Sunday, November 16, 2014

Are Catholics idolaters?

Catholics are often accused of idolatry. There are several grounds for this. One is veneration of the saints–especially Mary. Another one is Eucharistic Adoration. 

One way Catholics try to deflect the charge is to draw hairsplitting distinctions between dulia, hyperdulia, and latria. 

I'd just like to make a brief comparison. As I've often suggested, I think veneration of the saints is spray-painted syncretism: just replacing patron gods with patron saints. Different names, same function, same mentality. 

Now a pagan idolater can also distinguish between ascending or descending degrees of veneration. In polytheism, the pantheon has a pecking order. Not all gods or goddesses are created equal. There are high gods and low gods. 

If you're a sailer, you better pay your respects to Poseidon. If, however, you're a landlubber, you have little to fear from Poseidon. You're outside of his jurisdiction. 

You don't want to find yourself on the wrong side of powerful, vindictive gods or goddesses like Zeus, Juno, and Mars. However, Venus is not very intimidating. LIkewise, Vulcan isn't terribly threatening–unless you live in in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius.

In Hinduism, a pious Hindu typically becomes a devotee of a particular deity, like Vishnu, Shiva, Devi, Durga, Kali, Rama, or Krishna. 

My point is that it's easy to draw parallels between pagan devotion and Catholic devotion in that regard. Both Catholics and pagans have a gradation in the degree of veneration they accord to numina. Drawing finespun distinctions fails to shield Catholicism from the charge of idolatry, for the heathen can and do the same thing regarding the divine hierarchy. 

1 comment:

  1. The history of "Our Lady of Guadalupe" is an eye opening study in this regard. It's difficult to exaggerate the ubiquity of the idolatry swirling around her images in Central Mexico.