Monday, January 08, 2007

Why Do Catholics Keep Jesus on the Cross?

I received a wonderful message from a Phatmass friend today. She was letting me know that she had thought about me in her nightly praying of the rosary. In her sig is a quote from Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen that I have always loved. It inspired me to write this post.

If you've ever done Catholic apologetics on a protestant forum, you've more than likely come across the assertion that Catholics keep Jesus on the Cross. A whole host of reasons are given for this:
  1. Catholics have a morbid fascination with death
  2. Crucifixes are scare tactics to keep people under submission
  3. Crucifixes are just another example of the gloom, suffering, and penitential emphasis on works that pervades Catholic life.
  4. Catholics have crucifixes because they do not adequately acknowledge God's place in heaven as King. CHRIST IS RISEN!
  5. The crucifix is proof that Catholics crucify Jesus over and over again in the Mass.
  6. A crucifix is simply another example of the Catholic use of graven images and idol worship.
  7. [insert your own answer here]
Believe it or not, I have read every single one of these arguments (or arguments similar to these) in online forums and anti-Catholic websites over the years. Some great articles have been written in response to all of this (which I will provide here shortly), but first I want to share Sheen's profound one-sentence answer:
Keep your eyes on the crucifix,
for Jesus without the cross
is a man without a mission,
and the cross without Jesus
is a burden without a reliever.
How perfect! Jesus' mission was to mount that cross to achieve the forgiveness of our sins, and without Him perched there, accepting the burden of all man's sins, the cross becomes simply one of many forms of capital punishment in Jesus' day.

For more information in defense of the crucifix, see the following articles:Pax Christi,


Amber said...

Beautifully said... I just added it as my own signature. Thanks for this post.

Becky said...


I agree...that quote is wonderful! I'll have to write that one down. Great post and links too. Made me think of a quote I read from another apologetics site, "If anything would make the cross an idol, it would be removing Jesus from the cross."

Laura said...

I was listening to the radio yesterday in my car (a Christian station, not Catholic) and they were playing a song that talked about this. I'd be bummed to find out it was a Catholic artist. It's better for the case if it were not. They listen to this music all the time but they only seem to have a problem with it when it is labeled 'Catholic'. Anyway, if I hear the song again, I'll write it down.

jmjtina said...

Sheen is awesome.

Life is Worth living. And truly living is dying for those you love as Jesus Himself showed us.

Stevie B said...

Praise Jesus for the price he paid on the Cross may we never forget the terrible cost of what he has done for our Salvation. What proves that Christ loves us is that he died for us even though we were sinners. Everytime we see a crucifix may we be reminded what Christ has done for us, lest we forget.

Justin West said...

Speaking of the protestant custom of having merely a Cross, Chesterton said: “To salute the Cross in that sense is literally to bow down to wood and stone.”

The Catholic custom keeps it from being mere idolatry.

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