Fr. Andrew Greeley (1928-2013) was a remarkable man and a significant clerical voice of 20th Century American Catholicism. I only met him face to face once in my life—in Chicago, October 1992. The occasion was the first National Meeting of Victims of priests’ sexual abuse organized by Jeanne Miller, the first pioneer of clergy victims’ advocacy.
Our meeting was cool and a bit disdainful on his part, but then his fame and accomplishments made it tolerable if not understandable. Some people to whom Greeley complained about me—and they were myriad—reported, “Fr. Greeley is no friend of yours.”
His many reviews of my work that are on this site are sufficient evidence of his evaluation and attitude toward my work and me. He did not hesitate to say that my 1990 book A Secret World: Sexuality and the Search for Celibacy marked me a “fraud”.
But I treasure Greeley’s observations and evaluations of Catholic clergy, especially those scattered throughout his novels—and I have read over 27 of them (and reviewed his entire canon).
The Cardinal Sins (1981) to me remains a classic description of the spectrum and development—analysis—of priests’ celibate practice via Kevin Brennan and Patrick Donahue. He outlines a paradigm of clerical culture that lacks any prior (or subsequent) equal.
 Greeley was committed to his priesthood. He saw life with a sociologist’s eye, and embraced his storytelling talent in the best Irish tradition. He combined his natural gifts prodigiously to make him a lasting inspiration to many folks, Catholic or not. I am deeply indebted to Fr. Greeley’s work in my quest to understand the depths and complexities of religious celibacy.
His work still flourishes. His inspiration continues and his memory is revered.
“An autobiography can distort: facts can be realigned. But fiction never lies: it reveals the writer totally.”
 V.S. Naipaul
Like most people, I knew Father Andrew M. Greeley primarily through his novels (His readership was estimated at over twenty million). He was a remarkable man, priest, sociologist, and storyteller. To those amazed by his voluminous productivity—a canon of over 140 books—he responded that the source of his energy was: “Celibacy, hard work, and maybe a little talent, too.”
Greeley was a timely star of the last half of the Twentieth Century. Through his novels, he gave his readers permission to think about sexuality—even of priests’ sexuality—and about the authoritarian structure of his church outside the boundaries of the Catholic Church’s official moral teachings.
Greeley discovered the meaning of myth—analogical thinking. By means of that discovery, Greeley was able to express his identity as a priest, sociologist, and storyteller. To explain the meaning of life he spun mythic narratives. His own life, too, provides mystery and a key for understanding priestly celibacy.
He was a priest surveying human sexuality. He expounded on the sacramentality of sex and the gender of God. He was not shy and revealed his own sexual fantasies in the context of his priesthood.  Nowhere, however, does Greeley ever come entirely to terms with his own sexual tension and anxiety.
His novels are engrossing because they struggle with the religious problems of ordinary people—problems of sexuality and family, of job and community, faith and practice—on their own terms, and in their own language. He was not loath to put the word “fuck” in the vocabulary of a priest.
Greeley posited an appealing model of a sexual dynamic leading to the love of God. That idea confers a consistency on the world of experience. In his autobiography Greeley said he garnered the idea not from a theologian, but from Paul Claudel’s play The Satin Slipper.
Greeley’s priesthood was always the center of his life. He was a Chicago-born-Irish-priest-sociologist-myth maker; all his work revolves around or interweaves these elements so consistently and profoundly that they stamp his spiritual geography.
Greeley asserted that priests are the “most fascinating” of men because of their (supposed) celibacy. He defended himself in two autobiographies.  But one basic question remains an area of justifiable fascination: how does a man develop psychosexually without having any sexual experience?
Greeley did not provide an answer; nor can he be faulted for that. He made other contributions. The priest—like every Catholic—is free to embrace his sacramental imagination: “a way of picturing reality in which God operates indirectly through the ordinary events of life.” The paradox is that the celibate is deprived of one of the most important sacramental avenues in Greeley’s schema of knowing the love of God—sex.
Greeley gives his readers permission to imagine religion mythically and to consider openly their sexuality as a dimension of God’s love. Whatever his motivation, he leads readers to question the celibacy and the sexuality of priests.
That is a substantial contribution to contemporary Catholic life.
*These thoughts are garnered from A.W.R.Sipe “the Serpent and the Dove: Celibacy in Literature and Life” (sic)  Praeger, 2007.