Is kneeling in front of a statue a sin?

Hello everyone,

I’m in a debate with someone on Twitter that isn’t Catholic about kneeling in front of a statue of our blessed mother, Mary. What proof do we have that says it is okay to kneel in front of a statue? I know that we aren’t praying or worshiping the statue but the person it represents but this particular person always reverts back to worshiping the statue.

Any help or biblical reference would be much appreciated!

God Bless! :thumbsup:

Idolatry is a sin. Idolatry would include worshiping a statute, or anyone or anything that isn’t God, including a saint. A person kneeling before a statute is sinning if

  1. They intend to worship the statute.
  2. They intend to worship what is represented by the statute, and what is represented is not God.

Exodus 32 gives a good example of what worshiping a statute would look like.

So how does it work with kneeling in front of a statue of Mary to ask her to pray for you or your intentions?

From the Second Council of Nicaea in 787.

“As the sacred and life-giving cross is everywhere set up as a symbol, so also should the images of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, the holy angels, as well as those of the saints and other pious and holy men be embodied in the manufacture of sacred vessels, tapestries, vestments, etc., and exhibited on the walls of churches, in the homes, and in all conspicuous places, by the roadside and everywhere, to be revered by all who might see them. For the more they are contemplated, the more they move to fervent memory of their prototypes. Therefore, it is proper to accord to them a fervent and reverent adoration, not, however, the veritable worship which, according to our faith, belongs to the Divine Being alone — for the honor accorded to the image passes over to its prototype, and whoever adores the image adores in it the reality of what is there represented.”

In other words, when kneeling before a statue, you are using it as an aid to prayer to keep your mind focused on the individual to whom you are praying. You are not praying to the statue itself as if it were a divine person. It is no different than someone using the bible as an aid for contemplating or meditating on God’s word.

This article may help.


…are you kneeling because you think that the statue is something or because you think that the person it represents is Divine or is it because of homage to God?

…when we kneel, anywhere and anytime, it should be because we are cognizant of God and we Believe that being in God’s Presence is being on hallow grounds (Moses and the burning bush).

…conversely, those who worship idols do so because they hold the idols as their gods or above Yahweh God; interestingly enough, some of our non-Catholic brethren idolize things and people while holding Catholic practices as suspect–it’s the plank vs. the speck thing (St. Matthew 7:3-5).

Maran atha!


Did people kneel in front of kings? (Yes, including King David)

Kneeling isn’t always worship. Kneeling to statues and icons of the saints originated as medieval custom, I believe, but it was not done as divine worship. The custom started with simple reverance and respect for those in authority, and as a measure of humble petition, and to practicing Christians doing that in a non-divine worshipping way to kings and persons of great honor and authority, it seemed even more appropriate to do it in honor of saints.

Catholics are often accused of legalism by protestants, but attacking the custom of kneeling in such a way

Does the person kneel to say his or her prayers? If he does, are there pictures of his ‘dear departed around’? Does he pause in prayer to remember them? Do their faces come before his mind? Does he hear their voice in a remembered lullaby or such, and if he does, do those things which he sees, ‘hears’, etc. help him to think more fully of the person, and thus in his prayer to Christ is he then more ‘aware’ of himself, the departed, and God as well with regard to the relationship of all the above?

Does the person ever bow to another, shake hands, nod his head? All those symbols are signs of respect and many of them came about in conjunction with, or as a substitute for, kneeling. A bow is kind of a ‘short kneel’; shaking hands showed that the people were not going to stab each other with the swords which men customarily wore at their sides for centuries, nodding the head in greeting is an even more abbreviated bow/kneel, used among those who considered themselves ‘equals’.

But even the greatest ‘duke’ or the Prince of Wales will kneel to his sovereign queen/king.

Did the person, if male, go ‘down on his knees’ to propose marriage? He wasn’t worshipping the bride-to-be, was he? It was a posture aiming to show a humble pose on his part as well as an ‘homage’ to the woman he was asking. . .

If female, did she have a ‘bended knee’ proposal and complain it was ‘worship’?

As far as ‘statue’, if Catholics worshipped statues, they would be as up front about it as pagans. Why not? If they thought statue worship was good, they’d say so. Heck, they’re perfectly up front about things like marriage being between one man and one woman. They’re up front about the fact that in the Eucharist they are consuming the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of Jesus Christ–something that the average non-Catholic considers to be ‘symbolic’ at best.

So why would there be one facet of Catholic teaching which not every Catholic does, which is totally voluntary, not considered necessary like sacraments. . .which Catholics would lie about?

It doesn’t make sense.

Plus it is extremely rude (IMHO) for somebody non-Catholic to be aware (and they are aware) of the Catholic teaching on what a statue is, what worship is, that Catholic teaching specifically forbids worship of anyone but God–in the sense of worship that is understood by today’s 20th/21st century definitions of ‘that offered to God as Supreme Lord’–that no Catholic looks upon any statue, whether of Mary or other saints, as BEING God, or during the Mass or prayers saying, "Mary save me’ or “St Peter, you are the body and blood, soul and divinity, of God Himself” etc–and STILL saying, "But you Catholics DO worship statues because you kneel in front of them.


Beyond rude. Beyond unchristian.

If somebody were to tell them that because they are always speaking of the Holy Bible as “God’s word” and they’re always saying, “check the Bible, listen to it, only follow what is in it”, that they must worship the Bible as God, because that’s their focus, and they aren’t saying, "Go to God’ but “Go to the Bible” as if the two were exactly synonymous, they would be upset and think we were being rude.

So why is it we have to accept their explanation, but they don’t have to accept ours?


…it is my estimation that this is due to “justification.”

Anyone who wants to place him/herself as “the authority” must first reject the existing authority; hence, they justify their own interpretation of Catholicism as Catholic Teaching so that they can rip it down as unsound.

…there’s a series on EWTW: Catholic Beginnings–right now it is dealing with Philadelphia… Father Charles Conner is the host and he takes us back to the beginning of North American Colonies and the issues of religious liberties…

This series (I caught only one episode of Catholic Beginnings in Maryland) would open up the eyes, and hopefully the hearts and spirits, of both Catholics and non-Catholics…

My question/challenge to all is, if Jesus Called us to Love one another so that the world would know that He Came to the world, and if He Prayed to the Father that we all be one in Him as He is One in the Father, why is Christendom so bent on splintering the Body of Christ and embracing dissention and division?

Maran atha!


In Daniel 8:17, the prophet Daniel prostrates before the archangel Gabriel. Was Daniel worshiping Gabriel as God? Surely not, otherwise the angel would have rebuked him. Daniel venerated the angel as God’s representative.
When I proposed to my wife, I genuflected before her to present the ring…did I sin? Was I worshiping her as I ought to only worship God?

Logically, if kneeling in front of statues was forbidden, Catholic churches wouldn’t have kneelers right in front of statues. Think it through :wink: … why would Holy Mother Church make it easy, nay – outright invite people to sin in a church? :smiley:

And this is precisely why Catholics kneel in front of a statue of Mary or any saint. We are not “praying to the statue” (we certainly don’t “need” a statue or even a crucifix to pray, they are just reminders, like pictures of a loved one as someone said) and Mary would not want us to worship her and not God. It’s always worshipping God, through Mary. Not worshipping Mary. She would recoil at that idea.

Plus the fact that kneeling is a traditional Catholic gesture/ posture for prayer. It’s my understanding that some Protestant sects do not kneel at all and instead bow or sit or something. That’s their choice, they should respect the Catholic tradition/ choice to kneel.

I would like to suggest that Twitter is probably not the best forum in which to carry on a meaningful discussion of the faith, particularly on a complex topic with a person trained in evangelical apologetics.


Yeah, you’re not going to win an argument on there or Facebook either. I didn’t want to say that myself though because I don’t want to discourage valiant efforts by people who still have the patience to bother.

There is nothing wrong with kneeling before a statue or a Nativity in Church. In the case of Mary, we pray for her intercession to God. She is not God. Those statues in the Nativity are referred to as the “Holy Family” but baby Jesus is the center of it all.


Good luck with that mate, lol.

I could see this being an issue maybe in the 19th century and earlier, but anymore, I think criticism towards Catholics using statues is almost always a case of cognitive dissonance. As a culture, we are saturated with images in our mass media culture almost every day of our lives in our textbooks, on our phones, on our computers, our TVs, and our houses are plastered with images that are used to communicate the real thing. Using holy statues and images as a reference for the real thing ought not to come to any surprise for a contemporary human being.

Just use the analogy of an image of a loved one with the real thing. If that isn’t enough to persuade them, it’s doubtful that their objection is based on intellectual or theological reasoning, but is instead more of a gut reaction, in which case it’s not something that you’re going to convince them of through words. At that point, you remain charitable and find a good way to exit from the conversation after you’ve made your points, and then you pray for them and allow the Holy Spirit to do the rest.

Not totally sure but I would guess people knelt in front of the ark of the covenant, I would further believe that they would kneel in front of the tent where the ark was kept, did they commit idolatry?

Idolatry is more committed in the heart than anywhere else, if I kiss a picture of my wife am I cheating on her with Kodak? No, I am honoring her as my wife.

The psalmist said, “I bow down toward thy holy temple…”(Psalm 138:2) The context of this verse suggests that such bowing down toward God’s holy temple was not a sin but rather a good and praiseworthy thing to do.

Guess what, the holy temple had statues. There were the two smaller angel statues on the lid of the ark of the covenant (Exodus 25:18) and two very large angel statues overlooking the ark of the covenant, as well as numerous other graven images, including relief images of angels. (1 Kings 6:23-29) In bowing down toward the temple, the psalmist would necessarily also be bowing toward the things contained in the temple, including its various statues and other graven images. Therefore, bowing down in front of statues can, when the intention is right, be a good and praiseworthy thing to do, namely, when the intention is to worship God and not to worship the statues themselves nor to worship something or someone other than God.

This is a common situation when a Protestant tells a Catholic what he believes in. Better to ask a Catholic what he believes in, who after all is the person who knows what he believes in.
Of course Catholics don’t say they worship statues. They are responding to the person the statue represents.
This comes then to the question of asking someone else to pray for us. It could be a friend or someone in heaven.
To say a Catholic worships a statue is, actually, out of touch with reality.

:rolleyes: Get used to that stuff.
I do have a blog post that may help you out but don’t bet they’ll accept it. They have been misled by their Bible only preachers and generally only believe what they are told to believe the Bible says and means. But hey, take your best shot, be nice, speak with assurance, keeping in mind the promise of Luke 21:15.
Iconoclasm: Or: Catholics Worship Graven Images NOT

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