Testimonial: my husband’s parents are divorcing

I received this as a comment on my blog. It was in response to one of my posts about how there is a cultural obsession with happy endings and how this clouds our thinking about what divorce does to the next generation over the long term:

Thank you for writing this. My in-laws are going through a divorce right now, and a lot of this mirrors what my husband is going through. While my MIL is very apologetic, my FIL refuses to acknowledge that this is doing anything to their children. “You’re an adult, this shouldn’t affect you.”- his actual words to my husband as the world was ripped out from under him. Meanwhile he surprises us all by bringing his new -to-us but year-long girlfriend to a large family function without telling his children that he HAD a girlfriend in the first place, and insists they should all be adult about it.

We DO have a cultural obsession with happy endings. Cultural pressure to accept that divorce is “for the better”. It’s all a lie. And it all comes from the father of lies himself. It’s horrible, it’s untrue, and it’s disgusting. I don’t know what’s worse- widespread divorce, or the lies that go along with it.

Divorcing parents are utterly clueless as to how offensive it can be when they bring a new love-interest into the picture. However, their cluelessness is not entirely their fault. As I have said elsewhere, the professional class–the group of people who SHOULD know better, who CLAIM to know better–lies all the time about the harms of divorce. Related to this, is how they have failed to provide an accurate theoretical framework for kids of divorce to understand their emotions and the ongoing struggles they face.


Heavenly Catholic worship music

I’ve previously shared a few beautiful worship songs created by Protestants. Below I’ve embedded something Catholic called Agnus Dei, which means Lamb of God. It’s chanting in Latin, in four part harmony. In English it means:

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

You will recognize some of these words. They were spoken by John the Baptist when he saw Jesus (John 1:29). The words are spoken or sung during the mass as the priest breaks the consecrated host.

As I mentioned before, I am still acclimating myself to Catholic art. Thankfully there is no rush nor is there even an obligation. For example, I entered the Church in a parish that was meeting in a gymnasium it had recently built as part of a larger project. There was almost no art present inside the gym, and to be frank this is one of the reasons I chose that parish. Getting used to Catholic art is definitely one consideration in regards to becoming Catholic. Unfortunately it is never discussed, at least not that I’ve seen. I think converts, or potential converts, need to be told that they can become Catholic without embracing art that they find intimidating or off-putting.

Along these same lines, the kind of music in this video might be a bit of an acquired taste… like a fine red wine. I take a few sips here and there and find that I enjoy it a lot in small amounts. This piece in particular is heavenly and only about 1:30 long. Take a small sip and see if you enjoy it as much as I do! If you can read sheet music you’ll be able to follow along.

Just for clarity: most parishes in the U.S. won’t be singing these words in Latin at the consecration, they will be singing or saying them in English. The way to hear this in Latin during a mass is to attend a mass said in Latin, aka Extraordinary Form (EF).

Another way to think about problematic members in the Catholic Church

As I discussed before, the Catholic Church has problematic members. We can think of them as weeds according to Matthew 13. I hope I am not a weed, but given that others probably think I am, I can’t rule out that possibility. After all, none of us is the final judge of who is or who is not a weed. That is for God alone.

Today I want to look at the Church’s problematic members in a different way.

Because of the Church’s claims about who she is, it seems that she is judged more harshly for having problematic members than when problematic members are revealed in other churches or organizations. Wouldn’t you agree that this is true? For example, sexual abuse exists in Protestant churches, but for some reason it just doesn’t get the same media coverage or fanfare as when it happens in the Catholic Church.

If I am right about this, it might be evidence for the Church’s claim about who she is, rather than evidence against that claim. Consider what happens with colors. The same color looks different depending on its background.

two colors in the middle are the same

I created this image in Word to show what I mean. The smaller squares are the same color. I created the first one, then created the others by copying and pasting them, so you can know with 100% certainty that they are the same exact color. The one on the right looks darker than the one on the left, because it is on a lighter background. You can do this yourself in Word just to verify it.

We can apply the same principle to the Church. She shines more brightly, so her problematic members provide a starker contrast:

Insurance companies, child advocacy groups and religion scholars say there is no evidence that Catholic clergy are more likely to be involved in sexual misconduct than other clergy or professionals. Yet ongoing civil litigation of decades-old cases against a church with deep pockets keeps the Catholic Church in the headlines.

“There is no plausible evidence that Catholic priests are gangs of sexual predators, as they are being portrayed,” said Pennsylvania State University Prof. Philip Jenkins, eminent religion and history scholar, and a non-Catholic who’s studied the church’s abuse problems for 20 years.

It is not that her members are worse sinners, it is that she is more holy.

How do we know if we have fulfilled our obligation to worship God?

I came across an interesting argument over at Nick’s Catholic Blog. He calls this argument the Ultimate Catholic Apologetics Argument (UCAA). I am not sure about that characterization, but at the very least I think he is onto something.

Let me restate his observation about Protestant worship service, using my own words:

Protestant Sunday worship services contain two structural features that are not found in the Bible: 1) The order in which the elements occur. 2) No definitive way to know that the obligation to worship God has been fulfilled.

So what are the elements that might be part of a Sunday worship service? Here are some that we can find in the Bible:

  • prayer
  • singing worship songs
  • preaching
  • Bible reading (out loud)
  • Eucharist (aka communion or Lord’s Supper)

Nick has pointed out that the Bible does not tell us:

  • in which order these should appear in a Sunday worship service
  • which elements MUST appear in order to ensure the fulfillment of our obligation to worship God

He argues that it means that we cannot look to the Bible to know with certainty whether or not we have fulfilled the obligation to worship God. If he is correct, then this is an extremely strong argument against Protestantism. However, I can think of a counter argument that Protestants could use to explain why they believe they fulfill the obligation.

Instead of continuing to argue head-on whether or not Protestants fulfill the obligation to worship God, I will address it from an entirely different angle in my next post.

If somebody believes that we don’t have an obligation to worship God, I addressed that here.

On Sunday worship

Under the Old Covenant, Saturday was the day for worship. But all Christians (except Seventh Day Adventists) worship on Sunday. There is not a lot of support for a change in the day of worship in Sacred Scripture, yet the day was changed. Here are the passages I found in the New Testament describing certain activities happening “on the first day” or “the Lord’s day” (Sunday): Mark 16:2, Mark 16:9, Luke 24:1, John 20:1, John 20:19, Acts 20:7, 1 Cor. 16:2, Rev. 1:10.

The Old Testament also shows another meaningful day: “the eighth day.” Eight days after a male child was born, he would be circumcised (Gen. 17:12). Similarly, eight days after the sabbath is the first day, Sunday. Look at a calendar, put your finger on any Saturday, then count forward each day. When you count up to eight you will be on the first day of the following week, which will be a Sunday.

Christus Ravenna mosaic, c. 550. Doesn’t directly apply to what I’m saying here… I just thought it was pretty. 🙂

The Scripture is clear about the requirement to worship on the sabbath. Yet the Scripture references above don’t add up to a clear argument for changing the day of worship and rest. Relying on Sacred Scripture alone to make that argument doesn’t seem very persuasive to me. If you read each of the New Testament verses above, you will see that they are all descriptive; none are imperative. Here is an example of an imperative statement:

“You shall love the Lord your God…”

This can be found in Matt. 22:37, Mark 12:30, and Luke 10:27. It is easy for us to understand him regarding what we are supposed to do, but he does not then change when we are to do it. There is no explicit command in Sacred Scripture to change the day of rest and worship from Saturday to Sunday.

The New Covenant ushered in a new way to worship. It follows then that it ushered in a new day to worship. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) has a lot to say about this but these two references make the point:

1166 By a tradition handed down from the apostles which took its origin from the very day of Christ’s Resurrection, the Church celebrates the Paschal mystery every seventh day, which day is appropriately called the Lord’s Day or Sunday. The day of Christ’s Resurrection is both the first day of the week, the memorial of the first day of creation, and the “eighth day,” on which Christ after his “rest” on the great Sabbath inaugurates the “day that the Lord has made,” the “day that knows no evening.”

2174 Jesus rose from the dead “on the first day of the week.” Because it is the “first day,” the day of Christ’s Resurrection recalls the first creation. Because it is the “eighth day” following the sabbath it symbolizes the new creation ushered in by Christ’s Resurrection.

Sunday as the day of worship proclaims the most important aspect of the New Covenant, Christ’s resurrection.

See also: Tradition precedes Scripture.

Tradition precedes Scripture

I’ve been reading some blogs that are written by people who believe that Scripture carries greater weight than Tradition. I hold the competing belief: that we would not know what Scripture is except for Tradition telling us. Unfortunately, people who believe those two things have been debating back and forth for a very long time. They quote Scripture verses and historical figures ad infinitum.

Instead of doing that, I thought of different way to approach it. It is very simple and tangible. First let’s lay a bit of groundwork and define “tradition.” Here is what I found on Wikipedia:

“A tradition is a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past. Common examples include holidays or impractical but socially meaningful clothes (like lawyer wigs or military officer spurs), but the idea has also been applied to social norms such as greetings. Traditions can persist and evolve for thousands of years—the word “tradition” itself derives from the Latin tradere or traderer literally meaning to transmit, to hand over, to give for safekeeping.”

That definitely describes written alphabets and written languages. They have symbolic meaning and have been passed down within groups or societies. The purpose of alphabets and written languages is to transmit or hand over ideas. The fact that I can write this, and you can understand it, is due to a tradition surrounding what constitutes the alphabet and how it works to form words, sentences, paragraphs, complete thoughts, etc.

In order to communicate in a way that others can understand, the tradition must be followed. If I violated the tradition too much, you wouldn’t know what I meant. For example, if you saw a random string of characters like this:


rosetta stone
The Rosetta stone provided the way for people to understand Egyptian hieroglyphs.

…it would be difficult to know what it meant, or if it meant anything at all. It might be some sort of code, it might mean that the person who wrote it doesn’t understand how to use the tradition, it might mean the person is incapable of using it, it might just mean that their head landed on the keyboard from falling asleep, or it might be a different language with its own tradition. Not following or understanding the tradition creates confusion.

This means that without the tradition of a written alphabet and a written language, Scripture would not exist. After all, Scripture is the written Word of God.

This is a tangible way to understand why tradition precedes Scripture.

Image credit: © Hans Hillewaert via Wikimedia

New Testament verses that point to the First Commandment

Catholics believe that we have an obligation to God to worship him on Sundays. Some Christians or other people might not agree with this obligation. Does this mean that they believe worship is optional? Think about it for a moment: if worship is not obligatory, then somebody could legitimately choose to never worship God. This is unthinkable for a Christian.

Let’s go one step further: if somebody permanently opts out of worshiping God, are they sinning? Matthew, Mark and Luke all show Jesus affirming the first commandment to love God (Matt. 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27). Notice the imperative: “You shall love the Lord your God…” It is not optional. How do we show love for him? Through worship. There are other ways as well, but we can’t neglect worship.

Here are some other verses from the New Testament that point to the first commandment (there were more than I thought there would be!):

1 Cor. 16:24:

If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed.

2 Tim. 3:1-5:

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of stress. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Avoid such people. (emphasis added)

2 Tim. 4:8:

Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

James 1:12:

Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him.

James 2:5:

Listen, my beloved brethren. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him?

1 Peter 1:8:

Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy.

1 John 2:5:

 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected.

1 John 2:15:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him.

1 John 4:21

And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also.


Weeds in the Catholic Church

Sometimes people object to the Catholic Church because they see that some of her members are problematic: hypocrites, dissenters, abusers, etc. And it is true that those people exist.

Before I became Catholic, I saw them too. So I hope nobody reading this thinks I did not see them, that I’m blind or ignoring that they are there. I did see them.

At first I felt intimidated by Catholic art.

Thankfully, I had the grace to realize something important about them: their presence does not change the Church’s claims about who she is. Once I saw the history of Christianity like a tree, so many other things fell into place, this being one of them. For me, it boiled down like this: if the Church is who she says she is, I must become Catholic then reconcile my other issues in light of that. And I had other issues, but my issues with problematic members melted away very quickly in light of Matthew 13. (My objections about Mary vanished almost instantaneously one night shortly after enrolling in RCIA. I’ll tell that story another time).

Here are a few issues that took me longer to work through: at first the liturgy seemed very strange and foreign; I often felt sad about going to mass alone; I resented the RCIA process because as a baptized Christian it seemed inappropriate for me to be there (and I later learned that my instincts were correct); it took me a while to get used to going to church with some people who had very different political views than mine; I felt intimidated by Catholic art and had to figure out my relationship with it; I had to figure out the difference between the elements of what was required to be Catholic vs. Catholic culture. There are probably other things but this is all I can think of right now. So yea, I had some hurdles to overcome.

It was clear to me that once I discovered the correct foundation, everything else that seemed strange, foreign, or even wrong has to be dealt with after that. Doesn’t that make sense?

I know that problematic people in the Church are a stumbling block for many, so let’s return to them. What does Sacred Scripture say about them? Here is what Jesus said about weeds in Matthew 13:

‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’

So yea, weeds are there. Jesus said that we can’t pull them out, since doing so would damage the wheat. He also said that they need to grow up together until the harvest, and at that time they will be separated. This means that while we are alive there is time to learn about God’s ways and grow in holiness. This applies to me as well as people I think are problematic. And I’m pretty sure that some of them think I’m a problematic stumbling block! lol So right there we see that it is subjective. What I mean is that I’m not the final judge of who the weeds are, and neither is any other person. Thanks goodness for that.

The Lord knows those who are His (2 Tim. 2:19). I pray I am among them.

10 tips for successful commenting on my blog

OK so the other day somebody came onto my blog and the interaction troubled me a lot. It was as if I was being accused and found guilty of a false sin, a sin not found in the Bible. Now, maybe I’m not characterizing it correctly, or maybe I am. But regardless of that, what transpired was an attempt to avoid my argument by discrediting my character. This list is the result of that interaction. I created it because I foresee similar interactions in the future with different people, and I want to be able to link back to this post rather than repeat myself over and over.

10 tips for successful commenting on my blog

1) Don’t make up false sins. Sin is clearly defined in the Bible. Avoid making up false sins. They will lead you astray.

2) Don’t find me guilty of your false sin. If believe you must expand on what scripture says regarding what a sin is, keep in mind that I have no obligation to accept your interpretation. And if you are a Protestant, ultimately I have no obligation to submit myself to you, since you lack authority over me, and I do not acknowledge that you have authority as established by Christ.

3) Discrediting my character will be a losing strategy. Why? Several reasons.

  • You are changing the subject and I will point this out.
  • I may use it as an opportunity to teach readers about the sort of fallacy you used.
  • Your false sin doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of how much of a sinner I really am. I have committed actual, Biblical, REAL sins. So there is no need to make up a false sin to find me guilty of committing.

4) Address the substance of my arguments. Point by point, detailed descriptions of why you think I’m wrong work best for me. Be sure that I have not addressed what you are saying. I find that people rush through my posts without reading them thoroughly, and say something in their comment that I addressed in the post. I put a care into what I write, so it means a lot to me when readers use care when reading and responding.

5) I welcome original, thoughtful dialog, and will be suspect of a response that seems canned, predetermined, or unthoughtful. Why? Because my arguments are unique. Marriage is a stand-alone issue, and so, for example, I never talk about gay sexual activity. I don’t have to talk about gay sexual activity to defend marriage. If you respond by accusing me of being against gay people, you are trying to discredit my character by giving a canned response. You either didn’t read my post or you read it but couldn’t/wouldn’t formulate a response to it. Imagine me describing a mountain, and somebody comes along insisting that I am against oceans. It’s a non-sequitur and makes it hard for me to take you seriously. Please avoid it on my blog.

6) I am a convert to the defense of natural marriage. For example, I did not vote yes on California’s Prop 8 marriage campaign in 2008. I converted to this issue in about 2010. So don’t assume that I’ve always held this view. I have not.

7) I defend a broad category called “natural marriage.” This includes the sub category of “sacramental marriage,” but I do not focus my defense on only the sub category. In my view, the sub category is not specifically under assault. It is only under assault to the extent that the broader category is.

8) I am just as hard, if not harder, on other kinds of family breakdown as I am on same-sex marriage policy. A cursory glance at the posts on my blog will confirm this.

9) Comment deletion/redaction/editing policy. Examples of when I might do one of these: criticizing my Church without providing reasons or citations; attacking my character; spam.

10) I view the category of “sexual orientation” in light of Romans 6. Romans 6 talks about being a slave to sin. “Sexual orientation” is used to justify sexual behavior, as if the behavior cannot be freely chosen. Doesn’t that sound like to being a slave to sin? Now, I know from first hand experience that until we get our lives right with Jesus, sin is powerful, and even after we do, we still have to struggle against it. I also know that because of His grace we can choose to reject sin and follow God, day by day.

Thank you.