What Should Catholics Say When Accused of Worshiping Images?

by Steve Ray on July 5, 2018

From Taylor Marshall’s blog.

“Thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image.”

If you look at the context of the commandment, you’ll see that it speaks to worshiping an image. This is wrong because God is invisible and without form. He is so transcendent that even His name is simply “I AM”.

So why do Catholics venerate images? Firstly, it should be said at the beginning that Catholics do not “worship” images. They worship and adore God alone. They venerate and honor saints, regular people (e.g. George Washington or their spouses), relics, altars, flags, etc. This is a very important distinction.

Things have changed since the Old Testament. The Word was made flesh. Christ is the image (Greek: icon) of the Father. God manifested Himself and once and for all in Christ.

The sacred image, the liturgical icon, principally represents Christ. It cannot represent the invisible and incomprehensible God, but the incarnation of the Son of God has ushered in a new “economy” of images. (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1159)

Christ was a true man and able to be depicted. If you took a photo of Christ it would turn out like any other photo. Thus, we can depict Him. And we can depict Mary and the saints with pictures and statues just as we would depict Abraham Lincoln in a memorial or have a picture of our wife on our desk at work.

Moreover, we can show honor to these images – though we may not worship them, because they are no God. We can salute a flag of the USA. We can salute an image of Mary. Mary gave a body and blood to the Christ for our redemption. If we salute a flag that symbolizes the USA, why not salute a picture that symbolizes Mary? Same goes with the cross or even a Bible. We show honor, but we don’t worship. Worship is given to God alone.

The honor paid to sacred images is a “respectful veneration,” not the adoration due to God alone (Catechism of the Catholic Church #3132)

This “respectful veneraton” is what Catholics show to the physical signs of redemption in our midst.

God commanded images (two and three dimensional) to adorn His holy temple in the Old Testament. Catholics follow this Old Testament example and the earliest Christian worship places also were decorated with images.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: