Yale Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Volume 2, Issue 1
fall 2011
Editor, Geetanjali Singh Chanda
Managing Editor, John-Albert Moseley
Layout Design: Nick Appleby

Sex Abuse and The Study of Religion

by Kathryn Lofton, Assistant Professor, Religious Studies and American Studies


In September an international gathering of fifteen scholars contributed to "Sex Abuse and The Study of Religion," a conference held at Yale. Kathryn Lofton (American Studies, Religious Studies, and WGSS) organized this event that explored the religious contexts in which Catholic sex abuse transpired and consider the questions that the crisis poses for the study of religion. The documentary basis for these discussions was provided by BishopAccountability.org (bishop-accountability.org), an organization founded by Terence McKiernan that seeks to create a record of every document pertaining to the case material involving sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. The first day of the gathering was an invitation-only workshop with thematic discussions oriented toward the archive materials available as a matter of public record from legal, diocesan, and Vatican sources. The second day was a public conference interpreting the abuse crisis in the Catholic Church from several methodological perspectives from within religious studies and its cognate disciplines, including panels on sex abuse and the study of children, sex abuse in the history of Christianity, and sex abuse as a subject of public debate. While other conferences and academic analysts have pursued the sociology of abuse (i.e., the 2004 John Jay Report) or the legal contours of juridical intervention (Oakley and Russett 2004), this event was the first scholarly gathering focused on supplying an interpretation of sex abuse within the interdisciplinary auspices of religious studies. Held at the Golden Center at St. Thomas More, the Saturday conference attracted a diverse audience that developed a thoughtful space of exchange for scholarly reflection on an exciting array of paper presentations.

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