Parish priest, sociologist, novelist: The numerous imaginations of Father Andrew Greeley

One of many nice boons of working at {a magazine} with a historical past so long as that of America is that one turns into aware of a lot wild lore about previous dramas—the victories and losses, enmities and alliances of a extra colourful journalistic age. Such tales are nearly all the time entertaining and normally largely unfaithful, however editors want no fact-checkers after they’re off the clock; the story is all that issues. Some of the vivid characters in America’s oral historical past is a priest who first wrote for America in 1957 and final wrote for the journal in 2008, one with an outsized fame within the worlds of sociology, church life and even in pulp fiction: the Rev. Andrew Greeley.

Pal to many an America editor, archnemesis at instances to some, Father Greeley was a prolific, pugnacious creator and a pure storyteller, whether or not he was detailing the trivia of a sociological report on the American Catholic Church in his essential educational works or relating the juicy crepuscular actions of the denizens of a Catholic parish in certainly one of his many novels. His long-simmering feud with Cardinal Cody of Chicago within the Seventies and Eighties is the stuff of legend, and he additionally was an outspoken critic of the U.S. bishops and the Vatican at instances. His private wealth—one novel a couple of corrupt prelate, Cardinal Sins (was it about Cardinal Cody? Greeley denied it), bought over 3,000,000 copies—allowed him to be a beneficiant benefactor to Catholic charities and academic establishments as properly.

Pal to many an America editor, archnemesis at instances to some, Father Greeley was a prolific, pugnacious creator and a pure storyteller.

“Father Greeley might be irritatingly sensible and a contact righteous, and a few of his romantic novels bordered on the foolish,” the distinguished U.S. Catholic historian David O’Brien instructed Reuters at Greeley’s demise in 2013, “however he dreamed a really particular American Catholic democratic dream and we Catholics would have accomplished properly to have listened to him extra intently.” Greeley’s notion of a “Catholic creativeness”—one which noticed our actuality as analogous to a heavenly banquet—that distinguished U.S. Catholics from majority-Protestant tradition additionally had a big influence on research of Catholic tradition and literature. “As Catholics, we discover our homes and our world haunted by a way that the objects, occasions, and individuals of every day life are revelations of grace,” he wrote in his e-book The Catholic Creativeness.

Father Greeley’s first contribution to America arrived in 1957, when he was a 29-year-old curate at a Chicago parish (his pastor on the time reprimanded him for writing it, presumably as a result of he had not requested permission). Seven years later, in the course of the Second Vatican Council, America revealed an article of his that turned a traditional: “The New Breed,” describing the attitudes and psychological profiles of monks who appeared markedly totally different from their predecessors. Greeley described this new era as idealistic and obsessive about authenticity, but additionally immune to authority and coolly assured within the inevitability of the triumph of their concepts. They have been, on reflection, maybe very a lot what one may anticipate of monks ordained within the Nineteen Sixties. Right here is Greeley:

The non-ideological coolness of the New Breed doesn’t make them straightforward to take care of. Those that have positions of authority and duty over them absolutely deserve sympathy. The New Breed are often groping and inarticulate about exactly what they need, however they know that they need change. Typically they appear nearly to be hoping that their superiors will refuse their requests in order that there could also be a transparent problem about which to battle, a particular change round which they will rally. They need freedom now—no matter which will imply.

Greeley’s blunt however trustworthy appraisal met with settlement from many baffled bishops and superiors on the time; he equally captured the considerations of a brand new era of elders 40 years later, when The Atlantic revealed his 2004 article, “Younger Parents.” In that piece, Greeley described a brand new era of younger monks much more comfy with the trimmings and assumed clerical authority of the priesthood than their rapid forebears. “Older monks right this moment typically complain that their youthful colleagues are conceited, pompous, and inflexible, and that they like to parade round in clerical costume,” Greeley wrote. “The picture that involves thoughts is younger variations of the outdated ethnic monsignors of the Melancholy period.” The story didn’t win him many buddies amongst youthful monks—however once more, various baffled bishops and superiors agreed together with his blunt prognosis.

“As Catholics, we discover our homes and our world haunted by a way that the objects, occasions, and individuals of every day life are revelations of grace.”

Through the years, Greeley revealed articles on numerous different topics in America, from e-book opinions to eyewitness stories to lengthy analyses of intercourse abuse and clerical celibacy, amongst others (together with this deep dive into the Catholic creativeness of Bruce Springsteen). His final contribution to America was in 2008: “The final Catholic novelist: The grace-filled fiction of Jon Hassler.” Two years earlier, America had honored him with the Edmund Campion Award. Established in 1955 by Harold C. Gardiner, S.J., then literary editor of America, the Edmund Campion Award was given within the a long time following to Anglo-American literature’s main lights, together with Jacques Maritain, Frank Sheed and Maisie Ward, T.S. Eliot, John Courtney Murray, S.J., Karl Rahner, S.J., Walker Percy, Shusako Endo, Annie Dillard, Chinua Achebe, John Updike, Muriel Spark and Rowan Williams, amongst many others.

Upon receiving the award, Greeley described himself not as a author, however as “a parish priest who writes,” however longtime America literary editor Patricia Kossmann objected to that description. “Possessed of a eager mind, fast Irish wit, penetrating perception into well-liked tradition and an unfailing love for the church he serves, Father Greeley is numbered amongst America’s greatest buddies,” she wrote in 2007. “Together with his books additionally obtainable in additional than a dozen foreign-language translations, it may be stated that Father Greeley’s viewers is certainly worldwide. That’s a pretty big ‘parish.’”

“Together with his books additionally obtainable in additional than a dozen foreign-language translations, it may be stated that Father Greeley’s viewers is certainly worldwide.”

Able to learn some Andrew Greeley? Begin right here: 

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Our poetry choice for this week is “Discernment of Spirits,” by Mia Schilling Grogan. Readers can view all of America’s revealed poems right here.

On this house each week, America options opinions of and literary commentary on one explicit author or group of writers (each new and outdated; our archives span greater than a century), in addition to poetry and different choices from America Media. We hope this may give us an opportunity to supply you extra in-depth protection of our literary choices. It additionally permits us to alert digital subscribers to a few of our on-line content material that doesn’t make it into our newsletters.

Different Catholic E-book Membership columns:

Glad studying!

James T. Keane