John C. Seitz

John Seitz

Associate Professor

General Information

Department of Theology
Lincoln Center Campus
Office 916E, Leon Lowenstein Building
113 W. 60th St.
New York, NY 10023

Email: [email protected]

  • John C. Seitz joined the Theology Department in 2008 after receiving his PhD in American Religions from the Committee on the Study of Religion at Harvard University.

    His research focuses on the historical and ethnographic study of U.S. Catholics and on theoretical questions in the study of religion. Recent projects consider U.S. Catholics and devotional objects in World War II, life in a Roman Catholic seminary in the 1960s, and ethnography and psychoanalysis in the study of religion. His work has appeared in Church History, American Catholic Studies, U.S. Catholic Historian, and Method and Theory in the Study of Religion. Reviews and popular articles have appeared in Theological Studies, National Catholic Reporter, and Commonweal, among others.

    In 2011 Seitz published No Closure: Catholic Practice and Boston’s Parish Shutdowns (Harvard Univ. Press). The book seeks to explain the anxieties and upheaval around a recent wave of church closings in Boston. The closings threw Catholics into uneasy reengagement with the meanings of sacrifice and sacred presence as these have changed since the 1960s. The shutdowns, which are not limited to the Boston Archdiocese, also provoked reflection on the meanings of home, community, and belonging in post-war America.

    In general, Seitz’s work springs from an interest in the ways the study of religion, and in particular the study of Catholics, enhances our ability to understand the American past and present. He is particularly interested in religious practice—everyday encounters at the intersection of religious tradition and improvisation—as it sheds light on social and emotional histories. A second book project, about Roman Catholic priests in the U.S., extends these methodological interests.

    In his teaching Seitz treats U.S. religious history, theories in the study of religion and theology, and the history of Christianity in the modern period. Among his courses are “American Religious Texts” and “Faith & Critical Reason,” both of which contribute to the undergraduate core curriculum. Electives and courses for the major have included “Christian Thought and Practice III,” “Wartime Religion in U.S. History,” “Contemporary Conversations in Theology,” “Home, Away, and In-Between,” and “Catholic Studies Seminar II.” Seitz also teaches “Readings in American Religion” and “History of Christianity II” for the graduate program in Theology.

    Beyond the department, Seitz has been involved in a variety of projects. He has served as a Young Scholar in American Religion through the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at IUPUI. From 2012-2015 he was a Project Fellow for the Lived History of Vatican II project at Notre Dame’s Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism. In 2020, he was named a research fellow for two projects considering the history and legacy of clerical sex abuse. In addition to his role in the Theology Department, Seitz serves as the Associate Director for Lincoln Center of the Francis and Ann Curran Center for American Catholic Studies at Fordham. He also edits a book series, Catholic Practice in North America, for Fordham University Press and co-chairs the Roman Cathoilc Studies Unit of the American Academy of Religion.

  • PhD - Harvard University (Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, American Religions)
    MTS - Harvard Divinity School (Christianity and Culture)
    BA - University of Colorado at Boulder, summa cum laude (Religious Studies)

  • American religions, U.S. Catholicism, theory and method in the study of religion

  • “Secrecy, Sex Abuse, and the Practice of Priesthood,” in The Handbook of Religion and Secrecy ed. Paul Johnson and Hugh Urban (in preparation, Routledge Press).

    Working Alternatives: American and Catholic Experiments in Work and Economy

    edited with Christine Firer Hinze (2020, Fordham University Press). 

    “A Vocation of Contested Intimacies: U.S. Roman Catholic Priesthood in the Mid-Twentieth Century,” in Religious Intimacies: Intersubjectivity in the Modern Christian West ed. Mary Dunn and Brenna Moore (2020, Indiana University Press).

    Altars of Ammo: Catholic Materiality and the Visual Culture of World War II,” Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art, and Belief (v. 15 n. 4 [September 2019]).

    “Priests as Persons: An Emotional History of St. John’s Seminary, Boston, in the Era of the Council” in Catholics in the Vatican II Era: Local Histories of a Global Event ed.  Kathleen Sprows Cummings, Timothy Matovina, and Robert A. Orsi (Cambridge University Press, 2017).

    “The Lives of Priests,” for forum entitled “Writing Catholic History after the Sexual Abuse Crisis,” American Catholic Studies 127:2 (Summer 2016), 18-23.

    “American Catholics and Emptiness,” [Review Essay] Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture 85:2 (June 2016), 353-359.

    “What better place?” Refiguring Priesthood at St. John’s Seminary, Boston, 1965-1970,” U.S. Catholic Historian 33:2 (Spring 2015), 49-82.

    “The Mass Clock and the Spy: The Catholicization of the Second World War” Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture, 83:4 (December 2014), 924-956.

    “Forum on the Future of American Catholic Studies,” [Guest Editor] American Catholic Studies 125:3 (Fall 2014).

    “Introduction” for “Forum on the Future of American Catholic Studies,” American Catholic Studies 125:3 (Fall 2014), 1-4.

    “Keep Research Weird: Psychoanalytic Techniques and Fieldwork in the Study of Religion” Method and Theory in the Study of Religion: The Journal of the North American Association for the Study of Religion 25:1 (Winter 2013), 26-52.

    No Closure: Catholic Practice and Boston’s Parish Shutdowns. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011.

    “Perfect Priests and their Sacrificial Lambs,” Review of Marie Keenan, Child Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church: Gender, Power, and Organizational Culture for National Catholic Reporter (November 21, 2012).

    "Placeholders: Catholic Tradition and Faith to the Parish," Commonweal, September 2, 2013.