Cover image for Priests : a calling in crisis
Priests : a calling in crisis
Greeley, Andrew M., 1928-2013.
Publication Information:
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
ix, 156 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Inside the "secret world" -- Sexual orientation and celibacy -- The morale question -- Why they leave -- Priests and the catholic revolution -- Clergy, hierarchy, and laity -- Priests under pressure -- Conclusions -- Policy implications.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BX1912.9 .G34 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



For several years now, the Roman Catholic Church and the institution of the priesthood itself have been at the center of a firestorm of controversy. While many of the criticisms lodged against the recent actions of the Church--and a small number of its priests--are justified, the majority of these criticisms are not. Hyperbolic and misleading coverage of recent scandals has created a public image of American priests that bears little relation to reality, and Andrew Greeley's Priests skewers this image with a systematic inside look at American priests today.

No stranger to controversy himself, Greeley here challenges those analysts and the media who parrot them in placing the blame for recent Church scandals on the mandate of celibacy or a clerical culture that supports homosexuality. Drawing upon reliable national survey samples of priests, Greeley demolishes current stereotypes about the percentage of homosexual priests, the level of personal and professional happiness among priests, the role of celibacy in their lives, and many other issues. His findings are more than surprising: they reveal, among other things, that priests report higher levels of personal and professional satisfaction than doctors, lawyers, or faculty members; that they would overwhelmingly choose to become priests again; and that younger priests are far more conservative than their older brethren.

While the picture Greeley paints should radically reorient the public perception of priests, he does not hesitate to criticize the Church's significant shortcomings. Most priests, for example, do not think the sexual abuse problems are serious, and they do not think that poor preaching or liturgy is a problem, though the laity give them very low marks on their ministerial skills. Priests do not listen to the laity, bishops do not listen to priests, and the Vatican does not listen to any of them. With Greeley's statistical evidence and provocative recommendations for change--including a national "Priest Corps" that would offer young men a limited term of service in the Church-- Priests offers a new vision for American Catholics, one based on real problems and solutions rather than on images of a depraved, immature, and frustrated priesthood.

Author Notes

Roman Catholic priest Andrew M. Greeley was the author of more than 100 non-fiction works of theology, sociology, prayer, and poetry; a professor of sociology; a newspaper columnist; and a successful novelist, writing in several genres, including mystery and science fiction. He was born on February 5, 1928 and was a native of Chicago. Greeley studied at Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary and earned an AB from St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in 1950, a Bachelor of Sacred Theology in 1952, and a Licentiate of Sacred Theology in 1954. He went on to receive a Master of Arts in 1961 and a Ph D in 1962.

Greeley's fiction, which often told stories of crime and scandal in the Roman Catholic church, can be violent and lurid and are considered controversial by many Church leaders. Greeley wrote on such issues as homosexuality in the clergy, pedophilia, and papal politics, and he created the popular mystery series starring Father Blackie Ryan, as well as another featuring the character Nuala McGrail.

Greeley was awarded honorary degrees from the University of Arizona, Bard College (New York State) and the National University of Ireland, Galway. In 1981, he received the F. Sadlier Dinger Award, which is presented each year by educational publisher William H. Sadlier, Inc. in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the ministry of religious education in America.

Greeley died on May 29, 2013 at his Chicago home. He was 85. (Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The mixture of humility and arrogance that is part of Greeley's appeal surfaces here when, referring to his sociological studies, Greeley says they are usually not very good but the best there is on the subject because no one else is doing what he does. He dismisses psychologists' studies of the priesthood, suggesting that psychological methods are inferior to sociological methods as bases for global interpretation. He dismisses former priests' and non-Catholics' studies, suggesting that they are biased (his are empirical ). Be that as it may, the data underlying this book depict the Roman Catholic clergy as representative of the population as a whole. Priests are relatively satisfied in their work and no more or less sexually mature and self-fulfilled than other men. The greatest problem facing the priesthood, which Greeley locates in the institutional structure of the church, is disconnection from the concerns of the laity. In the end, he advises, Clergy at all levels from the pope to the lowliest parish curate must be quiet and listen. And listen. And listen. --Steven Schroeder Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Greeley, a professor of social science at two universities (Chicago and Arizona), draws upon the tools of his trade to challenge some stereotypes of the priesthood today, particularly in the wake of the sexual abuse crisis of 2002, which he acerbically calls "The Year of the Pedophile." He utilizes various sociological and psychological studies to demonstrate that priests are no less emotionally mature than other American males in their age groups-and that, in fact, they may enjoy more supportive and varied friendships than other men. He challenges the widespread stereotype that the priesthood is rife with homosexuals, noting that in a landmark Los Angeles Times survey of priests, only 16% identified themselves as homosexual. (Sociologists and statisticians may wonder at the reliability of data that is entirely self-reported but, as Greeley notes, these figures are the best we have.) Greeley also counters the stereotype of priests as unfulfilled "emotional wrecks" with evidence that they are actually more likely to report themselves as happy than are other males (and, interestingly enough, than Protestant clergy). With helpful tables, graphs and charts, this slim but opinionated volume should be required reading for students and reporters who are willing to look past sensational headlines to the more complex and nuanced picture beyond. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Table of Contents

1 Inside the ""Secret World""
2 Sexual Orientation and Celibacy
3 The Morale Question
4 Why They Leave
5 Priests and the Catholic Revolution
6 Clergy, Hierarchy, and Laity
7 Priests Under Pressure
8 Conclusions
9 Policy Implications
Appendix from theLos Angeles Times