The Catholic Imagination
Andrew M. Greeley
University of California Press, $24.95,198 pp.
Andrew Greeley has been writing on the "Catholic imagination" since the 1970s, but this motif was also implicit in his earlier works on the value of Catholic schools, the centrality of parish life, and the persistence of ethnicity as a source of personal and communal identity. His sociological work, his novels, and his essays all feature a conviction that Catholic "difference" is rooted in a kind of "sacramentality of everyday life." As Greeley suggests in his latest book, The Catholic Imagination, "there is a propensity among Catholics to take the objects and events and persons of ordinary life as hints of what God is like, in which God somehow lurks, even if (as is perhaps often the case) they are not completely self-conscious about these perceptions of enchantment."
For a rather slender "extended essay," The Catholic Imagination provides a good introduction to Greeley’s unique modus operandi, blending stories, survey data, and a few memorable assertions guaranteed to provoke double and triple takes among those unfamiliar with the style of this priest, sociologist, and popular novelist. Working from two "representative samples" of married Americans, for example, Greeley is prepared to demonstrate not only that Catholics "enjoy" sex more than others; they sport "higher rates of sexual love because of the impact on them of the story of human passion as a hint of divine passion." In general, however, The Catholic...