Father Andrew Greeley, novelist and Catholic critic, dies

Thu May 30, 2013 4:04pm EDT
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By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Father Andrew M. Greeley, an outspoken Roman Catholic priest who wrote more than 50 novels and publicly feuded with his superior John Cardinal Cody, died at the age of 85 in his Chicago home, a spokeswoman said Thursday.

"Father Andrew Greeley was the most influential American Catholic sociologist of the 20th century," said Father Tom Reese, a senior analyst at the National Catholic Reporter. "He was the first to show how Humanae Vitae, the encyclical on birth control by Pope Paul VI, split the church and made the laity question church authority."

Greeley had been silenced in 2008, when he suffered a fall after his clothing got caught in the door of a taxi as it pulled away. A resulting brain injury left him unable to write or make public appearances, according to his niece, Laura Durkin.

He died in his sleep early Thursday morning, his spokeswoman, June Rosner, said.

A proponent of reform within the Catholic Church, Greeley also wrote more than 100 works of non-fiction, including "Priests: A Calling in Crisis" and "The Catholic Revolution: New Wine in Old Wineskins and the Second Vatican Council."

"He was first and foremost a parish priest ... his parish were the people who read his columns and his books," said Durkin. "He was a priest and he loved the church."

Greeley's sometimes racy fiction dealt with some of the challenges facing the church. "The Priestly Sins," published in 2004 during the height of the sex abuse scandal, focused on an idealistic priest after he reported child abuse by a fellow priest.

Greeley, who recently celebrated his 59th anniversary as a priest, criticized church leadership over its position on birth control and the handling of the sexual abuse crisis.   Continued...