The modernist crisis that we are going through right now in the Catholic Church is just one more of the devils works. He has been working, with his friends, through out Catholic history to prevail over the Church of Christ.
In the 7th, 8th, and 9th Centuries we had the very powerful heresy of Iconoclasm (Eikonoklasmos), that taught that the veneration of images and statues was sinful. It began with the moslem influence whom falsely believe that any kind of picture or statue of the human form is an abominable idol.
The Christian group that first took on this belief were the Paulicians. They believed that matter was bad and therefore the human body was bad. Therefore they did not believe in pictures, relics, the sacraments and ritual. They detested honoring the cross because they denied that Jesus was really crucified. They would burn the bodies of the saints that were buried in churches.
This heresy was especially strong in the Eastern Byzantine Catholic world. It was the holy monks who defended the right to venerate images and icons. And because of this, they were exiled, tortured and killed by those who were in power in the government and church. In the Roman Martyrology you read about these saints who gave up their lives to defend the right to venerated sacred images.
The Byzantine Emperor Leo the Isaurian published an edict and ordered Pope Gregory II to summon a general council to condemn the use of Images and statues. He threatened, that if he did not do this, he would even to come to Rome, take the pope prisoner and destroy the famous bronze statue of St. Peter. There were others who agreed with him that the Jews and the muslims would convert to Christianity if the veneration of Icons or Images was condemned. He also believed that the honoring of images caused superstition, weakness and division in his empire. He also wrongly claimed it went against the 1st. Commandment of having no false gods before God or images of what is in the sky or earth or under the sea. (This is wrong if you adore these images as gods). But is you venerate a picture of Jesus, Mary or one of the saints you are not adoring a false God.
Pope Gregory II wrote to try to convert the Emperor. But he also turned to pray that “Christ will send a demon to torture the emperor’s body that his soul be saved.” 1 Corinthians 5:5. St. John Damascene (d. 754) wrote his famous apologies “against those who destroy the holy icons”.
After Pope Gregory II died and his successor Pope Gregory III called a synod in Rome in 731. With 93 bishops present at St. Peter’s, they declared excommunicated all who broke, defiled or took images of Christ, His mother, the Apostles and other saints.
Emperor Leo sent a fleet to Italy to punish the pope but it was wrecked and dispersed by a storm. Also earthquakes, pestilences and famines devastated his empire. He died in 741 and was succeeded by his son Constantine V who continued persecution with even more severity.
In 754, the emperor called a synod in Constantinople with 340 bishops attending who also strongly agreed with the him. They also condemned the asking for the intercession of the saints. But the four other patriarchs; Rome, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, did not send any delegates.
When Constantine died, his son Leo IV ruled, but was lenient in enforcing the ban on Icons. His own wife Irene hid some in her room. But then Leo began to get strict against them and was about to banish the Empress, when he died. She was regent for their 9 year old son Constantine VI and went about restoring the veneration of Holy Images.
The pope agreed to have the Second general Council of Nicaea II in 787. 300 bishops met with the legates from Rome. There it was declared that Iconoclasm came from the Jews, Saracens and heretics. They stated the reason for the veneration of images from the Old Testament about the images in the temple (Exodus 25:18-22; Numbers 7:89; Ezekiel 41:18-19: and Hebrews 9:5).
But only 27 years later, another Iconoclast persecution broke out. Again the emperors Leo V, Michael II and Theophilus use all their power to punish the true Catholics. Most of the bishops and some monks went along out of fear of torture and death and to keep their relations with those in power.
A few heroic monks were faithful and led by St. Theodore. He correctly pointed out that when Jesus took on human nature, he became the material image of God. Therefore there is absolutely nothing wrong with a picture of Jesus. And Iconoclast are against Jesus who chose to take on human flesh. So many of these monks were exiled, imprisoned and killed.
Finally when Emperor Theophilus died in 842, his wife Theodora opened the prisons and recalled the exiled. On the first Sunday of Lent February 19, 842, the icons were brought back to churches in solemn procession. This feast is called in the Byzantine Church the “Feast of Orthodoxy” and is celebrated by remembering that the Church eventually triumphs over all heresies. On that day they they read out the decree that anathematizes all heretics.
Most protestants condemn the use of statues. One of the first thing these heretics do is condemn people for having statues or pictures of Our Mother Mary. They use the 1st. Commandment that says to not make images of what is in the sky, on the earth or in the sea. But this is condemning idols that are made in the image of a person, animal or thing.
We Catholics know perfectly well the difference between a picture of God (Jesus), of Mary, of an Angel, or a saint and an idol that is worshipped as a false god. We understand that when Jesus took on our human nature, he became God manifest in His human body. It is like the Shroud of Turin He left for us to venerate. It helps us to connect in prayer with the God who is unseen.
So there will always be the devil’s lies in and outside the Catholic Church. There will always be people in and outside the church who have power to persecute those who stay faithful to the 2000 year old Catholic truth. We as traditional Catholics are willing to resist these lies of the devil. We are also willing to be persecuted for standing up for Biblical Catholic truth. It is so wonderful to be a traditional Catholic.