Catholic Theological Society of America

Catholic Theological Society of America

Call For Papers

Spirituality Topic Session

Administrative Team:

Simon J. Hendry, S.J. (Convener)
Wendy Wright
Colleen Carpenter

Convention Theme: Justice and Mercy

Session Description:
This year the CTSA has chosen as its theme Justice and Mercy. The topic articulates a focus on the relation between justice and mercy, picks up on the importance of these two virtues for discipleship and for the Church’s mission in society, and responds to the urgent needs of our world.

This theme has implications for the field of spirituality, suggesting a deep connection between spiritual experience and the attitudes and practice of justice and mercy. Our concern is the importance of both justice and mercy not just for each other but for spirituality. That would mean how justice and mercy influence spirituality and how spirituality issues in, results in, produces justice and mercy.

The field of Spirituality is a comparatively new one, studying the lived experience of people as they relate to transcendent reality. Its starting point is reflection emerging from lived experience which is then examined from a variety of perspectives (historical, psychological, sociological, literary criticism, biblical studies, practical theological, etc). Normally a paper in this field would lay out its argument in terms of a thick description of experience, a reflective critical analysis of that experience, and a constructive understanding of that experience as is it open to transcendence.

In recent years, our conversations at the CTSA have attempted to understand more deeply the nature of spirituality (and by implication, the academic field of spirituality) and what spirituality has to say to the theological enterprise as a whole. The theme this year adds a nuanced dimension to this study. By emphasizing justice and mercy, the theme sharpens the focus on the importance of these two elements to spirituality, hopefully shedding more light on the nature of spirituality itself. Justice and mercy point to attitudes toward, relationships with, and actions on behalf of the persons of our world, especially those most in need of resources, dignity, freedom, participation, respect, and reconciliation and forgiveness and on the institutional structures that unjustly deprive them of what they need. A relationship with transcendence is located within the world of human beings, is rooted in that world and has implications for interacting with that world. This year’s theme explicitly calls us to pay attention to that world.

We invite papers that both reflect on the nature of spirituality and on the relation of the experience of spirituality to justice and mercy. We can envision a number of possible ways of doing this.

For example:

  • One could investigate the spirituality of historical or contemporary persons whose lives give evidence of on the importance of action, especially action on behalf of justice and mercy, for spirituality.
  • One could investigate contemporary spiritualities that focus on justice and mercy.
  • One could argue for an articulation of spirituality or elements of a spirituality that could undergird the practice of justice and mercy.
  • One could describe experiences, especially experiences of justice and mercy, that lead to or give evidence of a spirituality or that lead to understandings of what it is to be a human person in relationship with the transcendent and with the deeply human, especially with attitudes of justice and mercy.
  • One could look to spiritual traditions other than Christianity by examining the spirituality of persons or groups to explicate their understandings of justice and mercy integral to the tradition or by examining how non-Christian Spiritual traditions can offer insight to Christian traditions about justice and mercy.
  • One could investigate a spirituality, such as a liberationist model, that is oriented toward structural or institutional change.
  • Since the conference takes place in Puerto Rico, one could take a serious look at social issues affecting Puerto Rico, such as Puerto Rico’s drought and drinking water crisis, neglected infrastructure, and quasi-colonial relationship with the US. What does the suffering of the Puerto Rican people have to say to spirituality and what does spirituality have to say to the suffering of the Puerto Rican people? What does spirituality have to say to the relationship between the US and Puerto Rico and what does this relationship have to say to spirituality?
  • In the same vein, one could take a serious look at social and justice issues affecting the Caribbean in general and raise questions from the perspective of justice and mercy and spirituality. What does the Caribbean have to say to us spiritually? What challenges does a spiritual perspective of justice and mercy raise about the relationship of the United States and the Caribbean islands?
  • One could do something that we have not envisioned that articulated and reflected upon the lived experience of openness to transcendence and commitments to justice and mercy.

Whatever approach one chooses, we would like the paper to advance the conversation about the nature of spirituality, contribute to the deeper understanding of what we mean when we use the term spirituality, and develop the implications of this understanding for the enterprise of doing theology.

Proposals should be between 200-500 words and should include the author’s name, institution, and contact information. The deadline for submission is September 1, 2015. Notification of acceptance for presentation will be given by September 21, 2015. Authors of accepted papers will be required to submit a 100 word précis for the program posted on the web. A maximum of three papers will be selected for the session.

Proposals should clearly state the topic to be developed in the paper, the approach that will be taken, and the conclusion as currently envisioned. Instead of an individual paper, you may wish to propose a panel on which three speakers would each speak for about twenty minutes on a common topic. You may also wish to propose a team of two persons who propose the same topic from two different points of view. Please articulate in the proposal any audio-visual support required. Recall that CTSA policy limits presenters to one speaking role on the convention program, with the exception of underrepresented constituencies, not including presentations made to the Women’s Consultation on Constructive Theology. A new CTSA rule stipulates that a member may not present more than two years in a row. Presenters should ordinarily be CTSA members in good standing. Please send proposals as an email attachment in a Word document to Si Hendry, SJ at