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The Shame That Lingers

A Survivor-Centered Critique of Catholic Sin-Talk


A. Denise Starkey

In The Shame That Lingers: A Survivor-Centered Critique of Catholic Sin-Talk, A. Denise Starkey argues that the dominant legal model of sin in the Catholic Church is inadequate for hearing the experience of sin for survivors of childhood and domestic violence because it functions to shame rather than to heal. A universal understanding of the sinner, as found in mainstream Catholic sin-talk and confession, impedes human flourishing by silencing radical suffering in ways that make survivors complicit for the harm done to them. Starkey argues that a shame-free theology of sin is necessary if survivors are to encounter the profound love of God. Understanding sin from the perspective of the sinned-against makes possible a transformative solidarity with the other by reinvisioning the roles of speaker and listener.

«This is a groundbreaking work in feminist theology and the intersection of theology and psychology. A. Denise Starkey challenges the long-held idea that shame is a necessary part of the Christian tradition and its liturgical and pastoral practices. By giving a voice to survivors of abuse, Starkey shows how the churches need to transform their ways of thinking and acting. The Shame That Lingers is a must-read for theologians, liturgists, counselors of victims, and church leaders.» (Susan A. Ross, Professor of Theology, Loyola University Chicago; Author of ‘Extravagant Affections: A Feminist Sacramental Theology’ and ‘For the Beauty of the Earth: Women, Sacramentality and Justice’)