It is commonly argued by Protestants that the Catholic Church teaches to worship saints and images of them. Even though this is commonly claimed, what does the Catholic Church really teach in this regard?
1. The Church teaches that the Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) alone is God.
The first ecumenical council of the Catholic Church, the council of Nicea (325 A.D.) in regards to the belief in God, the Trinity: I believe in one God, the Father almighty,maker of heaven and earth,of all things visible and invisible. I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages.God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made.For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary”
• Catechism of the Catholic Church (234) :
The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the “hierarchy of the truths of faith”.56 The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men “and reconciles and unites with himself those who turn away from sin”.
• St. Ignatius of Antioch: “The prophets, who were men of God, lived according to Jesus Christ. For that reason they were persecuted, inspired as they were by his grace to convince the disobedient that there is one God, who manifested himself through his Son, Jesus Christ, who is his Word proceeding from silence, and who was in all respects pleasing to him that sent him” (Letter to the Magnesians 8:1 [A.D. 110]).
• The ancient Creed of St Athanasius:
“Whoever wishes to be saved must, above all, keep the Catholic faith.For unless a person keeps this faith whole and entire, he will undoubtedly be lost forever. This is what the Catholic faith teaches: we worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity.”
• Irenaeus “For the Church, although dispersed throughout the whole world even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and from their disciples the faith in one God, Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them; and in one Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Against Heresies 1:10:1 [A.D. 189]).
What does the Catholic Church teach in regards to images of God, the Theotokos, and Mary?
The Catholic Church infallibly teaches that the worship of saints and images is blasphemy and heresy, for the Trinity alone is God.
• The Second Council of Nicaea (787) addressed the heresy of iconoclasm. This was the heresy that taught images of God and the saints must be smashed since they were allegedly worshiped by Catholics. (Which is false and would be blasphemy and heresy.)
“[T]he one who redeemed us from the darkness of idolatrous insanity, Christ our God, when he took for his bride his holy Catholic Church . . . promised he would guard her and assured his holy disciples saying, ‘I am with you every day until the consummation of this age.’ . . . To this gracious offer some people paid no attention; being hoodwinked by the treacherous foe they abandoned the true line of reasoning . . . and they failed to distinguish the holy from the profane, asserting that the icons of our Lord and of his saints were no different from the wooden images of satanic idols.”
• The Catechism of the Council of Trent, page 227, teaches that idolatry is of the devil. In objection to the accusation that Catholics worship images, it states that this is committed when:
“As far as this Commandment is concerned, it is clear that there are two chief ways in which God’s majesty can be seriously outraged. The first way is by worshipping idols and images as God, or believing that they possess any divinity or virtue entitling them to our worship, by praying to, or reposing confidence in them, as the Gentiles did, who placed their hopes in idols, and whose idolatry the Scriptures frequently condemn.”
• The Catechism of the Catholic Church states the following in regards to idolatry: “Idolatry is a perversion of man’s innate religious sense. An idolater is someone who ‘transfers his indestructible notion of God to anything other than God’” (CCC 2114).