(UPDATE:) Shortly after I posted this post and almost as though in a clairvoyant way, I went to the Vatican website to see what Pope Francis preached about this morning at the chapel of his residence at the Vatican Motel 6. Well, there is only a very, very brief synopsis, but it is on the priesthood and what happens when it becomes corrupt! Can you believe it? This is the a fuller synopsis recently posted at the Vatican website: But first you'll need a good definition of "smarmy:"
Full Definition of SMARMY
1: revealing or marked by a smug, ingratiating, or false earnestness
2: of low sleazy taste or quality:
Pope Francis: the true priest and his relation to Christ
(Vatican Radio) At his daily Mass on Saturday morning at the Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis spoke about the priesthood. A true priest, he said, anointed by God for His people, has a close relationship with Jesus. When that relationship is missing, the priest becomes “smarmy,” [unctuous, Italian: unctuoso] an idolater, a worshiper of the “god Narcissus.”
Pope Francis’ homily was entirely dedicated to the priesthood. Commenting on the passage from first letter of St. John, where the Apostle says that we have eternal life because we believe in the name of Jesus, the Pope asks about the relationship of priests with Jesus, because “the strength of a priest is in this relationship.” When Jesus was growing in popularity, the Pope said, “He went to the Father,” He retreated “to a deserted place to pray.” This is a kind of “touchstone for priests” he said: whether or not we seek to find Jesus. “What is the place of Jesus Christ in my priestly life? Is it a living relationship, from the disciple to the Master, from brother to brother, from the poor man to God, or is it a somewhat artificial relationship... that does not come from the heart?”
“We are anointed by the Spirit, and when a priest is far from Jesus Christ he can lose this unction. In his life, no: essentially he has it... but he loses it. And instead of being anointed he ends up being smarmy. And how damaging to the Church are smarmy priests! Those who put their strength in artificial things, in vanity, in an attitude... in a cutesy language... But how often do we hear it said with sorrow: ‘This is a butterfly-priest,’ because they are always vain... [This kind of priest] does not have a relationship with Jesus Christ! He has lost the unction: he is smarmy.”
Pope Francis continued:
“We priests have so many limits. We are sinners, all. But if we go to Jesus Christ, if we seek the Lord in prayer – prayer of intercession, prayer of adoration – we are good priests, even though we are sinners. But if we are far from Jesus Christ, we necessarily compensate for this with other, worldly attitudes. And so [we see] all these figures... priest-wheeler dealers, priest-tycoons... But the priest who adores Jesus Christ, the priest who talks with Jesus Christ, the priest who seeks Jesus Christ and who is allowed to seek Jesus Christ: this is the centre of our life. If that is not there, we lose everything. And what will we give to the people?”
“Our relationship with Jesus Christ, a relationship of anointing for the people,” Pope Francis said, “grows in us priests” more and more each day:
“But it is good to find priests who have given their lives as priests, truly, of whom the people say: “Yes, he’s difficult, he’s this or that... But he is a priest! And people know! On the other hand, when people see priest idolaters, so to speak, priests who instead of having Jesus have little idols... worshippers of the god Narcissus... When people see [priests like this] they say ‘poor guy!’ The relationship with Jesus Christ saves us from worldliness and idolatry that makes us smarmy, preserves us in the anointing [we have received]. And today, this is my hope for you who have been kind enough to come here to concelebrate with me: Even if you lose everything in life, don’t lose this relationship with Jesus Christ! This is your victory. Go forward with this!”
(Now when you read what I wrote below, before I read what I posted above, tell me I'm not clairvoyant!)
Just who is the center of attention here in this photo, especially to the undiscerning eye?
And what does this say to a needy congregant?
Compare the photos above to these photos below:
After all of the positive press that Pope Francis has generated and even our own Macon Telegraph carrying some of those stories and finally naming Sister Elizabeth Grim its person of the year, this morning's Macon Telegraph's Religion Section carries a very lengthy (in fact quite a lengthy article for this section of the paper relegated as the last section of the paper prior to the want-ads. You can read it this tragic story repeated in so many places by pressing here).
I suspect this is a syndicated story from Los Angeles, but the news is from what was going on in the Church prior to the Dallas Charter in 2002. And the story of this specific priest goes back to 1991! It is old news recycled and unless the discerning reader realizes this, he will think it is a new story. It is old, stale and recycled! But it is a lesson in history!
However, the part I print below shows how the "cult of the personality" in the priesthood which is a large part of the "clericalism" of the Church of that sad period and the Church's bishops thinking they could cure people like this and treat them merely as repentant sinners, not the corrupt, depraved people they are who deserve to be kicked out of the priesthood and turned over to civil authorities for justice. As Pope Francis has stated, there is a difference between being a sinner and being corrupt! There is no place in the priesthood for the corrupt!
But let's get back to the cult of the personality and celebrity of the priesthood which developed at a zenith pace following Vatican II when priests were mandated to face the congregation for the entire Mass and their "presiding chair" was placed at the highest central point of the church building directly behind the altar which was placed at a lower level and the priest's chair replacing the central location of the tabernacle that was pushed to the side.
All of a sudden and over night the dynamics of the priest's personality, facial expressions, personal piety and ability to enrapture people by their demeanor and ability to entertain whether intended or not, became the focus of the Mass! Even the exaggerated arm gestures, apart from exaggerated facial expressions and the desire to exude welcoming warmth, hospitality and availability, made it appear that the priest was at least symbolically offering a giant hug to the adoring congregation before him. These gestures, especially the giant arm gestures at the greetings of the Mass said implicitly, here I am, your warm cuddly Christ-like priest! Come and get me!
Of course many pre-Vatican II and post-Vatican II priests where horrified at this silly liturgical change and the cult of the personality foisted on their liturgical style seemingly by the rubrics of the new Mass but more often by the prominent liturgists of the day, primary among them the Sulpician priest, Fr. Euguene Walsh, God rest his soul.
But this dreadful theology and the continuation of the Mass facing the congregation and the emphasis on the entertaining skills of the priest at Mass led many people, especially needy people, to see the priest, their priest, as being Jesus Christ, not just a human sign of the transcendent Christ at Mass, but as Jesus, certainly a depraved, heterodox understanding of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. And when a depraved, corrupt priest well skilled in his entertaining abilities meets a needy parishioner and gains their trust for their corrupt purposes, disaster looms.
And excerpt from the article in the Macon Telegraph's religion section, January 11, 2014:
TULIA, Texas — He was given a second chance here, in the High Plains of Texas, where a patchwork of cotton and wheat fields unfurls beneath a giant blue sky.
He was no longer Father John Salazar, a name typed across yellowed newspapers and courthouse microfilm more than 1,000 miles away in Los Angeles. He was Father John Salazar-Jimenez, the face of Roman Catholicism in this town of emptied grain elevators and darkened shop windows.
Yolanda Villegas adored Father John. A pillar of the Church of the Holy Spirit, she knew nothing of his past. Few parishioners did. Nearly every Sunday for a decade, she arrived for the Spanish-language Mass, knelt in the same pew and wondered how he'd inspire her that week.
"When he lifted the chalice and lifted the host, it almost felt like Jesus was doing it," Villegas said.
A parish priest noted, "He has a sense of humor which easily wins even older more conservative members." At a hospital, "He always asked the patient to pray for him also."
He chatted up gang members. He comforted the sick and handicapped. "John has a certain charisma that attracts others to him," one assessment said. "Has almost a power over people."
(My Final Comments) What I truly admired about Pope Benedict XVI is how he modeled in his priesthood, not the cult of the personality, but directing things away from him to Christ. His seriousness, measured words and muted gestures allowed for this.
While I loved Blessed Pope John Paul II, I was not enamored and from the very beginning of his pontificate, with the adulation given him by the faithful and how the papacy of Blessed Pope John Paul II was highjacked by the culture of celebrity of our day. Pope Benedict seemed to move us away from that and even the press noticed and soon loss interest in covering him.
I fear we are seeing a resurgence of this "cult of the personality" with Pope Francis. I pray the Holy Father will realize this and how his example given to depraved personalities, corrupt personalities can truly harm the Church.