An Anniversary for Catholic Historians

Today marks the founding of the American Catholic Historical Association in Cleveland in 1919. It still serves as a national organization for scholars interested in Catholic Church history or Catholic aspects of secular history. The driving force behind its founding was Monsignor Peter Guilday (1884-1947), a Church History professor at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. As founder of the Catholic Historical Review, through his books and the seminars he taught, Guilday professionalized the field. One of his students, Monsignor John Tracy Ellis (1905-1992) (seen above), became known as the “Dean of American Catholic History.” Ellis’ 1969 book American Catholicism introduced thousands of readers, Catholic and non-Catholic, to the history of the Church in America. But it was his 1956 essay “American Catholics and the Intellectual Life” that made the biggest impact. There he argued that anti-intellectualism continued to permeate American Catholic life despite the community’s significant socio-economic advances in the postwar years. During his years as a professor, Ellis influenced an entire generation of Church historians.

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