College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences > Academics > Catholic Studies > Faculty > William Cavanaugh

William Cavanaugh

  • Professor
  • ​​​PhD​​, Duke University​​
  • Catholic Studies
  • Faculty
  • Political Theology, Economic Ethics, Ecclesiology
  • 773-325-7680
  • ​​​SAC 57​​0B
I am a professor of Catholic studies and director of the Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology, a research center housed in the Department of Catholic Studies and focusing on the Catholic Church in the global South—Africa, Asia, and Latin America. I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Notre Dame, where I planned to study chemical engineering but got hooked on theology. I received a master’s degree from Cambridge University in England and then spent two years working for the Church in a poor area of Santiago, Chile, under the military dictatorship. Upon returning to the United States, I got a PhD from Duke University, and then taught at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota for 15 years before coming to DePaul. I am married and have three sons.

My major areas of research have to do with the Church’s encounter with social, political, and economic realities. I am especially interested in the social implications of traditional Catholic beliefs and practices, such as the Eucharist. I have authored six books and edited three more; my books and articles have been published in 10 languages. I have dealt with themes of the Church’s social and political presence in situations of violence and economic injustice. I am currently working on a book on secularization and idolatry, exploring the ways in which a supposedly disenchanted Western society remains enchanted by nationalism, consumerism, and cults of celebrity.

Much of my teaching has been at the level of introducing students to the Catholic tradition, either through our “Introduction to Catholicism” course, or one of our history courses. I try to teach in an interdisciplinary way, showing the riches and challenges of the Catholic tradition through art, theology, scripture, music, poetry, history, novels, and so on. Some of the more specialized courses I have taught include courses on Christianity and consumer culture, and a course on Latin American theology. One of my favorite courses to teach is a first-year Discover Chicago course entitled “Global Catholicism in Story and Stone.” During Immersion Week, my staff and I take students to ethnic Catholic churches in Chicago: Polish, Irish, Chinese, Mexican, African American, etc. We tell the story of immigrant Catholicism in Chicago through history and theology, but especially through art and architecture.