(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

The Bishop in the Old Neighborhood is one of Andrew Greeley’s Christian mysteries in the Bishop Blackie Ryan series. The Old Neighborhood of the title, St. Lucy’s parish, has always been at the center of Chicago’s Austin district. Over the years, the neighborhood and its church have been crumbling under the influence of narcotics and resultant high crime, but now a movement toward gentrification is promising to restore the parish’s former stature. With the charismatic Polish monsignor Mikal Wolodyjowski as its leader, St. Lucy’s has attempted over the years to care for its diminishing Catholic parishioners, and now Wolodyjowski looks forward to revamping the neighborhood, providing his parish with a long overdue facelift. To this end, he retains the architects Tim O’Boyle and his adopted son Marshal.

However, three mutilated bodies have been discovered in the sanctuary of St. Lucy’s church after an attempt to blow up the church. Declan O’Donnell, an idealistic young Irish police officer, and the voluptuous Sicilian state’s attorney Camilla Datillo arrive on the scene to investigate. A romantic subplot emerges as they discover that they knew each other in grade school. They soon find themselves remembering old times—and planning new times. They wonder whether the killings are a warning to the monsignor to leave well enough alone and not proceed with his plans to refurbish the neighborhood.

Central to the action is longtime Chicago resident Bishop John Blackwood “Blackie” Ryan, an Irishman who has been ordered by Archbishop Sean Cronin, on his way to the Vatican, to investigate the murders. Bishop Blackie has known the aristocratic Father Wolodyjowski for years and feels the Polish man should have been promoted in his place. Soon, Blackie finds himself traveling by train all over Chicago. He visits the O’Boyles’ office and learns that they have been receiving threats designed to force them to stop rebuilding in the neighborhood. Blackie’s visit to the home of Pablo, the young leader of the West Lords gang, ends in the young man’s promise to find out who is responsible for desecrating the Church, where he attends Mass and...

(The entire section is 893 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Greeley, Andrew. Priests: A Calling in Crisis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004. Examines the sexual abuse crisis of the clergy from a sociological point of view and forecasts the scandal’s impact on the future of the Catholic Church.

Greeley, Andrew. White Smoke: A Novel About the Next Papal Conclave. New York: Forge Books, 1996. Father “Blackie” Ryan leaves Chicago for Rome with Cardinal Cronin, where he addresses the vicious politics behind the selection of a new pope.

Shafer, Ingrid, ed. Andrew Greeley’s World: A Collection of Critical Essays, 1986-1988. New York: Warner Books, 1989. A wide variety of essays, positive and negative, that provide insights into Greeley as a priest, sociologist, and novelist. Highlights Greeley’s propensity to write about renewal.