University of California,
Santa Barbara

Department of Religious Studies

studying catholic traditions as they appear across place and time

What is Catholic Studies?

Catholic Studies is an interdisciplinary field of study that takes different forms in different academic institutions. At UCSB we encourage the study of Catholicism as a global religious tradition and a way of life that has taken different cultural forms in various times and places.

Interdisciplinary - Many fields of study including Art History, Music, Literature, Areas Studies (e.g. Asian Studies, Latin American Studies, African Studies), Ethnic and Native American Studies, History, and Religious Studies can all contribute to a greater understanding of Catholicism.

Comparative - Familiarity with other religious traditions allows us to see features of the Catholic tradition that are both similar and different. The Department of Religious Studies offers extensive opportunities for comparative work between Catholicism and other branches of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Native American religions, and the religious traditions of Asia.

Interactive - We encourage the study of Catholicism as it has engaged with and been shaped by its engagements with other traditions, cultures, and intellectual systems through the use of historical and ethnographic methods.

Catholic Studies Programming at UCSB

The holder of the newly endowed Cordano Chair in Catholic Studies is expected to develop a comprehensive plan for advancing scholarship in Catholic Studies and serving the broader community. This plan has several components, including new opportunities for the study of Catholicism at the graduate and undergraduate levels; public lectures and conferences open to faculty, students, and the wider community; and the Catholic Studies website.

Catholic Studies at UCSB is located programmatically in the Department of Religious Studies. Christian Traditions has been launched as a new graduate area of study and an interrelated series of undergraduate courses within the Religious Studies major. This area of study provides the foundation for Catholic Studies at UCSB. The core faculty include Christine Thomas (early Christianity), Stefania Tutino (early modern Catholicism), Thomas Carlson (history of Christian thought), Ann Taves (Catholicism in the modern era; American Catholicism), and Rudy Busto (American Protestantism).

Speakers and Conferences - Each year, Catholic Studies at UCSB will sponsor a conference on a topic related to Catholic Studies, at least one speaker of interest to the wider community, and lectures by scholars in the field of Catholic Studies. All events will be open to the wider community. See our events page.

The Catholic Studies Website is designed to introduce students, faculty, and community members to the resources and opportunities for studying Catholicism at UCSB and around the world. New resources for understanding various aspects of Catholicism, especially those developed by students or faculty here at UCSB, will be featured on this website.

Fr. Virgil Cordano in front of the Santa Barbara Mission

The History of Catholic Studies at UCSB

The development of Catholic Studies at UCSB was initiated by members of the local Catholic community who wanted to see the study of Catholicism fully integrated into the academic life of a secular, public university.

New Endowments
Virgil Cordano, OFM, Chair in Catholic Studies - With the encouragement of the Department of Religious Studies, the UCSB administration, and the local bishop, a development committee raised funds to endow the Virgil Cordano, OFM, Chair in Catholic Studies. Many of the donors are citizens of Santa Barbara and the surrounding communities who have been touched personally by Father Virgil, a man whose presence, efforts, and action in the community have promoted the cause of ecumenism and the understanding of people of different faiths, religions, and cultures.

J.E. & Lillian Byrne Tipton Distinguished Visiting Professor in Catholic Studies - In 2004, the J. E. and Lillian Byrne Tipton Foundation of Santa Ynez endowed a visiting professorship that enables the Department of Religious Studies to bring outstanding scholars and public figures to UCSB for a quarter to teach, present public lectures, and conduct research.

Ann Taves at her inauguration with donors Chuck and Harriet Burke

New Faculty - In July 2005, Ann Taves, a historian of modern Christianity and American religion, was appointed as the first Cordano Professor of Catholic Studies. Professor Daniel Bornstein, Professor of History at Texas A&M, served as the first Tipton Visiting Professor during Spring Quarter 2005. The development of Catholic Studies was further enhanced by the appointment of Stefania Tutino, a specialist in Catholicism in the early modern period, as Assistant Professor in the Departments of Religious Studies and History in July 2006.

In the Press

"Distinguished Scholar is First Named to Cordano Chair in Catholic Studies at UC Santa Barbara", UCSB Press Release, October 11, 2005.

"Catholic Studies Initiative Reaches Significant Milestone", UCSB Press Release, January 23

"Schwab Gives $1 Million for Catholic Studies at UCSB", UCSB Press Release, September 21, 2001.

Department of Religious Studies | University of California, Santa Barbara
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