete 12th grade. Within one month 20 students began this program.

The first students to begin this program graduated from Holy Apostles College with bachelor’s degrees five years from beginning 9th grade. They all earned their Associate’s Degrees by 12th grade and their BA’s one year later.

Nearly as important for many, is the reduced tuition costs for this A.A. program, which is under 20% of the average cost of a private, four-year degree. The A.A. degree costs are less than $15,000; the B.A. degrees are less than another $15,000 – here is the cure for the college debt crisis. Both accredited degrees are available on monthly payment schedules. In this program, after 12th grade, the B.A. degrees may be earned in as little as one year.

This year we have added an online, honors option for all other high school courses, utilizing 30 of The Great Courses Plus, taught by many of the “World’s Finest Professors.” Here we have put together for our 9th-12th grade students and up, the Great Books, The Great Courses Plus, a great faculty, with great savings in time and tuition. Contact us for details.

Patrick S.J. Carmack, J.D.



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