Rev. Andrew Greeley, who was a best-selling novelist as well as a liberal thinker known for "sometimes scathing critiques of his church," died Wednesday night in his sleep, The Chicago Tribune and other news outlets report. He was 85.
June Rosner, Greeley's publicist, tells the Tribune that Greeley had been in poor health since a bad fall he took on Nov. 7, 2008. According to the newspaper, that day Greeley "was at Advocate Lutheran General Medical Center [in Park Ridge, Ill.] when a piece of his clothing apparently got caught in the door of a departing taxi and he was thrown to the pavement."
The Associated Press says Greeley "suffered a traumatic brain injury. ... He spent several months in rehabilitation and underwent intensive therapy, though he never regained full cognitive function."
He did many things, The Chicago Sun-Times says, but Greeley "preferred only one title":
" 'I'm a priest,' he wrote in his 1986 memoir, Confessions of a Parish Priest. 'Not a priest-sociologist or a priest-journalist, or a priest-novelist, or any multiple variation of those hyphenates. I'm a priest, a parish priest. The other things I do in life: sociological research, journalistic writing, storytelling, are merely way of being a priest.' "
Still, as the Sun-Times adds, "he was the author of more than 150 books, some academic texts, others steamy potboilers. His first mystery novel, The Cardinal Sins, published in 1981, sold millions of copies, spending eight months on The New York Times best-sellers list."
Greeley's "racy novels and detective stories, which often closely paralleled real events, aired out Catholic controversies and hummed with detailed bedroom romps that kept readers rapt and coming back for more," the Tribune notes.
"A highly-regarded sociologist, preternaturally prolific author and unabashedly liberal Chicago priest, Rev. Greeley regularly took his church to task in both his fiction and his scholarly work," the newspaper adds. "His non-fiction books covered topics from Catholic education to Irish history to Jesus' relationships with women."