As Catholics, we are all called to be virtuous, to love God, and to follow our faith. Our first calling is the call to live out our baptismal promises, and to live a life modeled after Jesus. Of course, there are personal definitions for some on how this is done, but at the core, it goes back to loving God with all our hearts and in loving others as much as we love ourselves. For those called to the priesthood or religious life, it is ever so important to do these things well. That is to be authentic in our love of God and of others to the greatest extent.
Sometimes in life because of sin, this does not always happen. Just as in high school, in the neighborhood, or in the friend clique, individuals can be draw to selfishness, entitlement, lack of empathy, and disorder. When narcissism enters the priesthood and religious life, it is a sad thing. Here are some signs of it.
One of the biggest signs of narcissism in the priesthood is the priest who acts one way on the altar and another way in front of peers and/or friends. In other words, nasty words said about others, divulging the secrets of those who are going through tough times, and then pretending things were never said. Gossip is a sin, and when we witness clergy partaking in it as if is OK, this is worse. Prayer is needed to confront this sin of detraction and of slander of another. It is a narcissistic behavior at its height.
Air of Superiority
When a priest or religious displays “holiness” through false piety and treating others as less than them, this is a display of an air of superiority. The priesthood is an office not for admiration but for respect. It is not a reason to treat lay people or anyone else as less than someone. If you have ever been treated by clergy with an air of superiority, it is not a pleasant thing to endure. We must treat clergy with utmost respect, but for the same token, the priesthood or religious life does not give reason to treat lay people or anyone with disrespect. Ignoring people for the sake of elevating oneself is narcissistic behavior. Priests and religious are called to be welcoming, kind, and caring, not snobby, standoffish, and holier-than-though.
Critical and Unkind
The life of Christ is a life of love of others, sacrifice, and great love. Christ is and was aware of sin, but we always called sinners away from sin into a new life. This calling out does not involve being critical of others and unkind. People who are critical are those who find fault in others but sometimes have a challenging time seeing their own faults and sins. Narcissism within the life of a clergy member is one which is focused on the wrongdoings and sins of others but not so much for themselves. It is a bad place to be in.
Clericalism is when a priest or religious views his vocation more a “career” than as a calling to live like Christ and love like Christ. Clericalism happens when a priest has more care about working his way up the ladder of success than of his parishioners and in humbly offering the sacraments to others. When a priest becomes narcissistic, clericalism will soon follow. Sadly, when this does happen, God’s people are hurt, abandoned, and left alone to find a true spiritual leader for support in their parishes.
Prayer for priests and religious
The good news is, we have the antidote for all this which is prayer. Our prayer can and will make a difference for the parishioners and people who are affected by narcissism in the priesthood. We can also pray for all priests and religious to find hope and healing and to be freed from the sin of narcissistic behavior. In addition to prayer, action is always needed. Let us pray that after the sin is recognized, more of our priests and religious will find help to become true lovers and follower of Jesus Christ