Father Andrew Greeley has published a new book,” Chicago Catholics and Their Struggle within the Church.”
A pain in the lower back,” “Chicago’s Priestly Prophet,” “Father Andy,” whatever you call him Father Greeley has been an important commentator on the life of American Catholics and Chicago Catholics in particular.
For a long time I simply gave up reading his column in the Sun Times. I became tired of his constant harping on what he considers lousy sermons, terrible music and arrogant bishops. He usually described the Chicago Church in the words “Pay, Pray and Obey.”
It wasn’t that I thought Father Greeley was a pompous academic. No, he was a dripping faucet, an annoying voice that never seemed to let up on the Church that he claimed to love.
Now, he has written his last book and I want to read it. (In 2008, he suffered a serious head injury that impairs his thinking and his speech.) I want to read his
evaluation of the survey he conducted of over five hundred Catholics in 2007.
He found that seventy-eight percent of Catholics consider their Faith extremely or very important. Who are these people? His book will tell me.
There was a stunning response to a question concerning what makes a good Catholic.
Ninety-four percent answered that it was belief in the resurrection of Jesus. I have had the feeling that most Catholics did not think much about the resurrection and that it has been kind of a secret. I thought most Catholics identified the Savior with His Passion, His death on the cross. Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion of the Christ” epitomizes that concept of salvation.
Andrew Greeley is saying, No! Catholics get it!
The Christ of the Resurrection is their enduring hope.
Years ago, I wrote a response to a Greeley column in the Sun Times.
I criticized Andrew Greeley for his judgement of the American Catholic Church
as tottering and growing in irrelevance. It was a letter to the editor of the Sun Times and to my surprise, they published it in a full page article entitled “Most Catholics Still Love Their Church.” I knew then and I know now that Catholics do love their Church. My phone did not stop ringing the morning the paper came out. People had had enough of Father Greeley.
I feel different now. Father Greeley said things then that needed to be said. We were living through a frustrating time and he pushed our collective faces into the mess we had made of the Church and basically told us to wake up.
I am concerned nowabout the thousands who have fallen away. I heard somewhere that the second biggest group of American Christians, after Catholics, are Catholics who have left the Church.
We can learn from Father Greeley’s new book. We do need to preach more effectively, sing more devoutly, and all of us need to live our Faith more deeply. This is Greeley’s final call to the Chicago Church to listen to the voices of Chicago Catholics as they struggle within the Church to live out their call.
Thanks, Father Greeley, you little Irish imp. We have needed your voice in the past and now we need it more urgently than ever.
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