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Neela Kale :
166 article(s)

Neela Kale is a writer and catechetical minister based in the Archdiocese of Portland. She served with the Incarnate Word Missionaries in Mexico and earned a Master of Divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology. Some of her best theological reflection happens on two wheels as she rides her bike around the hills of western Oregon.
April 29th, 2013

Catholic teaching on the dignity of the human person requires utmost respect for the human body. We do not have bodies, we are bodies, created in the image of God. But the Catechism of the Catholic Church warns against an attitude that “tends to promote the cult of the body, to sacrifice everything for its sake, [and] to idolize physical perfection” (CCC 2289). The body is good, but it is not an absolute value. In all times and places, people have developed ways to highlight human beauty according to culturally conditioned ideals. But if taken to extremes, these enhancements idolize human notions of beauty and fail to recognize that the work of the Creator is already perfect. Church teaching generally supports…

April 22nd, 2013

Question: I believe a local hotel that I use often is associated with human trafficking. Should I boycott the hotel?
Human trafficking is a dirty little secret in many U.S. cities. According to the Polaris Project, a non-governmental organization working to fight human trafficking and modern-day slavery, there are more individuals in forced labor today than at the height of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Under federal law, children involved in the sex trade, adults who are coerced or deceived into commercial sex acts, and anyone forced into various forms of labor or services are all considered victims of human trafficking. Find out what groups in your area are working to fight this evil. Add your voice to theirs.

April 19th, 2013

Question: I often drive 5 MPH over the posted speed limit. Is this sinful and should I confess it?

When you get behind the wheel of a car, you have a lethal weapon in your hands. This awesome responsibility means that you must always drive with the utmost care and attention, both to the rules of the road and to your particular surroundings. If your excessive speed is reckless, then you carelessly endanger your life and the lives of others. This violates the Fifth Commandment, which says you shall not kill, and Jesus’ great commandment, to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Driving a little over the speed limit may sometimes appear quite safe. Many states have a version of the basic rule, which requires that you drive at

April 8th, 2013

Question: I hate the gift my kid gave me for my birthday. Am I required to wear it if I accept it so as to not hurt his feelings?

Any parent who has painted macaroni ornaments hanging on the Christmas tree or a juice can covered in construction paper holding pencils on his or her desk at work knows that the value of a gift is in the love that the giver wishes to show to the recipient. Your child chose or made something for you with love, and you have the opportunity to receive it with love. So go ahead and put on that lumpy scarf or clashing necklace and wear it with pride. If anyone asks, be grateful for the opportunity to talk about how wonderful your child is. In far too little time, your son or daughter will be grown and gone and you’ll

April 2nd, 2013

Question: My dorm does not allow candles but I like to pray with a candle in front of my statue of Mary. Should I claim religious exemption?
Candles have a time-honored place as a symbol of prayer, especially in the Catholic tradition. In fact, at least two candles must be placed on the altar for the celebration of the Mass (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 117). But that doesn’t mean that you must use a candle when you pray in your room. For private devotional prayer a candle is a helpful symbol, not a requirement. Generally, religious exemptions are reserved for serious matters, when a rule impedes a person’s ability to practice his or her religious faith. That’s not at stake for you here. So don’t spend

March 25th, 2013

Question: I’m in a relationship with someone at work. Should we be open about this with co-workers? There are no prohibitions on dating in our company handbook.
Before you consider whether or not to tell your co-workers, first ask yourself if the relationship is appropriate. Does one of you report to or supervise the other? If one person has direct responsibility over the other, or if the two people have vastly unequal job status, the relationship creates an opportunity for sexual harassment. That potential makes an already delicate situation even more problematic. Also, take a moment to consider the other thorny issues. If you stop dating each other, would you still be able to work together? Or would you be

March 18th, 2013

Question: I accidentally walked into a co-ed bathroom and found my receptionist somewhat disrobed. Should I report this to our boss to be sure there are no misunderstandings?

Your receptionist probably uttered a startled yelp and you probably blurted an embarrassed apology as you quickly backed out with your head down. If it was truly accidental and brief, then it’s likely you both want to put the incident behind you. Perhaps you should ask the maintenance staff to check to make sure that the restroom doors lock properly, but that’s really all you need to do.
On the other hand, if you have any reason to believe something more could be at stake, you might mention the incident to your human resources manager. If

March 14th, 2013

Catholic moral teaching on sexual intimacy is clear — it is meant to unite a man and woman in married love and open them to the gift of a child. Sexuality is a wonderful gift that helps a husband and wife to express their love for one another in many ways, sometimes playfully, sometimes tenderly, sometimes passionately. It does not reduce to sexual intercourse, but encompasses other behaviors as well. And while there are appropriate behaviors for expressing affection and care between people who are not married, some behaviors — including erotic activities like body shots — are clearly inappropriate. Even if you don’t intend for it to lead to sexual intercourse, exhibitionist behavior in…

March 11th, 2013

Question: My atheist brother refuses to come to my church wedding. I don’t want to create a scene, but should I invite him to the reception even though he has insulted me?
Although emotions always run high in wedding preparations, a wedding invitation is really just that: an invitation to your wedding. You are asking a person who is important to you to accompany you on an occasion that is important to you. Perhaps you are saddened that he does not share your religious faith. Perhaps that disagreement has left you feeling insulted. But he is your brother, and it is a very special day in your life. If you want him to celebrate with you, then invite him. That part is in your hands.
The response is in your brother’s hands.

March 4th, 2013

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church asserts, “life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good” (2288).
For Catholics, gratitude for life and a desire to treasure it should shape decisions about medical treatment. But any person facing illness, together with his or her family, caregivers and medical professionals, must determine what it means to take reasonable care of the gift of life in his or her situation. Sometimes proactive treatment is appropriate and sometimes it is not; sometimes medication is appropriate and sometimes it is not. A wide range of treatment options are possible…

January 29th, 2013

Q: I’m heading on a mission trip with other students and my campus minister says we will only be allowed one shower for the week. Am I bound to obey?
A. It might be that you have no choice. If you and your classmates are all drawing from the same barrel of water for the week – as we did in some of my missionary communities in Mexico – then when the water is gone, the water is gone. That’s the stark reality for many people who don’t live with the abundant resources that you take for granted when you’re at home. And that’s probably one of the reasons that you’re going on the trip: to walk in someone else’s shoes, if only for a few days, and learn what it’s like to live with limited water, food, medical care and many…

January 22nd, 2013

Q. As a Catholic am I bound to boycott companies like Walmart if they treat their employees badly?
A. In our modern world, everything we touch is part of a complex globalized supply chain linking producers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers. Too many links in this chain are forged with human rights abuses and environmental atrocities, all in the name of providing cheap consumer goods on demand. Many shoppers turn a blind eye to the suffering people who lie behind the low prices, whether garment workers in China or store associates in middle America. I commend you for your concern and your willingness to take action.
Now the challenge is to find effective action. You can’t simply “opt out” of modern…

January 18th, 2013

Q: I am a best man and I lost one of the rings. Am I required to replace the band and can I do it secretly or am I bound to confess?…
Presumably your buddy asked you to be his best man because he values your friendship and trusts you to play this special role at his wedding. So you’ve created an opportunity to prove yourself worthy of his trust. Yes, you are required to replace the band, just as you would replace or repair anything lost or damaged while in your care. And you must tell your friend what happened. Maybe you have time to replace the ring, and could find an identical one, and no one would be the wiser — but do you want that nagging at your conscience for the rest of your life? Do you want to be nervous throughout the

January 8th, 2013

Q. I got an invitation to a party but am scheduled to work until 10PM. If no customers come in by 9PM can I close up early?
A. Imagine that you are the business owner and think about your question again. Would you want to lose an hour of business just because an employee cut out early for a social engagement? Would you employ someone who is unwilling to work assigned shifts and dishonest about meeting obligations? How would you respond if you found out later that your worker left early without asking permission? You have made a commitment to your employer, just as he or she has made a commitment to pay you for your work. Ultimately you, your boss and the rest of the staff all depend on each other honoring those commitments. It…

December 31st, 2012

While Catholics believe that human beings are created with free will, we also believe that we grow into the capacity to make use of that free will. Traditionally, we say that around seven years of age a person reaches the “age of reason,” and can begin to make choices for him- or herself. This is why children generally must reach seven years of age before they can participate in the sacraments of Eucharist and reconciliation. We understand that the capacity to make choices is much more limited in a 7-year-old than in a 17-year-old or a 70-year-old. It is non-existent in a child who has not yet been born. An unborn child’s very act of existing is a perfect act of praising God, because simply existing is exactly what…

December 20th, 2012

The Church teaches that the human body, a sacred gift from God, should always be treated with great respect, in life and in death. The way we treat the bodies of the dead is a sign of our hope in eternal life. For most of the Church’s history, this precluded cremation, which was understood as a pagan practice contrary to belief in the resurrection. However, this teaching was revised in 1963. The current Code of Canon Law states: “The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burying the bodies of the deceased be observed; nevertheless, the Church does not prohibit cremation unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine” (canon 1176, section 3). With permission of the diocesan bishop,…

December 13th, 2012

Do you mean in a fatalistic sense, in which your actions are not actually chosen by you, but rather unfold like a movie playing out on a screen? That idea goes against Catholic teaching with respect to free will. The Church believes that God created human beings with the power to choose: to love or not, to do what is right or not, to follow God or not. And while our choices are constrained by our biology and our circumstances, the fundamental ability to make choices is part of what makes us human. Because we truly have free will, the events of our lives and of history unfold as we choose to make them happen, individually and as a community.
In another sense, however, Catholics believe that the world is in God’s hands and that…

December 6th, 2012

Question: The MidEasterners believe when they die and go to heaven that for every man there will be 7 vestal virgins while the Christians believe that we will be re-united with our deceased loved ones. Someone has to be wrong. I don’t know if someone has to be right. A response please.
Consider that in the gospels Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven is like a great pearl, a handful of yeast and a mustard seed. Does this mean that heaven is, literally, a mustard seed? Of course not. These metaphors help us look toward something that it is beyond what we can imagine. Our descriptions – whether of harp players in choir robes perched on fluffy white clouds (today’s popular conception) or of the sensual paradise…

November 30th, 2012

Secret Santa gift exchanges can bring out the best of collegiality and the worst of office politics. Some people love any excuse for gift-giving; others can’t stand the thought of unwrapping one more tchotchke for their cubicles. While office gift exchanges can contribute to employee morale and build company culture, there are also plenty of legitimate reasons for not participating, such as financial constraints and differing religious customs surrounding holidays. A wise human resources manager will make participating optional and find other appropriate ways to help the staff celebrate. Can you suggest an alternate activity, such as contributing to a charity you all agree to support or bringing something…

November 23rd, 2012

Q: It is part of our culture to make Christmas about Santa instead of Christ’s birth and Easter about the Easter Bunny instead of Christ’s resurrection. Is it frowned upon to celebrate these other figures as well as Jesus?
In the month of December you can hardly enter any place of business without encountering a bell ringer in a Santa suit; in the spring, images of pastel-colored rabbits multiply like, well, rabbits. So the key to answering your question is what you really mean by “celebrating” these other figures. Santa Claus is derived from a Christian saint, the fourth century Nicholas of Myra; the Easter Bunny stems from ancient pagan use of the rabbit as a sign of fertility. Modern marketing wizardry…

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