John R. Quinn

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His Excellency, The Most Reverend
John Raphael Quinn
Archbishop Emeritus of San Francisco
Church Roman Catholic Church
See San Francisco
Appointed February 16, 1977
Installed April 26, 1977
Term ended December 27, 1995
Predecessor Joseph T. McGucken
Successor William Levada
Ordination December 23, 1953
Consecration October 21, 1967
Personal details
Born (1929-03-28) March 28, 1929 (age 87)
Riverside, California, United States
Nationality American
Previous post
Styles of
John Raphael Quinn
Mitre (plain).svg
Reference style The Most Reverend
Spoken style Your Excellency
Religious style Monsignor
Posthumous style not applicable

John Raphael Quinn (born March 28, 1929) is a Roman Catholic bishop, who is the Archbishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of San Francisco; he served as the archdiocese's sixth archbishop from 1977 to 1995. Archbishop Quinn also served as Archbishop of Oklahoma City from 1971 to 1977 and the president of the United States Catholic Conference and National Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1977 to 1980.

Early life and ordination[edit]

Quinn was born in Riverside, California, and was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of San Diego on July 19, 1953. He was named by Pope Paul VI, auxiliary bishop for San Diego and titular bishop of Thisiduo on October 21, 1967, and consecrated December 12.[1] In these early years of his episcopal ministry he began to write for the prestigious America magazine. The magazine maintains a selection of his diverse writings online.[2]


On November 17, 1971, he was appointed Bishop of Oklahoma City-Tulsa. When the diocese was split to form the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Diocese of Tulsa on December 13, 1972, Quinn became the first Archbishop of Oklahoma City The Archdiocese remembers that "he revealed his priorities by his actions: emphasis on priestly vocations, desire for better pastoral care of Spanish-speaking Catholics, re-establishment of a Catholic newspaper, appointment of a full-time youth director, and a reorganization of Catholic charities." [3]

The now Archbishop Quinn was emerging in this period as an important, thoughtful voice in the American Church and was personally appointed by Pope Paul VI to participate in the 1974 World Synod of Bishops. It came as little surprise that when the Archdiocese of San Francisco fell vacant, Quinn would be appointed back to this leadership role in his native state of California.

Archbishop of San Francisco[edit]

Quinn's was a popular appointment by Pope Paul VI in 1977 and for almost his entire episcopate in San Francisco he enjoyed the support of priests and the lay faithful. In the early years of his time as Archbishop he was simultaneously president of the USCC NCCB, which often kept him away from the archdiocese.

Early in his career in San Francisco, Quinn recognized that the Archdiocese was too large for effective pastoral governance and was instrumental in devising plans for the creation of the Diocese of San Jose, which was erected by Pope John Paul II on January 27, 1981.

The first bishop of the new diocese was Bishop Pierre DuMaine who had until then been an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Links between the two adjacent dioceses remain strong, as the second (and current) Bishop of San Jose is the former San Francisco auxiliary Bishop Patrick Joseph McGrath.

One of his priest secretary's John C Wester was himself made an Auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco and is currently Archbishop of Santa Fe. A good insight into Quinn's ministry in the Bay Area is found in the memoir of his friend and episcopal colleague Bishop John S. Cummins, who served as Bishop of Oakland from 1977 to his retirement in 2003 [4] and who co-dedicated his book to Archbishop Quinn.


Irenicism and liberalism[edit]

Quinn was an irenic and liberal presence in San Francisco who, in the 1970s and 1980s, offering national leadership to Catholics in the United States on issues as diverse as U.S. women religious, the moral permissibility of nuclear weapons, sanctuary for Central American refugees, and working to overturn Roe vs Wade and restore legal protection to unborn children.

Oscar Romero[edit]

After the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero in March, 1980, Quinn issued a statement lauding the murdered prelate as "a voice for the poor and the oppressed." Quinn later attended Archbishop Romero's funeral in San Salvador.


In 1985, Archbishop Quinn initiated the Catholic Church's first institutional response to the AIDS epidemic. Catholic Charities San Francisco is currently the largest provider of housing to people with AIDS on the West Coast.

Loma Prieta earthquake[edit]

In the 1990s, Quinn turned his attention to the needs of the archdiocese after the Loma Prieta earthquake, which damaged many churches. The Archdiocese of San Francisco drew up a plan which would see the closure of a dozen parishes whose churches had been damaged in the earthquake. This plan drew the wrath of many priests, 41 of whom signed a petition to Quinn dissenting from his plan. Quinn sold the former archiepiscopal residence and in the summer of 1992 moved into the Cathedral rectory where he lived with his fellow clergy until his retirement.

Calls for Curial Reform and Increased Synodality[edit]

Throughout his episcopate he maintained strong links with the Catholic Church in England visiting it regularly and maintaining strong personal links with the country. After his retirement from the full-time ministry he spent time at Campion Hall, Oxford where in 1996 he gave a celebrated paper on "the claims of the primacy and the costly call to unity," a paper which was a first draft of his 1999 book The Reform of the Papacy.[5]

This call for the reform of the Roman Curia and a concomitant reduction in the power of that Curia has been interpreted by some conservative voices in the Church as an 'attack' on the papacy. Quinn has repeatedly made it clear that he is not opposing the Vatican and in many ways his writings prefigured the views of Pope Francis.[6][7]

Published works[edit]

  • John R. Quinn, The Reform of the Papacy (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1999). A thoughtful response to Pope John Paul II's request for suggestions on how to reform the papacy in his papal letter Ut Unum Sint.


  1. ^ "Past Bishops of the San Diego Diocese". Retrieved 2016-04-20. 
  2. ^ "Archbishop John R. Quinn". America Magazine. Retrieved 2016-04-20. 
  3. ^ Simpson, Kristine. "1972-1975". Retrieved 2016-04-20. 
  4. ^ "The Catholic Voice - an online publication of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland". Retrieved 2016-04-20. 
  5. ^ "Archbishop John R. Quinn". Retrieved 2016-04-20. 
  6. ^ ""Impressed by Pope's Emphasis on "Synodality" in the Church"". (in Italian). Retrieved 2016-04-20. 
  7. ^ "Archbishop John Quinn in Interview". Retrieved 2016-04-20. 
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Victor Joseph Reed
Bishop of Oklahoma City-Tulsa
Succeeded by
None (diocese split)
Preceded by
None (erected)
Archbishop of Oklahoma City
Succeeded by
Charles Salatka
Preceded by
Joseph Thomas McGucken
Archbishop of San Francisco
Succeeded by
William Levada
Preceded by
Joseph Bernardin
President of the United States Catholic Conference and National Conference of Catholic Bishops
Succeeded by
John Roach