Well, we finally made it to the end – disease number fifteen of the Pope’s examination of conscience to the Roman Curia. For those late to the party, I was bemused and rather dismayed by the social media reception of that speech he made just before Christmas, which consisted of much ill-natured finger pointing and judging of the Curia officials involved (most of whom those doing the judging would not be able to name or pick out from a police line up, and yet somehow felt capable of judging their souls).
No, the papal examen is for all of us, and so I’ve been going through the fifteen spiritual ailments and talking about how they apply to all of us, too, at least potentially. So here it is, at long last, number fifteen:
Lastly: the disease of worldly profit, of forms of self-exhibition. When an apostle turns his service into power, and his power into a commodity in order to gain worldly profit or even greater power. This is the disease of persons who insatiably try to accumulate power and to this end are ready to slander, defame and discredit others, even in newspapers and magazines. Naturally, so as to put themselves on display and to show that they are more capable than others.
This disease does great harm to the Body because it leads persons to justify the use of any means whatsoever to attain their goal, often in the name of justice and transparency! Here I remember a priest who used to call journalists to tell – and invent – private and confidential matters involving his confrères and parishioners. The only thing he was concerned about was being able to see himself on the front page, since this made him feel “powerful and glamorous”, while causing great harm to others and to the Church. Poor sad soul!
Now there is no doubt here that the Pope is referring to some very specific situations in the Vatican where power struggles have spilled over into precisely the use of the media that he describes here. There does seem to be a lot of gossip and whisper campaigns over there, and the Italian media seems quite happy to amplify those whispers in a way that is quite unedifying.
I doubt seriously if anyone in the Roman Curia reads my blog, but good fathers, if any of you are reading this, may I simply say that this kind of thing is deeply embarrassing to the Church at large, and a huge scandal to the cause of Christ in the world. And so, perhaps, you should cut it out? Do you have any idea how bad you look, and how bad you make the Church look with this puerile nonsense?
Of course that specific type of media power play is not something most of us are tempted to or indeed capable of. Nonetheless, underneath that specific thing which is only a temptation for people actually in positions of some power already, there is a terrible spiritual struggle that can afflict any of us at any time.
Namely, there is always a tendency in our lives to make it ‘all about me’. The Denis Lemieux Show, now in continuous airplay and available in HD and Blue Ray! The constant gravitational tug of the soul that wants to refer everything, everything, everything back to the self, the self, the self.
This is really what ‘pride’ is, and I don’t think anyone is entirely free of its influence, save some rare and precious saints among us. It is difficult for us to grasp just how utterly our lives are to be, not exactly other-directed, but Other-directed. How much our whole life is to be Christ-centred, Christ-oriented, Christ-guided, Christ-glorifying. That the ‘self’, the individual person, only enters into his or her full identity and weight, full purpose and meaning and wholeness and happiness, when he or she is utterly ordered towards the glory of God and the mission of Christ in the world to make that glory complete.
Pride—even for those who may have very little personal prestige or power—continually works to shift the spotlight, the focus back onto the individual. In ways subtle and blatant, we all have a tendency to make it ‘all about me’. And it is tragic, because what God offers us is so much more—a very entry into the life and communion of the Trinity, a sharing in God’s own being and love in an eternal outpouring of all God is to all we are.
How pathetic and paltry it is to trade all of that for some puny bit of worldly glory or attention or some passing gratification of the ego. Talk about trading our birthright for a mess of pottage! Pride: it is the disease of humanity, but fortunately we have a sure and certain remedy. Namely, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” and picking up our towel and water to go forth to serve our brothers and sisters as best we can, today.