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Neela Kale :
177 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.
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…

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…

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