Let me put the question differently: Why do most of us intuitively recognize that celebrity pastors are a problem — even that “celebrity” itself is a problem — yet celebrate the uber-celebrity pastor, the one Vicar of Christ in Rome? And why do we venerate a virtual handful of canonized saints out of global Christianity, when the standard apostolic practice recorded throughout the New Testament church is to greet every baptized Christian as a saint, and to thank God for their holiness?
My hunch is that there is a deep — and not necessarily healthy — desire to religiously venerate our fellow man. His holiness Bergoglio from Buenos Aires is endearing and warm; His holiness Yahweh of Sinai is a consuming fire.
This is precisely why the argument from tradition for the veneration of saints is so strong and compelling. It appeals to a deep human desire to elevate the best in us all, to identify a champion and leader of our tribe. It is quite frankly entirely natural, and laudable, for a religious community to hold in awe a martyr, one who would rather die than betray his Lord. I know I do. It is natural to remember them and lift them up as role models and examples to emulate when the next wave of persecution roles over the church. A church called to suffer in the world, like it’s Savior did, needs some encouragement.