Roman Catholic Worship of Objects

Roman Catholics pray to Mary and give her adoration. When protestants object and say this is giving Mary undue worship, Catholics respond with their official doctrine of making a distinction between what is given Mary and what is given Jesus. Thomas Aquinas explains the distinction in his Summa Theologica, III.25.5. Here he makes a distinction between latria, which is full worship, and hyperdulia, which is high adoration.

Since latria is due to God alone, it is not due to a creature so far as we venerate a creature for its own sake. . . Since, therefore, the Blessed Virgin is a mere rational creature, the worship of latria is not due to her, but only the veneration of dulia; but in a higher degree than to other creatures, since she is the Mother of God. for this reason we say that not any kind of dulia is due her but hyperdulia.

Thus Aquinas and RCC theologians ever since have claimed that Mary is not receiving true worship (latria) but is given high adoration (hyperdulia).

It is interesting to note what Aquinas says in the two questions just prior, III.25.3-4, where he says Christians can give full worship, latria, to created images of Christ and the cross. Aquinas says that since worship of a carved or painted wooden image of Christ is worship of the person of Christ,

the same reverence should be shown to Christ’s image as to Christ Himself. Since, therefore, Christ is adored with the adoration of latria, it follows that His image should be adored with the adoration of latria.

Speaking of the cross of Christ, Aquinas says:

In each way it is worshiped with the same adoration as Christ–namely, the adoration of latria. And for this reason also we speak to the cross and pray to it, as to the Crucified Himself. But if we speak of the effigy of Christ’s cross in any other material whatsoever–for instance, in stone or wood, silver or gold–thus we venerate the cross merely as Christ’s image, which we worship with the adoration of latria, as stated above.

Thus Aquinas makes a distinction between two forms of adoration for Mary, saying she is due hyperdulia and not latria, while a carved image of Jesus or His cross is due full worship, latria.

In practice, such theological distinctions split hairs so fine that it is a distinction in name only, certainly a distinction so fine that it requires special theological glasses to see it. The average person in mass on Sunday mornings will not practice a difference between these.

The problem is not limited to the untrained folk. As I have shown in another blog post, theologians with the highest theological degrees from the best Roman Catholic seminaries publish teaching material with the proper imprimaturs that include horrible errors that confuse the works of God with the works of Mary. (see this post on Devotion to Mary)

So we must disagree with Aquinas on these points. The usually revered theologian has gone off the rails here, saying that Christians can worship a folded paper creation of the cross with the same worship as due God. To do so creates an idol, and no created thing can be worshiped, even if it is an image of Christ, for the sinful heart of man always transfers the worship to the object. This is why God was so strict in preventing images being before the worshiping masses in the Old Testament.


About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
This entry was posted in Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Roman Catholic Worship of Objects

  1. Actually, the difference is easy to see. Check out this prayer

    We ask God to have mercy on us.
    We ask Mary and/or saints merely to pray for us.

    You ask human beings if they would pray for you.
    You ask God alone for mercy.

    • humblesmith says:

      The prayer that you’ve linked, and other prayers on the same site that are prayed to Mary, take things that are only attributable to God and assign them to Mary. As examples:
      –“Holy Spirit, of whom Mary is the spouse”: No, she is not. The Holy Spirit does not have a spouse. The Bible speaks of the entire church as the bride of Christ, but never does the Holy Spirit have a spouse. This elevates Mary well beyond her true position.

      –“Mary, our light.” No, Jesus is the light of the world. He speaks of his followers as having His light to shine to the world, but no human is ever said to be the light of another Christian.

      –“Mary, chief work of God.” No, Mary is another human, just like us. If anything is the chief work of God, it is the cross and the resurrection.

      –“Mary, seated at the right hand of Jesus” No. “Seated at the right hand” means co-reigning. Such statements hold Mary as sitting in a throne, co-reigning with Jesus. This is heresy.

      The other prayers to Mary on this site are no better. These errors are significant, major confusions of doctrine about what God does and what humans do.

      • Alright, so you’re saying God did not have a marriage relationship with the woman he impregnated? He wasn’t married to the mother of His Son?

        Because Mary *IS* God’s mother. In a typical birth, man contributes sperm, woman contributes egg and womb, God creates and infuses the human soul, and the woman gives birth to the person whose soul God created. Mary gave to God everything a mother gives to a child – her egg and nine months use of her womb. The only difference is that no other woman gives birth to a pre-existing person, instead, the person is created in her womb. For Mary, it was different she gave birth to a pre-existing Person: the Son. But her motherhood of the Person of God (the Son) cannot be contested, and hasn’t been since the Council of Ephesus.

        Mary is the light in the sense that she is the only merely human person to have proclaimed the Word of the Gospel perfectly. She did it in a stable without saying anything. She is the window through which the Light entered the world. That is the sense in which Catholics speak of her as Light of the World.

        As for Mary’s Queenship, check the Old Testament. Solomon’s queen was not his wife, it was his mother. Israel’s queens were all mother to the king. That’s how Israel’s royalty worked. Mary is a simple Jewish girl, but she gave birth to the King of the Universe, who was a Jew because salvation comes from the Jews. His kingship was foreshadowed in the kingship of Solomon, her queenship was foreshadowed in the queenship of Solomon’s mother.

        But the original point stands: we ask God for mercy. We ask Mary and each other for prayers. A very simple distinction, easily applied in practice.

        • humblesmith says:

          I’m saying that the Bible never describes the Holy Spirit as married to Mary. Such a thought is brought to the scriptures and applied to them, not derrived from them.

          The origianl point to calling Mary the mother of God was to emphasize Jesus diety, to elevate Jesus. She was not the mother of any mere human; rather, she was the mother of Jesus, who is God almighty. When the phrase gets brought into English, the emphasis gets put on Mary, and it sounds to many people that she is originating diety, which she is not. We can use the phrase mother of God as long as we realize what is meant is she is the mother of the humanity of Jesus, and the diety prexisted. She did not give birth to the person of God, she gave birth to the human manifestation of a person who was already God. a person who was already God.

          The gospel message is that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead, and by trusting Him we can be reconciled to God. That is the gospel. To suggest that Mary, merely by giving birth to Jesus, gave a clearer, more perfect proclamation of this message than the twelve apostles did when they wrote the New Testament, is to wrench the scriptures from their moorings and introduce some sort of other definition of the gospel. Nowhere are we taught this in scripture; such teaching is brought to the Bible and applied to it, not derrived from it.

          As to Mary’s queenship, I would not have so much issue if she were not constantly lifted up as apparently co-reigning, and in some RCC descriptions seemingly lifted even higher. In no sense is she “sitting at the right hand,” for this is a right only given to the reigning monarch, which she is not.

          As the couple of posts I’ve done on this topic show, RCC teaching clearly, plainly, repeatedly goes beyond merely asking Mary to remember us in her prayers. I gave extensive quotes in the other post, and more are available on the website you provided, clearly available for all to see. But even saying we ask Mary or other saints to pray for us is problematic, for we are told in Hebrews that we have the right to go into the very throneroom and petition the King directly whenever we want. We have no need to stay outside and ask another servant to do this for us.

          • humblesmith says:

            And BTW, none of this addresses the main thrust of the post, which is the RCC full worship of objects.

          • “She did not give birth to the person of God, she gave birth to the human manifestation of a person who was already God.” Ok, well, you’ve clearly never been to any seminary, Protestant, Orthodox or Catholic. The heresy you espouse there was condemned at the Council of Ephesus, 432 AD, IIRC.

            “To suggest that Mary, merely by giving birth to Jesus, gave a clearer, more perfect proclamation of this message than the twelve apostles did when they wrote the New Testament, is to wrench the scriptures from their moorings and introduce some sort of other definition of the gospel. ” Well, that would be true if you worshipped the Bible as God. The Bible is God’s Word, there is a certain analogical correspondence to the Logos, but Jesus Incarnate in the world is a lot more important than the Bible is. Thus, Mary’s work is a lot more important than any other apostolic work. And you yourself believe this, because you know the Incarnate God died for our sins. The Bible doesn’t remove sin, nor do apostolic teachings. Only Mary’s Son did that. And He chose Mary alone out of all humanity to be the vessel through which He entered the world. If God honored her in that way, on what grounds do we refuse to honor her?

            As far as worshipping objects, Catholics don’t worship statues or icons. If we did, we would readily admit it. It makes a lot more sense than saying we worship the Eucharist. At least the statues LOOK like something, the Eucharist just looks like a piece of bread. Yet Catholics will insist that we worship what looks like bread and we do NOT worship statues. We look a lot more foolish doing what we actually do than what you falsely assert we do.

          • humblesmith says:

            I would normally respond to such statements by either leaving the discussion here, or responding with another post, but due to the seriousness of the charges, will try to respond here.

            The Council of Ephesus (431) was convened to deal with Nestorius and his teachings about the nature of Jesus, and the use of the term theotokos, which means God-bearer or God-birther. As Alister McGrath states in his anthology of historical theology, The Christian Theology Reader, “Relatively little of Nestorius’ body of writings has been passed down to us.” (p.260). He then proceeds to quote the best source he could find, an old church history from Scholasticus (Socrates), who describes Nestorius position as “He adopted a controversial attitude, andtotally rejected the term Theotokos. . . Nestorius acquired the popular reputation of asserting that the Lord was nothing more than a human being . . . “(p.260). Describing Nestorius’ view of theotokos, McGrath states “Nestorius was, however, alarmed at the implications of using this term. It seemed to deny the humanity of Christ.”(p.261)

            As with most controversies, the issue had been brewing for a while before the Council of Ephesus was convened. A certain “second letter from Cyril,” Bishop of Alexandria, had been sent to Nestorius a year earlier, and the main purpose of the Council was to approve the condemnations found in the letter. Without including the entire text, a summary of the twelve points of anathema, which is the summation of what the Council of Ephesus wrote, are as follows:

            1. Anathematizes anyone who denies that Emmanuel is God, or that the virgin is Theotokos, for “she brought forth after the flesh the Word of God who has become flesh.” (emphasis mine)
            2. Speaks of the Word being from the Father and being united with flesh.
            3. Speaks against dividing Christ’s two natures after their union.
            4. Speaks against attributing different characteristics to Christ’s spirit and his flesh.
            5. Speaks against calling Christ a mere man who was a bearer of God.
            6. Speaks against calling the Word to be the God of Christ.
            7. Speaks against calling Jesus a mere man who was operated by God.
            8. Speaks against worshiping Jesus’ humanity and spirit as two (“worshiped together with”)
            9. Speaks against saying Jesus was glorified by a spirit outside of Himself.
            10.Speaks against saying that Jesus was “not the very Word from God who became our high priest and apostle, when he became flesh and a man like us…”(emphasis mine)
            11.Speaks against those who say the flesh of Jesus does not “belong to the Word” but says it “belongs to another.”
            12.Speaks against those who say the Word did not suffer, die, and rise in the flesh.
            (from Documents of the Christian Church, Bettenson & Maunder, 1999, 50-51, and from here: )

            These are the statements that are the condemnations of the Council of Ephesus. The issue of Mary and Theotokos were secondary to the emphasis put on the implications of the nature of Christ. Further, as I said, the emphasis is different in theotokos, which puts God first, and the English “Mother of God” which emphasizes Mary. Actually, Nestorius seemed to hold the exact opposite, that putting theos first emphasized God too greatly.

            Further support is given in the classic Creeds of Christendom by Phillip Schaff, who writes of Nestorius “He was condemned by the Council of Ephesus, 431, for so teaching the doctrine of two natures of Christ as virtually to deny the unity of person, and for refusing to call Mary “the mother of God” . . .The Nestorians hold fast to the dyophysite Christology of their master, and protest against the Council of Ephesus, for teaching virtually the Eutychian heresy . . .” (1.79-80)

            So in summary, it is true that Nestorius and the Council of Ephesus dealt with Theotokos, but the main controversies and almost the entirety of the Councils documents deal with the implications to the nature of Christ. With the bulk of Nestorius’ writings lost, it is presumption at best to say that the Council of Ephesus declares heretical anyone who makes a distinction between the physical birth of Christ and the prexisting diety. Indeed, several of the council’s statements specifically say that the Word became flesh. It is false to be throwing around accusations of heresy for the distinctions I made in Mary birthing the humanity. I did not separate the diety from the humanity, but merely said that Mary was not the originator of the diety. I did not refuse to call her by that term, I merely pointed out that it’s emphasis is confusing in English and should be clarified.

            The nicest thing I can tell you is to be more circumspect in your accusations of heresy and your knowledge of history.

            Your last statement denied worshiping objects. This is good and commendable. I take it you then disagree with Aquinas on this point, for he clearly taught it in the Summa, as I quoted above.

  2. “She did not give birth to the person of God, she gave birth to the human manifestation of a person who was already God.”

    There is only one Person in Jesus Christ, the divine Person. There is no human person. If you say Mary did not give birth to the Person of God, then you say that God did not really incarnate – he merely manifested as a human being. That is completely false.

    In order to incarnate, God must have been contained within the human body. That means giving birth to the human body is giving birth to the Person. Despite all your quotes and obfuscations, your statement is, indeed, heresy.

    My statement about statues and icons is in reference to statues and icons of saints. Of course we adore the image of Christ with latria because that is what His human body is – an image. And there is certainly nothing wrong with adoring His human body since the Person of His divinity perfuses it, as was shown in my paragraphs above. Since His human body (an image) can be adored with latria, then every other icon that of Him can also be so worshipped.

  3. humblesmith says:

    Christ’s natures were explained clearly at the Councils of Nicea and Chalcedon, which I support. So we’ll stop here.

Comments are closed.