C.C. reader. ([Middletown, Pa.]) 1973-1982, December 06, 1982, Image 13

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    Sociologist priest:
By James Kushlan
"People have tended to look
at the Church through a stained
glass window," not seeing it as
it really is. Rev. Andrew M.
Greeley, Catholic priest,
sociologist and novelist, wants
to shatter that illusion.
This was the reaction of Den
nis Dubs to the work of Fr.
Greeley, author of bestselling
novels The Cardinal Sins and
Thy Brother's Wife, who ad
dressed an audience of about
300 at Harrisburg Area Com
munity College on November 4.
Dubs, Professor of Social
Sciences at HACC and
moderator of Fr. Greeley's
talk, reflects one side in the stir
over the value and purpose of
Fr. Greeley's controversial
novels.
Fr. Greeley, during his talk
at HACC, said his novels are
stories meant to share what he
terms "hope-renewing ex
periences." Speaking in his role
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Tales of love sacred or profane?
as sociologist, he said these ex
periences, the basic element of
all religion, are those which
give the feeling that there is
something beyond death, some
purpose in living.
Stories are the best ways of
conveying hope-renewing ex
periences to others, "the best
way of talking about God," says
Fr. Greeley, adding, "Jesus
was a storyteller."
Ms books, The Cardinal Sins
and Thy Brother's Wife, follow
the lives of fictitious Catholic
priests, bishops and lay people,
often full of desire for worldly
success and falling frequently
into sexual exploits believed
seriously sinful in the Catholic
faith.
Kenneth L. Woodward,
writing in Newsweek, says Fr.
Greeley "insists that his tales
of sex-and-ambition-racked
priests are parables of God's
love for sinful man and that
they grew directly out of his
prime vocations as priest and
sociologist."
Because of his open criticism
of members of the Catholic
hierarchy, particularly his
former archbishop, John Car
dinal Cody, the late Archbishop
of Chicago, Fr. Greeley has
become a controversial figure.
His novels have made this
epithet all the more secure.
The inside front cover of The
Cardinal Sins says, "Father
Greeley reveals the hierarchy
of the Catholic Church as it
really is and the priests as the
men they really are."
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During a question and answer
period after his talk at HACC,
he said his novels portray the
Church and its leaders as im
perfect, because the Church is
in reality not perfect.
"Imperfect people do not want
to belong to a perfect Church,"
he added.
Rev. David T. McAndrew, a
priest of the Catholic Diocese of
Harrisburg and pastor of
Sacred Heart Church on
Cameron St., Harrisburg, re
jects Fr. Greeley's appraisal of
the novels.
Because Fr. Greeley iden
tifies himself as a Roman
Catholic priest, he says, any
evaluation of his work must be
based on his identity as priest.
"If a priest is someone who is
a center of community for
believers, then his work has to
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be judged on how well he
unifies and uplifts the
believers." says Fr. McAndrew
Of the letters sent by readers,
Fr. Greeley said seven in eight
praised his writing, some
readers reporting they had
returned to the practice of the
Catholic faith.
But Fr. McAndrew says,
"The only person I ever heard
read one of Fr. Greeley's novels
and consider it a parable of
belief and an uplifting religious
experience is Fr. Greeley. "
Fr. McAndrew says Fr.
Greeley started putting forth
the religious implications of his
novels after he was criticized
for the money he was making.
According to Mayo Mohs' Ju
ly 12, 1982,article in Time, Fr.
Greeley owns a three-bedroom
house in Tucson, a beach house
on Lake Michigan, and main
tains a two-bedroom con
dominium in Chicago's John
Hancock Center. Diocesan
priests, such as Fr. Greeley,
take no vows of poverty,
though.
"I don't care how much
money he has," says Fr. McAn
drew, "but how many people
regard these as religious
novels?"
The paperback edition of The
Cardinal Sins bears an after
note explaining the basic pur
pose of the story, for readers
who did not understand. Fr.
McAndrew asks, "What other
novelist has ever had to put an
addition on the second edition of
his work to explain the main
point, which had apparently
been missed by the majority of
the readers?"
"This somewhat assumes that
the author is the only one with
any sense, and the readers are
dumb," he says, adding: "Is it
not possible that the readers did
get the main point, and this is a
superficial attempt to draw out
what's not there?"
As evidence that the novels
are not religious, he points to
the characters and asks, "Who
ever prays?"
"They're really not religious
novels, as far as I'm concerned,
except in a very superficial
way. The characters wear the
clothes," he says, "but that