A Calling in Crisis
by Andrew M. Greeley
University of Chicago Press, $19, 168 pp.

No one is as effective as Andrew Greeley when it comes to using survey data in a street fight. In Priests: A Calling in Crisis, he’s armed and has some points about the priesthood he’d like you to understand.

Greeley, of course, is as angry as the rest of us about the damage inflicted on the church by pedophilia-related scandals and cover-ups. What he’s upset about in this book, though, are the pat, unsupported explanations of it all he sees coming from prominent Catholics who, well, simply don’t have the facts. As a result, they’ve maligned priests generally and celibacy in particular, and ignored the real causes of what has dragged down the priesthood.

Greeley, with scores to settle, is both entertaining and relentless. If you want him to name names, he’s happy to. They include A. W. Richard Sipe (widely cited author of many studies of the priesthood, including the recent Celibacy in Crisis: A Secret World Revisited); Eugene Kennedy, Greeley’s former fellow priest in Chicago and a frequent commentator in the popular press; and several other authors and observers of the Catholic scene. Although they may have a few good points, Greeley feels they’ve used flawed data, or in some cases no data, to spin a fallacious conventional wisdom about the priesthood: it’s filled with repressed, unhappy, emotionally immature men, the best of whom would leave, come out of the closet, or get married if they had the...

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About the Author

Thomas Baker is the publisher of Commonweal