In addition and specific to the general requirements for obtaining a civil degree, the Religion and Culture area requires the following:


For the Ph.D., a minimum of 36 credit hours of coursework beyond the M.A. is required.

  • TRS 760: Theological Foundations and TRS 780A: Introduction to the Study of Religion, if not taken at the M.A. level, are required, as is a course in hermeneutics: either TRS 760B: Theology, Culture, and Hermeneutics; or TRS 780B: Religion and Hermeneutics.
  • At least 21 credits should be in the field of religion and culture, including at least three credits devoted to the cross-cultural study of religion or the study of a religious tradition other than Christianity.
  • At least nine credits should be in the Catholic theological tradition, and six credits in an allied area of specialization chosen from some other area of the school or department of the university (e.g., anthropology, sociology, philosophy).

Upon formal admission to the doctoral program, students consult with faculty advisors to project their full course of study. This will usually include all courses listed above for the M.A. degree. The director of the academic area, in conjunction with Area faculty, gives final approval to each student's program of studies, normally at the end of the first semester of coursework.

All Ph.D. programs will include the completion of at least four major research papers (three if holding an M.A. from Catholic University in Theology/Religious Studies) that give evidence of the student's ability to do scholarly research; these are done at the 800 level, normally in conjunction with research seminars. Students must maintain a 3.3 grade point average.


Doctoral students are required to demonstrate reading proficiency in two modern languages (e.g., French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Hindi), either by passing an exam offered by the Department of Modern Languages or by a suitable alternative means. In addition, proficiency in each of these languages should be evidenced in at least one of the student's major research papers. Ph.D. candidates may be asked to master other languages necessary for research in their areas of specialization.

Comprehensive Exams

Comprehensive examinations are taken after a student has successfully completed coursework, research papers, and languages, on dates specified by the university's academic calendar. The comprehensive examination is a written test administered on three days, for four hours each day.

  • One day of the examination will cover general topics in religion and culture.
  • A second day will require demonstration of competence in the Catholic theological tradition.
  • The third day will jointly address the subfield that has been designated as the area for dissertation research and the allied area chosen by the student.
  • Questions for the examination are based on a detailed bibliography developed by the student in conjunction with a faculty advisor.