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Are statues idols?

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When Catholics pray before a statue, they are not adoring the marble or the wood used to create it.

Father Kenneth
Doyle

Q. In the Book of Revelation (9:20), I read this: "The rest of the human race, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, to give up the worship of demons and idols made from gold, silver, bronze and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk."

Why, then, do Catholics worship statues? Aren't they religious idols?" (St. James, Missouri)

A. Catholics do not worship statues. They use statues of Christ or of the saints to help them recall the people those statues represent -- just as it is easier to remember one's mother by looking at a photograph of her.

When Catholics pray before a statue, they are not adoring the marble or the wood used to create it. They are reminding themselves of the virtues displayed by those depicted and asking for heavenly help in their lives.

God forbade the worship of statues, but he did not forbid making statues for religious purposes. Some who attack the Church on this refer to the passage in the Book of Exodus (20:4-5) that says: "You shall not make for yourself an idol or a likeness of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or serve them."

But one need only read a bit further in Exodus (25:18) to hear the Lord's command that statues of angels be fashioned: "Make two cherubim of beaten gold for the two ends of the cover."

Father Kenneth Doyle is a columnist for Catholic News Service

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