Our Lady of Czestochowa
One of the charges often leveled against members of the Roman Catholic cult is that they worship idols. Rome, of course, is quick to deny such allegations, as are those under her sway.
My dictionary offers this definition of the word IDOL:
Catholics point to teachings in their Catechism, where one might read strong reminders from Scripture concerning idols and those who worship them:
This is godly teaching, drawn directly from the oracles of God as recorded by the Prophets, the Psalmist and writers of non-Canonical books. Sadly, the CCC does not stop here, but goes on to explain that the worship Catholics render before images is not idolatry. The rest of paragraph 2112 reads:
Now, let's take a moment to closely examine the words in this second paragraph:
"RELIGIOUS WORSHIP IS NOT DIRECTED TO IMAGES IN THEMSELVES, CONSIDERED AS MERE THINGS…"
Well, I should hope not. I cannot imagine that any Catholic actually believes that the object or image to which he is praying is the actual intended object of his worship. No! That can't be true, for Catholics pray to the Blessed Sacrament, which is but a bit of bread that has been blessed by a priest. They believe that this wafer embodies the "real Presence" of Christ.
Well, that's all right then. After all, if the consecrated wafer really is Jesus Christ, then when the Catholic faithful genuflect before the ciborium and make the sign of the cross on their foreheads, heart and shoulders - sometimes kissing the fingers which did the deed as an additional sign of piety - they are praying to the person of their Christ. I guess that's okay. NOT!
". . . BUT UNDER THEIR DISTINCTIVE ASPECT AS IMAGES LEADING US ON TO GOD INCARNATE. . . "
I suppose this is telling RCC believers that when they pray to a statue or some other representation of Mary, or St. Francis, or any of the other Catholic demigods, and then plant a kiss on the thing they really are just using the object to channel or focus their prayers and gestures of affection to God Himself. One wonders why they don't simply pray to God, without all the intervening crockery, paint and marble.
". . . THE MOVEMENT TOWARD THE IMAGE DOES NOT TERMINATE IN IT AS IMAGE, BUT TENDS TOWARD THAT WHOSE IMAGE IT IS . . ."
Oops!! Looks to me as though Thomas Aquinas needed a proof reader. First he tells us, in what has become official RCC doctrine, that images lead religious worship rendered them to God. Then, in the next sentence, he explains that the 'movement toward the image' (whatever that gobbledygook means) does not stop with the image but "TENDS TOWARD THAT WHOSE IMAGE IT IS."
Now, taking Aquinas literally, which is always risky when dealing with RCC theology, one would reasonably assume that religious worship offered to a statue of St. Michael would 'tend toward' Michael the Archangel, a created being, and not toward God. By the same token, when one is about to flag down a cab in New York City, the prayers, petitions and offerings he might direct to St. Fiacre (patron saint of cab drivers) presumably tend to that particular spirit. I find it interesting that Fiacre is also patron of gardeners, gunners and those afflicted with syphilus, but that is an aside and not relevant to the subject being examined.
Let's see how this goes: the RCC catechism cites Scripture and Apocrypha to denounce idolatry, then goes on to teach that the RCC practice of rendering worship to created things is okay, because the worship 'tends toward that whose image it is.' Roman Catholic churches, literature and dashboards abound with images of Christ and His body parts (heart, etc.), Mary and other demigods. Catholic faithful wear amulets, scapulars, and medals, all of which depict 'sacred' body parts, various deities of the RCC pantheon, etc. In that Roman Catholics indeed do render 'religious worship' to all these things, or 'that whose image it is,' and since not all these images are of God, then one might reasonably conclude that Roman Catholics indeed do practice idolatry.
Just a refresher concerning what idols are:
Note the use of the weasel word divine. This suggests to me that it must be okay to render less-than-divine worship to a plaster statue of a saint or to a scrap of cloth from a rag that has been touched to the tomb or reliquary of some Catholic demigod, or saint.
Given that Catholic faithful kneel, pray, burn candles, etc., before images of body parts and the demigods that Catholics call saints, one would think that so doing must surely constitute idolatry. Not so, for the Catholic Church has found a way to justify such idolatrous activities. This is made clear in the remainder of the entry in Attwater's dictionary:
Roman Catholicism's official Catechism helps us to understand what constitutes idolatry:
The Roman Catholic Church is dead against idolatry and makes no bones about her stand. A quick look at her Catechism will back up that statement:
What is an idolater? The Catechism of the Catholic Church provides an answer:.
Not too long ago, I watched a television documentary that included a segment on the 'holiest place in all of Poland.' Earnest Catholics would immediately recognize that I am talking about the monastery at Czestochowa, home of the famous painting known as the Black Madonna. This painting, which has hung in the same place since the 13th century, is credited with innumerable cures and other miraculous happenings.
In the documentary, viewers were shown scenes of hundreds of Catholic faithful, travelling by train, bus and automobile, or tramping along country roads while carrying backpacks. All were moving toward the walled monastery where they intended to render homage to the Black Madonna. One scene depected hundreds of Catholic faithful, dressed warmly, for the weather was chilly, lying face down on the grassy field outside the monastery, arms spread wide, as they prayed and paid homage to the Black Madonna. Another scene, inside the monastery, showed people in the same attitude offering their religious worship to the somewhat tattered and gilded image of Mary.
Another scene showed a huge crowd gathered outside the monastery during a papal visit. The voice-over said that as many as a million people are in attendance at Czestochowa when popes come to pay their religious worship to the Black Madonna. The camera cut away to a wall covered with gold crosses, pendants, and other tokens of gratitude to the Black Madonna for services rendered and prayers answered. For those who may have been inspired to leave an offering but found themselves a bit short of cash, the thoughtful monks had provided an ATM machine at the shrine.
But all these prayers, humbling postures and fiduciary sacrifices are not wrong, says the Roman Catechism, for they are not rendered to the painting, but to the created being represented by the painting. And, of course, it is not adoration.
Forgive me. I am so naïve. When I see people lying prostrate on wet grass or a cold stone floor, praying before what is an altogether unremarkable painting, some of them in tears or showing other signs of rapture, you cannot convince me they are not rendering worship to the being before whose representation they are praying. And that constitutes idolatry, as far as I am concerned, but Catholicism say differently:
Did you get that? Mary and the Catholic saints are at the right hand of God. Hmmm. I wonder where that came from? If I understand this, the images Catholics pray before and/or to are mere representations of former humans and can neither hear the prayers nor help the prayer, yet God somehow is worshipped by praying to an image of Saint Melvin, or whoever. Sounds like doubletalk to me.
Some Jews of Isaiah's time prayed to statues and other representations of the various gods they looked to for protection and favor. Speaking through the Prophet, God had this to say about those idols/images
There is no need for statues, paintings or intercessors in order to approach God. Those whom He has chosen to be His adopted children, co-heirs with Christ, may approach the very throne of God in confidence, calling upon Him as 'Father.'
|Home | Concerning Idolatry | Catholic Stuff | PTG Forum|
(C) 1994-2008 Ron Loeffler