Kathy Shaidle is right only about 50% of the time, in my books; but even when she is wrong she is insightful. Often, like most great writers, she makes me pound my fist on the table in sudden recognition, hissing “Yes!” under my breath. In her blog yesterday, she mentions how she hates the sort of Catholic who says "Our Blessed Mother" and "The Holy Father" instead of "Mary" and "the Pope.” Haven't I always thought the same? That kind of “more reverent-than-thou” language offends me too. They always do things “in a special way.” They always wear their miraculous medal in full view. Their saints are made of plaster or alabaster instead of meat and blood—they consider it blasphemy to allow that this or that saint, or pope, or even priest, was ever wrong or ever sinned.
These are, plainly, the sort of people to whom the outward appearance of piety is more important than the reality.
They are, in a word, Pharisees.
Pharisaism is a central problem not just for all religions, but for all professions; false piety is always the first refuge of a scoundrel, and false wisdom of a fool. The worst thing about it is not that it can cause me that urge to regurgitate, or render so much of the content of a typical religious bookshop, say, unreadable; but that it can drive sincere and naturally pious people away from religion.
The good news is that Christianity is at least far more aware of the problem than most of the world's institutions. It is almost the first point made in the New Testament.