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Contextualizing the Catholic Sexual Abuse Crisis Seminar

Call for Proposals

For the second year of the seminar, we seek proposals that engage Catholic sexual abuse as it intersects with race, class, and/or colonization.

The annual meeting is in Boston, where almost 20 years ago the Globe’s Spotlight team foregrounded the classed dimensions of the scandal. And yet, over the past two decades, both public and academic writing has effectively pushed race and class to the periphery of our analyses of religion and sex abuse. This trend is all the more troubling because, in the United States, clergy abuse occurred at the highest rates in Catholic institutions for Native populations, yet the majority of attention has centered around white survivors.

This year’s goal is thus to examine the abuse “crisis” within the context of broader systems of power. How do the historical dimensions of Roman Catholic sexual abuse - as well as social, political, theological, and ecclesial proposals to address the crisis - look different when race, class, and colonialization are centered alongside religion as the structural dimensions of the crisis?

Proposals may be oriented around historical, ethical, ethnographic, political, legal, theological, sociological, or theoretical questions. We are especially interested in proposals that center black, Native American, or migrant experiences of the crisis, as well as other research that presses us towards new anti-racist, anti-colonialist, feminist, or queer directions.

We welcome proposals not only from scholars currently studying these topics, but also from survivor advocates, teachers, journalists, activists, and researchers who would like to begin new work on Catholic sexual abuse. Such proposals might suggest a “teach-in” model. Or panelists who want to present preliminary work with an eye towards finding new colleagues or venues for more collaborative, longterm projects on religion and sexual abuse.

Statement of Purpose

Contextualizing the Catholic Sexual Abuse Crisis is a five-year seminar (2019 - 2023) 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 but anonymous to steering committee members