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Peter Cajka

ph.d. candidate

Peter Cajka


Office: Stokes Hall, Office S365

Curriculum Vitae

Faculty Advisor: James O'Toole


MA, Marquette University, 2010
BA, University of Dayton, magna cum laude, 2008

Research Interests

Pete is a historian of religion and morality in postwar America whose work intersects often with political, legal, and intellectual history. His main interests are in American religious history, the history of morality and ethics, the history of the American and Global Catholic Church, the history of ideas, the social history of ideas, secularization, religious devotions, “religion” as a category of analysis, the “sixties,” the “seventies,” and American political cultures.

Pete’s dissertation is a history of the concept and the experience of “the conscience” from the outbreak of the Second World War to 1991. Pete’s interest in the conscience began when, in a series of seminar papers, he noticed that at the opening of the 1960s and during the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), Catholics of sundry subject positions (laypeople, confessors, theologians, pastoral leaders, popes and a few bishops) claimed that an “informed conscience” ought to be an individual’s foremost moral authority. They argued that consultations with conscience (formations, discernments, introspections) disclosed proper moral and political actions. The primary task set for the dissertation is to understand why during and just after the 1960s, the conscience became the premier moral and religious solution of its age. Pete will show that the turn to conscience occurred, demonstrate how, and explain why.

Pete’s dissertation shows that conscience empowerment took place among a diverse group of historical actors: post-1945 and decolonizing states, international lawyers, Human Rights organizations like Amnesty International, Catholics, along with feminists, libertarians, conservatives, evangelical and mainstream Protestants. Moving beyond the 1960s, Pete’s dissertation explains the contents and consequences of this turn to conscience as they manifested in the 1970s and 1980s.

His research has been sponsored with a Boston College History Department Manning/Gelfand Summer Research Fellowship, a Junior Scholar Research Grant from the Boston College Center for Christian Jewish Learning, and a Dorothy Mohler Research Grant from the Catholic University of America.