The Godfather, courtship rituals, and modern dating

Over the last several decades, our society has rejected old courtship rituals in favor of personal freedom. However, it seems obvious to me now that the old rituals, that involved family members input and certain social norms regarding sex and childbearing, served to facilitate trust. I say this because there is no longer any mechanism that signals trust–we have no idea if we can trust somebody that we might want to date.

The old courtship rituals that involved family members’ input regarding dating partners served a trust-generation, trust-communication, trust-signalling function, it seems to me. It was like a third-party assurance service. I am studying financial statement auditing right now, which has prompted this line of reasoning. I am thinking of Michael Corleone in the Godfather (the film, not the book), and his courtship with Apollonia. Through that gradual courtship process, trust could develop between them. Presumably, either could back out at any time before the marriage, without losing face.

We have no such mechanism in the modern dating world. By abolishing the old courtship rituals, did we abolish assurance services? Online dating has not replaced that function, assuming it existed. As far as I can tell, online dating has one positive feature, and only one: it increases the size of the dating pool. This is a very important function for older adults, as the dating pool shrinks dramatically as we age. But online dating websites don’t help with the generation of trust. For example, what might happen if there was some way to track and to make public the number of times somebody “ghosted” somebody else? This would increase trust, since it would reduce the incentive to “ghost,” thereby reducing “ghosting.” At least, that is what makes sense to me.

Imagine Michael Corleone “ghosting” Apollonia, and what would have happened to his reputation in that geographic area of Italy. On the flip side, back in the United States, he DID “ghost” Kay, then reemerged later (aka, “submarined”). That didn’t work out very well for either of them.

What do you think? How is trust created/verified in the modern dating world?


Ecclesial Deism, part three

I believe that the concepts from Ecclesial Deism by Dr. Bryan Cross are so important, that I put them into a table for easy reference. The original blog post itself is very long and has a lot of detail. I am thinking that most people on my blog probably won’t want to read it. This table might make the idea of ecclesial deism easier for readers to understand. These are not my ideas, they are his, but I agree with him and I intuited the general argument in the process of becoming Catholic.

ecclesial deism table

I took the liberty of adding a column for Orthodox, and one for Jehovah’s Witness. I think I have represented those columns correctly, but Dr. Cross might not agree. So those columns are my own interpretation of what he said about ecclesial deism.

See also:




Contraception and 1 Timothy 4:3

I was at another blog last night, reading a post written by a Protestant. She was making the case that it is OK for married Christian couples to use contraception. I totally get her argument, because pretty much every point she made I held myself before I started to seriously look at the Catholic Church. I left a brief comment, saying that I used to hold those views but the Lord showed me something more, then I linked this post so she could check it out.

There is a major difficulty in showing people the Church’s teaching on contraception. Most people today have the contraceptive mentality, and they don’t realize how that mentality has impacted their thinking on the subject. The contraceptive mentality is new, and is the result of the cultural revolution known as the sexual revolution. The contraceptive mentality did not exist before the 20th century. It only exists because of  the widespread acceptance of contraception inside of marriage (or anywhere else, for that matter).

The contraceptive mentality is the belief that fertile opposite-sex couples have a right, or a duty, to pregnancy-free coitus. It is the belief there is no principle that attaches children to sex or marriage. Coitus is, or can be, a presumptively sterile act. The results of coitus between fertile opposite-sex couples can be or should be controlled with 100% precision.  This mentality has separated children from sex and marriage in a principled way. It means that children are added back to marriage in an ad hoc manner on couple-by-couple basis.

If someone implicitly believes that sex is a presumptively sterile act, that fertile opposite-sex couples have a right or a duty for pregnancy-free coitus, then of course it doesn’t look like the Bible has anything to say about contraception. To such a person, it is not obvious how sex is tied to children in a principled way. They have adopted the ad hoc approach to children, but the ad hoc approach to children did not exist before the sexual revolution, which means it did not exist when the Bible was written or during early Church history. During those times, children were tied to marriage in a principled way.

It is very hard to convince people that the ad hoc approach to children is contrary to God’s design for marriage. They like the control that contraception gives. They believe that the pleasure of sex can be enjoyed without being open to children, and that this does not displease God because God doesn’t care if the pleasure of sex is separated from being open to children. He may, in fact, require this under some circumstances.

St. Augustine argues against this separation, using a verse from 1 Timothy 4 to make his point:

“You make your auditors adulterers of their wives when they take care lest the women with whom they copulate conceive. They are unwilling to have children, on whose account alone marriages are made. How is it, then, that you are not those prohibiting marriage, as the apostle predicted of you so long ago [1 Tim. 4:1-4], when you try to take from marriage what marriage is? When this is taken away, husbands are shameful lovers, wives are harlots, bridal chambers are brothels, fathers-in-law are pimps.” (Against Faustus, 15:7)

Somebody with the contraceptive mentality won’t agree that contraception prohibits marriage. But St. Augustine does not have the contraceptive mentality, because it didn’t exist in a widespread way at that time. Even if it did, he would have rejected it, and he is, in fact, rejecting it here because he is saying that children are part of marriage in a principled way. He is saying that children are the reason for marriage, that contraception stops the one-flesh union from happening, and that this is what St. Paul prophesied. He is saying that the couple has the outer appearance of being married, yet in the sight of the Lord they are not married.


The Bible does have something to say about contraception, but it only makes sense once the contraceptive mentality has been identified and rejected.



Some thoughts about the song, Mary Did You Know

This particular music video of Mary, Did You Know has been played over 174M times since it was published in November of 2014. It’s a popular song, and this particular version of it is extremely well done. The singers are talented and they harmonize really well. The candles give it a feel like Easter vigil, welcoming Mary into their midst.

A couple days ago I came across a Catholic critique of the song and it seemed a bit over the top. I’ve actually seen a number of Catholic critiques of it, and they all focus on answering the questions in the lyrics, one by one. As a Catholic writing about a Protestant song about Mary, I totally get that inclination but it seems a bit defensive. We don’t have to go on defense with the song, do we? I am not inclined to do that.

Plus, the lyrics might only be rhetorical questions, which are questions that don’t require an answer. In fact, I am pretty sure that is the case. The lyrics just don’t seem to need an answer, and I mean that in good way. It’s like listening to a poem set to music. Sure, we could dissect the poem, but another option is to simply take in the whole thing, as is.

It’s not my favorite song, and I do understand the theological problems in the lyrics from a Catholic perspective. However, I am glad that Protestants like it. It is a prayer to Mary, and this Catholic does not object to that.

The relationship between Scripture and the Church

There is a mysterious connection between Jesus and the written scripture. They are not identical, as far as I can tell, yet the connection is real. In the same way, there is also a mysterious connection between Mary and the Church.  I don’t understand these connections, but they are there.

While in the shower yesterday afternoon, I asked the Lord to show me the relationship of the Scripture to the Church. An image immediately flashed into my mind, which surprised me since I wasn’t expecting it. I have recreated the image below, and I admit that I have a lot of questions about it. It shows a parallel between Jesus-Mary-Jesus and the OT Scripture-the Church-NT Scripture.

christ mary christ diagram

Each is sort of like a timeline, but they are not exactly parallel in time with each other.

What is notable to me is how the NT Scriptures come out of the Church. Also, we see that Christ precedes Mary, yet comes into the world through her.

Anyway, I wanted to share it here, because my prayer in the shower is related to a larger issue that I hope to write more about soon. Once I get it all worked out, I will probably circle back to this diagram.

Positioning Eternal Security within the context of Catholic teaching

My intent with this post is to clearly situate the Evangelical doctrine known as eternal security (also called once saved always saved) inside of Catholic teaching. I am not arguing against that doctrine, and I am not defending it. I am simply taking it as it is, and positioning it inside of Catholic teaching. I think the results are interesting.

First, the steps to achieving salvation according to what I call the once saved always saved pattern, are present in Catholic practice. The once saved always saved pattern corresponds to Catholic initiation rites and I wrote about that here. If once saved always saved is true, and if those steps can be found within Catholic practice, then this shifts the debate. For example, Evangelical sites like CARM argue:

If a Roman Catholic believes in the official Roman Catholic teaching on salvation, then he is not a Christian since the official RCC position is contrary to Scripture.

This is contrary to the once saved always saved pattern. That pattern consists of three steps:

  • Confess that Jesus is Lord
  • Believe that God raised Him from the dead
  • Sincerely ask Him to forgive us of our sins.

According to this pattern, what an individual believes apart from sincerely following these steps is irrelevant. For example, if somebody sincerely follows these steps and believes that Martians have taken refuge at the bottom of our oceans, that person is still saved. Thus, the sincere Catholic is saved according to this doctrine since he undertook those steps in the process of becoming Catholic. It is interesting to note that the pattern does not require belief in Jesus as God (only as Lord), the Trinity, the virgin birth, or other Christian doctrines. Presumably these come later but they are outside the scope of what is required to be saved, according to this doctrine. Any additions to those steps would violate the Simple Gospel principle that Evangelicals have embraced. So it is an interesting conundrum because there is no step four, “Believe that these steps work/will save you/are sufficient.” Are those steps sufficient? If somebody does them yet doesn’t affirm that they are enough to be saved, does God still save the person? Does forensic justification still occur? As far as I can tell, the answer Evangelicals and other Protestants would give is yes.

Second, Catholics will say that we can’t infallibly know whether or not we are saved, but this neglects a significant exception that I think Evangelicals might find interesting. According to the Council of Trent, certain individuals can know they are saved because God has revealed it to them. At the Sixth Session, Canon XVI, Trent says:

“If any one saith, that he will for certain, of an absolute and infallible certainty, have that great gift of perseverance unto the end,-unless he have learned this by special revelation; let him be anathema.”

I asked a priest about the phrase “special revelation.” He said that when Trent says “special revelation,” it means “private revelation.” In Catholic parlance, this means that the person knows they have the grace of final perseverance (they will remain in a state of grace until they die), because God revealed that to them. For example, Steven D. Greydanus at the National Catholic Register argues that St. Mary:

connected what God was doing in her with her own salvation. At the Visitation, responding to Elizabeth’s joyful greeting and hailing her as ‘the mother of my Lord,’ Mary sings in the Magnificat:

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.

“Our Lady Sings Magnificat,” from the Book of old English songs and ballads, c. 1920 (public domain)

St. Mary had a certain level of assurance regarding her salvation. Did she know it infallible? Well, I don’t know but I do know that she made a prophecy in that Magnificat that is still coming true today. I wrote about that here.

For me, I’ve had quite a few dreams and other experiences that could be seen as me having the grace of final perseverance. And perhaps I have that grace, but if I do it is not clear to me. I am not Catholic because it tells me, right now and with 100 percent certitude, where I will spent eternity. I am Catholic because I believe it is true.

This exception is an exception. Not everybody who is saved will know ahead of time, and some who believe they are saved won’t be.

Fr. Perrone: The greatest weapon within the grasp of every Catholic is the keeping of a well-ordered soul

A beautiful reflection on the Church, holiness, and the existence of evil and error.

Assumption Grotto Church

On Sunday, July 8, 2018, Fr. Perrone delivered this homily at the 9:30 a.m. Mass.  With the choir and school on summer break, it was a low Mass in the extraordinary form for the 7th Sunday after Pentecost.

The good tree produces good fruit — which is to say what comes before makes a qualitative determination in what comes after. We may take this adage in application to the many things in life, but concerning the Church it has a special significance.

Snip20180709_2The holy Church of Christ has produced out of abundance of the graces it has in its store, an astounding number of holy people, those whom we call saints — those canonized and not-canonized. If you have made yourselves acquainted with the biographies of the saints, you are aware — as too many nowadays are not — that the Church has a very lengthy roster of…

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Purgatory as an accountability mechanism

I think Purgatory makes a lot of sense. It explains what happens to us when we die while retaining love and/or attachment to sin not leading to death.

There are two kinds of sin, sin that leads to death and sin that does not lead to death.

Each kind of sin has its own result, which means there are two kinds of results for sin. The sin that leads to death has everlasting suffering as its result. The sin that does not lead to death has temporary suffering as its result. The death of Christ remits the everlasting result (if we accept what He did according to His conditions), but not the temporary result.

When we die, there are two alternatives. I will call them Alternative 1 and Alternative 2. There can be no sin and no love of or attachment to any kind of sin in Alternative 1. If we die while retaining some love for and/or attachment to our sins that did not lead to top loading washing machine public domaindeath, we must relinquish that love and attachment before we can experience Alternative 1. Let’s call this relinquishment process The Accountability Machine. If we are in The Accountability Machine, it means that we have accepted Christ’s conditions for Alternative 1, but there is still a process we must undergo due to our love for and/or attachment to sins that did not lead to death. It is an unpleasant process because we love and are attached to those sins (the sins that don’t lead to death)–we struggle with giving them up. We are still saved—there is only one way out of The Accountability Machine, up (it’s a top loader, lol). Christ’s death and resurrection does not automatically mean we have relinquished our love and attachment to sin that doesn’t lead to death. We will be held accountable for it, but not in an everlasting way.

If we die but have not followed Christ’s conditions for Alternative 1, then we will experience Alternative 2.

I am not certain how Catholic this explanation is, but I think it works pretty well under a Catholic paradigm. Typically, Catholics talk about two kinds of punishment for sin. But punishment has a purpose. Suffering can be the result of temporal punishment (due to our love for and attachment to sins that don’t lead to death), but its purpose is to help us let go of that love and attachment. See, for example, Hebrews 12.

The question is: if we are otherwise saved, what happens to us when we die with our love and attachment to sin still intact?

My song this morning: Christ be our light

I woke up with this song playing in my mind:

I took it, and made it a song of praise in my heart.

Then when I got up, I read today’s mass readings, which included these verses:

Reading 2 Eph 5:8-14
Brothers and sisters:
You were once darkness,
but now you are light in the Lord.
Live as children of light,
for light produces every kind of goodness
and righteousness and truth.
Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness;
rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention
the things done by them in secret;
but everything exposed by the light becomes visible,
for everything that becomes visible is light.
Therefore, it says:
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will give you light.”

Verse Before the Gospel Jn 8:12
I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
whoever follows me will have the light of life.

Gospel Jn 9:1-41
As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.
His disciples asked him,
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents,
that he was born blind?”
Jesus answered,
“Neither he nor his parents sinned;
it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.
We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day.
Night is coming when no one can work.
While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
When he had said this, he spat on the ground
and made clay with the saliva,
and smeared the clay on his eyes,
and said to him,
“Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” —which means Sent—.
So he went and washed, and came back able to see…

There are many versions of this song available on Youtube. I picked that one because the people look so full of light and happy!

It seems that I do receive a lot of signal graces from the Lord. I wonder if it’s because He knows how hard it is for me to believe that He is absolutely committed to me.