No, the statues you see in Catholic churches are not false gods (Idols). But I contend that some of the people walking around in our churches are our new false gods.
“And the Lord spoke all these words: I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt not have strange gods before me. Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth.” Exodus 20:1-4
“Thou shalt not make to thyself any molten gods (idols)” Exodus 34:17
“And the Lord said to him (Moises): make a brazen serpent, and set it up for a sign: which when they that were bitten looked upon, they were healed.” Numbers 21:8
“Thou shalt make also two cherubims of beaten gold, on the two side of the oracle (Ark of the Covenant).” Exodus 25: 18
An idol is a statue or painting of a false god like the calf that the Israelites adored in the desert. Why would God say not to have any graven images, like statues or pictures of anything, and then go and order Moises to make a serpent and two cherubim angels.
Because the statue or photo does not make a god. It is what the people believe in that makes it an idol or false god. So the statues of Jesus, Mary, the angels and the other saints are not false gods, because we Catholics do not believe they are gods. They are only pictures of holy people who serve and died for Jesus in this world, and are now forever with Him in heaven.
Throughout the Old Testament in the Bible, the constant sin, that God punished the Israelites for all the time, was worshiping and sacrificing to false gods. This theme dominates the whole Old Testament.
Since we are still the same human race and under the same propensity to sin (because of Adam and Eve’s sin and concupiscence), we need to see if we are falling into idolatry today as did God’s chosen race did before.
It all started with DesCarte when he taught that to prove the existence of God, one needs to begin with the undeniable experience of one’s self. Then you go from there to prove the rest from your subjective reality. This put man in the center of the universe rather than God.
The French Revolution soon followed and the humanist replace God with man. The “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen” proclaimed liberty, equality, the inviolability of property and the right to resist oppression. Man became the judge over what is good and bad and left God out of the equation. During the French Revolution, Robespierre placed a prostitute on the altar of the Cathedral of Notre Dame and called her the goddess of reason or liberty.
Since Vatican II, it seems that Catholics have tended to fall into the idolatry of self worship, where man puts all the emphasis on himself rather than God. Before you get all excited, read and judge for yourself. I do not think this was necessarily planned out that way, but you can see this tendency in how Catholics view the Sacred liturgy, the Bible, morals and themselves.
With the new mass said by the priest facing the people (even though it was not written that way), the people have become more so the center of the mass, and God secondary. With the Tridentine Mass where the priest and people face God, God is always adore and there is no danger of focusing on the people.
Every Catholic has his own subjective taste as to what liturgy should be like or what kind of liturgy they like. This is evident in every parish where there is a youth mass, quiet mass, organ mass, guitar mass, charismatic mass and Spanish mass. Everyone goes to the mass they like. And if they do not like a mass, they go somewhere where they find their kind of mass. It is all self centered. Does anyone ask God what kind of mass He wants?
When I was young and traveled with my parents all over the world, Holy Mass was the same everywhere no matter what country or time of the day and always in the same language (Latin). Masses were full of large families with children on Sunday all over the world. Today with our self-adulation masses where everyone goes to the mass they like, we are loosing more and more Catholics every day.
I was very involved in Life Teen Masses before discovering that the Holy Mass was the Sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary. I would hear the confessions of these youth and be amazed at how much sin dominated their lives. I did not see conversions. Yes, some converted, but most enjoyed the show and stayed the same afterward.
In my childhood parish, the liturgy committee was continually come up with new ways of celebrating the mass. They moved the altar from one place to another. They moved the chairs around. They had drama. It was prayer and entertainment.
I greatly respect Cardinal Ranjith of Colombo Sri Lanka. In a letter he wrote to Una Voce he clearly stated exactly what I am trying to say. Here is some of what he wrote: “Liturgy for this reason can never be what man creates. For if we worship the way we want and fix the rules ourselves, then we run the risk of creating Aaron’s Golden Calf. We ought to constantly insist on worship as participation in what God Himself does, else we run the risk of engaging in idolatry.
Liturgical symbolism helps us to rise above what is human to what is divine. In this, it is my firm conviction that the Vetus Ordo (Latin Mass) represents to a great extent and in the most fulfilling way that mystical and transcendent call to an encounter with God in the liturgy. Hence the time has come for us to not only renew through radical changes the content of the new liturgy, but to encourage more and more a return to the Vetus Ordo as a way for a true renewal of the Church, which was what the Fathers of the Church seated in the Second Vatican Council so desired.
Hence the time has come for us to be courageous in working for a true reform of the reform and also a return to the true liturgy of the Church which had developed over it bi-millennial history in a continuous flow. I wish and pray that, that would happen.”
It is not only in the area of liturgy where we can worship ourselves as gods. As a priest all these years, I have experienced that most Catholics have their own personal belief in what is right and wrong. When we decide what is right or wrong on our own, we have replace God and become gods. So when every you decide you do not agree with the Bible or the Church’s teachings over the last 2000 years, you have made yourself god. You judge God’s truth (contained in the Bible and the deposit of faith) as wrong and yourself as right. We see most Catholics doing exactly this. They, as gods, pick and choose what is true and what is not true for them.
The grave sin of idolatry always brings down the chastisement of God. If people in the Old Testament were continually falling into idolatry, we had better be humble and see if we maybe doing the same. In the Tridentine Mass it is so clear see that God is the center of this liturgy. Why not have Holy Mass in a way that it teaches everyone who attends that God is being adored not man. Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi.
The original author of this blog passed away in July of 2016. RIP Father Carota.