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Contextualizing the Catholic Sexual Abuse Crisis Seminar

Call for Proposals

This year’s seminar seeks papers that engage “catastrophe” (and its analogues) as a lens for studying the global dimensions of clergy sexual abuse. Proposals can focus on any region or time period.

The language of catastrophe, crisis, and demise open possibilities for foregrounding survivors’ perspectives while simultaneously shifting us towards a more globalized view of clergy abuse. What new frames appear, for example, when we compare Catholic abuses across multiple continents? And in what ways does catastrophe occlude or distort the dimension of survival, tenacity, and endurance in survivors' experience?

Conversely, such language also frames clergy sex abuse in ways that might restrict academic critique. Are there insights gained by contextualizing religious sexual abuse within broader cultural traumas, such as apartheid or genocide? And does our understanding of clergy abuse as catastrophic prevent us from interpreting legal documents and survivors’ stories in less linear ways?

We seek research exploring the potential and/or limits of catastrophe for the study of clergy sexual abuse, including along the following sub-themes:

  • Insights and problems of framing survivor justice through secular carceral terms
  • Implications to or from theological and theoretical conceptions of justice
  • Theologies and ethics for addressing the everyday and spiritual dimensions of clergy abuse
  • Historical horrors, including invocations of the monstrous and demonic
  • Balancing critical deconstruction with compassion and support for survivors

Accepted proposals will lead to short papers to be pre-circulated to our seminar mailing list one month before the AAR’s next annual meeting (which is currently scheduled to be held in Denver, CO, from November 19 - 22, 2022).

Statement of Purpose

Contextualizing the Catholic Sexual Abuse Crisis is a five-year seminar (2019 - 2024) working towards greater understanding about clergy sexual abuse and the range of questions that it raises.

Attention to clergy abuse must become normative for any treatment of modern Catholicism to not itself be complicit in the abuse and its concealment.

Please note the following guidelines on our values and norms:

  • Seminar presenters are required to submit their full papers by the end of September, to be pre-circulated to all attendees via the AAR Papers system. This allows for more conversation and deeper reflection at the conference.
  • Proposals should be made with an eye towards publishable work.
  • The seminar seeks collaborative and multidisciplinary research, including through historical, ethnographic, theological, legal, political, psychological, and ethical frameworks.
  • We are especially interested in proposals that press consideration into new anti-racist, anti-colonial, feminist, or queer directions.
  • We encourage methodologies that uplift the voices of survivors, especially victims from African American, indigenous, and non-Anglo parishes.
  • Over the full five years of sessions, the seminar will also examine sexual abuse in contexts beyond the Catholic church, both in other religious communities and secular institutions.
  • We are committed to supporting research from scholars at all career stages, including doctoral candidates and independent scholars.
  • The seminar encourages all of its members to participate in and propose papers to related program units, including Roman Catholic Studies, Religion and Sexuality, Childhood Studies, Ecclesiological Investigations, Religion and Violence, North American Religions, Religion in Europe, and Ethics.


Steering Committee Members



Review Process

Proposer names are visible to chairs and steering committee members at all times