October 20, 2017

Andrew M. Greeley, 1928-2013: Andrew Greeley, Outspoken Priest and Writer, Dies at 85

His niece Laura Durkin confirmed the death, saying he had died overnight in his sleep. She said he had been in poor health and under 24-hour care since suffering severe head injuries in 2008 when his clothing caught on the door of a taxi as it pulled away and he was thrown to the pavement.

In a time when the word “maverick” is often used indiscriminately, Father Greeley — priest, scholar, preacher, social critic, storyteller and scold — was the real thing. One could identify a left and a right in American Catholicism, and then there was Father Greeley, occupying a zone all his own.

Exuberantly combative, he could be scathing about the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops; at one point he described them as “morally, intellectually and religiously bankrupt.” If the church wanted “to salvage American Catholicism,” he wrote, it would be well advised to retire “a considerable number of mitered birdbrains.”

But he could be equally critical of secular intellectuals, whom he accused of being prejudiced against religion, and reform-minded Catholics, who he said had a weakness for political or cultural fads.

He wrote more than 120 books, many published by university presses, and countless articles about Catholic theology in both sociological journals and general-interest magazines, often incorporating the latest scholarship. He wrote op-ed pieces and syndicated columns in both religious and secular publications.

His greatest readership certainly stemmed from his scores of novels, many of them rife with Vatican intrigue, straying priests and explicit sex. At least 10 of them appeared on The New York Times’s best-seller list, including his first, “The Cardinal Sins” (1981), a tale of two Irish-American boys from Chicago’s West Side who enter the priesthood together, one of whom contrives to become the cardinal of Chicago, takes a mistress and fathers a child.

“Sometimes I suspect that my obituary in The New York Times,” Father Greeley once wrote, “will read, ‘Andrew Greeley, Priest; Wrote Steamy Novels.’ ”

Were they steamy? The question would probably not have even been raised if the author had not been a priest and if some of the steam had not been produced by fictional priests, in one case a cardinal, breaking their vows.

In fact, most of the priests in his novels were virtuous, wise and hard-working. The big sex scenes were generally reserved for married couples rediscovering the redemptive healing of passion after trials and estrangement.

“I suppose I have an Irish weakness for words gone wild,” Father Greeley once told The Times. “Besides, if you’re celibate, you have to do something.”

No Use for Elites

The books made him rich, though he gave his first million to charity and continued to give to various causes, including a donation, decades ago, to the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, then a fledgling advocacy group.

Father Greeley had been an early and vehement advocate for victims of abusive priests at least since 1989, when he began writing articles in Chicago newspapers demanding that the church take action against pedophile priests. The public criticism angered the archdiocese and many fellow priests, but his outrage and proposals for reform were eventually recognized by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago, among others, as prescient.

Father Greeley was not shy about his politics, a New Deal liberalism grounded in an acute sense of family and neighborhood. (One of his recent books was titled with typical directness, “A Stupid, Unjust and Criminal War: Iraq 2001-2007.”) Nor did he hide his devotion to his hometown Chicago Bears, Bulls and Cubs.

Daniel E. Slotnik and Richard Severo contributed reporting.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/31/us/andrew-m-greeley-outspoken-priest-dies-at-85.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Speak Your Mind