Chicago-area Catholics mostly approve of the pope, their cardinal and their parish priest, but they don’t like being told how to conduct their sex lives and they find the Sunday mass deadly dull, best-selling author and former Chicago Sun-Times columnist Andrew Greeley writes in his latest and final book.

“How can you become enthused about a ceremony that doesn’t know how to end?” Greeley writes in Chicago Catholics and the Struggles within Their Church, released today, “but must extend itself through semi-literate or inarticulate comments from laity who add at least 10 more minutes to the agony of boredom?”

The book is based, in part, on a 2007 telephone survey of some 524 Catholics living in the Chicago Archdiocese, which encompasses Cook and Lake counties and includes 2.5 million members. Father Greeley, 82, completed his analysis of the study just weeks before his traumatic brain injuries, his family says.

The survey of the archdiocese, which Father Greeley describes as “a very complicated place” demographically, asks what it means to be a “good” Catholic. The most popular response — given by 94 percent of those questioned — is a belief in the resurrection of Jesus. Seventy-five percent chose giving money to the poor, while 37 percent said accepting the teaching that abortion is always wrong made a believer a good Catholic.

Another question asked why Catholics don’t attend the weekly mass. Forty-four percent cited “poor” sermons, another 35 percent said the service was “boring,” while 12 percent cited the “terrible” singing.

Father Greeley says the church “desperately needs reform,” and he is both “surprised and shocked” by the numbers who have left the church.

“If the Church expects to increase the size of its Sunday congregations, it has a lot of work to do on the quality of preaching and the quality of the Sunday liturgies. . . .” he writes. “We are not supposed to be entertainers, complain the clergy. Yet, people followed after Jesus because they liked to listen to his stories.”

There’s reason for hope, Father Greeley says. He points out that 78 percent of those questioned said Catholicism is either “extremely important” or “very important” in their lives.

“Most are not about to leave the church, no matter how sick they might
be about the incompetence of its leaders,” he writes.

Order Book