A renowned sociologist and outspoken Catholic commentator, Greeley had been a longtime columnist for the Sun-Times and wrote more than 50 best-selling novels and more than 100 works of nonfiction. After serving 10 years as an associate pastor at Christ the King parish, he was released from the pulpit to become a sociology professor and researcher at the University of Chicago. He eventually held a tenured position at the University of Arizona. Inspired by Vatican II reforms, he immersed himself in research about American Catholics engaged in public life.
Despite all his accomplishments, he always stressed he was nothing more than a parish priest.
In addition to loving his church, he pushed it to change, championing the ability of women to serve the church in every capacity, even referring to God as a "she." He also believed the church should ordain married priests.
Though Greeley never fancied himself a theologian, the Rev. David Tracy, a retired professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School, said on Wednesday he "could name no other contemporary thinker who crossed so many interdisciplinary borders of the academy with such seeming ease and robust joy."
"Though he modestly disclaimed the title of theologian, in fact, he was one of the major theological interpreters of our day," said Tracy, who once held the Andrew Thomas Greeley and Grace McNichols Greeley Professorship in Roman Catholic Studies that Greeley established in his parents' names. "Even as Andrew sang out the sheer joy and goodness of God's creation in life, he never hesitated to denounce injustice. ... Andrew Greeley was our very own American Catholic, smiting nonsense and injustice left and right."