Cleansing Fire

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Priestly Narcissism

May 31st, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris
 
Recently, we did a Newsletter review of the article “Messing with the Mass” by Paul and Daniel Vitz, published in the November 2007 issue of Homiletic & Pastoral Review.  It is an excellent article, which is well worth re-reading, given its application to so many distressing issues in DoR.  You can find the article on-line at:
 
Review / Summary of Vitzes’ Article:
 
The authors cite Christopher Lasch’s emphasis of the decline of a“sense of historical time as disconnecting from the past, and the rejection of the future too, leading to the “self” becoming “the absolute center” of values and pre-occupation.  “Such an attitude is a form of idolatry,” allowing the “present moment to dominate consciousness.”   Then Christianity becomes an “embarrassment,” and “judged as having no future.”  “Preoccupation with the ‘now’ and narcissism go hand in hand.”  The authors also analyze the morphing in the new age from the self-actualization of Rogers and Maslow to a kind of “spiritual narcissism,” of the type: “When I pray, I pray to myself.”  (Perhaps like the righteous Pharisee in the Temple?)   
 
“Since Vatican II the Mass has fallen victim to various kinds of irregularities.  We will examine a previously neglected aspect of the situation — namely, the psychological reasons   motives.  We propose that the primary motivation … derives from underlying narcissistic motives – that is, extreme self-love … basic anti-Christian … significance of contemporary cultural narcissism … applied to the psychology of many American priests.” 
 
 The authors state: “…we can see deeply rooted psychological motives behind the American priests who ‘individualize’ the Masses they celebrate, placing their ‘personal stamp’ on the liturgy”… to make the Divine Liturgy conform to their own tastes and views.”  
 
The authors  give five signs of priestly narcissism, noting that just two are sufficient for the characterization of narcissistic:  
 

1. Requires excessive admiration; with this comes extreme sensitivity to criticism.

2. A sense of entitlement, of unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment and of automatic compliance by others with one’s suggestions and expectations; e.g.: “Rules don’t apply to me.”

3. A belief that they are superior, special or unique and expect others to recognize this; that they should only associate with other people who are special or of high status.

4. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors and attitudes.  At times priests show this in their liturgical style, emphases or innovation…they assume the right to change the liturgy.

5. A lack of empathy, an unwillingness to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others … contempt or anger toward those who are offended by changes in the liturgy — often changes that have no real canonical support.

“This secular spirit … was explicitly self-indulgent and self-aggrandizing.  The rationale of those who “personalize” the liturgy … clearly … rejects the Church’s history and tradition … by those who should be most closely wedded to the Church – priests.”…The common contemporary focus on being “relevant” is a straightforward articulation of making the Mass focus on the “now” with a serious neglect of where the Mass came from and where it is leading us.  To be relevant is to be involved in the present rather than serving as a fixed reference point. … “The ‘now’ is … an expression of narcissistic preoccupation.”… Ego Renewal. 

The authors go on to criticize applause in the Mass (as Pope Benedict has done) as modeling the Mass on show business and public demonstrations of emotional support at the expense of Christ and an attitude of reverence. They warn of narcissism among the congregation as well as the priest, even leading to narcissism … bordering on heresy, … almost presenting the Mass as “a concelebration of the assembled faithful themselves rather than a concelebration of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist.”  They remark about “a growing sense that the music at Mass is more a performance than anything else.” 

   In “The Spirit of the Liturgy,” then Cardinal Ratzinger writes:

    “Only respect for the liturgy’s fundamental unspontaneity and pre-existing identity can give us what we hope for: the feast in which the great reality comes to us that we ourselves do not manufacture but receive as a gift…. The life of the liturgy does not come from what dawns upon the minds of individuals and planning groups … it is God’s descent upon our world, the source of real liberation.” 

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2 Responses to “Priestly Narcissism”

  1. avatar Eliza10 says:

    This gives a lot to think about. I keep mentioning here in various comments that I see Narcissism in the DOR. I had heard of Lasch’s book but I have never read it. Mean to. Someone I know who was a puzzle was only understood when I learned about Narcissism. It offered such fascinating explanations to long-held puzzles that I learned extensively about this disorder.

    And I keep seeing it in the DOR mindset. Its the only way to explain certain things that our Bishop does. I hadn’t heard anyone else say so. But it really is a reality so no surprise I am not alone in seeing this. I am delighted that someone else has analyzed it so thoroughly.

    Applause – yes, Bishop Clark had us applaud at the Confirmation Mass. And all that thanking he does; its excessive. I mentioned the long long thanking at the end of the school night Mass. It seems so senseless. Its extraneous. The people who served should be so honored to be a part of this Confirmation and be so joyful to assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that they don’t NEED public thanks. So why do it??

    One explanation is offered by the article here. It says a Narcissist craves recognition. [I have no idea if this is the case with our bishop – I am just seeking to understand strange policies]. If in fact those in charge of the diocese who institute change crave recognition, they would think it was very inportant to have all this emphasis on publicly thanking individuals by name and deed.

    Its odd because in Catholicism we are supposed to embrace humility, and to not-be-noticed is a gift. I am thinking particularly of the beautiful Litany of Humility but there are many other examples of how not being recognized is a holy advantage. Such as, if we receive our kudos and thanks here on earth we don’t get them in heaven because we already received it on earth. I want my treasures where they last!

    As to the five signs:
    1) Requires excessive admiration – CHECK!
    2) A sense of entitlement, of unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment and of automatic compliance by others with one’s suggestions and expectations; e.g.: “Rules don’t apply to me.” – DOUBLE CHECK!
    3) A belief that they are superior, special or unique and expect others to recognize this; that they should only associate with other people who are special or of high status. – TRIPLE CHECK!
    4) Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors and attitudes. – CHECK!
    5) A lack of empathy, an unwillingness to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others … contempt or anger toward those who are offended by changes in the liturgy — often changes that have no real canonical support., above, yes, we see the sense of entitlement here. – MANY MANY CHECKS!

    ______________________________________________

    According to this, our DOR is sick with Narcissism.

    Guess what? Narcissism is for almost completely and totally incurable! Psychologists run when they realize they are dealing with a Narcissist. They are not truthful and thy manipulate. And they don’t want to be fixed – they are perfectly fine and superior the way they are – you, inferior one, are the one with the problem!

    It will take a new administration….

  2. avatar Thinkling says:

    DSMspeak for pride

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