Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Do Catholics Worship Idols/Statues?

Many people wonder why Catholics have statues in their churches and homes, and whether they worship them as idols. The answer is simple: Catholics do not worship statues, but they use them as reminders of the holy persons they represent. Statues are like pictures of our family and friends: they help us remember them and feel closer to them. Statues also inspire us to imitate the virtues of those who followed Christ faithfully.

Human beings need visual cues and overall sensual cues to understand the world around them. This is why as children, humans love to draw, play with blocks, sort out things, touch everything, and so on.  Before humans can learn the alphabet or numbers, they have to see the alphabet and numbers. They have to memorize the shape and structure of the alphabet and numbers. Without this, they will not be able to learn. Similarly, without sounds, the human brain cannot learn how to structure its own organized sound or speech.  All humans are limited by the five senses. This is why images and statues help the human brain process what and who they represent. Many Protestants are under the false impression that statues or images are bad, evil, or idols. This is far from the truth and poor scholarship of Sacred Scripture. 

The Bible does not forbid making statues or images for religious purposes. In fact, God himself commanded the Israelites to make statues of angels for the Ark of the Covenant (Ex 25:18-20) and a bronze serpent for healing (Num 21:8-9). God only forbade the worship of statues or images as gods, which is idolatry. Idolatry is giving to a creature the honor and worship that belongs to God alone. Nothing in Catholic doctrine or teaching requests this or even mentions this as a basic tenet of the faith.

Catholics do not worship statues as gods, but they venerate them as symbols of God and his saints. To venerate means to honor or respect someone or something. Catholics venerate statues by praying before them, kissing them, bowing to them, or lighting candles near them. These gestures are not acts of worship, but expressions of love and reverence. In human societies, some groups use bows, and other gestures to show honor and respect to others.  These are not worship. They are just social customs used to convey respect to others.  Catholics direct their prayers and devotion to God and his saints, not to the statues themselves.

The Catholic Church teaches that "the honor paid to sacred images is a 'respectful veneration,' not the adoration due to God alone" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2132). The Church also teaches that "by becoming incarnate, the Son of God introduced a new 'economy' of images" (CCC, 2131). This means that by taking on a human nature and a visible body, Jesus Christ made it possible for us to depict him in art and to use his image as a way of drawing closer to him.

The same principle applies to the images of Mary and the saints. They are not idols, but icons: windows that open our eyes to the reality of heaven. They show us what it means to be holy and how to follow Christ in different states of life. They also intercede for us before God and help us with their prayers.

Statues in churches serve as reminders. They do not replace God.  They are not idols. God Himself commanded the construction of an image in Exodus 25:10-22.  Not only did God command the construction of the ark with the two golden statues of angels (cherubs), but the people also knelt down and prostrated themselves before it to pray.  Look at Joshua 7:6 "Then Joshua tore his clothes and prostrated himself with his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD until evening, he and elders of Israel; and they cast dust on their heads."  Why would God allow the Hebrews to bow before and prostrate themselves before a box with two gold statues of angels on top if He condemned images in Exodus 20?  Here are some more passages about statues and images used by the Hebrews and commanded by God to be used:

1 Kings 6:25-27: Cherubs are carved onto the walls and ceiling of the temple, indicating the Lord’s devotedness and guidance to His servants.

Ezekiel 10:14: “And each one had four faces. The first face was the face of a cherub, the second face was the face of a man, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.” 

Exodus 37:7-9: Describes the depiction of cherubim in the Tabernacle.

1 Kings 6:29: “On all the walls around the temple, inside and out, he carved cherubs, palm trees, and flowers in bloom.” 

These passages highlight the artistic representations of cherubim in sacred spaces, including the temple. Cherubim were often carved or depicted as part of the temple’s ornamentation, symbolizing God’s presence and protection.  

The reason is clear; they are not idols and God wanted them.  God allows things that bring attention to Him. Images of God, angels, and saints do not take away from this. They bring the human mind and senses to praise God and bring human beings to honor the people represented just like we honor our deceased loved ones in photos.  Moreover, human beings are made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27). So as long as the images are made to honor God, they are okay. However, if someone believes that the actual image or statue is God or a god, then it is idolatry.  

The idols mentioned in other parts of the Bible are not Catholic statues. These idols are of the gods of the Canaanites: Baal, Asherah, and Astarte. These do not bring attention to the One True God. This is why they are idols.  

It is interesting to note that Protestant sects love to collect money. They claim God will perform miracles if they give donations. Well, what are these donations? They are dollar bills with images of dead white men.  If we take the interpretation of Protestants, then these are idols as well.  So Protestants who request donations from their people are idol worshiping!  Ironic, right?!

If you want to learn more about why Catholics have statues and how they use them, you can check out these sources:

- Do Catholics Worship Statues? | Catholic Answers Tract 

- Do Catholics Worship Statues? - The Catholic Company 

- Do Catholics worship religious idols? - Catholic Courier 

- Why Do Catholics Bow and Pray before Statues? - Catholic Answers

- Introduction to the Catholic Church - Book by Sacerdotus

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