Tuesday, August 27, 2013


In the Opinion section of today's edition of the Pacific Daily News, a reader named Diane opines against the Catholic Church, accusing us of idolatry, etc. You can read her letter here (it's the second letter).

This is a very common accusation and it would do Catholics well to not use anecdotes about pictures of your kids or some such metaphor in trying to explain why we honor and pray to Mary and the saints, but to use scripture to provide the basis for our practices. Following is my response posted in the comments section. 


Dear Diane,

Thank you for the opportunity to engage this topic. A few things. 

First, the bible does not number the commandments. In fact, within what we call the 10 Commandments, there are actually 13 or even 14 different directives. Different religions have grouped these directives differently. What you label the second commandment is part of the first commandment in the Catholic ordering. 

Second, if we are to take your interpretation of the passage, we would have to say that God violated his own commandment only a few chapters later in Exodus 25 when he commands the Israelites to make two statues, and not only make two statues, but place them upon the the holiest of all things, the Ark:

“Make two cherubim of beaten gold for the two ends of the cover; make one cherub at one end, and the other at the other end, of one piece with the cover, at each end. The cherubim shall have their wings spread out above, sheltering the cover with them; they shall face each other, with their faces looking toward the cover.” (Ex. 25:18-20)

And again, later in Numbers 21:8, God apparently disobeys his own commandment - as per your interpretation - when he orders Moses to: 

“Make a seraph and mount it on a pole, and everyone who has been bitten will look at it and recover.” 

It’s interesting here, that not only does God command Moses to make a “graven image” - apparently forbidden by your interpretation of Exodus 20:4-5 - but then commands that people (bitten by snakes) should “look at it” and “recover”. 

Either your understanding is incorrect or God is very confused. However, I know that it is not “your understanding”. It’s what you’ve been taught, like so many others. But going on.

You say that the Vatican asserts that Mary is the “co-redemptrix”. Actually, the Vatican has not approved “co-redemptrix” as an official title for Mary. However, if it does at some point it would be no big deal. All Christians are to be CO - operators, CO - redeemers, in the sense that we are called to carry on the redemptive work of Christ. 

Mary’s role in bringing the Good News to the world is just a bit more special than the rest of us since God chose to be enfleshed through her. 

One final note is your confusion over the word “pray” which you take to mean “worship”. “Pray” means to “ask”. And Catholics ask Mary to pray for them: “pray for us now and at the hour of our death”. We ask her and the other saints (see the “cloud of witnesses” in Heb. 12:1) to pray for us in the same way I can ask you to pray for me. It’s just that, Mary’s prayers and the prayers of the saints are ever more powerful since as James tells us “the prayers of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). 

This verse implies that the more righteous one is the more one’s prayers will “availeth”. Nothing new there. We find the quality of petition and sacrifice dependent on the righteousness of the offerer throughout the Bible. 

Thus Catholics - and others who believe in the communion of the saints - do not limit their request for prayers to the dwellers of earth but include in their prayer circle the dwellers of heaven - where in Revelation we see them praying for us (Rev 5:8). 

There is much more, so if you would really care to know the truth of the Catholic Faith, join us on Monday nights at the Cathedral bookstore at 6pm for our study session. We would be glad to have you or anyone else with questions.

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