Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
Personally, I think such a charge is ludicrous. Celebrity worship is the adoration of mere fame for its own sake: adulation of somebody who is famous for being famous. So the cult of Paris Hilton, say, or some other hairdo of modest to no accomplishment is properly called "celebrity worship". The elevation of such figures is one of the most pernicious aspects of our culture, precisely because it says to our young: "Imitate this parasite, this wastrel, this scoundrel. Make it your goal to get your name and face on TV for the achievements of doing nothing but your nails or slapping your girlfriend around."
But the saints are venerated precisely because they have accomplished great things and are role models to be emulated. St. Paul told Corinthians "Imitate me as I imitate Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). Was he encouraging a cult of celebrity? No. He was pointing out that baby birds learn to fly by imitating adult birds. Exactly what the cult of the saints does is encourage us to become adults, worshipping Christ. Exactly what the culture of celebrity does is teach us to remain infantilized worshippers of mere fame, not Christ.