Irish-American Roman Catholic priest, sociologist, journalist and popular novelist, Andrew Greeley, has passed awayGoogle Images

Reverend Andrew M. Greeley, a best selling author, who was vocal about controversial topics within the Catholic church, died on Wednesday aged 85. 

The Associated Press reports that in his biography, Irish American priest Father Greeley is said to have “unflinchingly urged his beloved church to become more responsive to evolving concerns of Catholics everywhere.”

After being ordained in 1965, Father Greeley went on to enjoy a writing career that would continue the rest of his life and take on many different shapes.

Aside from writing books, which varied between suspenseful thrillers and nonfiction, Father Greeley also wrote a weekly column that appeared in The Chicago Sun-Times and other newspapers about the relationship between religion and politics. He was a contributor to The New York Times, National Catholic Reporter and other publications.

Included in his writings was the ‘Irish’ series, a collection of 12 fiction books. Former President Bill Clinton had the ‘Irish Lace’ book included in his 1997 vacation reading list.

Father Greeley’s final book, ‘Chicago Catholics and the Struggles Within Their Church,’ was published in 2010. 

Through his nonfiction publications, Father Greeley frequently and freely discussed many of the issues that the Catholic church was facing over the decades, including the child sex abuse scandals.

In his 1987 book ‘Catholic Contributions: Sociology and Policy,’ Father Greeley wrote, “Sometimes I think that we as priests and bishops have done everything we possibly could to drive away the laity during the last 20 years.”

That same year, Father Greeley said during a news conference that if he were heading a church fund-raising campaign, he would admit to church members that “we’ve really goofed. People are resentful over what they take to be the insensitivity of church leaders — particularly on matters relating to sex.”

Later, in 1992, Father Greeley told a lay Catholic group that he believed “The sexually maladjusted priest has been able to abuse the children of the laity and thus far be reasonably secure from punishment.”

Aside from his wide career in writing, Father Greeley was also a sociology professor at the University of Arizona and a researcher at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.  In the 1960s, the same decade he was ordained, Father Greeley earned post-graduate degrees from the University of Chicago.

The Associated Press reports that Father Greeley died in his sleep on Wednesday May 29. He had suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2008 after a trip and fall freak accident and despite intensive therapy, he never fully recovered from the accident.

In a statement the day after Father Greeley’s death, his niece Elizabeth Durkin said, “He served the church all those years with a prophetic voice and with unfailing dedication.”