From the Chicago Tribune:

Rev. Andrew Greeley, the outspoken Roman Catholic priest, best-selling novelist and sociologist known for his deeply researched academic appraisals and sometimes scathing critiques of his church, died Wednesday night, several years after fracturing his skull in a freakish fall in Rosemont.

Rev. Greeley died in his sleep at his apartment at the John Hancock Center, according to his spokeswoman, June Rosner. He was 85.
Rosner said Rev. Greeley had been in poor health since an accident on Nov. 7, 2008. He was at Advocate Lutheran General Medical Center when a piece of his clothing apparently got caught in the door of a departing taxi and he was thrown to the pavement.
The family released a statement this morning saying "our lives have been tremendously enriched by having the presence of Fr. Andrew Greeley in our family. First and foremost as a loving uncle who was always there for us with unfailing support or with a gentle nudge, who shared with us both the little things and the big moments of family life.

"But we were specially graced that this man was also an amazing priest who recently celebrated the 59th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. He served the Church all those years with a prophetic voice and with unfailing dedication, and the Church he and our parents taught us to love is a better place because of him.  Our hearts are heavy with grief, but we find hope in the promise of Heaven that our uncle spent his life proclaiming to us, his friends, his parishioners and his many fans.  He resides now with the Lord of the Dance, and that dance will go on."

A highly-regarded sociologist, preternaturally prolific author and unabashedly liberal Chicago priest, Rev. Greeley regularly took his church to task in both his fiction and his scholarly work. His non-fiction books covered topics from Catholic education to Irish history to Jesus' relationships with women.
Rev. Greeley authored some 50 best-selling novels and more than 100 works of non-fiction that were translated into 12 languages.
His racy novels and detective stories, which often closely paralleled real events, aired out Catholic controversies and hummed with detailed bedroom romps that kept readers rapt and coming back for more. Best-sellers like The Cardinal Sins in 1981 earned him millions of dollars, much of which he donated to the church and charities.

Rev. Greeley filled many of his books with the results of work he did at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, where he'd done work since his days as a doctoral candidate in the early 1960s. He also taught sociology at the University of Arizona. But, Greeley said his immense body of research and writing was merely a reflection of his calling to be a priest.

“I'm a priest, pure and simple,” Greeley told the Tribune in 1992. “The other things I do — sociological research, my newspaper columns, the novels I write — are just my way of being a priest. I decided I wanted to be one when I was a kid growing up on the West Side. I've never wavered or wanted to be anything but.”

Rev. Greeley's research at NORC showed “that the idea that societies inevitably become more secular as they modernize is untrue,” said Tom W. Smith, director of the General Social Survey at NRC.

“I think he drew many of his hypotheses from his vocation as a Catholic priest,” Smith said in an e-mailed statement. “He then put those ideas to rigorous scientific testing.”

Rev. Greeley criticized the church hierarchy over issues including its teaching on contraception and the way bishops handled the sexual abuse crisis. His blunt criticism set him apart from other Catholic sociologists, said Martin Marty, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

“Some sociologists are cautious,” Marty said. “He took risks all the time. But he was extremely careful to be sure he had the data.”
“So, he didn't just crunch numbers. He interpreted them....and he was never afraid to interpret things very loudly.”

Marty, who also shared the same Feb. 5 birthday as Greeley, said there was never any doubt that Greeley loved the church...

Read the full story here. Father Greeley was a longtime friend and contributor to America. You can read one of his earliest and most talked about contributions here.

Comments

Tim Reidy | 5/30/2013 - 4:33pm

Former America editor Tom Reese, SJ, shared this story with us today:

When Thurston Davis, SJ, was editor of America magazine, he received a call in the early 1960’s from Jack Egan, an influential Chicago priest, telling him about a young parish priest who just finished his doctorate in sociology. “You should encourage him to write,” said Egan. Neither recognized that they were opening a floodgate of prose and fiction that would have such a profound impact on the church.

Bill Mazzella | 5/30/2013 - 3:33pm

John Tracy Ellis wrote, when comparing the great Theodore Hespburgh (still Living) to American bishops, that "it was not even close." So special what Ted Hesburgh did in his work for peace and civil rights. Greeley is in this company. He outdid the bishops also. He showed that it was in action rather than office, that a Christian is measured. Greeley deserves a special place in American Catholic history. He was not afraid to follow his conscience in following Jesus. He is special. May the bless and keep him.

john Coleman | 5/30/2013 - 3:31pm

I knew Andy fairly well. He could be feisty; his sociological work which, in many ways, was first rate, lacked much theoretical sophistication ( he stayed with the numbers but did not tackle institutional and structural realities) but yes he was a good, gallant priest.  He loved Catholicism and was a wonderful apologist for its strengths. He could make you laugh and he loved the church so much he felt constrained to criticize it when it went sour ! I wonder what he might have said about our bishops these past five years when he has been rather incapacitated.? Or about the critique of the nuns ?  Greeley was also quite--a bit irrationally-- touchy as former editors of America and Commonweal could tell you about even measured criticism of his work but all in all a true gift to the church. Alas, we do not have someone in the wings who can do now what he did for the church. The Chicago river which turns green on Saint Patrick's day should now turn black in mourning this great Chicagoan. I was always grateful that early on Greeley pushed my own academic career.

Vince Killoran | 5/30/2013 - 2:30pm

A man of deep faith & intelligence. I love his comment, "I'm a priest, pure and simple."

Requiescat.