Father Andrew Greeley, RIP
May 31, 2013, 02:15 AM
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Father Andrew Greeley, priest, social scientist, pundit, and bestselling novelist, was a major figure in American intellectual life in the 1970s. I always grouped him with Daniel Patrick Moynihan and James Q. Wilson as Irish Catholics who were very good with statistics and drew conclusions from them that were interesting and not dogmatically liberal. I always thought of those three back then as neoconservatives, but the term has come to mean something very different over the generations.

Greeley`s published output was so immense (120 books? 150 books? The priest who gave the eulogy at my father-in-law`s funeral had written two operas about Chicago politics — not surprisingly, his librettist was Greeley), that it`s hard to get a grip on the essence of his contributions. The NYT obituary, for example, concentrates on his steamy novels and battles with Catholic Church officials (Greeley denounced the "lavender mafia" within the Catholic hierarchy, but of course that doesn`t get mentioned in the obituary) rather than his social science side.

I would call Greeley the intellectual spokesman for the white Catholic urban ethnics who got hammered by integration and the Great Society (Greeley was born in the same Austin neighborhood of Chicago as my wife), the people who saw up close and personal early on what welfare was doing to blacks. But, who wants to remember that?