“If a Jesuit should prove not to know Latin we’d better shut our doors!”: Catholic Clergy at the ASCSA, Pt. I

Posted by Dylan Rogers

Dylan Rogers holds a PhD from the University of Virginia, and he has been Assistant Director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens since 2015. The essay he contributes to “From the Archivist’s Notebook” was inspired by recent research in the ASCSA Archives about the Summer Session program.


Fr. Raymond Schoder, S.J. (1916-1987)

Last summer, I began researching the life of Professor Gertrude Smith at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or School), particularly in her role as Chairman of the Committee on Admissions and Fellowships. (On Smith see D. Rogers, “Gertrude Smith: A Classic American Philhellene.“) Smith guided the selection process of students during the Academic Year and the Summer Session (SS) deftly for nearly 20 years (1945-1963). Delving into her correspondence with various people associated with the School, I was struck by one letter in particular, as she was discussing Fr. Raymond Schoder, S.J. (1916-1987), and his desire to be a SS Director at the School in 1961:

I wonder with him just what the Roman Catholic situation would be. Don’t think I have anything against the R.C.’s. I haven’t, but I do not want the summer session turned into an adjunct of the church, and, if he once does the school, I foresee an avalanche for that particular summer of applicants for that particular summer of applicants from people who have used his dratted Homeric Greek books and who will be urged by their priest or nun teachers to take the session when they can have it under his guidance. In the two sessions which I have done I have had each time four or five Roman Catholics, but I could usually control that and get them meatless meals when they had to have them and get them to places where they could get to church on time and so on. But we do not want the summer session dependent of the Roman Catholic church, and I think it might be if Father S. were leading around people, the majority of whom were R.C.’s. (ASCSA ADM REC Series 100, Box 106/1, Folder 3, 26 October 1960)

Did this mean that the School, as a whole, had a bias against Roman Catholics? Certainly this would not be unheard of in American academic circles. Even as late as 1977, Catholic priests were still noticing a bias in academia, which stemmed from deep-roots in America against Catholics (particularly immigrants from Catholic countries of Europe, creating a so-called nativism, or bias, in society). Fr. Andrew Greeley noted that people often told him not to wear his collar, or he would not be taken as serious as his lay counterparts. Indeed, he questioned:

Is the nativism in education conscious or unconscious? I suppose the best answer is that it doesn’t matter. Those who ask, Isn’t Catholicism incompatible with independent intellectual activity? might as well be asking, Isn’t it true that blacks have a distinctive body odor? Or, Isn’t it true women are happier at home raising children? The person who asks the question is prejudiced whether or not he knows it. (Greeley 1977, 43)

Further, the School has been noted for occasionally making less-than-polite comments about religious groups outside of Protestantism, particularly Judaism. In correspondence in the early twentieth century, if an applicant was Jewish, oftentimes that was noted in their files (See J. L. Davis, “A Preamble to the Nazi Holocaust in Greece: Two Micro-Histories from the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.”) While this did not hinder students and scholars of Jewish origin from coming to the School, it is disconcerting to a modern academic audience that such issues would indeed be brought up.

So I began to go back through the Archives to see if there were any anti-Catholic tendencies in the School’s past, as Smith’s letter of 1960 had the potential to suggest. What I did find was a fascinating history of Catholic religious figures (of both genders) coming to the School as students and scholars and flourishing. Almost from the beginning of the School’s foundation in 1881, Catholic clergy had been part of our history, with the first Catholic priest in 1887-1889, Fr. Daniel Quinn.

Fr. Daniel Quinn: An Overt Philhellene

Daniel Quinn (1861-1918) completed his A.B. and M.A. at Mount St. Mary’s College (Maryland) in 1883 and 1886 respectively. Fr. Quinn would then go to the ASCSA as a student from 1887-1889. At the School, he was reported to be one of the students that excelled in learning Modern Greek, while focusing on Greek philology, including research on topographical elements important in Greek mythology, such as the hills of the Aegiplanctus and the Arachneum (Annual Reports 7 (1887-1888), pp. 8 and 43-45; 8 (1888-1889), pp. 38-39). After two years in Athens, Fr. Quinn returned to the US, where he was subsequently appointed as a Professor of Greek at the newly established Catholic University of America in 1891. As was the custom in America at the time, Fr. Quinn was sent back to Europe to complete his PhD, working at the University of Berlin (1891-1892), and finishing his studies at the University of Athens in 1893 (Klingshirn 2016). Fr. Quinn’s dissertation was written in Modern Greek, and the subject of which was based on Christian epigraphy in Greece, evident in later articles he published (Quinn 1902).

Fr. Daniel Quinn. Photo: Catholic University of America, Archives.

Upon completion of his dissertation, Fr. Quinn returned to Catholic University, where he began to build up the Department of Greek and Latin. Around that time, he helped to establish the Washington Society of the Archaeological Institute of America (Klingshirn 2016). And it was clear that his love of Greece, especially its history and language, was a prominent part of his teaching at Catholic: “An overt philhellene, Quinn’s zeal was manifested in his spelling habits (Keramics, Mykenaean, Sophokles) and in his Academy of Hellenic Studies, which students were eligible to join upon completion of a thesis of four thousand words, written in Greek or Latin. In 1895-96, Academy discussions (to take place in Greek!) centered on Aristophanes’ Acharnians and Sophocles’ Antigone, and were reported in the quarterly in-house journal Deltion” (Klingshirn 2016).

Quinn continued at Catholic University until 1897, when he resigned his position, “dissatisfied with the University’s level of support for Greek studies” (Klingshirn 2016). In all likelihood, Fr. Quinn quit his post, because the university would not hire his brother as an instructor of Greek, despite the fact that there were only three students at the time (Nuesse 1990, 112). In a letter to John Gennadius of 27 December 1897, Fr. Quinn informed him of these new developments: “Since the time of my last writing to you I have undergone a number of changes of circumstances; I have resigned my professorship at the University, forced to do so by motives that appealed to my sense of duty and honor. This step brings with it a number of temporary loses; and I must begin life anew. I leave America for Greece early in February. There I shall study everything that pertains to Hellenism. I shall be among friends, I am sure” (Joannes Gennadius Papers, Box 10.3, Folder 3).

Indeed, it seems that Fr. Quinn made it back to Athens. There he continued to work on his studies of the Greek language, including a number of articles that appeared in American magazines—and later collected in a volume aptly titled, Helladian Vistas (Quinn 1908). From 1900-1902, Quinn was again a member of the ASCSA. In 1902, he was appointed the rector of the Leonteion (Lycée Léonin/Λεόντειο Λύκειο), on 4 Sina Street, which was originally established by Pope Leo XIII as a secondary school for children of Catholic parents in Greece and later acted as a Catholic seminary for Catholic priests of the Greek East (Quinn 1907; Quinn 1908, 40). (The Leonteion continues to operate today, in a different location, as a Marist Roman Catholic School, which has taught numerous Greeks, including the late Greek Orthodox Archbishop Christodoulos and the composer Vangelis.) Fr. Quinn returned to his birthplace of Yellow Springs, Ohio, where he became the pastor of St. Paul’s Church there, in addition to being a professor at Antioch College there, until his death in 1918.

Lycée Léonin on 4 Sina. The building no longer exists. (See a wonderful video by Dimitris Tsalkanis here.)

It is apparent that Fr. Quinn was able to learn Modern Greek with ease and facility, given his background in classical languages. And this must have been case with a number of other students of the ASCSA in the 19th century, when Katharevousa (a form of Modern Greek developed in the 19th century as a cross between ancient Greek and Demotic Greek, and often spoken in literary and scholarly circles) was flourishing. Indeed, Fr. Quinn remarked that:

The stranger will find that if he is able to speak classical Greek he can, by using modern pronunciation, converse with any scholar in Greece. He will discover that Sokrates and Demosthenes would be understood by the literati who to-day frequent the club rooms of the Parnassos. (Quinn 1895, 70)

With his training as a scholar of Classical Greek and Modern Greek, Fr. Quinn was aptly in a place to write on the state of the Greek language at the turn of the 20th century. In 1901, in the US Bureau of Education’s “Report of the Commissioner of Education for 1899-1900,” Fr. Quinn, tracing the historic development of the Greek language, analyzed the “diglossy” phenomenon of the language, where both Katharevousa and Demotic Greek were spoken by the same people. Fr. Quinn, in his conclusion, stated that the rise of the Demotic was “a sign of the decay of the historical national consciousness and a bad omen for the future,” but the “Philhellene will always be glad to learn that [the Greeks] take a high and noble care of their historic tongue, and that they do not intend to let it wither itself out into a few interesting glossematic dialects” (Quinn 1901, 1319). I wonder what Fr. Quinn would think of the adoption in 1976 of Demotic as the national language of Greece, and the further abolition of the polytonic system in 1982.

“The soul is Hellenic”: On the Greek Education System

Because Fr. Quinn attended the University of Athens, attending lectures in Greek and writing a dissertation in Greek, he was familiar with the Greek education system. In a long article for the US Bureau of Education, Fr. Quinn traced the development of the Greek education system from its ancient origins until his time, particularly with the rise of the university system in Greece after the Greek War of Independence (Quinn 1898). In addition to using his own experiences at the University of Athens (and presumably discussing issues with his faculty), Fr. Quinn corresponded with Greeks who had ties to the education system of the time. One example is how Fr. Quinn reached out to John Gennadius, the Greek diplomat living in London and later would give his own personal library to the ASCSA, about Gennadius’ father, George Gennadius (George Gennadius Papers, Box 10.3, Folder 3). In their correspondence of 1897, John Gennadius provided Fr. Quinn with a concise biography of his father. Fr. Quinn would then later include it in his report, highlighting the fact that George Gennadius was instrumental through his own teaching in instilling in Greek youths of the early to mid-19th century a sense of patriotism for Greece (Quinn 1898, 290-291, 309, 332).

Excerpt of letter from Quinn to John Gennadius, Sept. 13, 1897. Photo: ASCSA Archives.

Fr. Quinn’s discussion of the Greek education system, especially after the independence of Greece from the Ottomans in the 1830s, illustrates how Greece at the time was at a crossroads, particularly in how they were going to build their new nation and educate its inhabitants. Indeed, early on in his discussion, he prompts readers that they will think that the education system has foreign influences, but is unique: “the outward form of modern Greek education is German and French in character, but the soul is Hellenic” (Quinn 1898, 267). A true philhellene himself, the text is full of various admirations of Greece and its people, in addition to its growing commitment to education. For example, in discussing education in the last years of Ottoman rule, Fr. Quinn describes the situation of the Parthenon:

Yea, within the very Parthenon itself a school was opened in the year 1824 for little tots of girls whose fathers were fighting the war of freedom. We love the Parthenon for its beauty; but it is more worthy of being loved on account of having been a shelter to education than because of being the Parthenon. (Quinn 1898, 295.)

Fr. Quinn, the product of higher education system in at least three different countries, was truly a proponent of the importance of education, particularly in the humanities. In his 1898 report on education, Fr. Quinn pardoned the famous Greek general of the War of Independence, Theodoros Kolokotronis: “Old Kolokotrones said on a certain important occasion that ‘books could not be used for better purposes than for gun wads.’ We forgive him, because Kolokotrones’s gunshots were intended to protect home and altar” (Quinn 1898, 295). But more broadly, Fr. Quinn argued in 1896 that higher education, especially from his viewpoint in the US, was to publicly educate a populace to help train new leaders. And the bedrock of such an education was the humanist tradition, and he still regarded “the philosophic and classic studies, which have created the modern university, as the studies best suited to remain its centre” (Quinn 1896, 21). Thus, with classics at the core of public education, we could build a society that was well equipped to better itself.

Fr. Quinn evidently loved practically every aspect of Greece, which began with his early education in Greek and Latin. And the ASCSA was Fr. Quinn’s entrée into the world of Athens and Greece—a point he never forgot. In his 1898 report on education, while he mentions the other foreign archaeological schools of the time, he naturally spent more time describing the mission of the ASCSA, as:

American archaeological or classical students and scholars visiting Athens have found at the foot of the southeast slope of Lykabettos an institution that they may take just pride in. They find there an excellent library, adapted especially for the study of the art, topography, epigraphy, language, and literature of Ancient Greece. They find a small knot of young, enthusiastic men, who find highest delight in delving, now by book and now by spade, into the marvelous life of the people which has been the civilizers of the world. (Quinn 1898, 336.)

ASCSA Library, 1902

As one of the first prominent example of the Catholic clergy, Fr. Quinn could have been the exception to the rule, as Smith’s invective at the beginning was quite harsh against Roman Catholics at the School. But we will delve further into this problem in next month’s post, and offer a resolution…


Author’s Note

I would like to thank Eleftheria Daleziou of the Gennadius Library Archives for helping me with documents related to the Gennadius family—and her willingness to reach out to other archival institutions in Athens on my behalf. Further, I must thank Shane MacDonald of the Catholic University of America’s Archives for providing a photograph of Fr. Quinn in their Photographic Collections. And, finally, I thank Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan for always supporting my intellectual journeys in the Archives of the ASCSA.


Works Cited

Greeley, A.M. 1977. “Anti-Catholicism in the Academy.” Change 9.6: 40-43.
Klingshirn, W.E. 2016, 3 October. “Early History of the Department, 1891-1918.” The Catholic University of America, Department of Greek and Latin. http://greeklatin.cua.edu/about/earlyhistory.cfm
Nuesse, C.J. 1990. The Catholic University of America: A Centennial History. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press.
Quinn, D. 1895. “The American School at Athens.” Catholic University Bulletin 1: 65-72.
Quinn, D. 1896. “The Duty of Higher Education in Our Times.” Transactions of the American Social Science Association 34: 15-28.
Quinn, D. 1898. “Chapter VIII—Education in Greece.” Report of the Commissioner of Education for the Year 1896-97 Vol. 1: 267-348. Washington,    D.C.: Government Printing Press.
Quinn, D. 1901. “Chapter XXIII: The Language Question in Greece and Some Reflections Suggested By It.” Report of the Commissioner of Education for 1899-1900 Vol. 2: 1297-1319. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Press.
Quinn, D. 1902. “Των τελευταίων αιώνων επιγραφαί Ζακυνθιακαί.” Αρμονία 553-600.
Quinn, D. 1907. “Modern Diocese of Athens.” In The Catholic Encyclopedia, edited by C.G. Herbermann, Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
Quinn, D. 1908. Helladian Vistas. Yellow Springs, OH.