Upon This Rock: Papacy, Parish, and Politics

Two Thursdays, April 4 and 18, 6:00–7:30 p.m. | St. Anne Church (St. Christopher Room), 2140 Westheimer Road at Shepherd, 77098

The Catholic Church’s worldwide reach and spiritual influence sometimes conceal the fact that it is run by a Vatican bureaucracy shaped by its own history and often-secretive politics.  Professor Sean Theriault will help us to understand how the Vatican operates and how decisions are made.  He will also discuss the evolution of the American church and its relationship to the Vatican.  This course will be of special interest to participants on the Houston Seminar’s study tour to Italy, but it is meant for the general audience as well.

April 4: An Inside Look at the Vatican
The history of the church and the structure of the Vatican bureaucracy that developed over time dramatically affect its decisions today.  Join us for a look at the ways that history and structure shape church policies and help to explain the Papacy of Benedict XVI.

April 18:  The Politics of the American Catholic Church
The Catholic Church has had a notable effect on the development of the United States, and this sometimes fraught history continues to play a role in the church today.  Dr. Theriault will explore how the political structure of the American Catholic hierarchy operates today and how the people in the pews practice their politics.

Sean Theriault, a Distinguished Teaching Professor, was named Professor of the Year at the University of Texas, Austin, in 2011.  This honor followed his receipt of the Friar Centennial Fellowship, the highest undergraduate teaching award, in 2009.  Professor Theriault’s chief academic specialty is the U.S. Congress, but he also brings his political insights to teaching a semester-long course on the Catholic Church.  He has traveled often to Italy and has excellent contacts in the Vatican.



Registration for fall 2018 is ongoing. You may register online, by mail, or by phone with a credit card. 


If you are interested in traveling with the Houston Seminar to Natchez October 26-29, 2019 you may access the itinerary, trip cost, and registration documents here.

If you are interested in traveling to Virginia in the spring of 2019, please call the registrar at 713.666.9000 to place your name on a list. Please see Terms and Conditions for "travel list" policy. 


Please note a date in the Mid-term Elections course has changed from that published in the brochure. The course will meet the first two Mondays, October 29 and November 5 as planned, but will meet Tuesday, November 13 instead of Monday, November 12. 


Also note Art Underground: Carlos Cruz-Diez at the Cistern on Wednesday, November 14 is FULLY SUBSCRIBED. A second session has been added and will meet Monday, November 12 from 2:00-3:30 P.M. Registrations are being accepted for November 12. You may register online, or by phone.


Who Gets to Vote: Challenges for the 2020 Elections?
Speaker: Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Voter Rights Project
Monday, November 19, 6:30-8:00 P.M.
Location to be announced


Register today!


For additional information about any of our courses, to register offline, or to add your name to our mailing and/or email lists, please contact our adminstrator at  or phone 713.666.9000.