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. Catholic Studies at UCSB is based in the Department of Religious Studies. The study of Christian Traditions provides the foundation of Catholic Studies at UCSB.

The core faculty include Christine Thomas (early Christianity), Thomas Carlson (history of Christian thought), Ann Taves (Catholicism in the modern era; American Catholicism), and Rudy Busto (American Protestantism).

Speakers and Conferences - Most years, 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. The development of Catholic Studies was further enhanced by the appointment of Stefania Tutino in July 2006, a specialist in Catholicism in the early modern period, as Assistant Professor in the Departments of Religious Studies and History. Having been an integral part of Catholic Studies at UCSB for seven years, Tutino accepted a position in the Department of History at UCLA. In 2014, Elliot Wolfson joined the faculty as the holder of the Marsha and Jay Glazer Endowed Chair in Jewish Studies. His interest in the comparative study of mysticism is reflected in new courses that include materials on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. (See our course list.)

In the Press

Ann Taves and Stefania Tutino comment on Pope Francis’ appointment, UCSB Press Release, March 14, 2013.

"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.


current as of: 9/17/2015

Department of Religious Studies | University of California, Santa Barbara | Credits

Stay in the loop! Click to join our email announcement list for updates on the latest news in Catholic Studies at UCSB.