Reese entered the Jesuits in 1962 and was ordained in 1974. He was educated at St. Louis University, the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, and at the University of California Berkeley, where he received a Ph.D. in political science. He worked in Washington as a writer and lobbyist for tax reform from 1975 to 1978. He was an associate editor of America magazine, where he wrote on politics, economics and the Catholic church, from 1978 to 1985 and editor-in-chief from 1998 to 2005. He was a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center from 1985 to 1998 and 2006 to 2013.
While at Woodstock, he wrote the trilogy on the organization and politics of the church: Archbishop: Inside the Power Structure of the American Catholic Church (1989), A Flock of Shepherds: The National Conference of Catholic Bishops (1992), and Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church (1996). He also edited The Universal Catechism Reader (1990), an analysis of the first draft of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and Episcopal Conferences: Historical, Canonical and Theological Studies (1989).
Father Reese is based in Washington, DC.