Do Catholics Worship Statues?
Our YouTube channel sees a constant influx of people claiming that Catholics worship statues. This is in spite of my making a video on that very topic demonstrating that we do not worship statues! After all, statues are merely wood, marble, and plaster. Further, statues are are dead: they cannot hear us, see us, or do anything because they are dead.
Catholics understand this. In the Catholic Church, statues are just symbols, representations of our brothers and sisters of faith who have gone before us. They also recall to our minds their holy lives and how they followed Christ in an extraordinary way.
In Catholicism, statues are akin to pictures of your family that you carry in your wallet or hang on your wall at home. They call to mind your family that you love. Whether in heave or on earth, Catholicism is a family with many brothers and sisters.
While this makes sense to most, non-Catholics are quick to ask about Catholics kneeling before statues, bowing in front of them, or even kissing them. They see these things as acts of worship and treating these statues as idols.
Just because a person kisses something does not mean they are worshipping that person, place, or thing. If kissing or bowing is always an act of worship, then men who kiss their wives would be guilty of worshipping them. Women who kiss a picture of their husbands who are away in the military would be guilty of worshipping that picture and her husband.
Most people can see the big difference in intention between kissing something out of worship vs. kissing something out of love and affection. Bowing and kneeling and kissing could be performed as acts of worship. Or, they could be done as signs of love and respect. It all comes down to the intention and motive of the heart.
I had a friend once in college, and his father died. When we found out, a bunch of guys ran like mad around the campus looking for this poor boy in order to tell him the tragic news. Apparently, he already found out. When we finally located him, he was in a chapel praying and crying. He was sitting on the floor holding a picture of his deceased father, and he was hugging the picture and kissing it all while crying his eyes out.
I did not accuse him of worshipping the picture just because he was kissing and hugging it. This picture became a vivid visual memory of his father. Moreover, since this boy could not hug and kiss his real father, he symbolically hugged and kissed his picture out of love. It had nothing to do with worship of an image.
It is the same for Catholics, and it is truly that simple. In the Catholic Church, whether you live now, live in the past, or will live in the future, if you are part of the body of then you are family. Statues are simply reminders of our spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ who have gone before us. Each time we see a statue, it recalls to our minds their stories and the lives of holiness they lived. It reminds us of their virtues and how passionately they followed Christ. They are role models for us.
So for example, if someone kisses a statue of Jesus, Catholics understand that it is not the real Jesus. Just as that boy could not kiss his father in person and so symbolically kissed his picture, so Catholics cannot kiss Christ in person and so kiss the statue of Jesus as a symbolic act of love.
So again, if we kiss a statue, it is simply an external and symbolic gesture of our love for Christ (or another brother or sister in our family, in the body of Christ). It is in the same way that we kiss pictures of our loves ones or maybe even rub the picture as a way to connect with them and their memory.
Analogously, just because a person kneels or bows before something does not mean they are worshipping it. Like kissing, it all depends on the intention behind it. The Bible exhorts us to kiss one another with a holy kiss (2 Corinthians 13:12). At the same time, Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. So, the intention is of utmost importance.
After all, Protestants kneel on the floor in front of their Bibles. We don’t assume they are worshipping it. They may even kiss the Bible. We do not yell and scream that they should be kissing Christ and not a book. Rather, we understand it’s a symbolic gesture of love and respect for the Scriptures.
When Catholics kneel before a statue, it is a posture of prayer to God. Even if we ask a saint to pray for us to Jesus on our behalf, the end goal and desire of all of our prayers is God through Jesus Christ. Since He is the end of our prayers, our kneeling is to Him.
According to the Bible: is Bowing an Act of Worship?
In the Bible, bowing is used for worship or for mere honor and respect. It all depends on the intention. In Revelation 22:8-9, Scripture states that John worshipped an angel by bowing before it. Thus, he was rightly scolded for false worship.
Contrast this with Joshua 5:14 where Joshua bows down in humility and respect before an angel but without worshipping it. He was not reprimanded. Therefore, it all depends on the intention of the heart.
Similarly, in 2 Kings 4:37, a woman bows down before prophet Elisha. “She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground; then she took up her son and went out.” No worship involved. In 1 Kings 1:31, “Bathsheba bowed her face to the ground to David and did obeisance to the king, and said, “May my lord King David live forever!” David likewise bowed his face down to the ground before Bathsheba in 1 Kings 2:19.
Even Jesus himself foretold in Revelation 3:9 that, “Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and learn that I have loved you.”
These people are not worshipping the Israelites with such an act, but it is a posture of humility and respect. There are countless more instances of bowing out of reverence in the Bible (Like Jacob and Esau, King David and Bathsheba, etc.).
This is not to be confused with worship that is meant for God alone or people bowing to false gods because they erroneously think they are gods.
Catholics worship God (Jesus) alone. Every week at our Mass, we pray to Jesus and say: “For you alone are the holy one. You alone are the Lord. You alone are the Most High Jesus Christ with the Holy Spirit and in the Glory of God the Father. Amen.”
Thus, while exterior acts of devotions may be confusing for non-Catholics who do not understand, Catholics do not worship statues but only worship God alone. Any Catholic who worships who might worship statue is severely confused and misguided and must be set straight, though I have never heard of such a thing.
Catholics honor the saints and holy people who have gone before us. We remember them in pictures and in memory. We worship God and honor them.
We pray that this has helped to answer your questions or misunderstandings. Feel free to drop us a message if you have any questions. Just contact us above or visit our YouTube channel to find out more about Catholicism.