“Catholic Idolatry”: A Curse to the Nation?

It is 1:00am of 12/10/2007, and I just finished watching the late night replay at channel 13 of El Shaddai’s (a locally founded Catholic group whose teaching authority is not officially recognized by the Catholic church) latest weekly religious activity at AMVEL business park.

In the Bible teaching portion of their activity, brother Mike Velarde (the group’s servant-leader and founder) talked about the various causes and reasons why a nation may be undergoing hardships and difficulties. He narrated verses from the Bible that speak about things that bring curses to a nation. Among the things he mentioned was idolatry, and bluntly but politely he emphasized (using his favorite line of caution, “Bato bato sa langit, ang tatamaan huwag magaglit.”) the Catholic tradition concerning statues and images of saints. He admonished the “nation” to do away with this tradition of kneeling and praying before the statues and images of the saints because it is one reason our nation is experiencing a seemingly endless cycle of sufferings and hardships.

December 8th in the Catholic tradition is the feast of the Immaculate Conception, and this is one of the important celebration of the Catholic religion. But brother Mike Velarde didn’t specifically mentioned the “wrong way of veneration” that most Catholics render to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I observed in the video that many of the audience looked so perplexed with brother Mike Velarde’s admonition. Bishop Teodoro Bacani is the spiritual director of the group, but is this teaching of the El Shaddai servant-leader do not seriously confuse the lay Catholics who are members of this group? Because it seems that brother Mike Velarde is contradicting the official teaching of the Catholic church regarding this matter. Is this another manifestation of conflict among the Catholic church?

Below is a text from the Catholic catechesis concerning the First Commandment:

The First commandment: "I am the Lord your God, you shall not have other gods before me" (Basic Catholic Catechism)

The commandment most directly prohibits the worship of false gods, and, to follow up, prohibits images. The Jews were very prone to such idolatry before the great exile. Afterwards they seem to have been largely healed.

The prohibition of images does not apply now, since the danger of idolatry has gone. Our images of Our Lord, His Mother, and the Saints, are just helps to devotion. We do not adore them. We only venerate them, but even the veneration goes not to the image but to the holy one for which the image stands.

We need to avoid also superstition, which is offering worship in an improper manner, probably based on false revelations, e. g, prayers that if said for a set number of days will have an infallible result. Vain observance would be magic or satanism. Sadly, there is explicit worship of satan today. The Ouija board is dangerous, and we should avoid it, since part of its results come from automatic writing, but often enough satan intervenes.

We must also avoid sacrilege, which is scornful treatment of a person, place or thing dedicated to God. To receive Holy Communion in the state of sin is sacrilege. We avoid also simony, which takes its name from Simon Magus, who tried to buy with money the gift of working miracles . St. Peter rebuked him strongly (Acts 8:9-24). To give a stipend for a Mass etc. is not simony. It is not buying the Mass, it is an offering for the support of the priest, or a means of sharing specially in the Mass.

In a loose sense, not a strict sense, some people today "worship" the false gods of secularism, which says this world is the only one to be considered, or hedonism, which makes pleasure the goal of life, or Communism, which denies the existence of God, seeks happiness in a so-called classless society in Russia the very opposite has been true, great privilege and luxury for the ruling class.

On the positive side, we are to worship God, which means most essentially, adoration and obedience. Adoration means recognizing who He is, and who I am in comparison. This is due in justice, but also, more importantly, in love: we recognize that God is not only infinitely good to us, but also in Himself. As such we should respond by pleasing Him by making ourselves open to receive His gifts — for that pleases Him. that is what love for God means. In no other way to we really give Him anything. The central virtue that gave all its value to the sacrifice of Jesus was His obedience to the will of the Father. Without it, His death would have been a tragedy, not a redemption.

Sacrifice for us (some pagan peoples had different ideas of sacrifice) has an external sign, which is there to express and perhaps even promote the essential, which is the interior dispositions. God complained through Isaiah (Is 29:13: "This people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me." The ancient Israelites at that time seemed to think their participation in their liturgy meant merely making responses and singing — these things were good, but the obedience was lacking. We must join our obedience — carried out in the recent past, or to come in the near future — to the offering of Jesus, when, through the human priest, He puts Himself on the altar under the appearance of separation of body and blood, to express His continued attitude of obedience to the Father. So catechists say our role in the Mass is ACTS:

Thanksgiving, and

We should do these things, but we must not let them cause us to forget the real center is obedience (Cf. Romans 519 and LG #3).

Outside the time of the sacrifice of the Mass, we should of course pray. Regular times are called for to insure we do not forget prayer altogether.

To God we give adoration, it the sense just described; but to Our Lady and the Saints we give only veneration, honor, something less than adoration. The sacrifice of Jesus is infinite, and so in a way we should need to do nothing. Yet St. Paul insists that the whole Christian regime means we are saved and made holy if and to the extent that we are not only members of Christ, but like Him. That includes being like Him in the work of reparation for sin (cf. Rom 8:17-18; Col 1. 24).