Joseph Chinnici, OFM

President Emeritus Professor of History



Name: Joseph Chinnici, OFM
Specialization: 20th Century American Catholicism, Franciscan Theology
Phone: 619-574-5814


“For me, history, theology, and ministry are inseparable. Whether in the classroom, the pulpit, the office or in the community our work can be an act of worship.”


An Oxford-educated historian, Joe is a widely respected scholar, teacher, and speaker in the history of American Catholicism and the development of Franciscan theology and spirituality. Past president of the American Catholic Historical Association (2007-2008), he authored the seminal work Living Stones: The History and Structure of Catholic Spiritual Life in the United States (1989, 1996). When Values Collide: The Catholic Church, Sexual Abuse, and the Challenges of Leadership (2010) won first prize in pastoral theology from several national organizations. His latest book is entitled American Catholicism Transformed from the Cold War to the Council  (Oxford, 2021). He has been general editor of the Franciscan Heritage Series, which makes available to contemporary audiences the spiritual, theological, and social inheritance of St. Francis of Assisi. Apart from his teaching duties, Joe has served in various administrative posts throughout his career: nine years as Provincial Minister for the Franciscan Friars of the Saint Barbara Province (1988-1997), two stints as Academic Dean at the Franciscan School of Theology, Chairman of the Commission for the Retrieval of the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition (CFIT, 2000-2013), and President of the Franciscan School of Theology (2011-2016).


  • D.Phil. Oxford University 1976
  • MA Graduate Theological Union 1971
  • MDiv Franciscan School of Theology 1972
  • BA San Luis Rey College 1968


Themes in Contemporary Catholicism

Using some secondary studies in the history of the Catholic community in the United States, research materials, primary documents, and a seminar method, this course examines selected themes in contemporary Catholicism, 1945-1989: religion and society during the Cold War, the interpretation of the 1960s, challenges of race and ethnicity, family life, women in ministry, pastoral practice, and other issues.

American Catholic Spirituality

Through the use of original documents and case studies, this course examines selected themes in the history of Catholic religious practice in the United States: models of holiness, liturgy, rites of passage, the relationship between prayer and Institutionalization, popular devotions, etc. Special attention is paid to the relationships between faith, religious practice, spiritual experience, and culture.

Interpreting the Church Today

An intellectual and pastoral resource for ministry, this course uses both a historical method and theological analysis to examine key issues in Church renewal from the time of the Second Vatican Council to the present. Its primary goal is to develop an overall understanding of how the Church changes and develops in history and society and how understanding this might help shape the pastoral minister’s reflections, practice, and spirituality. Running throughout the will be an occasional reflection on Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortations and Encyclicals.

History, Theology, Spirituality in the Franciscan Tradition

A basic introduction to the early theological development of the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition, this course examines key thinkers, themes, and texts from 1209-1322: Francis and Clare of Assisi, Robert Grosseteste, Alexander of Hales, Bonaventure, Peter John Olivi, John Duns Scotus, and William of Ockham. Attention will be paid to their social context and meaning.


For a complete list of publications. See Curriculum Vitae.


An exploration of predominant themes in Franciscan spiritual writing with special attention to Bonaventure, Angela of Foligno, Franciscan mystics and contemplatives, and the Eremetical tradition 13th to 17th centuries.

Francis of Assisi: Early Documents

Presents the principal events in the life of Francis of Assisi and discusses the historical context of early Franciscan documents written between 1228 and 1280. The student will be able to offer a critical reading of early Franciscan documents according to the particular emphases of each text.

Writings of Francis and Clare of Assisi

A careful reading of the complete writings of the two saints of Assisi, exploring their “Gospel form of life,” the bases of Francis-Clarian spirituality; their images of God, Christ, Church, and the human person. All texts are available in English translation.


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