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The Godfather
Author: Nathaniel Slattery
Posted: 7th of Mary, Year of Our Lord 2024

Throwing Away the Godfather

This morning I was distracted and oppressed in my prayers by certain wandering thoughts which had enough of good truth mixed in that I could not quite depart from them, as Mr. Hilaire Belloc says of heresies. Then, in the second decade, the midst thereof, I went to my bookshelf and found the squat copy of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, and I threw it in the trash. It is a valuable skill for a family man not to cease the Rosary as he does all manner of tasks, in order to win indulgences.

Why Throw It Away?

This is what happened: I had read in The Golden Legend the remainder of the life of Holy King David after his infamous sin. I remembered that Mr. Puzo’s book was interpreted by somebody somewhere as being based on the same. I do not doubt it. Let Joab’s death prove it to you, if you have read the popular book or seen the movie, but do not indulge your curiosity by returning to it, for you will sin.

I say this without doubt because, in prayer, meditating half-reluctantly on the plot of this book, I recalled a single lustful scene in the beginning. That is when I stood up to throw it away. Only afterward did I resolve all the other objections in my mind: 1) It may be beautifully written; 2) It is related to Catholicism and the Scriptures; 3) I am a man suited for reading such things.

Let us take these in reverse order, for the third shall be the foundation of the others.

I am suited to read these things

The third is pride. It presupposes that there must be a man to read such things. Now, there is nothing on the face of it which is wrong with that presupposition: The book exists; it is lauded by the world; it was made to be consumed. Furthermore, God permitted it to exist, me to have read it previously, and me afterward to have converted and now to be occupied in reviewing books to the purposes of Catholics, who also are tempted by this book. I cannot recall what is in it. Therefore, am I to make a good and trusty review without rereading it? Yes. Because I recollect this one lustful passage. Furthermore, I have been taught by Holy Mother Church, and I have repeated Her teaching, that to read such things is a sin immediately. This because it is not able to be imitated. You may imitate violence, the breaking of the Fifth Commandment, but not the sixth nor the second, lust and blasphemy. To attempt to imitate either is to commit either. Furthermore, they are sins as soon as imagined. The imagination is the sin, but violence is not a sin, only anger. And so I know this, and I know enough to persuade others not to read it, and beyond this, I cannot sin in order to do the purposes of God. For God has given me this labor. Can I eat of what He has told me not to eat in order to keep His garden? No, I shall be thrust out. He has no shortage of angels to keep His garden. I am only mud.

This preempts all the great consequences which may come from awakening this vice in myself or others. That knowledge of danger is only given for motivation against the temptation. In Protestant manuals against lust, which I read in the process of battling the same, they often suggest thinking these through to their end. What happens when a man lusts while in marriage? But this is not perfectly effective, particularly if you trust in God’s forgiveness that such will not send you to hell, as the Protestants teach. But if you understand the fragility of salvation, or at the very least have a firm conviction that you must seek out Confession (which is difficult) whenever you commit serious sins of lust, then you may much more easily discipline your body which is so irrational and generally only listens to physical discomforts.

It is related to Catholicism and the Scriptures

To say it is related to Catholicism is to say it is related to the universe. What is not related to Catholicism? I have never read a single book which was not written under the watchful gaze of the Almighty God of Catholicism, and at the Final Judgment, we will see all books written and unwritten. Is it possible that just because a book has a Catholic wedding, a Catholic baptism, a Catholic godfather, that it is over and above other books? It is over and above other books in manner of its judgment. It must be perfect if it is to deal with such things. It must depict them perfectly. It might be that it shows the imperfections of men among such perfect things, but it must not slight or impugn our Holy Religion. Even if it were to intimate some certain things, ought it to be to the detriment? Are people converting because of the Godfather? I myself have written many instances of violence. But as I recall, that performed in The Godfather is vengeful and murderous, without any indication of the implications this makes upon the faith. Consider The Betrothed by Manzoni. This book incorporates some violence and worldly considerations, including riot, plague, seduction, and grave injustice. There are immoral priests and disappointing Catholics still involved in the Sacraments. And yet virtue and the goodness of God shines above it, and perhaps that is why it played a key role in the conversion of St. John Henry Newman.

It may be beautifully written

Now, I do not quite remember how beautiful it is in its prose or syntax. I do, however, remember the intricacies of the plot, the relation to classic literature, and some other things which blend together in my mind with the movie. These things are artistic. There is an argument made by a Mr. Horn of Catholic Answers (and others have made it many times besides), that a Catholic doing things well brings honor to their religion. Well and good. The implication is that this will lead to conversion of the heretics. Perhaps this is the case with the book I mentioned above, some will say. The fact is, though, that all things resound to the glory of God, and in a godless age as ours, there is no way one can operate for a long time in any field without making some opposition to error, especially since it is so extensive. And so conversion must happen. This is because conviction must occur. And there is nothing in The Godfather which will convict a sinner to convert, much as there is nothing in Tolkien that would convict a sinner to convert. It does not even show the beauty of God or of true religion. Believe me, I appreciate the art of the novel more than most people, but without any grace flowing through it, it is simply a muddied pool, a perversion which uses beauty to seduce rather than to court, and a failing of men which furthers our issuance into hell.

What more is there to say about it? Others have said it better. Here is a good article on the dangers of Tolkien.

May the Lord preserve you,

Mr. Nathaniel Slattery

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