Fr. Andrew Greeley, a longtime priest of the Chicago Archdiocese and a noted sociologist who has much influenced my work in young adult ministry, has passed away. PBS had a wonderful feature on Fr. Greeley some time ago which also features his good friend and my pal, Fr. John Cusick.
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A beautiful life, filled with passion. As Fr. Cusick said when the history of the American Catholic Church is written, Greeley will undoubtedly remain as a prolific name. He spoke of the Sex Abuse scandal LONG before anyone else. He saw the dwindling in the pews, but noted the loose affiliation that many Catholics still held on to about their own personal Catholicism (at hospitals and otherwise people still would check off “Catholic” as their religion–sadly that seems to now be changing in many case because too many ignored Greeley’s call to tend to the “unaffiliated” and turn them into “full and active members” of the church.
Chicago dealt with the sex abuse scandal long before other dioceses were paying attention to it. Cardinal Bernadin was smart enough to listen to Greeley who had a done a lot of research on this and together they hammered out a plan. That plan for the Chicago Archdiocese became the basis years later for the Dallas Charter. Chicago still had their problems despite Greeley and Bernadin’s early efforts as many more cases surfaced in forthcoming years–but you don’t exactly equate Chicago with Boston, Los Angeles, or Philadelphia. One of the more infamous stories comes from Cardinal Bernandin’s plea for the Bishops to put something in place with regards to the sex abuse scandal and reportedly one Cardinal soundly rejected the idea saying, “We just don’t have this problem in Boston.” Famous last words from a now infamous Cardinal Law.
While I didn’t know Fr. Greeley, I did have the pleasure of meeting him once at a lecture he gave with Fr. Robert Barron and Cardinal George. Fr. Barron was unknown then to the larger church and he kind of stole the show impressing his priestly companions. Everyone expected a smackdown between the elder statesmen and both were quite cordial to one another. Little known to others, the two men were great Opera companions and would frequently go together to many a performance. Their respect for one another, despite disagreements from time to time was a true sign of collegiality amongst brother priests. And still suspicion reigned: Greeley offered the Archdiocese of Chicago $1 million to create a foundation to help inner-city Catholic students. The archdiocese turned him down without explanation. Amazing how divisions can still take hold within the church.
Fr Greeley was kind enough to send me some of his research which I used in Googling God. He always reminded most of us practitioners that data is important and a careful look at Sociological surveys can tell us a whole lot. That’s a gift I will continue to treasure.
So blessings on his life and may God have mercy on his soul.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him. May Andy’s soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.