Veneration vs idolatry

On this page appears these statements

" They [Catholics] have been cleverly taught to believe that they do not worship these idols; they simply “venerate” them. The problem is that “veneration” still gives honor and reverence to something and/or someone other than God; therefore, veneration is idolatry."

After reading the page the only real argument I could find was last statement. So my question is: Does giving honor and reverence to something and/or someone other than God mean we are committing idolatry why or why not?

Why not accused the Brits and others for kneeling and bowing to their Monarchs… ??? just asking. :confused: :confused:

Please don’t let others tell you what it is you worship. Only God knows true worship. This may help explain…


Sometimes I think that some protestant groups consider all Catholics to be ignorant in a way that would offend them terribly if we did the same to them. When a Catholic says a rosary in front of a statue of Mary or venerates the Sacred Heart, they know that the icon is not the real thing. They are ways we center our attention and thoughts as we pray or meditate.Which of us Catholics doesn’t realize that the crucifixion statue above most of our alters is not the real deal? Yet, gazing at this crucifix helps me contemplate Jesus’ wounds. Honoring a saint or Mary goes back to the concept of the Communion of Saints—that we are all on the same journey and praying for the same outcome. Some of us are in purgatory or heaven, some are still on earth. If my deceased Mom is in heaven, I know that she loved me and would intercede for me in any way she could. The same is true of any other of our brothers or sisters who have gone before us–just as we pray for resolution for the souls in purgatory, those who are already saints want to see us make it too!

People kiss sports trophies. People salute flags. People put mementos at the site of someone’s death.

As long as you don’t think a given object is part of the Godhead, and only use it as a prototype which helps you honor God, you’re doing fine.

“Honor thy father and mother.”

So unless God commands us to commit idolatry towards our parents, then no, giving honor does not constitute idolatry. The problem is that these guys have lost sense of what the honor due only to God is, and so are easily confused by other types of honor.

Some good answers already. I’d like to address the matter from a slightly different aspect.
The 1st commandment, both Catholic and protestant, Contains a very interesting phrase. Here are the commands side by side.
Catholic: I am the Lord thy God…Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
Protestant: I am the Lord thy God…Thou shalt have no other gods before Me…
So - does this mean we can have other god’s after him?..hmmmm…:hmmm:

I know that probably seems like a rather odd thing to think about here…but hey, I didn’t write the command OR the translations. :shrug:

The reason I think it fits with this conversation is that it fits with the idea of giving honor, veneration (or whatever) to something OTHER than God the Father. It seems to me that this wording allows for our honoring other people and things (such as parents, teachers, church, government, etc) without violating the first commandment.

After all, we are taught that God is Love (1 John 4:7-8) and all the law and prophets are built on Love (Mt 22:36-40) and we are to Love God above all else…So what are we giving to God when we worship? Yup - Love.
Must not Love anyone or anything else???
Not by what God teaches us - the second greatest commandment is to Love neighbor as yourself.
And should we not Love Jesus? His sacred heart? His Holy Mother? the list can go on…

So what is worship or veneration or honor - is it not “love” to one degree or other?

Just some thoughts…maybe a bit off of the “normal” path of these kinds of discussions.


First of all, don’t go to anti-Catholic websites expecting to read the truth about Catholic worship, beliefs, practices. They exist merely to pass along misinformation intended to confuse the faithful Catholic and to bolster their own skewed understanding of Catholic teaching.

" They [Catholics] have been cleverly taught to believe that they do not worship these idols; they simply “venerate” them. The problem is that “veneration” still gives honor and reverence to something and/or someone other than God; therefore, veneration is idolatry."

See how this is worded? Right off it’s an attack on our Magisterium accusing them of deceiving us Catholics. Pretty rude and scudszy if you ask me. If we were to make the same accusations against their ministers I’m sure they’d be deeply offended.

Also, conflating words that mean very different things is not an agrument for anything–again, it’s an accusation and accusations are not arguments/points of evidence.

After reading the page the only real argument I could find was last statement. So my question is: Does giving honor and reverence to something and/or someone other than God mean we are committing idolatry why or why not?

This is not a “real agrument” for anything, as I stated above. They deliberately misuse the words veneration and idolatry, pretending they mean the same thing when they absolutely do not.

Idolatry is worshiping someone or something instead of God. They define worship as prayer, again making two very different words mean the same thing. But prayer alone is not worship. Worship requires a sacrfice, which is the sin the Hebrews committed when they made the golden calf and offered sacrifice to it. Making of images is not idolatry in and of itself. It is when offerings are made to it that it becomes idolatry. Understanding this shows that veneration is not idolatry for Catholics do not offer sacrifices to anyone but God and that sacrifice is the one sacrifice of Christ offered on our altars.

Veneration is merely honoring someone for their merits. It’s like handing out trophies to a winning team or telling loved ones that we care for them or being respectful to a government leader. We certainly aren’t worshiping in any of those circumstances nor are we offering worship merely by asking for the intercession and heavenly aid of the saints.

This is a rather pathetic argument against veneration.

Honor and reverence are not idolatry. Whomever wrote that article obviously never read the Bible.

*Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the LORD your God gives you. (Exodus 20:12)

Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:17)

You shall keep my sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:30)*

We are commanded in the Scriptures to give honor and reverence. God does not command idolatry.


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Modern Catholic Dictionary has this:Idolarty (excerpt)

Modern secularism is a form of practical idolatry, which claims to give man “freedom to be an end unto himself, the sole artisan and creator of his own history.” Such freedom, it is said, “cannot be reconciled with the affirmation of a Lord who is author and purpose of all things,” or at least that this freedom “makes such an affirmation altogether superfluous” (Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Church, 51).

Idolatry is always gravely sinful. Even under threat of death and without interiorly believing in the idol, a Christian may not give divine honors to a creature, thereby violating the duty of professing faith in God.

Veneration of Saints (excerpt):

Venerating the saints does not detract from the glory given to God, since whatever good they possess is a gift from his bounty. They reflect the divine perfections, and their supernatural qualities result from the graces Christ merited for them by the Cross.

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Yes, that last statement is not saying veneration is worship, it says it’s idolatry.

If their understanding of Idolatry is as they describe it to be, then yes, in their understanding and their faith it IS idolatry.

That is what they believe it to be, and they give a short explanation why they believe it.

Catholics don’t understand it that way, and most likely never the twain shall meet. But to be fair they are not saying Catholics worship anything other than God.

I bring this up because Catholics tend to be sticklers about such things, so I think it’s only fair to be precise about what others say and believe as well.

It is quite possible that people in their particular faith, with their particular understanding don’t kiss trophies, or photos of their mom etc etc. There are faiths that forbid those things. It’s not honest to lump all other faiths into one category and level arguments or examples at them that may not apply.

It is possible to understand the meaning of something in another faith and still find that belief or ritual to be “wrong”.

If you go to the link, you will see that what the OP quoted here is a very very small piece of their article on this topic. They explain why they believe as they do, and they do it without vitriol or contempt.

Excellent post…:thumbsup:


It stems from a denial of any real distinction between veneration and worship.

I think this is true…but what Schaeffer is pointing out (I think) is that we must recognize HOW others think and interpret Scripture. This can help us to address the specific issues - such as the distinction that you mention here.
Many times it can come down to semantics and specific definitions.


Yes, that does seem to be correct.

Interesting, though, that context is often mentioned as very important to understand the Bible, yet the context is clear in Exodus 20 where there is the command not to make an idol (peh’-sel) or representation (tem-oo-naw’), but it is positioned between the commands not to have other (akh-air’) gods (el-o-heem’) before me, and not to bow down (shaw-khaw’) or serve (aw-bad’) them.

I have to disagree that the person(s) who wrote the article are not saying that Catholics are idolators. Indeed, that is precisely what they are saying.

And they do mean denigrate our leadership. I quote:

They [Catholics] have been cleverly taught to believe that they do not worship these idols; they simply “venerate” them.

“Cleverly taught” is an obvious dig meant to cast doubt on the intentions of our Magisterium.

I was once like them. I truly and completely believed Catholics to be idolators–that they were doomed to hell because of it. There is no good reason to post an article explaining away Catholic teaching other than to attack Catholic teaching.

They are free to believe whatever they like. I have no problem with that. But any group that goes out of its way to post attacks against others beliefs, erroneously at that (God help them if they truly know they are wrong) is not merely stating their own beliefs but is passing on false information and doing no one a good service, themselves included.

This article on my blog may help a bit. Iconoclasm: Or: Catholics Worship Graven Images NOT

I currently live in Alaska and 4 of our 5 kids live “down south in the bottom 48”. In my billfold and on my FB account I have pictures of each of them that I look at daily and remember how much I love each of them. I also have a picture of my mama who died 2 years ago and whom I cared for the final 10 years of her life. Sometimes I look at mom’s picture and remember good memories. Other times I look at it and pray “Mom, I hope you are in heaven—and if you are, wold you pray for me about such and such.” Is this idolatry? I think not. But I do venerate those I love–living and deceased!

They have no idea what worship is. They look at the external but not the hearts and mind. And they like to judge.

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