HE'S THE AUTHOR of 26 best-selling novels, many of which
feature men wearing clerical collars and women wearing nothing but
He's a sociologist who shuttles between university posts in
Chicago and Tucson, Ariz., and he's the author of a 1993 study on
religion in Russia and a 1980 book titled "Ethnic Drinking
But to some Catholics, the Rev. Andrew Greeley is a gigantic
pain in the neck.
He's a persistent critic of church leaders, whom he calls "damn
fools." And of the conservative Pope John Paul II, Greeley says,
"His papacy is a disaster for the church."
A self-appointed godly gadfly, Greeley, 65, has long criticized
official teaching on birth control and has backed up his criticism
with sociological data indicating that many Catholics disobey
church decrees in the privacy of their bedrooms.
Greeley's current hot-button issue is sexual abuse of children
by priests, a religious and legal crisis for the church.
"Fall From Grace," Greeley's latest pot-boiler novel, features
a promiscuous priest with connections to an underground Satanist
movement. The priest is the subject of a lawsuit filed against the
Archdiocese of Chicago.
Greeley says he wrote the novel in 1991 and 1992, before the
archdiocese and Greeley's boss, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, became
embroiled in a now-famous lawsuit. Steven Cook, 34, sued Bernardin
in November, charging that Bernardin and another priest sexually
assaulted him when he was a teen-ager. A trial is scheduled to
begin May 9.
Greeley says he believes the claims against Bernardin are
"It's dangerous when a man's reputation can be attacked that
way," he says.
But he believes many claims of sexual abuse are true. The
church's vigorous defense against some claims and its slowness to
respond to others has seriously tarnished its image, Greeley says,
despite Pope John Paul II's precedent-setting public condemnation
of abuse in a Denver speech in August and some programs to help
"At this stage of the game, it does not look like people are
leaving the church over it, even though they're disgusted, they're
angry, and they want to put a stop to it," Greeley says.
"But the priesthood as an institution is in deep, deep trouble,
and most priests don't even begin to get that. The priesthood is
now a profession in disgrace. The vocational shortage is going to
In "Fall From Grace," Greeley uses the fictional priest Brandan
McNulty to express his passion and outrage over what he believes is
the church's effort to duck responsibility for wayward priests and
its tendency to use hardball attorneys to intimidate victims.
Anger, Greeley says, influenced the way he wrote the book.
From 1954 to 1964, Greeley worked at Christ the King parish in
the Beverly neighborhood of his native Chicago.
In 1964, the archdiocese granted him permission to leave the
parish ministry and focus on study and writing. The result has been
more than 100 books, most of them serious nonfiction studies. …