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"Those who for whole days prayed and offered sacrifice that their children might survive them, were called superstitious" (Cicero, ibid., II, 28, 72).Cicero also drew the distinction: "Superstitio est in qua timor inanis deorum, religio quæ deorum cultu pio continetur", i.e.Worship becomes indebitus cultus when incongruous, meaningless, improper elements are added to the proper and approved performance; it becomes idolatrous when it is offered to creatures set up as divinities or endowed with divine attributes.Divination consists in the attempt to extract from creatures, by means of religious rites, a knowledge of future events or of things known to God alone.This may indeed be interpreted as a reaction against Materialism ; but it is none the less, at bottom, an evidence of man's restless desire to penetrate, by any and every means, the mystery that lies beyond death.
deorum", I, 42, 117); or from superstes , "surviving": "Qui totos dies precabantur et immolabant, ut sibi sui liberi superstites essent, superstitiosi sunt appellati", i.e.
Such false elements, be their origin culpable deceit or inculpable credulity, vitiate the virtue of religion by substituting error for truth in the service of God.
A layman performing priestly functions, a pardoner selling spurious indulgences, a fanatic devotee inventing false miracles and answers to prayers in order to introduce or spread his own favourite devotion, wholesale believers in supernatural apparitions, visions, revelations, which serve no good purpose -- all these are guilty of superstition, at least material.
The numerous cases in which the event seemed to justify the superstitious practice, and the universality of such incongruous beliefs and performances, though they may not always induce inculpable ignorance, may possibly obscure the knowledge and weaken the will to a point incompatible with mortal sin.
As a matter of fact, many superstitions of our own day have been acts of genuine piety at other times, and may be so still in the hearts of simple folk. Improper Worship The first type of improper worship, cultus indebitus , consists in introducing false or superfluous elements into the practice of true religion.