Franciscan School of Theology

Joseph P. Chinnici, OFM

President and Rector
Professor of Church History


  • D.Phil. Oxford University
  • M.A. Graduate Theological Union
  • M.Div. Franciscan School of Theology
  • B.A. San Luis Rey College

“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, he authored the seminal work Living Stones: The History and Structure of Catholic Spiritual Life in the United States (1989, 1996). His most recent book is When Values Collide: The Catholic Church, Sexual Abuse, and the Challenges of Leadership, published in 2010. He is also general editor of the Franciscan Heritage Series, which makes available to contemporary audiences the spiritual and theological 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, two stints as Academic Dean at the Franciscan School of Theology, and Chairman of the Commission for the Retrieval of the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition (CFIT).

Selected Course Descriptions

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, 1945-1986: 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.

Culture and Contemplation
Contemplative prayer has undergone several mutations in the course of the history of western Christianity from the sixteenth century to the present. Through the use of selected texts from Teresa of Avila through Thomas Merton, this course examines the relationship between social forces, the ecclesial culture of authority and power, and the waxing and waning of contemplative prayer. Some attention will be paid to the American context.

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.