Monsignor John Tracy Ellis (1905-1992) taught at The Catholic University of America from 1935 to 1964 and from 1976 to 1989, and in between at the University of San Francisco.
He was known as a leading Roman Catholic historian whose criticism of the church’s colleges and universities in the United States moved them to achieve higher academic standards.
He spent his early teaching career at Saint Viator College in Bourbonnais, Illinois, and at the College of Saint Teresa in Winona, Minnesota, where he was ordained in 1938. He earned a master’s degree in 1928 and a doctorate in medieval church history in 1930 from The Catholic University of America.
Author of more than a dozen books, he was a former managing editor of The Catholic Historical Review, a past president of the American Catholic Historical Association, and the first Catholic to be president of the American Society of Church History. Pope Pius XII named him a domestic prelate in 1955, and in 1989 Pope John Paul II made him a protonotary apostolic, the highest honor for a priest short of becoming a bishop. A Commitment to Truth was the 19th lecture in the Wimmer Memorial Lecture Series (1947-1970) at Saint Vincent and was given in 1965.
Although published over forty years ago, Ellis’s Wimmer Memorial Lecture still has relevance today especially for those who work in the field of Catholic higher education. This lecture should ge read by Catholic scholars and educators to appreciate the importance of the Catholic, intellectual tradition which has developed and has flourished since the publication of his 1955 artivcle in Thought, which pointed out serious shortcomings and weaknesses in America’s colleges and universities.
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