Busted Halo
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Neela Kale :
171 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.
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…

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…

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