‘Our transgressions before you are many, and our sins testify against us’ (Is 59:12a):

Re-Imagining Church in Light of Colonization and Catholic Sexual Abuse

Gonzaga University

Project Description

Gonzaga University will host a four-day conference in academic-year 2021-2022 for approximately forty theologians and religious studies scholars. The conference will initiate conversations at the intersection of theology and religious studies around Catholic sexual abuse in historically vulnerable, under-recognized, and marginalized communities, with an eye toward patterns of this abuse in contexts that are now part of the Jesuits West Province. Taking as our starting point the fact that abuse by Jesuits in the Pacific and Inland Northwest has disproportionately affected Native American and Alaskan Native communities, the conference will address how and why sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has disproportionately affected historically vulnerable, under-recognized, and marginalized communities. Particular attention will be paid to patterns of white supremacy, Christian supremacy, colonization, and racialized supersessionism. Second, the conference will address how efforts at reconciliation, initiated by Jesuit universities and other Jesuit works, and efforts at church reform may account for the concerns of victim-survivors and the theological and cultural factors that led to the abuse of historically vulnerable, under-recognized, and marginalized communities identified by the work of the conference. In addition to publishing the proceedings of this conference, we hope that the insights of this work might be shared throughout the ACJU and IAJU networks through gatherings of mission officers, theology/religious studies chairs, and other administrators so that it might aid Jesuit universities in their work toward reconciliation in light of Catholic sexual abuse.

Principal Investigators

Michelle Wheatley, Gonzaga UniversityMichelle Wheatley has served Gonzaga University for the past thirteen years in a succession of roles within the Mission and University Ministry offices.  She became the Director of University Ministry in 2013, Assistant Vice President for Mission and Ministry in 2017, and Vice President for Mission and Ministry in 2019.  She holds a B.A. in Public Relations (Gonzaga University, 2007), an M.A. in Religious Studies (Gonzaga, 2012), and a D.Min. from the San Francisco Theological Seminary (2019).  She currently serves on a number of boards in the Diocese of Spokane, including the Immaculate Heart Retreat Center, the Nazareth Guild, and Gonzaga Preparatory School.  Her areas of focus include Jesuit mission leadership and organizational development.


Megan K. McCabe, Gonzaga UniversityMegan K. McCabe is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Gonzaga University. She works in the areas of Catholic moral theology, theological ethics, and feminist theologies. Her research and teaching respond to questions of human responsibility for suffering and the correlative duties to work for social transformation. McCabe earned a B.A. in Theology from Fordham University (2008), a Master’s of Theological Studies from the University of Notre Dame (2010), and a Ph.D. in Theological Ethics from Boston College (2017). She engages questions at the intersection of moral theology, social ethics, liberation and political theologies, feminist theologies and ethics, and issues of gender and sexuality. Her current research develops an understanding of “cultures of sin,” specifically in the context of an examination of the problem of the cultural foundation of sexual violence. Her work has been published in the edited volume Love, Sex, and Families: Catholic Perspectives (Liturgical Press – Academic, 2020); the Journal of Religious Ethics; the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics; and America Magazine; and is forthcoming in the Journal of Moral Theology. She is an active member of Catholic Theological Ethics in a World Church (CTEWC), the College Theology Society (CTS), the American Academy of Religion (AAR), the Society of Christian Ethics (SCE), and the Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA). She is currently co-chairing a five-year seminar at AAR, “Contextualizing the Catholic Sexual Abuse Crisis,” and co-chaired for three years an interest group at the CTSA, “Theology, Sexuality, and Justice: New Frontiers.”


Kevin Brown, Gonzaga University

B. Kevin Brown is Senior Specialist for Faculty and Staff Formation (Mission and Ministry) and Adjunct Instructor of Religious Studies at Gonzaga University. He earned a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Boston College (2018) and an M.A. in theology (2011) and a B.A. in theological studies and political science (2008) from Loyola Marymount University. His research focuses on questions in ecclesiology raised by marginal and non-dominative voices particularly questions raised in light of the clergy sexual abuse crisis and the church’s participation in patriarchy and white racist supremacy. He also seeks to address how ecclesiology intersects with Christology, pneumatology, ecological theology, spirituality, and theological anthropology. He is currently writing a manuscript for Liturgical Press – Academic on theology of Sandra Schneiders, IHM, and its implications for ecclesiology. His work has been published in Vision of Hope: Emerging Theologians and the Future of the Church (Orbis Books, 2013) and So You Say You Want a Revolution?: 1968-2018 in Theological Perspective (Orbis Books, 2019). He is an active member of the Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA), Ecclesiological Investigations International Research Network (EI), the American Academy of Religion (AAR), and the College Theology Society, where he is co-convener of the spirituality section. He currently serves as the editor of the Proceedings of the Catholic Theological Society of America.