Catholic Distance University

  • Catholic Distance University


  • Catholic Distance University





Catholic Faculty


Catholic Students


Catholic Distance University offers an associate’s degree in the liberal arts with a concentration in Catholic studies and an undergraduate degree completion program exclusively through online study.

The first president and chairman of the board was the late Bishop Thomas Welsh, then of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia.

Originally begun as the Catholic Home Study Institute, the name was changed in 1996 to Catholic Distance University (CDU) to reflect its status as a degree-granting institution. Dr. Marianne Evans Mount, the president, has been with the University in several capacities since its inception.

Although CDU’s headquarters is located in Charles Town, West Virginia, its student body is widely scattered. Every state as well as more than 60 foreign countries have been represented over the past 35 years.

Students are able to pursue certificate and degree programs completely online at the noncredit, undergraduate, and graduate levels and a Vatican-approved Catechetical Diploma at the undergraduate level. But what most interests us, is that students interested in receiving a bachelor’s degree in theology can take their final 39 credits at a high-quality, time-flexible institution after completing their general coursework elsewhere. This offers flexibility and cost savings to students who take advantage of a liberal arts core curriculum at another college—preferably one of the solid Catholic institutions in The Newman Guide—then complete a theology degree from home. Also, the CDU associate’s degree program in the liberal arts with a concentration in Catholic studies provides a way for students to earn the AA degree first and then move into the bachelor completion program, all at CDU.

BA students who wish to later pursue a Master’s degree in theology may be interested in the accelerated MA track, which allows qualified undergraduate students to take their final nine credits at the graduate level. These credits then count toward the MA degree as well.

The first BA in Theology completion degree was awarded in 2006 and, as of the end of 2018, CDU has awarded 163 AA and BA degrees. Fall 2018 undergraduate program enrollment stands at 96. 

Students are mostly older adults returning to college, but not exclusively. The vast majority, not surprisingly, are Catholics, but there are a few non-Catholics as well. Students come to CDU as a way to increase their knowledge of the Catholic faith, as well as to bring this knowledge to their families and into their professional lives. Over 90 percent of CDU graduates serve the Church in some capacity in their parishes or dioceses, working as educators, directors of religious education, catechists, youth ministers, or in a related ministry.

CDU is governed by a 24-member board of trustees, four of whom are either bishops or priests. The chairman of the board is Dr. Charles Wasaff. Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for Military Services serves as chancellor of the University and vice chairman of the board.  

Dr. Marianne Mount, who helped establish CDU, served as the executive vice president for 12 years before she was named president in 2008.  She earned a graduate degree in religious education from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas and a doctorate in adult learning and distance education from Virginia Tech.

The academic dean, Dr. Peter Brown, is a scripture and theology scholar and author.

In addition to being faithful and flexible, especially for students who have work or family responsibilities, Catholic Distance University is a bargain. The undergraduate tuition for 2018-2019 is $915 per course, and tuition has remained steady for five years.


The bachelor of arts completion program in theology accepts students either provisionally or fully, depending on previous credits earned. To be admitted to the BA completion program in theology, students need 48 credits from an accredited college. These credits can also be earned in CDU’s associate’s degree program in the liberal arts.  The BA degree requires a total of 120 credits (39 theology major credits and 81 general education/elective credits).

All courses are taught in conformity with Church teachings. According to Dr. Mount, “All theology professors are reviewed and approved by a board-level academic committee. The mandatum may be obtained in a home diocese or from where a faculty member is working.”

CDU has always been a distance institution. From 1983 until 2000, it used a paper correspondence format. Today, CDU’s degree programs are offered completely online and CDU describes itself as “a global Catholic online learning community.”  In 2015, CDU moved its online learning to the popular multimedia Canvas platform.

The AA in the liberal arts program, with a concentration in Catholic studies, emphasizes study of the Catholic intellectual tradition. Upon completion of this degree, students have the option of transferring to another Catholic college or earning a BA degree in theology at CDU. In addition to maintaining an online library that is staffed by a librarian, CDU also has arranged for students to have library privileges with Woodstock Theological Center Library, a 190,000-volume library housed on the Georgetown University campus in Washington, D.C.

One special academic outreach is to prisoners. Since its beginning, CDU has provided very low-cost correspondence courses to incarcerated Catholics whose names have been put forward by their chaplains.


CDU maintains an Online Chapel where students can post prayer intentions and participate in remote Eucharistic Adoration 24/7.  Also, Father Bevil Bramwell, a faculty member, posts a homily each week reflecting on the Sunday Mass readings. 


Catholic Distance University offers its program exclusively through online study.

Bottom Line

The delivery of education is rapidly changing, and online instruction is a growing and viable alternative to traditional education. Catholic Distance University has been at the forefront of providing quality, faithful Catholic teaching to students seeking flexibility.

The undergraduate completion program, which offers a degree in theology, can be an attractive and low-cost option to students who have completed or are contemplating completing basic, non-major courses elsewhere or in CDU’s AA degree program. Whether for work, location, family or other reasons, more students are likely to view Catholic Distance University as a unique opportunity to receive an education that will enhance an understanding of their Catholic Faith.

Questions & Answers

Each year, the Newman Society asks the colleges recommended in The Newman Guide to answer the following questions. Below you will find the responses that we received directly from Catholic Distance University.

Is your institution accredited by at least one regional or national education association?


Please identify each accreditor and indicate whether it is approved by the U.S. Department of Education.

The Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) – yes 
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation – yes 
The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission has authorized Catholic Distance University to operate as an institution of higher education in West Virginia. CDU is certified to operate as an out-of-state institution by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. 

Please cite evidence of student or alumni accomplishment, such as graduation rate, graduate school placement, job placement, awards, etc.

The overall graduation rate is 70%. A number of our graduates have gone on to Ph.D. programs.

Please identify any notable public recognition of your institution’s academic quality in the last three years, such as rankings, awards, etc.

End of program surveys for 2017 describe 98% stating that they achieved their learning goals, would recommend the institution to another, expressed satisfaction with their studies at CDU and indicated that they are equipped to teach the faith; all seem to indicate the value of CDU services and educational offerings.

The 2017 graduates in the BA in Theology degree completion program completed the program with an average GPA of 3.68 in an average of 4 years.  Over the past five years, more than 70% of those eligible to graduate completed the program and were awarded degrees.

Most students who enroll in the program are either seeking a Church-related ministry or desire to study the Faith more deeply so that in the future they can participate in volunteer ministries in their parish.  By the end of 2017, 90% of the graduates had obtained Church-related ministerial positions, and the others expressed the desire to do volunteer or teaching ministries in the near future.

In 2017 those who received the AA degree with a concentration in Catholic Studies,  were awarded the degree with an average GPA of 3.85, spending an average of 2 to 2.5 years to complete.

What is the median SAT and ACT of your incoming class? (Note that some colleges may not require one or both scores from all students) 



Are more than half of the current members of your faculty practicing Catholics?


Approximately what percentage of your current faculty members are practicing Catholics?


Are members of your faculty officially informed of their responsibility for maintaining and strengthening the Catholic identity of the institution?


Please identify key undergraduate faculty who are noted experts in their field, have produced important publications, have leadership roles in academic associations, etc. and briefly describe such accomplishments (optional):

Many CDU faculty members are accomplished theologians, scripture scholars, and Catholic writers and teachers. Aaron Urbanczyk, PhD, is a prolific published author. Dr. Christine Wood holds a PhD in Theology and is the founder of the Verbum Domini Biblical and Catechetical Institute in the Archdiocese of Hobart, Australia. She is also president of the St. John Centre for Biblical Studies in Australia. Father Bevil Bramwell, who has been a professor and spiritual director in high schools, research schools, seminaries, and universities, holds a PhD in Systematic Theology and has authored several published books. Dr. Carole Brown holds a PhD in Systematic Theology and is the Director of the Sioux Spiritual Center, a small Catholic retreat center in the Diocese of Rapid City. She helped to found Spirit Radio and served as Director of New Evangelization for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City from 2013-2018.  Dr. Marie Nuar holds a doctorate in Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas and resides in Rome, where she is an adjunct professor of theology at St. John’s University and works as a guide for the excavations beneath St. Peter’s Basilica.

Are members of your teaching faculty expected, as a condition of employment, to respect Catholic teaching and comply with Catholic morality in their public actions and statements both on and off campus?


Additional Faculty information, clarification or description (optional):

As an online university, CDU instructors are mostly adjunct.  We are not limited by geographic proximity to the university campus allowing us to draw on experts to teach our online courses and seminars.

Does the institution have a department of Catholic theology, distinct from “religious studies” and other disciplines?

CDU is a school of Catholic theology so there is no need to have a distinct theology department.

Are courses in Catholic theology clearly identified and distinguished from other courses dealing with religion?


Do all faculty in the theological disciplines have a mandatum according to the procedures established by the local bishop or other competent ecclesiastical authority?

As our faculty are primarily adjunct, the mandatum is taken in the diocese of their full-time employment.

Do all faculty in the theological disciplines make the Catholic Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity?

As our faculty are primarily adjunct, this oath is taken in the diocese of their full-time employment.

Does your institution require that all theology courses be taught in a manner faithful to Scripture, Tradition, and the Church’s Magisterium, and also to the principles and methods proper to Catholic theology?


Please identify the theology courses that are included in the undergraduate core or distribution requirements and the professors who routinely teach those courses:

For the BA degree:
Reading Scripture Theologically – Dr. Christine Wood

Introduction to Scripture and Salvation History—Alissa Thorell

Foundations of Catholicism—Christopher Padgett

God, Man, and the Universe – Christopher Padgett

Jesus Christ: God, Man, and Savior—Father Bevil Bramwell

The Vatican II: The Church and Her Liturgy—Dr. Marie Nuar

Sacraments: Masterworks of God – David Bonagura

Principles of Moral Theology—Alissa Thorell

For the AA degree:

Church History I: Early Christians to the Middle Ages – Charles Rieper

Church History II: Renaissance to Modern Church – Charles Rieper

Introduction to Composition for Theology—Dr. Aaron Urbanczyk

Ancient Civilization—Charles Rieper

Christian Civilization—Charles Rieper

A Global Civilization—Charles Rieper

Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Person—Dr. Aaron Urbanczyk

Survey of the Old Testament – Steven Najera

Survey of the New Testament – Steven Najera

Catechism of the Catholic Church: Part I – Kathryn Vestermark

Catechism of the Catholic Church: Part II – Kathryn Vestermark

The Moral Life: Living the Virtues—Deacon Frederick Bartels

Please describe the place of Catholic theology in your institution’s undergraduate curriculum and how it is distinct from other institutions.

CDU was founded 35 years ago as an institution specializing in theological education and faith formation. Its mission has not changed over time, but its method of delivery has kept pace with technological advances in online learning.

Additional Theology information, clarification or description (optional):

CDU is faithful to the teachings of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

Please identify any course that every undergraduate student must take:

For the BA degree:
Reading Scripture Theologically
Introduction to Scripture and Salvation History
Foundations of Catholicism
God, Man, and the Universe
Jesus Christ: God, Man, and Savior
Vatican II: The Church and Her Liturgy
Sacraments: Masterworks of God
Principles of Moral Theology

For the AA degree:
Church History I: Early Christians to the Middle Ages
Church History II: Renaissance to Modern Church
Introduction to Composition for Theology
Ancient Civilization*
Christian Civilization*
A Global Civilization*
Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Person
Survey of the Old Testament
Survey of the New Testament with the Catechism of the Catholic Church
Catechism of the Catholic Church: Part I
Catechism of the Catholic Church: Part II
The Moral Life: Living the Virtues

*Two of three Civilization courses must be taken

Please identity the courses that students may choose from in order to satisfy common curriculum distribution requirements:

***Introduction to Composition for Theology
Introduction to Literature for Theology
Ancient Civilization
Biblical Greek I
Biblical Greek II
Christian Civilization
Church History I: Early Christians to the Middle Ages
Church History II: Renaissance to Modern Church
Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Person
General Mathematics for Liberal Studies
A Global Civilization
History of the Catholic Church in America
Introduction to Comparative Religions: Judaism and Islam
Introduction to Economics
Introduction to Plato and Aristotle
Latin I
Latin II

How many credits are required for graduation and what percent are from core / distribution courses?

120 credits     20%
(for BA Completion program)
60 credits 55% for AA program

Is every undergraduate student required to take one or more courses in which they are taught authentic Catholic doctrine and practice?


If yes, please describe them generally and note how many courses are required?

CDU offers a BA completion program and the Catechetical Diploma at the undergraduate level. Students earn most general education requirements at other accredited colleges or in the CDU AA degree program. All of the courses taken at CDU at the undergraduate level teach authentic Catholic doctrine and practice.

The AA in Liberal Arts with a Concentration in Catholic Studies degree is a 60-credit program with 33 core credits required in courses that teach authentic Catholic doctrine and practice.

Is every undergraduate student required to take one or more interdisciplinary courses relating theology or philosophy with other disciplines?


List the major, minor and special program areas that students may choose for specialization while pursuing an undergraduate degree:

CDU offers:
AA in the Liberal Arts with a Concentration in Catholic studies
BA in Theology Completion Program
Catechetical Diploma

Undergraduate Catechetical Coordinator Certificate

What are the three most popular majors or specialty disciplines for undergraduate students, and about what percentage of undergraduate students specialize in these disciplines?

1.      N/A

2.      N/A

3.      N/A

Does each undergraduate degree program require Catholic ethical formation related to the student’s major field(s) of study?


Does your institution regularly provide academic events to address theological questions related to specialized disciplines?


If yes, please describe:

Free webinars on Catholic theological questions and issues of current interest are offered once a month by our faculty. To learn more and to join our webinar email list, visit

Does your institution require cooperation among faculty in different disciplines in teaching, research and other academic activities?


If yes, please describe.

CDU offers an accelerated MA track for qualified undergraduate students. Undergraduate theology students may apply to the program through the Admissions Office if they have completed 21 credits in the CDU BA in Theology major with a 3.0 average and obtain a recommendation from a CDU faculty member.

Students may take up to nine (9) CDU graduate credits in this track. The credits earned apply to both the undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Does your institution offer Mass on campus at least on Sundays and other days of obligation?

Mass is offered occasionally throughout the year.

Does your institution offer daily Mass to students?

No, they are prayed for in our daily intentions.

Are you aware of any graduates from your institution (not including seminary students, if any) who are ordained to the priesthood or have entered religious life? Please describe.

Yes, several of our graduates have entered religious life.

Has your institution’s diocesan bishop (or other competent ecclesiastical authority) officially recognized the institution as Catholic?


Do your institution’s governing documents include or reference the General Norms and Particular (United States) Norms of Ex corde Ecclesiae?


Do your institution’s governing documents or institutional policies require conformity to the General Norms and Particular (United States) Norms of Ex corde Ecclesiae?


What is your institution’s mission statement:

The mission of Catholic Distance University is to communicate the mind and heart of the Church in a digital world. Using distance education, the university educates teachers and learners worldwide in Catholic theology, the liberal arts, and faith development for the growth of faith, ecclesial service, and leadership for the New Evangelization.

Does your institution have a written policy regarding speakers and honorees that at a minimum meets the standards established by the United States bishops in “Catholics in Political Life?”


What is your institution’s policy for approval of speakers and honorees?

Underlying all CDU policies is the principle of fidelity to the teachings of the Magisterium.

Describe the makeup of your institution’s undergraduate student body with regard to sex, religion, home state/country and type of high school (public, private, homeschool):

Total number of undergraduates: 96

Male: 48%  Female: 52%

Catholic: 99%  Other Christian: 1%
Jewish: %  Muslim: %  Other: %

Number of states represented: 35%

Top three states: Texas, California, Virginia

Students from top three states: 35%

Catholic HS: N/A Homeschool: N/A
Private HS: N/A Public HS: N/A

Please provide information on your institution’s statistics on criminal incidents as reported to governmental authorities for 2008, 2009 and 2010:


Additional Student Body information, clarification or description  (optional):

Are prospective and current members of your institution’s governing board(s) informed of their responsibility for maintaining and strengthening the Catholic identity of your institution?


Are more than half of the current members of your institution’s governing board(s) practicing Catholics?


Do Catholic members of your institution’s governing board(s) make the Catholic Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity?


Is your institution’s president a practicing Catholic?


Does your institution’s president make the Catholic Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity?


A Message from the President

Dear Prospective CDU Student,

Thank you so much for considering CDU in your educational plans. Our programs integrate inspiring, Catholic content, always faithful to the Church’s teachings, with state-of-the-art learning management technologies that enable you to access your education in the comfort of your home or wherever you choose.

CDU has been a pioneer since 1983 using flexible, convenient distance technologies to bring high quality educational programs to each learner. You will explore the riches of Sacred Scripture, Church documents, Papal documents, and the wisdom of the saints and Doctors of the Church.

You will never be alone at CDU. Our outstanding faculty and friendly staff will guide you every step of the way. Every day our students from all over the world experience the communion of the Church by praying for one another in our online chapel, catching up in the online cafe, and sharing their family milestones through the online photo gallery. Our online campus, easy-to-navigate learning platform called Canvas, and our carefully chosen faculty encourage an engaging, dialogic approach to learning that is modeled on the conversational pedagogy of Jesus Christ in the Gospels. In each of our courses, we emphasize the importance of faculty-guided discussion and student interaction that research confirms is the best way for adults to learn.

I encourage you to find out more in these pages and on our website,, to discover if Catholic Distance University is the next step for you to further your spiritual and professional goals.

Sincerely in our Lord,

Marianne Evans Mount, Ph.D.

Contact Catholic Distance University

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