The Fascinating Fr. Greeley Dead at 85

Outspoken Catholic priest also penned steamy novels, fought for abuse victims

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted May 31, 2013 12:55 PM CDT

(Newser) – Andrew Greeley was nothing if not a multi-hyphenate: The New York Times describes him as a "priest, scholar, preacher, social critic, storyteller, and scold," then tacks on the word "maverick" for good measure. But Greeley, who died yesterday in his Chicago home at age 85, prized one title above all others—that of Roman Catholic priest. (The Sun-Times reports his preferred identifier was actually "loud-mouthed Irish priest," which is what he said he wanted on his gravestone.) The Sun-Times joins a slew of other publications in remembering some of the many fascinating aspects of Greeley. Among them:

  • Considering it called him a "scold," who better than the Times to explain Greeley's "exuberantly combative" nature? He had harsh words for many of the church's bishops ("mitered birdbrains"). But he also took on "secular intellectuals" (calling out their religious prejudice) and "reform-minded Catholics" (who were swayed by fads).
  • The Times notes that as early as 1989 he was advocating for those abused by pedophile priests.
  • Greeley wrote more than 100 works of non-fiction on topics as diverse as Irish history and Jesus' relationships with women. He wasn't one to sugarcoat; the Times cites one book "titled with typical directness": A Stupid, Unjust and Criminal War: Iraq 2001-2007.
  • But he also churned out some 50 novels that earned him millions (he donated much of his profits to charity, including the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests). The books did contain explicit sex, though typically performed by married couples. Mystery novel The Cardinal Sins stuck on the NYT best-sellers list for eight months. Quipped Greeley, "If you’re celibate, you have to do something."
The Chicago Tribune notes that his health began to deteriorate after what it terms a "freakish fall" in 2008, in which his coat got stuck in a taxi that then began to drive away, slamming him to the ground. His niece confirmed that he had been receiving 24-hour care since. The Times' long obit is worth a read in its entirety (for instance, it includes a section titled "Conspiracy Theory").

The undated photo provided by the University of Chicago shows Andrew Greeley.
The undated photo provided by the University of Chicago shows Andrew Greeley.   (AP Photo/Courtesy the University of Chicago)
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