John Raphael Quinn was born in Riverside, California on March 28, 1929, the second son and fourth child of Elizabeth Constance Carroll and Ralph Joseph Quinn.
Following his graduation from high school in 1947, he entered the diocesan seminary at El Cajon, California in 1948. In November 1948, he was sent by Bishop Charles Francis Buddy of San Diego to complete his studies for the priesthood at the North American College and the Gregorian University in Rome.
John Quinn was ordained a priest for the Diocese of San Diego at the Church of San Marcello in Rome on July 19, 1953 at the end of the third year of his theological studies. He remained in Rome to complete the final year of his theological studies. Returning to the Diocese of San Diego in July, 1954, he was assigned as Associate Pastor at St. George's Parish in Ontario, California.
He later taught systematic theology at Immaculate Heart Seminary in San Diego in 1955. In 1962, he was named President of the St. Francis College seminary, and became rector of Immaculate Heart Seminary School of Theology in June 1964. Bishop Francis J. Furey appointed Fr. Quinn Provost of the University of San Diego College for Men, with the task of fostering a merger of the San Diego College for Women with the College for Men.
In October, 1967, Fr. Quinn was named Auxiliary Bishop of San Diego and ordained bishop on December 12, 1967. In December 1969, Bishop Quinn became pastor of St. Therese Parish in San Diego.
In November 1971, he was appointed Bishop of Oklahoma City and Tulsa by Pope Paul VI. In December 1971, he was named first archbishop of Oklahoma City, where he remained until he was named sixth Archbishop of San Francisco in February 1977. Archbishop Quinn was elected president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops at the November meeting in 1977 serving a three year term. He helped to create the Diocese of San Jose, which was established by Pope John Paul II in January 1981.
Archbishop Quinn has served as a member of three international synods in Rome, and was appointed by Pope Paul VI to a five-year term as consultant to the Congregation for the Clergy. In 1983, Pope John Paul II named him the Pontifical Delegate for Religious Life in the United States, which included all Religious men and women, with the charge to bring the bishops of the country and the Religious into a closer relationship and to examine the causes for the decline in vocations.
The Archbishop enjoyed popular support from both priests and laymen during his term of office. He initiated the Catholic Church’s first official response to the AIDS epidemic in 1985.
With the approbation of the Vatican Secretariat of State, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for Catholic Education he was given the honorary degree of Doctor of Sacred Theology by the Pontifical Faculty of the Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley, California in 1985.
In August 1995, Archbishop Quinn announced his plan to retire. He retired on December 27, 1995, and the same day, Archbishop William J. Levada became the seventh Archbishop of San Francisco. Archbishop Quinn was given a visiting fellowship at Champion Hall, Oxford. While there, he delivered the centennial lecture.
After his return from Oxford, Archbishop Quinn published a book entitled The Reform of the Papacy: The Costly Call to Christian Unity. The book is a response to an invitation issued to the bishops of the world by Pope John Paul II in his encyclical on Christian unity Ut Unum Sint (Latin: ‘That They May be One’). In addition to the English edition, the book has been published in German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese. His second book, Ever Ancient, Ever New: Structures of the Communion in the Church, was published in 2012.
In retirement the archbishop has also been engaged in giving retreats for priests and lecturing. He held the John R. Portman Chair of Roman Catholic Theology at the University of San Diego for two semesters in 2001 and 2002 and has taught at Santa Clara University and the University of San Francisco. He is a member of the Catholic Theological Society of America and of the Canon Law Society of America.
Archbishop Quinn currently resides at St. Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park, California. He continues to publish and is currently working on another book on the much debated First Vatican Council of 1870.
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Chronology of Significant Events
Date of Birth: March 28, 1929, Riverside, California
Ordained a Priest: July 19, 1953 in the Church of San Marcello, Rome for the Archdiocese of San Diego
Appointed Auxiliary Bishop of San Diego and Titular Bishop of Thisiduo: October 21, 1967
Ordained Bishop: December 12, 1967 by Archbishop Luigi Raimondi
Appointed Bishop of Oklahoma City and Tulsa: November 30, 1971
Appointed Archbishop of Oklahoma City: December 13, 1972
Appointed Archbishop of San Francisco: February 16, 1977
Installed as Archbishop of San Francisco: April 26, 1977
Retired: December 27, 1995
Acknowledgement: Burns, Jeffrey. San Francisco: A History of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. 1945-2000 Vol. 3. San Francisco, California: Edition Du Signe.