The Catholic University of America has a unique relationship with the Holy See, stemming from its founding by the bishops of the United States under a papal charter issued by Pope Leo XIII on April 10, 1887. The University observes that date as its Founder's Day, the official beginning of its history as the national university of the Catholic Church in the United States.

The University's ecclesiastical status finds expression in ways large and small. The University's official colors — gold and white — are the same as those of the Vatican. It is one of only four universities in the United States to have hosted the Pope on its campus and it is the only one to have done so more than once — Pope John Paul II in 1979, Pope Benedict XVI in 2008, and Pope Francis in 2015. 

By virtue of the University's accreditation by "The Middle States Commission on Higher Education," the School of Philosophy offers both undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Together with the School of Canon Law and the School of Theology and Religious Studies, the School of Philosophy is also accredited by the Holy See under the Apostolic Constitution Veritatis Gaudium, and is thereby authorized to confer all three ecclesiastical degrees in philosophy: the Bachelor's in Philosophy (Ph.B.), the Licentiate in Philosophy (Ph.L.), and the Doctorate in Philosophy (the Ph.D., which is, of course, also the designation used for most civil doctoral degrees, no matter the discipline).