Monsignor John R. Portman

Monsignor John R. Portman

Professor Emeritus, Theology and Religious Studies

  • S.T.D., Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome
  • S.T.L., Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome
  • B.A., University of San Diego

The founding chair of the department of Theology and Religious Studies, John Portman received his B.A. from the University of San Diego in 1953 and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of San Diego in 1956.  From 1965 to 1968, he was member of the faculty of Immaculate Heart Seminary at the University of San Diego, the last two years as Vice-Rector.

In 1968, Msgr. Portman was hired as chair and professor in the College for Men and continued to serve in this capacity as then-chair of the Department of Religious Studies through the period of the merger until his return to full-time pastoral duties as pastor of the Church of the Immaculata in the summer of 1974.

Areas of Interest

Portman is a specialist in moral theology and ecumenism.

Post-USD Career and Legacy

In 1976, John Portman was appointed pastor of Sacred Heart Church, Coronado, where he served until his retirement in 1996. Throughout his career as pastor, Msgr. Portman remained active in the area of ecumenism as chair of the Diocesan Ecumenical Commission of the Catholic Diocese of San Diego (1967-1981), a member of the official national Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue (1977-1981), and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Human Development, Washington D.C. (1985-2000).

At a critical juncture in the university's and this department's history, Portman articulated the vision for an academic department of theology and religious studies at a Roman Catholic university that remains the foundational vision of the department to this day. That vision, formed by the twin exigencies of aggiornamento and ressourcement of the Second Vatican Council, was one of sustained reflection on the Roman Catholic tradition of faith, but not to the exclusion of the witness of the "separated churches" and the witness of the world religions. The imperative that faithfulness to the Roman Catholic tradition entails an intellectual catholicity was as prescient in the late 1960s as it is "routine" in comparable departments at Catholic colleges and universities today. (One would note that, while at the USD, Monsignor also established and was chair of the Ecumenical Center for World Religions.) To be sure, the department's faculty continues to probe how to meet this exigency today and how to find the balance between "Catholicity" and "catholicity," but the fact is that this ongoing task occurs within the parameters of a vision that is John Portman's. Indeed, given John Portman's active role in the merger process in the early 1970s, we believe that this same vision was, and still is, reflected in the broader Mission Statement of the University of San Diego today.

Though he left the department in 1974, Msgr. Portman has remained close to it over the years through the faculty he hired–Prodessors Delwin Schneider, Dennis Krouse, Norbert Rigali, and Pastor Jack Lindquist–and through his close friendship and active mentoring of subsequent faculty. Indeed, his ongoing solicitude towards the department he founded culminated, through his good offices, in the establishment by an anonymous donor in the year 2000 of a major endowed chair: the Msgr. John R. Portman Chair in Roman Catholic Theology.

Msgr. John Portman celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination in December 2006. It is fitting at this milestone in his career that the University officially recognized his achievements and honored him with the title of Professor Emeritus.