Catholics Commit Idolatry by Praying to Dead Saints
Rome teaches that Catholic faithful are to honor and invoke the saints in Heaven, who offer prayers to God for man.
956. "The intercession of the saints. 'Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness.... They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus.... So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.'[LG 49; cf. 1 Tim 2:5 .] …" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Doubleday:New York, © 1994 United States Catholic Conference, Inc. – Libreria Editrice Vaticana, p. 271)
This is how it works, more or less: The Catholic on earth prays to the spirit of someone the pope (at least in latter times) has declared to have lived an exemplar life of faith and who now resides in heaven. Then, the spirit of the dead saint prays to God on behalf of the earthbound Catholic. It is something like that old kids' game called "Pass It On."
Have you ever wondered how the saint in Heaven can be assured that the person seeking his intercession is playing straight? Or does he just intercede for anyone who asks, even Satanists, atheists, pranksters, etc? Think about it. If a voodoo priestess calls upon the name of John the Baptist – who must surely be residing in Heaven – does John just dash off a quick intercessory prayer for that priestess' intentions? Perhaps there is a Heaven-based private detective agency that does background checks on everyone who seeks help from the Catholic saints.
The Scriptures teach that God is omnipresent – that He exists everywhere all the time (Psalm 139:7-12). That God is omniscient we also know from Scriptures (1 John 3:20). These are some of the attributes of God. I know of no passage in Scripture where I might read that the spirits in Heaven exist everywhere and know everything. Rome, of course, has found a way to twist a passage of Scripture to support her idea that these spirits can keep abreast of events on earth.
"That the saints know something of what passes on earth and can sympathize with us, may be inferred from what our Savior says in St. Matthew (xxii, 30), that the saints "shall be as the Angels of God in Heaven," and from what He says in St. Luke (xv, 7, 10), "I say unto you, there shall be joy before the Angels of God upon one sinner doing penance." If the Angels see a sinner doing penance, the saints who are like Angels of God can do the same." (C. F. Donovan, Our Faith and the Facts, Patrick L. Baine:Chicago (1927), p. 322: w/Nihil Obstat and Imprimitur)
There you go. To support prayers to saints, one RCC theologian takes a proof text out of context and forces it to match his need. Then he misquotes or mistranslates another passage and then bends it to his will as well. Finally, he draws a false parallel between angels and the souls of the dead. One more example of Roman Catholic eisegesis.
Let's break it down and see if the Scriptures indeed do support Father Donovan's arguments. The verse from Matthew, in context, reads as follows in the KJV:
Matthew 22:23 The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him,
Matthew 22:24 Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.
Matthew 22:25 Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother:
Matthew 22:26 Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh.
Matthew 22:27 And last of all the woman died also.
Matthew 22:28 Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.
Matthew 22:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
Matthew 22:30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.
Matthew 22:31 But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying,
Matthew 22:32 I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
Matthew 22:33 And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine.
Jesus was having one of THOSE days. First, the Pharisees had sent their disciples to try to trick Him into making a declaration that would be considered treasonous by Roman authorities. That didn't work. Then the Sadducees thought to snare Him with a trick question – and that is what the above passage records. When reading the passage, one should bear in mind that the Sadducees did not believe in things supernatural; things like the resurrection of the dead and the existence of angels.
The loaded question is detailed in verses 25-28. I suppose the cunning Sadducees figured they'd chivvy Jesus into a situation where He would be forced to admit there is no resurrection of the dead. Didn't work, as we see in the succeeding verses.
Jesus slammed them hard in verse 29, when He told them the premise upon which their question was based was flawed. And the reason for their error? Crystal clear. "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God." And this is, of course, the same charge that can be laid against Father Donovan, whose teaching on this issue is certified to contain nothing contrary to Roman Catholic doctrine.
Jesus, being the perfect Teacher, went on to explain their error to the Sadducees – and to us. In the process, He exposes another of their false beliefs. Angels are deathless creatures, who do not propagate and therefore have no need for marriage. In the resurrection, the saints will have those same characteristics.
The proof text cited by Donovan in no way supports the saints "know something of what passes on earth and can sympathize with us." Roman Catholic eisegesis of a verse taken out of context.
But what about the proof texts from Luke? Let's first read them, again in context.
Luke 15:1 Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.
Luke 15:2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.
Luke 15:3 And he spake this parable unto them, saying,
Luke 15:4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
Luke 15:5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
Luke 15:6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
Luke 15:7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
Luke 15:8 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?
Luke 15:9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.
Luke 15:10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
Did you notice? There is no mention of anyone doing penance in either verse 7 or verse 10. I went to the Catholic Douay-Rheims Bible, the New Testament of which was "Translated from the Latin Vulgate and diligently compared with the original Greek" back in 1582. There, I found these renderings for verses 7 and 10:
7 I say to you, that even so there shall be joy in heaven upon one sinner that doth penance, more than upon ninety-nine just who need not penance.
10 So I say to you, there shall be joy before the angels of God upon one sinner doing penance.
Wow! Now we're talking penance. Let's see now. The translations in the KJV were made from available Greek texts. The Rheims New Testament was translated from the Latin Vulgate, which was translated from Greek texts, and then was compared with whatever Greek texts were available in Rheims in 1582.
I don't read Latin, so it would serve no useful purpose for me to look at the verses in that version. I did go to the 21st edition of Eberhard Nestle's Novum Testamentum Graece to see how the verses read in that document. Since this BBS does not support a Greek alphabet, I shall simply provide a literal, word-for-word translation, in the original word order.
Luke 15:7 I tell you that thus joy in – heaven will be over one sinner repenting than over ninety-nine just men who no need have of repentance.
Luke 15:10 So I tell you there is joy before the angels - of God over one sinner repenting.
Oops! Sure seems as though those folks who worked on the Rheims New Testament were not terribly diligent when comparing their translation of the Vulgate with the original Greek. Tsk. Tsk.
For a more detailed examination of these passages, I invite the reader to Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Volume II, pages 204-7; Baker Book House edition. But for now, back to Father Donovan's teaching:
The verses from Luke cited by Donovan are drawn from a larger account of Jesus reproaching the Pharisees. The high and mighty Pharisees were increasingly upset by the popularity of Jesus' message with the tax collectors and outcasts of society. Jesus was aware of their grumbling, so He used parables to rebuke them for their pious self-righteousness.
In verse 4, He describes how God takes the initiative in seeking sinners. This was the opposite of what rabbis were teaching: that God would receive sinners who sought His forgiveness with sufficient earnestness (Sounds a lot like what the RCC teaches, doesn't it?). Verse 7 and verse 10 speak to joy over the return of the lost.
The "joy in Heaven" mentioned in verse 7 refers to the joy of God Himself. On earth, the Pharisees were complaining (see verse 2), but in Heaven there was great joy with God and among the angels. The heavenly joy resulted from the repentance of those sinners who responded to Jesus' message, as opposed to those who think themselves righteous and have no need to repent.
Look again at verse 6. The shepherd is the one who is joyful at the recovery of his lost sheep and it is the shepherd who calls his friends to share his good news with them. In verse 9, it is the woman who found her lost coin who is filled with joy and who gathers her friends and neighbors to tell them of her good news. In neither parable do the friends and neighbors have any reason to be joyful until they are informed of the good fortune of one who recovered what was lost. Think about the teaching. Who is symbolized by the shepherd and the woman and who are the lost? It is fallen man who has strayed from the fold and it is the Lord God Who feels joy when one of His lost ones returns. The angels in Heaven are like the friends and neighbors in the parables; until the Lord shares His joy with them, there is no reason to believe they have any idea what is going on with the lost.
Context. Context. Context.
Donovan provides another pseudo-biblical support for the idea that saints are aware of happenings on earth.
"Moses, when with God on the mountain, far away and out of sight, was allowed to know that his people had fallen into idolatry. He could see what was passing elsewhere and could pray to God for them. It is only natural to suppose the saints can do the same. Those blessed souls in Heaven, who are bound to us by ties of nature and grace, must have a sincere desire to help us in our necessities. We believe that the Blessed Virgin and the Saints enjoy the power of interceding for us with God, a privilege bestowed upon them by Jesus Christ." (Donovan, Op. cit.)
Wrong again. Donovan informs his Catholic readers that Moses, while up on the mountain top with God, was empowered to see what was happening down below. He then builds on the basis of this "power" of Moses by claiming it is "natural to suppose the saints can do the same." I confess that for me it is not "natural to suppose" any such thing.
The biblical account of Moses' visit with the Lord God atop Mt. Horeb is long and complex and one that I had to refresh myself on. So, I carefully read again Exodus chapters 19 through 32 to see whether the priest was correct. I found nothing to support the idea that Moses was able to see "what was passing elsewhere." What I did find was that God TOLD Moses what was passing elsewhere. And that is very much different from the Catholic teaching Donovan provides.
Exodus 32:7 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves:
Exodus 32:8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
I checked the Douay-Rheims Old Testament and Exodus 32:7,8 read essentially the same as my KJV. Donovan's book carries the Nihil Obstat and Imprimitur, so we are assured that it has been reviewed by ecclesiastical authorities and was determined to contain nothing contrary to Roman Catholic doctrine. This must be an assurance that what Donovan wrote above at least parallels official RCC doctrine. If this is so, then Rome is wrong. Period.
The arguments and Scriptures the RCC uses to support the fantasy that the spirits of dead know what is going on – to some degree at least – and are available to intercede on behalf of the Catholic faithful still living on earth don't work. The premise is false.
Believers don't need to make contact with spirits of the dead to seek their intercession with God Almighty. As children of God, members of His family, we have the right to go boldly before the Throne of Grace with our petitions. We can appeal to our heavenly Father directly.
Hebrews 4:14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
Hebrews 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
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