Thursday, October 20, 2011

(8) Has the Papacy Changed God's Laws & Promoted Graven Images?

Note:  As adviser of the University of Rio Grande Newman Club, I responded to a recent but certainly not new criticism of the Catholic Church.  Since many Protestant churches consider statues and paintings in churches as graven images, you will not find them in most of their places of worship.  One of the reasons for the schism in 1054 between the Church of the West and the East was the disagreement regarding graven images.  Thus the Orthodox and the eastern rites of the Catholic Church use icons, but not statues.

Dear Billie & Julio:

       Thank you for your comments about the Papacy changing God's Laws and the Catholic Church changing the wording of the “Ten Commandments” to suit their purposes in regard to “graven images” and paying homage to or adoring them as idols for profit. We invite you as students to our Newman Club meetings and there may be opportunities to discuss in a civil way some of your objections to the Catholic Church. Your comments and questions about the Catholic Church are welcome, but please keep the tone civil with mutual respect for each other's beliefs. The goal is to understand each other so that we can fight together as one in Christ in this great cultural-spiritual war against the evils of secularism and not fight each other.

       I see no foundation for your saying that the Papacy has changed the law of God with their “pagan heretical teaching”. That has never happened and never will. Our Lord would not let that happen since He promised to be with the Church He founded for all days (Matthew 28:20). Give me some specific examples. Please don't give me old general anti-Catholic propaganda that you assume is true, but never researched. We all agree with the Bible verses you quote, but may not agree on their interpretation. If there are 35,000 different Christian sects that broke away from the Catholic Church and Christ instituted the Church and desires unity as He Himself said (John 17:21), then 34,999 must be in error and thus in heresy. The Lord will judge who is in heresy.......you or us. So let's have charitable Christian dialogue and think it through to find the truth, even if one of us has to change his/her mind.

        Of course, adoring the statues or paintings in themselves would be pagan idol worship. Yes, Catholics have statues and the Eastern Church (the Orthodox and Byzantine Catholics) use images. They are only used to remind the faithful of Christ or to honor Mary and some saints as models of extraordinary holiness and heroic virtue. We only ask them to pray for us as I ask you to pray for me. Don't we have paintings and statues of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, etc. to honor them? Don't you keep photos of your deceased loved ones on the wall of your home to honor and remember them? We do the same with pictures and statues of Christ and saints.

        If your quote of the Bible is taken literally, paintings and statues are graven images. Then we must condemn Michelangelo, DaVinci, Raphael, etc. and ban their masterpieces as well as so much other magnificent Christian art over the centuries. The priceless stained glass windows of the great cathedrals and churches are designed to give glory to God, give the faithful a little taste of heaven, especially in the context of our belief of the divine presence in the Eucharist, the center and focus of every Catholic church. The statues, paintings, and other images were also used as catechetical tools (i.e. training aids) to teach the largely illiterate people in the absence of printing presses in the middle ages.

       Also we must look at the Bible in the context of the times. When God gave the Jews the 10 Commandments, people did indeed adore the graven images and idols in themselves.......a serious problem in ancient civilizations and even among the Jews and their surrounding national neighbors. That's why made the commandment so long and explicit. If God meant all images, then why did He accept carvings of angels on the Ark of the Covenant?

The Ten Commandments are listed or summarized in the Bible in several places with variations in the wording.

Exodus Chapter 20: 1-17
1 Then God delivered all these commandments:
"I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.
You shall not have other gods besides me.
You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth;
2 you shall not bow down before them or worship them. For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their fathers' wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation;
but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation, on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments.
"You shall not take the name of the LORD, your God, in vain. For the LORD will not leave unpunished him who takes his name in vain.
"Remember to keep holy the sabbath day.
Six days you may labor and do all your work,
but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD, your God. No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you.
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.
"Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you.
"You shall not kill.
"You shall not commit adultery.
"You shall not steal.
"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
"You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass, nor anything else that belongs to him." 

        Deuteronomy 5:5-21 is similar, but slightly different. Interesting is the footnote at the end of Exodus 20 in the New American Bible: 1 [1-17], one of the translations approved by the Church. “The precise division of these precepts into "ten commandments" is somewhat uncertain. Traditionally among Catholics Exodus 20:1-6 is considered as only one commandment, and Exodus 20:17 as two. Cf Deut 5:6-21.” 
 
        In Romans 13:9-10, St. Paul paraphrases several of the commandments before summarizing them into love of neighbor as follows: 9 The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, (namely) "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 10 Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.

        Similarly, the Catholic Church paraphrased the Ten Commandments in a more concise form for the Catechism of the Catholic Church (the official doctrine and teaching of the Catholic Church.....) for didactic or teaching purposes and in a form easier to memorize. The Lutheran Church and others do something similar.
In no way was any commandment compromised. “Graven image” of the biblical first commandment is summarized and implied in the First Commandment of the Catechism: “I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not have false gods before me.” The rest are:
2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
3. Remember to keep holy the Lord's Day
4. Honor your father and your mother.
5. You shall not kill.
6. You shall not commit adultery
7. You shall not steal.
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
9. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor's goods. 
 
        To prevent the chaos of 35,000 different religions and each person interpreting the Bible in his/her own way, Christ established the authority of the Church through Peter and his successors. This can be seen in Matthew 16:18-19: 

18 “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

       In 1 Timothy 3:15, St. Paul confirms that the Church has the responsibility of interpreting the Bible and determining and defining doctrine after considerable prayer, study, and deliberation.
But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.”

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