There's a very interesting article over at Patheos reflecting on Fr. Groeschel's recent interview as well as Fr. West's crusade to crucify Mark Shea.
In a nutshell, Fr. Groeschel made a comment that seemed partially to blame some underage victims of sex abuse for their own abuse. And Fr. West apparently is trying to destroy Mark Shea, a good fellow Catholic, for not being judgmental enough when it comes to homosexuals.
The writer of the blog post, entitled Holier Than None (Joanne K. McPortland), in looking at these two cases, makes some good points, and even gets off a real zinger or two. She rightly says that each of us is, "just one more poor son of a bitch before God" (a marvelous starting point for any theology). And, "The thing is, we sin when we put priests on pedestals and idolize them." She mentions a few EWTN Rock Stars whose behavior is embarrassing in retrospect, but who were defended vigorously at the time of their scandals.
McPortland says, "God knows I’ve had my own go-rounds with Mark Shea, who has decided I am funny enough that he will kill me last." No, Joanne, if you are funny enough he will kill you only by accident during a waterboarding session.
But she seems to make a fundamental error, even in the midst of her well-reasoned and well-intentioned article. And I speak as someone who, even as the writer of a very minor blog, has received threats of physical violence because I criticized a bishop who enabled a sexual predator; was told by a Catholic cleric that he would ruin my reputation and tell everyone of the "corruption at the heart of Theater of the Word" because I criticized the mistaken theology of a Catholic celebrity; and most recently was told by more than one reader that I should go to a confessional because I dared to criticize a Catholic fan favorite.
So I say this knowing quite well that McPortland's main point is a valid one. We tend to idolize priests - indeed any celebrity Christian - and we expect that their position entitles them to a special charism of holiness.
She's right there. But here's where she's wrong.
She's wrong to imply that this "idolatry" is entirely sinful.
This yearning is a sign that we seek holiness in ourselves and others. When a man becomes a priest - or even when a man becomes a Christian - we are expecting more than mere hypocrisy. We are expecting him to become holy - because that's really the point of following Christ, after all - to become like Christ.
Expecting our bishops and priests and deacons to be holier than we are - expecting even our Catholic media celebrities to model Christ - may be foolish, and is certainly doomed to disappointment.
But it is part of the yearning that points us to Christ. That our hearts should seek Him in fallen and sinful men is a great and painful tragedy - but it's part of God's plan; for God Himself became a man, and we have in our mind's eye the image of the Man Who is Love, and Who once walked the earth, and we have been seeking Him ever since.