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September 2014

Are Catholic Statues Idolatrous?

September 15, 2014

… I recently read some of the post in your website and I have started it when I found a video in YouTube entitled Is the World about to End? And after that I tried to read interesting topics on your site. By the way, I was raised as a Catholic when I was young but I am not sure what kind I belong to since I’ve read that there's a traditional and new one (I am not that familiar with all the technicalities, sorry about that). Again, I was raised as a Catholic but I’ve been missing church masses for some reasons. One of the reasons is the one I am about to tell you. Anyway, I have written this, and I've been meaning to ask this particular question to any Catholic member since it has been a looming over me for a very long time - is there any passage in the Bible that pertains to adoration (I'm not sure of the word I’ve use because I don't want to use the word worship) of religious images and sculptures. Do you have any video on it that clearly answers and explain this one?

Most of the Catholic churches I've been to in our country have this, on varying sizes and kinds.

I have this feeling inside me, that it is wrong, and most of the times it really creeps me out especially the big ones. It felt like believing in these man-made statues is like idolatry stated in Exodus. Many people go to them, kneel and pray for them, take care and dress them, and wipe their towels over them as if it would perform a miracle of some sorts. Most of the Catholics said it is mere representation of whom we pray for but (I would contest) Jesus did not bow his head to any statues just to pray to our Father or any man before him, so why do people need to do it now. It felt like this practice has been misleading us. Correct me if I am wrong to think of this matter.

My mother has few of these statues at home (Sto. Ninos, Mother Mary) and lately it bothers me… I hope you could clarify to me about your stand on religious images and statues, looking forward to it.

Thank you very much. God Bless.

Sincerely yours, Rheyan L

MHFM: We’re glad that you came across the material. No, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is completely Christian. However, Jesus Christ is not present in the Novus Ordo, as our material explains. Your problem on the issue arises because you are not convinced of Catholic teaching on the Eucharist. A properly consecrated Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. That’s very clear from the teaching of Jesus Christ and the Bible (see John chapter 6). It was held by the entire early Church. Therefore, the Eucharist should be adored. Your position is inconsistent with that truth of Christianity. You need to see our book, The Bible Proves the Teachings of the Catholic Church. It has a section on the overwhelming biblical proof for Catholic teaching on the Eucharist.

With regard to images and statues, your position is not correct.

First, what God forbids and condemns is the adoration of statues/images themselves, and the making of statues/images of idols and false gods.

Deuteronomy 5:8-9- “You shall not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any things, that are in heaven above, or that are in the earth beneath, or that abide in the waters under the earth. You shall not adore them, and you shall not serve them.…”

Notice that God says: you shall not adore them or serve them. That’s the key. He forbids making statues or images to adore them or to adore idols, creatures, false gods, etc. But He does not forbid using religious statues or images in His true faith and religion. In fact, He commanded religious statues to be made for his temple and they are approved in numerous places in the Bible.

Exodus 25:18-19- “And you shalt make two cherubim of gold, of beaten work shalt you make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat. And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on the two ends thereof.”

God specifically commands the making of two statues of cherubim. Cherubim are angels. This obviously refutes the idea that making statues or using religious images is forbidden. Such an idea is a total misrepresentation of the teaching of Sacred Scripture, which forbids them with reference to the idolatrous adoration of creatures, idols and false gods. Other passages in the Bible where we see references to God’s command to make statues for true religious purposes are: Exodus 26:1; 1 Kings 6 (3 Kings 6 in some versions); and 1 Kings 7:25-36 (3 Kings 7:25-36 in some versions).

We also find God commanding the use of an image to cure people – an image which, at first thought, some would find surprising. God commanded Moses to make an image of a serpent for the people to look upon and be healed.

Numbers 21:8- “And the Lord said unto Moses, make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looks upon it, shall live.”

Third, when Catholics honor an image, trust is not placed in the image itself. Rather, we honor the one represented by the image by means of the image.

Council of Trent, Sess. 25, Decree on Sacred Images: “Moreover, that the images of Christ, of the Virgin Mother of God, and of the other saints are to be placed and retained especially in the churches, and that due honor and veneration is to be given them; not, however, that any divinity or virtue is believed to be in them by reason of which they are to be venerated, or that something is to be asked of them, or that trust is to be placed in images, as was done of old by the Gentiles who placed their hope in idols; but because the honor which is shown them is referred to the prototypes which they represent, so that by means of the images which we kiss and before which we uncover the head and prostrate ourselves, we adore Christ and venerate the saints whose likeness they bear. That is what was defined by the decrees of the councils, especially of the Second Council of Nicaea, against the opponents of images.”

The Bible also teaches that even the relics of saintly people are venerated and can be miraculous. See Acts chapter 19:11-12 concerning the miraculous handkerchiefs of St. Paul, and 2 Kings 2:13-14 concerning the miraculous cloak of Elijah.

Acts 19:11-12- “And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.”

2 Kings 2:13-14- “He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.  Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and struck the water with it… When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.”

So, the Catholic position on the proper use of religious images, statues and relics is not contrary to the Bible.  It is the truly biblical view.

Moreover, you mention that you were raised a ‘Catholic.’ You were actually raised in the Vatican II sect. That’s not the true Catholic Church. It doesn’t teach or represent the true Catholic faith. Its New Masses are invalid and the sect is empty. That’s a big reason why you and so many others were not inclined to be more interested in what it has to ‘offer.’ It’s crucial that you consult the material on our site, pray 15 decades of the Rosary each day, and take the steps to embrace the traditional Catholic faith.

For more, see our book The Bible Proves the Teachings of the Catholic Church, our Refuting Protestantism section and our future materials on these matters.