Busted Halo
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Neela Kale :
167 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.
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…

November 15th, 2012

Church opposition to the death penalty stems from the fifth commandment: Thou shalt not kill. In recognizing society’s right to protect itself, the Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes: “If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means” (#605). Pope John Paul II further acknowledges in Evangelium Vitae (1995) that though capital punishment is permissible when there is no other way to defend society, “as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically nonexistent” today (#56). Did Osama…

October 24th, 2012

I didn’t manage to convince the editors that it would be a legitimate research expense, so I admit I haven’t laid hands on a copy myself! But all the news about this racy bestseller emphasizes that it contains lots and lots of unconventional sex. As you decide about reading it, here are a few things to consider. First, some basics from Church teaching: sexual intimacy is a beautiful gift meant to unite a married couple and help them express their love for one another; it should also be life giving, open to the gift of a child and to a greater sharing of their love with the world. The relationship depicted in 50 Shades of Grey… doesn’t live up to this standard.
But it’s fiction, just a harmless escape, right? To the

October 9th, 2012

The habit worn by members of religious orders is a symbol of poverty and uniformity: poverty embraced by vow and endured by necessity requires simple dress, and uniformity makes religious men and women instantly recognizable witnesses to the gospel. But after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, many religious communities made the habit optional, limited its use, or stopped wearing it altogether. This reflected the signs of the times. Traditional habits, modeled on the dress of the medieval poor, no longer have any connection to the garb of poverty in the 21st century. And in some settings outward identification makes members of religious orders less approachable, thus hindering rather than furthering…

September 21st, 2012

Lending money to family members can be very tricky. It may help to remember that money comes and goes, but she will always be your sister. Even if you don’t have the greatest relationship, or if she doesn’t always make the best choices, sisterhood is something that money can’t buy. Rather than demanding anything, talk frankly with your sister. Give her the benefit of the doubt — say that you know things have been tight, but you noticed her cute shoes and wondered if the sale was still on. (A sense of humor always helps.) Then remind her that you’re expecting her to pay you back at the time you agreed upon. You may think twice if she asks to borrow money again in the future. Alternately, if you’re really concerned…

September 12th, 2012

The internet has created a new minefield for marriages and relationships. People who would never think of visiting an adult shop or ordering pay-per-view suddenly find these temptations only a click away in the comfort of their own homes, and thus the consumption of pornography has skyrocketed. Many spouses and partners experience pornography use as infidelity, and it takes a subsequent toll on relationships. Right now you may feel devastated, and rightly so. It’s important (though extremely difficult) for the non-offending spouse to recognize that it is not about you. You didn’t make your husband do this, and if he really does have a problem, only he can own up to it and resolve to change. The reasons that…

September 5th, 2012

From a legal standpoint, your husband can express his desire to be cremated in a will or cremation directive. As his next of kin, you will then have the task of honoring his wishes. Thus, regardless of what your daughter thinks, you can go ahead with plans to have your husband cremated. The moral issue here is different. Upon your husband’s death, your daughter will also be grieving. Death can shatter our security and expose old wounds, but it can also offer opportunities to strengthen ties and bring families together. Whether your daughter has had a good or bad relationship with you and your husband, his death may prompt her to reexamine that bond and draw closer. Though it is a difficult time for you, see if you can…

August 28th, 2012

Stand in front of a mirror and ask yourself: Can I look myself in the eye, knowing that I made it to graduation not because of what I learned but because I cheated? Does my diploma represent my real achievement, since I paid a bribe to complete a class?
That was hard to do, wasn’t it?
Both you and your teacher made poor choices, but two wrongs do not make a right (or, in the language of Catholic moral theology, one cannot do evil that good may come of it.) Now you both have an opportunity to change direction. Tell the instructor that you will admit to cheating and accept the consequences, even if that means delayed graduation. Your school’s disciplinary proceedings will probably give you a chance to explain what you learned…

August 23rd, 2012

Question: I caught two students drinking in a dry dorm. I decided not to report them for a first offense and I confiscated their beer. Am I now free to drink it myself? I am over 21.
If you’re the resident assistant in the dorm, then doubtless you know the policies on violations and what the consequences are. Maybe you’re allowed to use your discretion when it’s a first offense — talk that out with the hall advisor. In any case, you’ve put yourself in a predicament. Think about the temptation you’ve created for yourself: a potential source of free beer. What if you catch these same students again, and even though it’s a second offense you decide to be lenient? Free beer! What if word gets around that you…

August 16th, 2012

While celebrating birthdays can boost staff morale and provide a bit of a break for everyone, it can also easily get out of hand. Even in the best work environments, office politics quickly get mixed in. How much do we spend? Do we spend more on the boss? Who has to organize? Who organizes for the organizer? Talk to your supervisor or the human resources manager about your concerns. He or she can raise the issue at an appropriate time, without naming names, and help your staff develop a policy on these kinds of celebrations. Yet sometimes these extras are part of the cost of doing business, even though you’re not bound to participate. If it will help keep the peace — especially if your staff is small and everyone…

August 9th, 2012

Sexual intimacy is meant to unite a married couple and help them express their love for one another; it is also meant to be life giving, open to the gift of a child and to a greater sharing of their love with the world. In Catholic understanding, masturbation cannot fulfill these twin purposes of sexual activity. Because it is a solitary activity, it is necessarily inwardly focused and cannot lead to greater union with another. And, obviously, it cannot be open to the gift of life. While moral theology today recognizes that psycho-sexual development takes place over a period of time, and that immaturity can mitigate what is usually a serious sin, Catholic teaching maintains that masturbation is an improper use of…

August 2nd, 2012

Catholic moral teaching on sexual intimacy is clear – it has twin purposes, union and procreation, and is meant to unite a man and woman in love and to allow them to be co-creators with God if they are blessed with the gift of a child. This means that sexual intercourse is reserved to married couples. But as anyone who has navigated the graced and confusing world of dating in the 21st century knows, real relationships are not always clear, and the beautiful gift of human sexuality extends far beyond any specific expression such as intercourse. Thus many couples find themselves asking some version of your question: Can we do X, but not Y? How about Y, but not X? How far is too far?
One principle that flows from Catholic…

July 23rd, 2012

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) is one of the congregations of the Roman curia, the departments that handle the various affairs of the universal Church. As its name suggests, the CDF addresses matters of doctrine. This includes issuing official statements on doctrinal points when necessary. It also includes investigating doctrinal concerns about specific works or scholars. When a theologian publishes material or officially advocates a viewpoint that gives cause for concern, a process of evaluation takes place. This process can be more or less transparent, depending on the case – usually the CDF will send a letter to the theologian, asking him or her to clarify, expand upon or retract…

July 12th, 2012

The sacrament of reconciliation celebrates God’s boundless mercy and love — no matter what we have done, God always gives us a fresh start if we express sorrow for our sins and a desire to amend our lives. There is absolutely no place for recriminations during confession. The priest may ask questions to help you thoroughly examine your conscience, and he will encourage you to true conversion of heart. But he is not there to scold you because of what you have done. Instead, his words and his tone should convey that he wishes to welcome you back into God’s loving embrace.
If you begin a confession and feel you are not being treated well, it is best to leave and to seek another priest at another time. You are always…

July 6th, 2012

Thank you for your question, which shows great courage and faith and is already a step towards reconciliation. The Church is eager to welcome you and help you find healing and forgiveness. The best place to start is to talk to a trusted spiritual advisor. He or she will encourage you and support you as you work through the emotions surrounding your experience. When you are ready, one important step will be to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Preparing for that moment and moving forward with trust in God’s mercy afterwards will take time and you will need ongoing support.

June 21st, 2012

Of course not! Both the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the U.S. Catholic Bishops recognize that sexual orientation is not a choice and is not sinful: “Generally, homosexual orientation is experienced as a given, not as something freely chosen. By itself, therefore, a homosexual orientation cannot be considered sinful, for morality presumes the freedom to choose” (“Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers,” U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1997).
Being gay is not sinful. It is another part of the great mystery of humankind, created in the image of God. But the Church teaches that sexual relations are reserved…

June 20th, 2012

Deciding how to respond to a panhandler is one of the challenging aspects of urban life. He could use your spare change to feed his family or to feed his addiction, and you have no way to know which. But should you give money to your niece on her birthday? Or to your coworker who’s retiring? You don’t really know what either of them is going to do with the money either. Once a gift leaves your hands, it ceases to belong to you. In the grand scheme of things, given the bigger structural causes of homelessness, the dollar that you hand to someone on the street is not likely to make a significant impact in that person’s life or in yours. So if you are moved to give, please do so, but remember that it’s a gift.…

June 14th, 2012

It’s actually a misconception that the Church advises against the use of fertility drugs. The Church teaches that union and procreation are the twin purposes of sexual intimacy, and that sexual relations are reserved to a man and woman united in the sacramental bond of marriage. In evaluating a drug or technology, the question to ask is whether it helps a married couple to be united with one another and open to the gift of life, or, alternately, if it diminishes or bypasses that union or closes the couple to the gift of life.
Thus in Catholic teaching, the use of fertility drugs that stimulate ovulation is in fact permitted; these drugs can increase the possibility of a pregnancy resulting from normal marital…

June 13th, 2012

Connecticut’s recent move to ban the death penalty has renewed our national debate over this contentious issue. Although Catholic teaching recognizes that under extreme circumstances capital punishment may be permissible, these circumstances are very, very rare in today’s world. Only when the community has no other way to prevent serious harm than executing the would-be perpetrator can the death penalty be permitted. In the United States today, where incarceration or other means can effectively neutralize such a threat, the death penalty cannot be justified. (See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2266-7.) Thus Catholic voices have been prominent in denouncing this cruel and dehumanizing…

June 8th, 2012

In itself, no. Millennia of evolution have finely honed our bodies to store resources for times of scarcity; the unprecedented abundance that the developed world has enjoyed in the last 100 years has revealed how good our bodies are at doing what they are designed to do. When surrounded by such excess, many people struggle to maintain a healthy weight. Stigmatizing this struggle as sinful gluttony overlooks the complex biological and social forces that literally shape who we are.
But that doesn’t mean that being overweight is a good thing or that as individuals we’re totally off the hook. Our bodies are a gift from God, and one of the best ways to thank God for this gift is to treat ourselves with love…

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