Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Idolatry, or not

One of the dumbest claims I've heard lately against Catholicism is that the Vatican "took out" the prohibition of idolatry or "removed the second commandment."  Sometimes they'll say it was "taken out of the teaching," as if by simply neglecting the subject, Rome could trick people into worshipping the statues (for some reason) that decorate Catholic churches.  Other times they'll actually say it was "taken out of the Bible," which they generally will explain, if you insist they justify their argument and in return show them a Catholic Bible that doesn't cite some spurious Nonalogue or have any textual gaps with the KJV, as "the second commandment was hidden between the first and third commandments with the way the text was laid out so Catholics wouldn't notice."  Basically that's saying Rome wants everyone to worship statues, so they messed with the punctuation and hoped nobody would ever look closely at the text or talk to someone with less pathetic reading comprehension skills about the Nine or Ten Commandments.  

I can only think they believe these accusations to hold any merit or possess any ability to convince anyone because their failure to distinguish idolatry from the mere presence of statuary in the argument stems from a cognitive failure that prevents them from recognizing the distinction.  Maybe they had some intent of targeting the veneration of saints as a practice, which I would understand, but when they follow up with "Where in the Bible does it say to worship Mary or the pope?" I realize I don't have a logic I can reach them with.  So, please, folks, if these are among the sharper arrows in your quiver, just please... rest in the knowledge that you're not going to win any converts by using them.
I've seen the same thing used to reject purgatory.  "It's, like, a second chance at salvation."  "No, it's not.  Only people who are saved go to purgatory.  Catholics just have a different understanding of how saving and sanctifying grace are applied to the saved soul.  If you're saved but still have some propensity to stumbling or backsliding in specific or habitual ways, purgatory is the stage or process by which that is rectified.  The damned don't get, or want, the option.  After the moment of death, you don't have anyone left on the fence who might choose a third option."  "Well, it still looks like a second chance at salvation."  "Well, 'what it looks like' isn't an argument."
Indeed, the teaching goes beyond the cliched overzealous affection for statues.  A higher standard is held out, one which should look familiar to almost everyone:
But back to that overzealous affection for statues and such:

For the record, here's the KJV's version of the first three commandments:

I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  Thou shalt have no other gods before me.  Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;  And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.  Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.  Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:  10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:  11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

And here's the NAB version:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall not have other gods beside me. 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. For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their ancestors’ wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation; but showing love down to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. You shall not invoke the name of the Lord, your God, in vain. For the Lord will not leave unpunished anyone who invokes his name in vain. Remember the sabbath day—keep it holy.Six days you may labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God. You shall not do any work, either you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your work animal, or the resident alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.
If you insist on relying on the incidence of widespread failure of reading comprehension to argue that ecclesial conspirators want to go against the Bible while keeping up appearances, it's an indictment of your position, not evidence for it.

And here's the Catechism on idolatry (paragraph 2084 through 2141), which I will abbreviate for convenience:
"The first word contains the first commandment of the Law: "You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve him. . . . You shall not go after other gods."5 God's first call and just demand is that man accept him and worship him." ... "The one and true God first reveals his glory to Israel. The revelation of the vocation and truth of man is linked to the revelation of God. Man's vocation is to make God manifest by acting in conformity with his creation 'in the image and likeness of God': There will never be another God, Trypho, and there has been no other since the world began." ... "When we say 'God' we confess a constant, unchangeable being, always the same, faithful and just, without any evil. It follows that we must necessarily accept his words and have complete faith in him and acknowledge his authority. He is almighty, merciful, and infinitely beneficent. Who could not place all hope in him? Who could not love him when contemplating the treasures of goodness and love he has poured out on us? Hence the formula God employs in the Scripture at the beginning and end of his commandments: 'I am the LORD.'" ... "Adoration is the first act of the virtue of religion. To adore God is to acknowledge him as God, as the Creator and Savior, the Lord and Master of everything that exists, as infinite and merciful Love. "You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve," says Jesus, citing Deuteronomy." ... "The first commandment forbids honoring gods other than the one Lord who has revealed himself to his people. It proscribes superstition and irreligion." ... "The first commandment condemns polytheism. It requires man neither to believe in, nor to venerate, other divinities than the one true God." 

"Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc. Jesus says, 'You cannot serve God and mammon.' Many martyrs died for not adoring 'the Beast' refusing even to simulate such worship." 

"The divine injunction included the prohibition of every representation of God by the hand of man." ... "Nevertheless, already in the Old Testament, God ordained or permitted the making of images that pointed symbolically toward salvation by the incarnate Word: so it was with the bronze serpent, the ark of the covenant, and the cherubim." ... "The honor paid to sacred images is a “respectful veneration,” not the adoration due to God alone:Religious worship is not directed to images in themselves, considered as mere things, but under their distinctive aspect as images leading us on to God incarnate. The movement toward the image does not terminate in it as image, but tends toward that whose image it is."  

Thus, anyone arguing otherwise is misinformed, or spreading disinformation, be he Catholic or anti-Catholic.  You can argue against the rate of iconolatry, but don't argue about its endorsement.