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McClory, Robert

mccloryrApril 3, 2015
Chicago, IL

NCR 'stalwart' Bob McClory dies on Good Friday - by Thomas C. Fox  

Decades-long National Catholic Reporter contributor, Robert J.  [1]McClory [1], died April 3, Good Friday, in Chicago, after being anointed by a parish priest.  Humorous to the end, wife, Margaret, said Bob told the priest: “Hurry up; make it quick.” He was 82.

Arthur Jones, McClory's first NCR editor in the late 1970s, recalled him as, “a fluid writer, a disciplined and diligent reporter who earned the readerships’ respect.”

Tom Fox, NCR editor who worked with McClory in the 1980s and 1990s, remembered him “as a journalist with a passion for justice, a person able to find humor in all things.”

Tom Roberts, NCR editor who worked with McClory from 2000 to 2008, said McClory “handled a huge range of material with a firm command of church history and theology, a pro’s pro.”

NCR Editor Dennis Cody called him “an admirable stalwart to the end. … He was pitching me a story just weeks ago.”

McClory fell three weeks ago, entered a hospital, developed a bacterial infection in an artificial knee, and continue to weaken. “He died peacefully,” said Margaret, adding that he passed after his daughter, Jennifer, her partner, Sarah Klein, and their daughter, Rose, had arrived for a visit.

Robert Joseph McClory grew up on the first floor of a brick, two-flat building in Chicago, attending a Catholic elementary school and studying five years at Quigley Preparatory Seminar before graduating in 1951.  He attended St. Mary of the Lake Seminary and was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1958.

McClory served as associate pastor at Sts. Faith, Hope and Charity Church, Winnetka, Ill. for six years and at St. Sabina Church in Chicago until 1971 when he resigned from the priesthood, later marrying Margaret McComish that year.

McClory turned to journalism, getting a degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism [2]. He then became a reporter and feature writer and later, city editor for the Chicago Daily Defender and the Chicago Reader in the 1970s.

He began writing for NCR in 1978. Jones tells the story:

“As NCR’s new editor in the mid-1970s I was immediately on the look-out for first-class writers. Bob McClory had sent in an excellent news story from Chicago, recalled Jones. “Separately he’d included two or three lines about himself, explaining he was a former priest, now a writer. I called him up and asked him what he needed to write on a freelance basis for the paper. ‘Health coverage,’ he said."

"Health coverage went with fulltime employment; the editorial budget hadn’t the money for fulltime. I told McClory I’d call him back and put the problem to business manager, Donald Banhart. He proposed listing McClory as an 'agent,' (a sales category that was covered) until someone said no. We squeaked by for two or three years until McClory made other arrangements.”

Added Jones: “McCLory, to me, was the most completely laicized former priest I ever knew. He loved his ordained life, but his life as a layman and family man had none of the lingering clerical clues to that former world of many former priests. However, in both worlds I eventually learned, he was droll, erudite and extremely funny when on a roll.”

He also wrote for the Chicago Magazine, US Catholic, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, Catholic Digest, Student Lawyer, Illinois Times, and the Chicago Lawyer.

McClory was author of nine books [3], including "The Man Who Beat Clout City (1977)," "Turning Point: the Inside Story of the Papal Birth Control Commission [4]" (1995), "Power and the Papacy" (1997),  "Faithful Dissenters: Men and Women Who Loved and Changed the Church [5]" (2000), "As It Was in the Beginning: the Coming Democratization of the Catholic Church" (2007), "Radical Disciple: Father Pfleger, St. Sabina Church and the Fight for Social Justice" (2011), and "From the Back of the Pews to the Front of the Class" (2013).

He was co-author of the play "Haunted by God [6]: The Life of Dorothy Day."

A disciple of the Second Vatican Council, he was always concerned about church reform and was a founding member and longtime board member of the Catholic Chicago-based reform group, Call to Action. [7]

McClory taught journalism full-time and part-time at Medill from 1983 until he retired and for much of that time taught upper-level magazine writing, though he also taught freshman and sophomore writing classes. He was the chief judge of numberless journalism competitions and was for many years a coordinator of summer programs on religion and media for graduate students. In 1999 he was a recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award from the Northwestern University Alumni Association.