I never really paid much attention to Fr. Andrew Greeley

He just didn’t scratch where I itched mostly. As I was settling into being Catholic, he was sort of winding down his career, from what I can tell. I don’t have much interest in Church politics or sociology (though my work has *forced* me to pay attention to such things at times) and wasn’t attracted to his novels (hilariously recognizable at the grocery store because they always seems to feature a busty and scantily-glad woman reaching down to somebody–which I was later informed was supposed to symbolize divine grace to the reader of bodice rippers: “all things to all men” I guess).

Consequently, I had only the dimmest impression of him as a sort of Yellow Dog Democrat priest of the old school: crusty, devout, not hesitant about sounding off about damn fools in the Church, particularly at the episcopal level, blithely dismissive of all the sort of pelvic issues Woodstock Generation priests dismissed–and likely the sort of guy who would buy you beer or spot you $20 and never ask for it back. But that was about it. I couldn’t tell you five words he ever said. So I didn’t write an RIP for him since I would have no idea what to say.

Happily, Fr. Robert Barron writes him a very generous encomium here. Generously done.

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  • Michael

    This type of the American media-priest is thankfully not that common (or at least not so prominent) over here. I feel sorry for you guys. Careerism and priesthood don’t sit well together, but I guess it hard to avoid in any professional oligarchy.

  • Sally Wilkins

    Mark, if you haven’t read _The Catholic Imagination_, pick up a copy. Such an insightful explication of what underlies the difference between Catholicism and Evangelicalism. I think you’d find it fascinating.

  • Gail Finke

    I second the recommendation for “The Catholic Imagination.” He did his share of wacky things but many of his books are really good — I read a lot of them when I was coming back to the Church because our library stocked them. One of them was the first place I had ever heard of Catholic social teaching, which I found astounding at the time. He is on the liberal side but hardly an apologist for dumbing things down or bowing to the age (although he had strong contrary views on some particular issues). His fiction books are not particularly good but are readable and have many fans — and have been some of the only popular books about Catholic life. I remember particularly liking “The Cardinal Virtues,” which is about a discouraged old parish priest and a new young priest or deacon. There is a lovely section in it where the old priest takes the young one to see a person die well — a devout old woman dying with the last rites etc. I found that really moving, and he really did a great job with the priest, who thought he was doing a bad job and couldn’t see what a difference he was making in people’s lives. Fr. Greeley was not liberal or conservative, he was a mix of both that made people who take sides crazy. Another thing I remember is a plaintive bit in his autobiography in which he wondered why so many priests had left the priesthood — doesn’t being faithful to a vow matter anymore? he asked. He was faithful, and so many weren’t. I do think that should count for a lot, for all our priests who made it through the past few decades, no matter how much we wish they were more orthodox or more traditional or more whatever. I owe a lot to him and I pray for the repose of his soul.

  • Well, I read one novel by him, one about a third Vatican Council. It wasn’t bad, it was entertaining even, but very forgettable. I do remember when he made it to the Phil Donahue show and Donahue was elated by him. In the 2004 election Fr. Greeley said something regrettable, don’t remember also quite what he said, but I blogged about him – again, forgot about what. So…RIP Fr. Greeley, nice man, writer of forgettable things. May the Eternal Light shine over him.

  • Mark Rickson

    For those of
    you who are not familiar with Fr. Greely, he was an
    outspoken critic of infallible Catholic teaching on
    contraception, divorce, and the ordination of women.
    However, when Fr. Greeley wasn’t speaking out on these
    issues, he found the time to write pornographic novels.
    In fact, the LA Times reported that, “Glistening
    loins, unfettered breasts and rapes were so abundant in
    his fiction that the National Catholic Register said the
    author had “the dirtiest mind ever ordained.”[1]
    The sale of these novels made Fr. Greely a very rich
    man, enabling him to buy three homes — one in Chicago,
    another in Tucson and a third at Grand Beach, Michigan.[2]
    Despite these expenditures; however, Fr. Greely was
    somehow able to save enough money to donate thousands of
    dollars to the presidential campaign of Barack Obama in

    • Gail Finke

      HA HA I don’t think you have ever read any of his novels. They are not even remotely pornographic. He was wrong about a lot of things, who isn’t? Many of his books are very good. R.I.P.

    • mlbd

      you seem to miss that he donated $1M to Chicago Catholic schools. and you obviously have not read any of his novels. I believe our good Lord would advise you not to throw stones.

  • Rosemarie


    I haven’t read much by Fr. Greeley. Just an article in America Magazine about the video to “Like a Prayer” (probably from the late 1980s), parts of “The Mary Myth” (which were interesting) and I skimmed through another of his books in the library once. The latter was written like a diary and he referred to God in feminine terms; sorry, I don’t remember the title. Never read his fiction. I might read “The Catholic Imagination” someday since the subject seems interesting, but I’ve got a backlog of books to read already. May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    He also spoke out against the clerical abuse of minors well before it hit the media. He was the one who coined the term “Lavender Mafia” to describe the network of gay priests who had taken control of some important seminaries.

    • Edward J Baker

      Too bad he never spoke out against his own support for abortion.

  • I tried Fr. Greeley’s fiction and found it laughable for the most part.

    One book I might recommend is The Making of the Popes 1978; for his own personal reaction to events (which he put into a hand-held tape recorder) it is hugely entertaining, as well as raw and outspoken. Just don’t take his fantasized account of behind-the-scenes machinations by the cardinals as any kind of accurate factual account. He tended to see the papal election as just a glorified form of Chicago back-room politics.

    On the other hand, I just loved hearing him talk about how Pope John Paul I “turned the crowd on.” How very 70’s!

    One good thing about him is that I don’t think he was all that beloved by the left. Too much of an eccentric and a gadfly. R.I.P.

  • Edward J Baker

    The world is a better place for no longer having to endure this pro-abortion skull crushing pseudo-priest and professional anti-Catholic bigot.

    • chezami

      What a beautiful witness you give to Holy Church as you rejoice over a man’s death.

      • Edward J Baker

        Thanks. I do value the ending of false witness performed by those who aid and abet the mass murder of innocents as Greeley did throughout his life.