Andrew M(oran) Greeley Thomas H. Clancy - Essay

Thomas H. Clancy

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The Irish, according to George Bernard Shaw (himself a Gael), have only enough sex life to perpetuate their cantankerous species. Fr. Andrew Greeley's fleshing out of this charge is only one of the things in [That Most Distressful Nation] to make the Irish even more cantankerous. There are also chapters on their (or should I say "our"?) history, culture, politics, drinking, religion, family life and future to give them more excuses for both rage and amusement. Some pages might even give a boost to their fragile pride.

The story is written from the inside, for Greeley had four Irish grandparents when he was born in Irish middle-class respectability in Oak Park, Illinois, and he has lived all of his forty-odd years among the Irish of Chicago. The subtitle tells the story, "The Taming of the American Irish."…

With the exception of the Jews [the American Irish] have achieved the most remarkable success of any European immigrant group. They have made notable contributions to the American church, to politics and to the bar (both kinds). Contrary to one of the most widespread myths of "pop" social science, they are not bigots in the mode of Archie Bunker. On the liberalism scale they are second only to Jews among identifiable ethnic groups and way ahead of WASPs.

But in the process of climbing economically and socially they have lost their soul. They are still remarkably faithful to their religion,...

(The entire section is 432 words.)