Ecclesiastical History Society Summer Conference: The Church and Hypocrisy

Date / time: 19 July - 21 July, All day

Ecclesiastical History Society Summer Conference: The Church and Hypocrisy


Call for Papers, deadline – 15 April 2022

The 2022 summer conference will explore the themes of Hypocrisy and Dissimulation. These themes open a rich seam of material in Christian church history and touch upon tensions at the heart of Christian teaching and experience, the distance between ideal and lived practice, conflicts between sincerity of faith and the demands of society and the state, particularly at times of persecution. It poses the question of why certain periods of history and religious formations have seen hypocrisy as the premiere vice, when in other periods and in other religious groups dissimulation and deceit have been considered legitimate responses to certain problems or situations.

The place of hypocrisy in Christian thought highlights issues of deception, dissimulation and double-standards, rich themes in Christian history and discourse, encompassing a wide range of topics such as casuistry and priestcraft. The conference theme raises questions about the importance of external ritual in relation to internal belief and of dualist approaches to religion in which evil has no conceivable place in the good. It highlights anxieties around the discernment of sin and virtue and about the disjunction between ideals and practice. It asks about historical responses to the ethical questions of whether lies and deception can ever be deployed for good ends and whether simulation and pretence can be legitimately used, for example, in secular affairs.

The themes of hypocrisy and dissimulation invites treatments of a wide range of material and themes, including literary and dramatic portrayals, and religious polemic, both within the church (for example, with regard to heresy) and in interfaith dialogue, and outside the church, particularly in anti-clericalism. Possible themes include casuistry and confession, nicodemism, heresy and portrayals of Antichrist, the archhypocrite, and the changing meanings and associations of the ideas of hypocrisy and dissimulation. How does the concept of hypocrisy functions as an ethical framing device? How has the meaning and association of the idea of hypocrisy changed over time?

Proposals for twenty minute papers are welcomed. These might address, but are not limited to, any of the following questions:

  • How has hypocrisy been used in discourses and polemics within the Church?
  • Why is hypocrisy prominent as a vice at some periods in church history and in some groups but not in others?
  • What are the particular circumstances in which do accusations of hypocrisy arise and how are they used?
  • Why have Christian societies at times permitted or valorised dissimulation or the public concealment of private beliefs?
  • What kinds of conduct and piety have been considered hypocritical in Christian communities and why?
  • How have ideas about hypocrisy in religious life changed over time?
  • How are discourse of hypocrisy and dissimulation deployed in times of stress such as periods of religious persecutions or interfaith conflicts?
  • How do concepts of hypocrisy and dissimulation relate to ideas about the correct use of language or proper role of ritual?
  • What role have ideas of hypocrisy and dissimulation played in anticlericalism or in interactions with other faiths?
  • How have ideas of hypocrisy and dissimulation been used in religious teaching, for example, in sermons and spiritual guidance?
  • What role have ideas of hypocrisy and dissimulation played in the practice of confession and in concerns about sincere penitence?
  • What can discussions of the Apocalypse and Antichrist tell us about the valency of hypocrisy in Christian thought?
  • How have religious hypocrites or dissemblers been treated in the literature, drama and the visual arts?

Proposals can only be accepted if submitted on the form found on our website:

Image details: Council of Trent, painting in the Museo del Palazzo del Buonconsiglio, Trento: Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported