If you visit the Colosseum in Rome, where thousands of Christians were martyred, you will pass at the entrance an enormous image of Moloch, the gruesome Canaanite deity that demanded the sacrifice of infants and small children.
The idol, modeled after a depiction in the classic silent film Cabiria, is part of an exhibit on ancient Carthage, where Moloch was worshiped. Many conservative Catholics and Christians in general are unnerved by the presence of the idol on what they consider sacred ground. The Colosseum, the stadium where Rome staged its gladiator fights and other entertainments (including the torture of Christians) is owned and operated by the Vatican, which must have given permission for the exhibit and the installation.
The controversy over the Moloch image has become tied to another controversy over the use of an Amazonian fertility idol to the goddess Pachamama in a series of ceremonies, including one at the Vatican gardens at which the Pope was present. The events, honoring the Amazonian Synod that was considering ordaining female priests, included indigenous worshippers prostrating themselves before the idol and a liturgical prayer to the goddess. Some conservative Catholics later stole the idols and threw them into the Tiber river. They were recovered and the Pope apologized.
Defenders of the statue say that it’s simply a part of a historical, cultural exhibit about Rome’s ancient rival and that no religious significance was intended. Fine. But why wasn’t the figure relegated to the context of the other exhibits inside, rather than “welcoming” (the word used in the press release) visitors at the entrance of the Colosseum itself? True, statues of other pagan gods, such as Jupiter and Mercury, can be found everywhere in Rome. But Moloch is particularly problematic.
So what’s the issue with Moloch? This is no ordinary animistic image. Even the Greek and Roman pagans were horrified by Moloch and how he was worshiped. The classical writers associated Moloch with Cronus, whom the Romans called Saturn, one of the old gods who devoured his own children until he was overthrown by his child Zeus.
[The Greek writer] Plutarch is especially descriptive: “… but with full knowledge and understanding they themselves offered up their own children, and those who had no children would buy little ones from poor people and cut their throats as if they were so many lambs or young birds; meanwhile the mother stood by without a tear or moan; but should she utter a single moan or let fall a single tear, she had to forfeit the money, and her child was sacrificed nevertheless; and the whole area before the statue was filled with a loud noise of flutes and drums that the cries of wailing should not reach the ears of the people.”
Carthage was an outpost of the Canaanite civilization that was in conflict with that of the children of Israel.
[TBC: As Dave Hunt noted in a TBC Q&A, “The late John Paul II worked overtime bringing representatives of all the major religions together at his first “World Day of Peace.” It was October 27, 1986, in Assisi, Italy, when Pope John Paul II called together the world religions and leaders “to pray and work towards world peace.” His successor has kept up the pace. On October 27, 2011, Pope Benedict observed the 25th Anniversary by having a “Day of Reflection and Prayer,” where he assembled the world religions and leaders in the same “holy place” of Assisi known to “Saint Francis and Saint Clare.” Pope Francis has continued the same practice, so why not a statue of Moloch?
In Leviticus:18:21, the Lord declared to Israel, “…thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.” Prior to his martyrdom, Stephen rebuked the Jewish leaders by citing Israel’s history. In Acts:7:43, he specifically repeated the Lord’s accounting of Israel’s sins, “Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.” Despite revivals in the reigns of godly kings, worship of Moloch among Israelites wasn’t abolished until the 70 year captivity in Babylon.]