John Tracy Ellis

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John Tracy Ellis
Born July 30, 1905
Seneca, Illinois
Died October 16, 1992
Nationality USA
Known for Catholic Church historian

John Tracy Ellis (July 30, 1905 – October 16, 1992) was a Catholic Church historian, born and raised in Seneca, Illinois, USA.

Ellis was ordained a priest and received a doctorate in history from Catholic University in Washington, where he worked with Msgr. Peter Guilday to collect the central documents of the American Catholic heritage. He spent most of his career as a faculty member of the Catholic University, but he taught at the University of San Francisco between 1963 and 1976. He was a long serving executive secretary of the American Catholic Historical Association and editor of the Catholic Historical Review (1941–62). Ellis is best known for his 1952 argument that American Catholic scholars have failed to measure up to European Catholic standards of scholarship and intellectual leadership.[1]


He wrote widely on church history, including a major biography of James Cardinal Gibbons. He attracted widespread attention in Catholic circles for his essay (1955) deploring an anti-intellectual "ghetto mentality" among American Catholics.[2]

In his book American Catholicism, first published in 1956, he wrote that a "universal anti-Catholic bias was brought to Jamestown in 1607 and vigorously cultivated in all the thirteen colonies from Massachusetts to Georgia."


Several of Msgr. Ellis's students at Catholic University went on to make contributions to church history, including: Fr. Patrick H. Ahern, Fr. William Au, Fr. Colman J. Barry, OSB, Fr. Henry J. Browne, Sr. Margaret Carthy, OSU, Fr. Joseph P. Chinnici, OFM, Cardinal Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Sr. Alphonsine Frawley, Fr. James Hennesey, SJ, Archbishop Oscar Hugh Lipscomb, Anabelle Melville, Fr. Peter J. Rahill, Fr. David Sweeney, OFM, Fr. Thomas J. Shelley, and Msgr. Francis J. Weber.[3]

He was named by Pope Pius XII, monsignor, an honorific priestly status, in 1955. He is interred in Mt. Calvary Cemetery on the north side of Seneca.

Published works[edit]

  • Ellis, John Tracy. Cardinal Consalvi and Anglo-Papal Relations, 1814-1825. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1942.
  • Ellis, John Tracy. The Life of James Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore. Milwaukee, Wis.: Bruce Pub. Co., 1952.
  • Ellis, John Tracy. Catholic Bishops: A Memoir. Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, 1983.
  • Ellis, John Tracy. A Commitment to Truth. Latrobe, PA.: The Archabbey Press, 1966.
  • Ellis, John Tracy. "American Catholics and the Intellectual Life." Thought. 30 (1955), 351-88.
  • Ellis, John Tracy. Faith and Learning: A Church Historian's Story. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1989.
  • Ellis, John Tracy. American Catholicism. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1956.


  1. ^ Thomas J. Shelley. "Ellis, John Tracy (1905-1992)"
  2. ^ Thomas J. Shelley]]. "The Young John Tracy Ellis and American Catholic Intellectual Life," U.S. Catholic Historian. 13:1 (Winter 1995), 1-18
  3. ^ Thomas J. Shelley. "Ellis, John Tracy (1905-1992)"

Works cited

  • Minnich, Nelson H., Robert B. Eno, S.S., and Robert F. Trisco. Studies in Catholic History in Honor of John Tracy Ellis. Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, 1985.
  • Shelley, Thomas J. "The Young John Tracy Ellis and American Catholic Intellectual Life." U.S. Catholic Historian. 13:1 (Winter 1995), 1-18
  • Shelley, Thomas J. "Ellis, John Tracy (2905-1992)" in Michael Glazier, ed. The Modern Catholic Encyclopedia (1994) pp 277–78
  • Thomas, Jack Douglas. "Interpretations of American Catholic Church History: A Comparative Analysis of Representative Catholic Historians, 1875-1975." Ph. D. Diss.: Baylor University, 1976. Treats Ellis's work, in addition to historians John Gilmary Shea, Msgr. Peter Guilday, Theodore Maynard, and Fr. Thomas McAvoy CSC.

External links[edit]