Saturday, 8 June 2013


My obit of Father Greeley, the priest and prolific writer, is online at the Guardian (link here) and might well be in the paper paper on Monday. Father Greeley was a fascinating character--someone who might have stepped from a Warner Bros. movie in the Thirties (Angels With Dirty Faces?) played by Pat O'Brien. It was a cliche he played to the hilt in Chicago, with his column in the Sun-Times and his very high-profile rooting for Chicago's teams. Interesting chose the Cubs over the White Sox.

I was tempted to try to do a comparison with Greeley and the Berrigans--the most telling point being that for all his criticism of the Catholic church, Greeley never left it. Indeed, despite being an advocate of reform influenced (at least it seemed to me) by liberation theology, Greeley also was a firm believer in many Catholic traditions, foremost among them parochial education and celibacy for priests. My sense is his politics moved further to the left as society moved further toward the right, toward greater inequality, and greater worship of Mammon. Although, as a best-selling author, he himself did live well.

And best selling he was--though his high sales in later years were more a factor of his prodigious output. I can't say I've ever paid much attention to his fiction, which seems both formulaic and also a vehicle for his examining issues which concerned him. I was serious, however, in praising his sociological work on Catholocism, and I would be very curious to read his book on the ascension of Pope Benedict, not least to see what his personal reaction was, but primarily to get an insider/outsider view of the politics involved. I can't believe he was happy when Benedict claimed child-abuse was a product of 'normal behaviour' in the licensentious 70s. In that context, though, I read an interesting essay Greeley wrote on the legacy of Pope John Paul II (you can find that here) and it made me wonder if Greeley ever thought of fictionialising the conspiracy theories around the death of John Paul I (either that he was murdered or that he died while in bed with a nun). Just a thought. If Greeley already had that thought and wrote a novel about it, please let me know.

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