The Multifaceted Greeley

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times by John N. Kotre (Nelson-Hall, 275 pp., $6.95), is reviewed by Harold B. Kuhn, professor of philosophy of religion, Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky.

This volume, which surveys the brilliant career of one of Roman Catholicism’s contemporary literary figures, concerns itself with the manner in which Father Andrew Greeley coped with the kaleidoscopic changes in the religious and social climate in America between 1950 and 1975. It takes for granted the famous priest’s early relationships to the priesthood—to Christ the King parish and the conditions in the life of the church of which he became aware there and in which he found himself involved.

Father Greeley appears to have found his first major challenge in his relation to the so-called New Breed of priests, emerging in the 1950s and being lifted into prominence by the events in the world of academe in the 1960s. In relation to this group, Andrew Greeley made a sort of “trial run,” one which would become typical of his relation to public movements in subsequent years. This involved a fairly regular sequence: attraction, acceptance, and gradual disillusionment.

This pattern occurred again and again, and reveals to us several qualities in his character. He was a priest who constantly manifested a growing edge; he sought always to be innovative; he identified himself with what seemed to be best at the time, and he possessed a fierce personal honesty. He rested great hopes in the outcome(s) of Vatican II, and when many of these hopes came to be ephemeral, he refused to resign himself to cynicism.

Father Greeley never escaped his Chicago background. He sought in a variety of ways to operate creatively and ...

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