Eugene Kennedy: sociologist, author and former Maryknoll priest

A funeral Mass was celebrated June 10 at Old St. Patrick’s Church in Chicago for Eugene Kennedy, a sociologist, author and a former Maryknoll priest.

Kennedy, 86, died June 3 of kidney and heart failure at Lakeland Community Hospital in St. Joseph, Michigan, near his home in Benton Harbor, Mich.

Kennedy was a prolific author, with more than 50 books to his credit, including both fiction and nonfiction, often focused on the church or his adopted hometown of Chicago, and sometimes both.

In the 1960s, Kennedy was commissioned by the U.S. bishops to provide the psychological component of a study on the nation’s priests. He concluded many priesthood candidates lacked psychological maturity, making mandatory celibacy difficult, and struggled with sexual conflicts that should be identified and treated before they, if ever, enter seminaries.

In 2002, when the clergy sex abuse crisis erupted in America, Kennedy said it should have come as no surprise.

Kennedy was born in New York. His uncle established the King Kullen supermarket chain in Queens during the Great Depression.

Attracted to the priesthood, he studied at Maryknoll College and Maryknoll Seminary, Chicago, and was ordained a Maryknoll priest in 1955.

In 1969, he was the first commencement speaker on the Douglaston campus of Cathedral College.

He did psychological and consultative work on behalf of the order, and continued his education, earning a doctorate in psychology from The Catholic University of America, Washington, in 1962.

According to Loyola University Chicago, Kennedy started teaching there as a psychology professor in 1969 and stayed until 1995. In 1995, Loyola granted Kennedy “emeritus” status.

Kennedy was laicized in 1977, the same year he married his wife, Sara Charles, a former Maryknoll sister who is now a professor emeritus of clinical psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical School. His wife survives him, as does a brother, Bernard.


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