Minor in Catholic Studies

Roman Catholic ways of thinking, living, and organizing the world have been fundamental to the making of the world’s cultures since the fifth century of the Common Era and remain important around the globe today. The Catholic Studies minor offers the opportunity to interpret the civilizations and cultures of the world through interdisciplinary approaches to Catholicism.  Students apply the critical tools of contemporary academic research and conversation to the study of the engagement of Catholics and Catholicism with the realities of their worlds.

Students must take at least six courses to complete the minor:  one of the three core courses listed below and five other courses chosen in consultation with the director of Catholic Studies (these may include other core courses).  The core courses are designed to introduce students to contextual, interdisciplinary approaches to the study of Catholic culture, thought, and history and to explore the interaction between Catholic ideas and institutions and the broader world in which Catholicism finds itself.  The electives permit students to explore a particular set of questions more deeply.

The minor may be pursued by students graduating in 2011 and later.  Relevant courses taken in 2009-2010 may be counted toward the minor with the approval of the Director of Catholic Studies.  Contact the department for further information.  Catholic Studies minors enjoy pre-registration privileges for the core courses listed below and for other Religious Studies courses that have Catholic Studies content.

Requirements (6 units)

  • At least 1 of the following 3 courses:
    • RELIGIOUS STUDIES 381
    • RELIGIOUS STUDIES 382
    • RELIGIOUS STUDIES 383
  • 5 elective courses, chosen from the list below or from any department’s offerings in consultation with the director of Catholic Studies, normally organized around a single focus. For example, this focus may be historical (medieval Catholicism); regional (Catholicism in Latin America); comparative (Catholicism and Islam); by field (Catholicism in literature); or thematic (political Catholicism, Catholic bioethics, etc.). If appropriate, students may use additional core courses to fulfill part of this requirement.

Core Courses

  • RELIGIOUS STUDIES 381 Global Catholicism in the Contemporary World: Historical and contemporary global Catholicism.  Topics include the church and political modernity; local saints; controversies over worship styles; Catholics and political revolutions; the Vatican; and the pontificate of John Paul II.
  • RELIGIOUS STUDIES 382  Catholicism in the Making of the Modern World: 16th-17th-century Catholic influences on missions, colonial ventures, science, and the development of non-European history; the effects of these efforts upon Catholicism’s understanding of itself and early “global culture.”
  • RELIGIOUS STUDIES 383  Catholic Social Ethics: Ecclesiastical, academic, and popular Catholic social ethics from 1891 to the present: including the living wage movement, the Catholic Worker movement, peace initiatives, liberation ethics, immigration, environment, sexuality and gender.
  • RELIGIOUS STUDIES 384  Soundings in the Catholic Tradition: Topics in Catholic religious thought or religious movements.  May be taken multiple times with different content.
  • RELIGIOUS STUDIES 385  Topics in U.S. Catholicism: Historical and contemporary subjects in the study of Catholic culture in the United States.  May be taken multiple times with different content.
  • RELIGIOUS STUDIES 386 Topics in Latin American Catholicism: Historical and contemporary subjects in the study of Catholic culture in Latin America.  May be taken multiple times with different content. 

Students in Catholic Studies are encouraged to seek out appropriate courses across the university’s offerings, including occasional courses taught in other departments and programs, for approval by the director of the program.


Courses offered in 2014-15

Some of the courses offered for the minor in 2014-15 include the following:

Fall 2014

  • REL 342, Christian Mystical Theology, Barbara Newman

Winter 2015

  • REL 382, Global Catholicism, Michelle Molina

Spring 2015

  • REL 349, Topics in Christianity, Laura Dingeldein
  • REL 385, Topics in US Catholicism, Jennifer Callghan

Core Faculty

  • Robert Orsi, Grace Craddock Nagle Professor of Catholic Studies
  • Michelle Molina, John W. Croghan Assistant Professor of Catholic Studies
  • Richard Kieckhefer
  • Barbara Newman
  • Sarah McFarland Taylor
  • Cristina Traina

For more information, contact the Director of Catholic Studies and see the Weinberg College of Art and Sciences Undergarduate Catalog.

To submit a petition to minor in Catholic Studies, contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies of the Department of Religious Studies.


Semana Santa (Holy Week) procession in Guanajuato, Mexico
Semana Santa (Holy Week) procession in Guanajuato, Mexico, 2010. Photo: M. Molina.

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September 22, 2014