The world has lost an engaging, combative intellect who seemingly could produce a book length manuscript as easily as a breeze wafts off of Lake Michigan.
Greeley was a priest and a Catholic first, but he had little use for many in the church hierarchy. He was an acerbic critic of church officials as they covered up the misdeeds of their fellow priests and as they ignored their congregants. He was a defender — with evidence — of Catholic schools against those who said they were second-rate. He was a sociological researcher and political commentator.
His New York Times obituary gives a full accounting of the life he led and the battles he fought. Interesting reading throughout.
Update: The New York Times, a couple of days after his death, praised the stand that Greeley took in criticizing the Catholic Church for protecting and covering up priests who had abused children:
From the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, years before the scandal metastasized in Boston and engulfed the church worldwide, he sounded a prophetic warning about predator priests and bishops who protected them. He wasn’t alone: parents and victims had been battling the church hierarchy for years by then, and journalists like Jason Berry had done much to expose those crimes. But Father Greeley was among the first and most effective critics from within, defying his fellow priests on behalf of the betrayed laity. He had a pulpit, a column in The Chicago Sun-Times, and he used it often.
. . . Father Greeley, a sociologist, had great affection for the people in the pews. His words in their defense were strident, defiant, alarmist, and exactly right.
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