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Neibauer successfully defends dissertation


Allison Niebauer recently defended her dissertation, titled “’The Diocese’s Darkest Chapter’: Constructing Cultural Trauma in the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese.” The project centered on divergent narratives of causation, accusations of responsibility, and proposals for reform regarding clergy perpetrated sexual abuse (CPSA) within the Catholic Church.  Focusing on the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese as a representative case study, Niebauer used legal cases, pastoral letters and statements, newspaper archives, Pennsylvania legislative debates, survivor testimony, and semi-structured interviews with local laity to trace the development of stakeholder narratives over a forty-year period and, thus, illuminate the resulting contestation over the meaning of CPSA. She concludes that while stakeholder narratives generated through civil litigation have largely succeeded in framing CPSA through the lens of institutional responsibility, this frame has led to largely bureaucratic, rather than doctrinal or internal polity structure, reforms. Furthermore, the material consequences of civil litigation has created a significant barrier to allyship for survivors of CPSA and laity—many of whom share deep levels of dissatisfaction with institutional actors. The committee was chaired by Stephen Browne and included Bradford Vivian, Tim Worley, and Sarah Clark Miller; Anne Demo also contribute expertise as a previous member of the committee. Dr. Niebauer will continue her teaching and research next year as a post-doctoral teaching fellow in the CAS department.

Congratulations, Allison!