You don’t need to study the teachings of Catholicism too deeply to be repelled by the stench of death and deception that permeate its practices. There is nothing more creepy and absurd than entering an old style traditional Catholic church filled with skeletons and bones of “saints” and the like.
I once watched a documentary on Discovery World in which a monk took a researcher to the basement of a monastery, explaining to her the significance of relics to the Catholic faith. The basement was literally filled with human skulls from ceilings to the floor.According to the New Catholic Encyclopedia, a relic is “the material remains of a saint or holy person after his death, as well as objects sanctified by contact with his body.”
In utter desperation, modern Catholic apologists try to find a Biblical basis for this practice by citing some Bible passages which actually violate the Catholic definition of relics. A scholar pointed out that the few Bible texts that Catholic apologists have cobbled together “have to be so grossly isolated, so completely removed from any meaningful context, so as to provide automatic refutation upon the most basic contemplation.”
For example, they cite 2 Kings 13:21 “Once while the Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.”
This passage shows that the people didn’t believe the bones of Elisha had any power whatsoever; they dumped the man’s body on the bones because they sighted Moabite enemies approaching. It was a one-time miracle by the power of God. He sovereignly used Elisha’s bones as a vehicle of raising the dead, just as He used ravens to feed Elijah (1Kings 17:6) and a fish to swallow Jonah (Jon. 1:17).
There was nothing “magical” about the ravens or fishes. Notably, this was the only instance where Elisha’s bones worked a miracle, and the Israelites didn’t venerate his bones – even in their days of apostasy. Let Catholics today throw their corpses on the bones of Padre Pio or Fr. Michael Tansi and let’s watch their dead rise.
Other passages cited are the instances where people touched the cloak of Jesus (Mt. 14:35-36); Peter’s shadow healing the sick and handkerchiefs or aprons from Paul which healed people (Acts 5:15, 19:12). These aren’t relics since Jesus and the apostles were not dead before these miracles occurred and nowhere in Scripture did Christians venerate these materials.
This is where the “Christian” mask of Catholicism falls off to reveal a sinister side. It’s hard to spin the pictures of people bowing in front of corpses and skulls, blood or hearts of “saints,” lighting candles and fingering rosaries. Even if you know little of the Bible, such scenarios (especially in Catholic dominated countries) are enough for you to start questioning this religion.
Some relics, like the Shroud of Turin, the alleged crib of Jesus exhibited on Christmas day or the cup used at the last supper (“the holy grail”) come with sensational thrills. Some are just outrageous. For example, several Catholic churches have claimed to have Mary’s hair (some red, some brown, some blonde, some black!), the bottle of milk on which Jesus was suckled, Mary’s skirts, Joseph’s carpenter tools, Jesus’ crown of thorns, the water pots from which water turned to wine, and even Jesus’ foreskin allegedly discovered by the monks of Charroux who claimed it yielded drops of blood. Interestingly, Catholic churches in Coulombs, France and St. John’s in Rome also claimed to have Jesus’ foreskin in their possession! (John Wilder, The Other Side of Rome, 1959, Grand Rapids: MI, 54).
Some relics seem to be for people far removed from the world of reality e.g a piece of broiled fish Peter offered Jesus at the Last Supper which John Calvin (1509-64) sarcastically wrote about, that such a fish “must have been wondrously well salted, if it has [been] kept for such a long series of ages.” The shrine of the Holy House of Loretto in Italy is alleged to be the very house the virgin Mary lived in Jerusalem. So how did it get to Italy? The Catholic Encyclopedia (13:454) explains:
“Angels conveyed this House from Palestine to the town Tersato in Illyria in the year of salvation 1291 … Three years later, at the beginning of the pontificate of Boniface VIII, it was carried again by the ministry of angels and placed in a wood … where, having changed its station thrice in the course of a year, at length, by the will of God it took up its permanent position on this spot…”
Wow, isn’t this wonderful? Perhaps in the next 5 decades angels would transport this shrine to Mexico. The relics of the cross on which Jesus was crucified were so scattered all over Europe at a time that Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) wrote that one could build an entire ship out of all of the “genuine fragments of the cross.” Yet, the cross of Christ was carried by a single individual. Are we to believe that single cross multiplied into millions? St. Paulinus says yes, that the cross “never grew smaller in size, no matter how many pieces were detached from it” (Cath. Ency. 4:524). Once you veer out of truth, there is no limit to your delusion.
The Israelites fell into this same trap. God had earlier instructed Moses to make a bronze serpent as a vehicle of healing those bitten by the serpents (Num. 21:9). This foreshadowed the work of Christ on the cross to undo the deed of the serpent (Jn. 3:14-15). Yet, many years after the bronze serpent has fulfilled its purpose, the apostate Jews still kept it with them it for veneration. This made it an abomination before God and was destroyed by King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:4).
The origins of relics can be traced to ancient paganism. The Catholic Encyclopedia rightly admits that the use of “some objects notably part of the body or clothes, remaining as a memorial of a departed saint” was in existence “before the propagation of Christianity” and “the veneration of relics, in fact, is to some extent a primitive instinct associated with many other religious systems besides that of Christianity” (12:734).
This use or veneration of relics dates back to the same false worship that God denounced all through His Word. Many of these pagan cults have certain sites regarded as holy because a portion of their god is said to be buried there.
In Hindu myths, Shiva is said to carry the corpse of his wife, Sati “around the world on his shoulder until the other gods, to put an end to his mourning, dismembered the corpse. The spot where each each pieces of her body fell to the ground became sacred places of pilgrimage called pithas” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1979, Vol. VIII, 913).
Ancient Egypt “was covered with sepulchres of its martyred god: and many a leg and arm and skull, all vouched to be genuine, were exhibited in the rival burying places for the adoration of the Egyptian faithful.” (Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons, 1959, 179). It must have been due to this exposure to Egyptian paganism that God’s didn’t disclose to the Israelites where He buried Moses. If backslide Israel could worship what he made, how much more his bones if they had them!
The New Catholic Encyclopedia (XII, 234-5) admits: “It is thus in vain to seek a justification for the cult of relics in the Old Testament; nor is there much attention paid to relics in the New Testament … [The church “father”] Origen seems to have regarded the practice as a pagan sign of respect.”
Apart from the pagan roots of relics, there is also a business side to it. The Catholic church generates much money from relics and pilgrimages. For centuries, bone business was big business. In 750 A.D it was recorded that long lines of wagons constantly came to Rome bringing immense quantities of skulls and skeletons which were sorted, labelled, and sold by the popes. A marble slab at the Church of St. Prassade states that in 817, Pope Pascal had the bodies of 2,300 martyrs transferred from the cemeteries to this church (H. B. Cotterhill, Medieval Italy, 1915, 71, 391).
Just as in the occult, bone relics are also used to “consecrate” Catholic altars or church buildings. The castle church of Wittenberg where Luther nailed his 95 theses had 19,000 saintly relics. The Council of Trent declares that venerating the bodies of dead “martyrs” is compulsory for Catholics because through them, “many benefits are bestowed by God on men.”
In Bible Christianity, however, there is no emphasis on dead bones and rotten flesh because Jesus has “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10) True worship is “in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:24). We don’t need an object to relate with God. The inconsistencies, idolatry and deceptions that relics are based on reflect neither spirituality nor truth.