In order to solve this puzzle, let's do what we do best: "Go to Thomas" (Ite ad Thomam).
Given this doctrine on the adoration of images, Aquinas has now the trouble of explaining why, even though in the Hebrew Scriptures the use of images was forbidden in worship, the prohibition nonetheless no longer applies since the coming of Christ. He cannot simply claim that the prohibition is only of adoring images, and that Christians only venerate them, as many contemporary Christians would argue. Rather, he is committed to the doctrine that images of Christ are deserving of latria. His response focuses instead on the doctrine of the twofold movement of the mind towards an image, affirming that whereas in the case of Old Testament idolatry, the adoration of images was adoration of the gods of the gentiles, where since the coming of Christ the adoration of images is of God Himself made man.
The take-home message is that we do adore images (i.e., we bow down to them, kneel before them, etc.). But 'adoring' in this sense refers to just an exterior religious act. The inner religious act that is expressed outwardly in adoration depends on what the image is of. If the image is of Christ, then, yes, we give latria to the image; or more precisely, to Christ in the image. We do not give latria to the image simply because it is an image, but because it is an image of Christ, the God-man. And if the image is of a saint, then we give dulia to the image, or rather to the saint in the image. And in the case of images of Our Lady, it is hyperdulia. There is nothing wrong with doing this: it is the same movement of the mind that is directed to the image and to the person in the image. Christ is thus deserving of the same latria, or worship, whether in person or in an image. To do otherwise would amount to a misuse of images.
So let us be traditional Catholics. Let us not feel pressured by un-Catholic (ultimately Protestant) cultural sensibilities to miss the importance and value of Catholic iconography, religious sculpture, and sacred art in general. Let us confidently adore Christ in our icons and statues. And venerate our Saints in our images. That is why these sacramentals fill our churches (or should fill them). They are there as a powerful religious resource, and not as a 'mere symbol' or decoration. The Church has so much confidence in them as powerful sacramentals, as "windows to heaven," that she dedicated a whole Ecumenical Council to defending them.
The Eastern Churches have the beautiful tradition of celebrating this council, "The Triumph of Orthodoxy" as they call it, in their liturgies every year on the first Sunday of Great Lent by processing around their churches holding icons up high. It is quite a spectacle to behold. Let us imitate them in defending the faith through these wonderful trophies of the Incarnation.