"Saint Worship" in the Middle-Ages

At the college I go to, I take a religion class (not about Christianity btw). The professor mentioned saint worship in the Catholic Church. Another Catholic student explained that we don’t worship saints, but we pray that they intercede on our behalf.

The professor went on to say that this is correct, but the Catholic Church changed its doctrine. He claims that in the Middle-Ages, Catholics worshipped saints almost as
Demi-gods. Only later was this changed.

Does anyone know how to refute this? I have never heard this claim before. Either the professor was confused or lying. (I’m guessing the former, since his specialization isn’t Christianity).

Refute what?

If he is making a claim, the burden of proof lies with him.

Don’t fall into the trap of defending a claim made by someone when they give no proof. That is a tactic in and of itself to control the topic of conversation and keep the other side distracted and ineffective.

He made the claim, he is the one who needs to support it FIRST.

If he cannot, you should feel to report him for making unsubstantiated claims. Or at least tell him to take it back publicly to your class and apologize for making unsubstantiated claims.

In all likelihood, he is reading uncritically some contemporary texts which do indeed contain the word “worship” in relation to the veneration of saints. “Worship” is a multi-faceted word and used to be used to describe mere veneration and not latria. So the professor will need to do more than simply produce texts describing “worship” of saints.

I would agree that, during the Middle Ages, some Saints were venerated to a degree which we would consider inappropriate, and this was done by both clergy and laypeople. This was a form of superstition, and this was wrong.

But this practice was never supported in the doctrine of the Catholic Church. The Church may not have been proactive in curtailing the practice at the time, but the Church never endorsed it either.

The Church eventually acted to curtail the practice. This does not represent a change in doctrine, but, rather, an enforcing of it (albeit belated).

If someone wants to claim that the Church’s doctrine called for inappropriate veneration, it should be easy enough to cite such teaching from the Magesterium. We cite stuff here all of the time. This “professor” doesn’t seem to know anything about footnotes in academic research. You don’t make a statement like that without a footnote citation to back it up. He should not accept such shoddy work from his students, and he should hold himself to an even higher standard, especially when making claims outside his area of expertise.

I have seen this in many times, in my mind the book The Life of Saint Joseph by Maria Cecilia Baij paints a picture of Saint Joseph in many ways as if he were Jesus Christ himself. It is a great book but some of the stuff written makes the man out to be something beyond what he is, a mere mortal. I have also come across many who treat Mary in a similar way. My spiritual director says its good to maximize devotion to Mary but at the same time we need to realize that ultimately our devotion to her is actually through her to Jesus. I’m sure Mary and Joseph would suggest the same thing themselves.

I wholeheartedly agree with what Frankenfurter said, don’t get baited into the trap he speaks of. I’ve seen this tactic used more and more frequently over the past year or so especially when it comes to attacking the Catholic faith.

:thumbsup: Exactly. It was reading some of this exalted saint worship that almost kept me from becoming Catholic. Fortunately, I had a well-educated Catholic friend who set me straight.

The word worship has many meanings.

It can mean the worship which is due to God alone or a high level of reverence or even a title of respect.

Judges and mayors in Britian used to be called “Your Worship” as an honorific title. It doesn’t mean that anyone worships them.

The word worship comes from the word worthship, meaning to give a special worth or value to someone, that’s all. The professor really should look up the etymology of the word.


I learned this after reading Catholicism and Fundamentalism, I wonder if my professor knows this.

He probably read about some ancient prayer or hymn which says that we “worship all the angels and saints” and doesn’t understand that worship can mean esteem, respect and honor.

Try books.google.ca/books?id=eMxEGuxAouoC&pg=PA10&lpg=PA10&dq=origin+%22of+the+style%22+OR+%22of+the+term%22+%22his+worship%22+mayor+OR+mayors&hl=en#v=onepage&q=origin%20%22of%20the%20style%22%20OR%20%22of%20the%20term%22%20%22his%20worship%22%20mayor%20OR%20mayors&f=false


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