Confronting the Phenomenon of Religious Shame With a Pastoral Theology of Mercy

Thumbnail Image
Adams, William Rian
Issue Date
School of Theology Thesis 2022 , School of Theology , University of the South , Religious Shame , Four Shame Characteristics , Mercy
Religious shame damages the self and creates wounds that may never heal. One extremely harmful way religious institutions perpetuate shame on their parishioners and clergy occurs in their formal disciplinary processes. A shame-driven disciplinary process employs what I describe as four characteristics of institutional shame: l) Public exposure, 2) public judgment, 3) isolation from 'the faith community, and 4) prescribing a person's identity to them (e.g., regarding them "flawed" or "evil"). A central theme of this project is how the four shame characteristics drive various religious disciplinary actions, especially disciplinary actions against clergy for nonsexual infractions. To confront this religious shaming process, I present a theology of mercy that relies on God's mercy in the sacraments and mercy expressed in the life and ministry of Jesus. First, my research explores religious shame from a practical and psychological standpoint; next, it examines the contributions of depth psychology theorists Carl Jung and Heinz Kohut to shame studies; and finally, it investigates the role of sacramental theology as a means to confront religious shame. Ultimately, I propose a theology of mercy that calls for reform of current shame-based disciplinary practices.