The College Theology Society holds its Sixty-Third Annual Convention from Thursday evening, June 1 through Sunday morning, June 4, 2017, at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island.
American Catholicism in the 21st Century:
Crossroads, Crisis, or Renewal?
Even the most cursory observation of news and op-ed pieces concerning the Catholic Church in the United States could lead one to conclude that the Church here is at a crossroads, if not in crisis. These reports draw their conclusions from multiple sources, including sociological data concerning the devotional practices of American Catholics, fracture among U.S. Catholics over political and economic issues (“Social Justice” Catholics vs. “Right to Life” Catholics), or reactions to the censorship of a prominent American Catholic theologian’s most recent monograph. These reports, which reflect real division among U.S. Catholics on a wide-range of issues, begs a number of questions: Who is an “American Catholic”? How do they think of themselves and how are they perceived? What is the status today of the Church in the U.S. and what are its future prospects, from both an insider and outsider perspective? Are there resources in the Catholic tradition and from within broader U.S. society and culture that can help to answer these questions? What can Catholics learn from American Protestants--particularly our friends in the NABPR--who have faced many of the same questions before?
But not all news is bad. There are also genuine signs of hope within American Catholicism. The enthusiasm and excitement that Pope Francis has brought to Americans both in and out of the Church appears unprecedented and seems to reveal something of the hunger American Catholics have for a renewal of their faith. Likewise, the “Great Recession” and the seemingly never-ending wars that have marked American life in these first years of the 21st century call to mind another period in U.S. history a century ago. It was during those first decades of the 20th century, also shaped by economic and political turmoil, that some of the most creative and inspiring figures and movements in American Catholic history emerged: Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker, Virgil Michel and the Liturgical movement, Catherine de Hueck and Friendship House, Paul Hanly Furfey and the “New Social Catholicism,” Mary Elizabeth Walsh and the Campions, The Grail, Charles Owen Rice and Catholic Radical Alliance, among many others. Is such renewal already taking place in America? Perhaps now is the time to hope for, identify, and encourage similar creative renewal and re-energizing to emerge--a time to look for a new Dorothy Day. What resources within the tradition can help us to enable this kind of renewal?
It has been nearly twenty years since the College Theology Society has focused on the topic of American Catholicism. In fact, 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of the Sandra Yocum and William Portier edited volume American Catholic Traditions: Resources for Renewal, which offered an opportunity for readers “to learn and reflect on the roots of American Catholicism and its meaning today.” We propose that the time is ripe for the CTS to take-up, once again, this topic. Over the course of the last two decades, new questions or new forms of perennial questions have emerged, questions concerning American Catholic identity and identities; ecumenism and religious pluralism; Catholic engagement with American society and culture; the very idea of being “American” and being “Catholic.” This conference will encourage scholars to explore these questions, and to consider the past, present, and future prospects of U.S. Catholicism.
Additional relevant questions include but are not limited to: What does American Catholicism look like today? What is the state of the Catholic community in the U.S. given widespread debate in overlapping areas including liturgy, politics, sexual ethics, social justice? What is the status of the reception of Vatican II in the U.S. with respect to these same topics and others? Are we at an important moment in the history of American Catholicism, namely the end of an almost 200 year old idea that America is good for Catholics and Catholics can make a unique contribution to American society and culture? How are Catholics in the United States engaging (or not) in ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue? What are the views of American Catholicism from the perspective of various Protestant communities, from other religious traditions, secular bodies in the United States? What is the place of American Catholicism and “American Catholic studies” in the academy today?
The convention Co-Chairs and Annual Volume Editors are Professsor Nicholas Rademacher (Cabrini University, Pennsylvania) and Professor Benjamin Peters (University of Saint Joseph, Connecticut). The plenary speakers will be announced, and their biographies posted, by November 1, 2017.
The Call for Papers will be available here on September 16, 2016. Proposals should be 250-500 words in length and include one’s current institutional affiliation and position. Proposals should be submitted to the appropriate conveners no later than Friday, December 16, 2016. Scholars will be notified of the status of their proposals by Monday, January 16, 2017.
Scholars who are invited to present their work at a national convention of the College Theology Society must be current members of the CTS no later than April 1, 2017 in order to appear in the program. No person may submit more than one proposal for consideration and nor will submissions to multiple sections be considered. Failure to observe these policies may result in the scholar's disqualification to present a paper at the Annual Convention.
The first draft of the Convention Program will be available on or about March 15, 2017, and online registration will also open at that time.
The National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion will once again be joining us this year.
Further questions about our 2017 Annual Convention at Salve Regina University can be directed to Father Dave Gentry-Akin, Executive Director of National Conventions, at firstname.lastname@example.org.