A reader sez:
Mark, one could very well make the same argument about you and the little cult of personality that has grown up around you– since apparently all one needs to be a “cult of eprsonality” is to have an audience. Such a judgement would be unfair to you.
To be precise, my reader’s words can best be described as “not accurate, but entirely fair.”
That is, merely “having an audience” is not the same as a cult of personality. Rather, it is having an audience that adores you and hangs on your every word and assumes that any criticism that the object of the cult of personality receives can only be due to unreasoning hatred, malice toward the Faith, or some sort of other wicked cause.
And the reality is that, for some of my readers, that is exactly the case. That’s why I’m so sensitive to and worried about cults of personality: I have readers who have made me the object of their uncritical and undiscerning veneration. It is an *extremely* dangerous thing to do, both for the object of veneration and for the soul of the idol worshipper.
And it is a pattern that has played out in Faithful Conservative Catholic[TM] circles again and again and again and again over the past decade, with Faithful Conservative Catholics[TM] either repeating the same dumb mistake of latching on to a new Folk Hero to replace the old one and circling the wagons whenever the Folk Hero is challenged, or else whipsawing to total cynicism and rejection of the Faith because their Folk Hero let them down.
To be sure, the object of cultic veneration has a choice to make: he can encourage the cult and thereby incur his share of guilt in fostering idolatry, or discourage the cult to the degree he is able to do so. So, for instance, my friend Scott Hahn is perfectly aware of the fact that he has worshippers–and does everything he can to discourage that while continuing to do his job as a lay teacher of the Faith. That’s perfectly reasonable. If the worshippers continue to confuse him with The Voice of the Magisterium, that’s not his fault since he tries very hard to do do what a good theologian does: distinguish his theological views and opinions from what the Church defines as dogmatic. And he tries very hard to discourage the Cult of Hahn.
Which brings us to the main point: that the idolator also has his responsibility too. He can go on being the sort of dependent personality who immaturely looks for some Hero to keep him safe and tell him what to think, or he can mature in Christ and learn how to distinguish the personality and private views of his admired Hero from the Magisterium, from the Church, and from Jesus Christ. That is the wise course, because there is no Folk Hero who is not going to let you down sooner or later.
So: stop worshipping Folk Heros–including me. Learn to think with the Church. Put on the mind of Christ. Was Shea crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Hahn? Or Voris? Or Corapi? Or Euteneuer? Or Maciel?