Catholic Theological Society of America

Catholic Theological Society of America

Call For Papers

Catholic Social Thought Topic Session

Administrative Team:
     Thomas Massaro, S.J., Santa Clara University (Convener)
     Gerard Mannion, Georgetown University
     Anna Floerke Scheid, Duquesne University

Convention Theme: Sensus Fidelium

Session Description:
Theme: Catholic Social Thought and “Sensus Fidelium.” The Catholic Social Thought Topic Session invites paper proposals on the convention’s theme of “Sensus Fidelium.”

This year’s convention theme provides an opportunity to invite papers that address aspects of CST (the abbreviation that will be used below to include not only official Catholic social teaching but also Catholic social thought and practice) that are often overlooked, including the rightful participation of all the faithful in the development of doctrine. While many (perhaps most) observers focus almost exclusively on the content of the texts of official teaching documents, many aspects of the context, origin and reception of those teachings deserve to be explored. We thus encourage explorations of CST that challenge any static notions of what constitutes appropriate church-based instruction on social justice. This opens up an appreciation of the dynamic nature of these teachings and how they function in the life of the church and world.

A non-exclusive sample of intriguing questions along these lines might include:

Origins: How may we best understand the origin of CST, as a set of concerns and insights that “bubble up from below,” rather than emanating solely from high church officials and magisterial voices? How may we enumerate and characterize the truest and fullest sources of CST? How may we supply the broadest and most accurate account of the sources of Catholic reflection on proper social order? What is the status of “unofficial Catholic social thought,” and what is the relationship between official and unofficial social thought in the Catholic community? We especially welcome proposals to explore the dynamic of change and resistance, such as instances when sensus fidelium has challenged or successfully brought about a shift in official church positions regarding economic practices and social justice.

Reception: What claims may fairly be made regarding the ongoing reception of official CST? Has the phenomenon of reception changed over time? For example, how may we account for the non-reception (at least in certain social and ecclesial contexts) of papal social teachings that offer critiques of free-market capitalism? What is the relationship (actual or ideal) between catechesis and reception of CST? Is CST doomed to be forever relegated to the status of “our best kept secret”? How readily do successive generations receive and respond to the challenge of this body of thought? Are there systemic barriers to its reception and application? Are there any particularly promising strategies to overcome any of these hurdles today, so that future generations will be able to hear it more readily and to engage in “Catholic social learning” more successfully?

New Contexts: Since CST is a tradition of reflection that emerged primarily from a European context, it may be useful to consider the implications of the increasing prominence of Catholicism in the Global South, with its distinctive economic, social and cultural concerns. Should there be, for example, an enhanced emphasis on local and regional statements on social justice issues (emanating from Bishops Conferences and the like) rather than primarily from Vatican sources? Returning to the matter of reception, we might ask how CST may better address today’s pressing social challenges. Especially in the papacy of Francis, may we fairly posit a “feedback loop” where deep and empathetic listening to popular opinion, especially among marginalized groups, influences official CST in enhanced ways? How do current readings of “the signs of the times” compare to past instances when the church’s thought and social practice have been shaped by practices and ideas from beyond the walls of the church as well as from the margins of the church? How might all benefit from new messages, or perhaps a new mode of shaping the content or altering the mode of delivery of CST?

Proposals exploring the above topics are especially welcome. Proposals that do not explicitly touch upon the conference theme are also most welcome, but no proposal should include more than three speakers (including any respondents).

Submission Guidelines:

  • Proposal should be between 200 and 500 words.
  • You should also include a 100 words précis that will be posted on the CTSA website should your paper be accepted.
  • Include full name and contact information of all participants, including e-mail.
  • Indicate whether your presenters will be requiring A/V equipment. 
  • CTSA guidelines require that those making proposals ordinarily be associate or full members in good standing with their dues paid up.  Anyone with an associate or full membership application on file can also submit a proposal if they expect to be accepted for membership in the upcoming June convention.
  •  No member may present a paper/respond to a paper/participate on a panel more than once at a given convention, with the exception of members of under-represented groups.

Deadline: September 1, 2014. Please submit proposals to: Thomas Massaro, S.J., at You will be notified whether your paper has been accepted by September 14, 2014.