Multiple media outlets are reporting that Father Andrew Greeley has died in Chicago at the age of 85. Father Greeley was a prolific author of academic scholarship, fiction, and is often noted as an important in-house critic of the church. Greeley received his PhD from the University of Chicago and taught at the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago and at the University of Arizona. Among his many works, I have often consulted Can Catholic Schools Survive? and “The Demographic Imperative in Religious Change” but my favorite is The Catholic Imagination. Which of Father Greeley’s works has had the most impact on your work or on you as a person?
I can still remember reading “The Catholic Myth: The Behaviors and Beliefs of American Catholics” in Stan Saxton’s Sociology of Religion course as an undergraduate at the University of Dayton. After that, I devoured Fr. Greeley’s sociological writings. I have to admit that as a young undergraduate entertaining ideas of priesthood I found his racy novels a bit scandalous and over the top for me. Still, his ability to write provocative and entertaining prose worked perfectly as a sociologist investigating topics with vigor and insight. Even if I did not always agree with Fr. Greeley, he was always worth reading and made me think more deeply about each topic that he examined. I recall his book–The Jesus Myth–which was written as a reflection on recent New Testament scholarship, as impacting me more than possibly any other book–although it’s been so many years that I no longer recall the exact arguments in the book. Regardless, he certainly made me think of the term “myth” in a different and much more sociological/culturally insightful way. Sometimes I think that he made it harder to be a Catholic sociologist–other times I think that he paved the way–no matter which is closer to the truth, he had an impact, and I pray that he is now enjoying an intimate union with Christ in heaven.
My favorite book by Fr. Andrew Greeley is also The Catholic Imagination, though I also enjoyed The Religious Imagination and The Catholic Myth.