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Neela Kale :
173 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.
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…

June 7th, 2012

Many couples experience the heartbreak and disappointment of being unable to conceive a child. While the Church encourages research that may help them to conceive, it also notes that some medical interventions available today are contrary to Catholic teaching. In the understanding of the Church, procreation and union are the twin purposes of sexual intimacy; conceiving a child is uniquely and necessarily linked to the loving sexual union between its mother and father. Any procedure that disassociates the procreative act from the sexual act is in violation of Church teaching. This rules out artificial insemination, even when the sperm and egg belong to the married couple, because of the involvement of third…

June 6th, 2012

Did your future brother-in-law do something silly and harmless, or was it inappropriate enough that you have concerns for your sister’s well-being? If his behavior reveals a pattern of disrespect for himself, for your sister, and for the marriage vows he is about to take, there is more at play than one evening’s indiscretion.
A good approach might be to speak with him first. Tell him that you are concerned about what you saw because of what it might mean for the future. Suggest that he talk about it with your sister — if something serious happened, it’s better for her to hear it directly from him. But if he’s defensive about it, then you probably should speak with her. If her fiancé’s…

May 3rd, 2012

The word “hex”, meaning a spell or curse, derives from a German word for practicing sorcery; the word “jinx”, meaning something that brings bad luck, may derive from the Latin name of a bird used in witchcraft in ancient times. Catholics do not believe in either, nor in the many similar superstitions abounding in popular culture. The idea of a supernatural being who can be called upon by a magic formula to bring harm to another belongs to a medieval world view. Today, we know that the mischief of Satan – the word means “adversary” or “accuser” – happens within. Human beings cause plenty of damage out of our own sinfulness without any outside help. Things like hexes and jinxes exist only on the pages…

April 26th, 2012

It is always better to root for someone than to root against someone. What you really hope for is your team’s success, not the opponent’s failure, even though the latter is a necessary consequence of the former. (An even better attitude would be to hope that the best team may win, but for many sports fans that’s too much to ask.) In any case, your question applies to healthy, friendly competition on the playing field. In that realm, as you’re perched on the edge of your seat lauding or lamenting, it’s okay to wish that every play go your way. It would be a sin to cheat or sabotage the game to put your team at an advantage. But just cheering for the outcome you desire is fine. And when the game is over, be gracious, set…

April 19th, 2012

Suffering and death are part of life, for humans and animals alike. We strive to eliminate unnecessary suffering brought about by cruelty and sin. But there is no such thing as a life without suffering, in spite of what popular culture promises. For human beings, suffering can be redemptive and lead one to a deeper commitment to Christ who suffered and died for us on the cross. For animals, the natural suffering of old age also seems to be a part of God’s plan for them as God’s creatures.
In an affluent culture, some people spend money on medical interventions to prolong pets’ lives in a way that would have been unimaginable a generation ago and that remains unimaginable in places where such sophisticated medical…

April 12th, 2012

In a word, yes. Our whole moral law rests on the great commandment given to us by Jesus: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. … You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (see Matthew 22:36-40). It is difficult to imagine truly loving our neighbors without attention to their needs, especially if they are poor. And one of the most beautiful and challenging implications of Christianity is that everyone is our neighbor. Just because someone looks different or lives on the other side of the world doesn’t mean that he or she is not my brother or sister. I still have a responsibility to any fellow human being in need.
That can be a daunting responsibility,…

April 5th, 2012

Question: If I’m poor, can I drive to work with an expired registration and risk not getting caught? Or am I morally bound to renew it as a Catholic?
Being poor does not give you an excuse to break the law – imagine what would happen if everyone decided to stop complying with regulations that seem unaffordable. Revenue derived from them is public money, to be used on public projects for public benefit. (How well this happens in every particular case and jurisdiction is outside the scope of the question.) Without this money, services would suffer. While exact formulas vary from state to state, car registration fees generally pay for transportation-related services like road maintenance, which we all need. As…

March 29th, 2012

No matter what your profession, you can’t leave your moral obligations at the door when you report for work. You have to strive to do what is right, whether no one ever sees you or whether you’re dogged by cameras 24/7. And anyone in the public eye has an extra responsibility to avoid causing another person to stumble (that’s the literal meaning of the word “scandal”: a stumbling block.) Catholics must never give the impression that what they are doing is right if in fact it’s not, lest others imitate them and end up sinning by ignorance. So you’ll want to ask yourself carefully what might be required of you as an actor on a reality show. Will you be pressured to be disrespectful or exploit others? How will…

March 22nd, 2012

The image of marriage in popular culture, as presented on “The Bachelorette,” is a serious distortion of the real meaning of marriage, as understood in the Catholic tradition. Both involve two people expressing love for one another and making some kind of promise. But the scripted, syrupy progression of love on reality TV — heavy on romance and sexual attraction, light on sacrifice and profound commitment — can’t hold up to the stresses of real reality.
One of the underlying questions in Catholic morality is, “Who do I want to become, and how can I get there?” Rather than just asking if something is a sin and acting accordingly, asking this question helps you grow into a better person.…

March 15th, 2012

Did your future brother-in-law do something silly and harmless, or was it inappropriate enough that you have concerns for your sister’s well-being? If his behavior reveals a pattern of disrespect for himself, for your sister, and for the marriage vows he is about to take, there is more at play than one evening’s indiscretion.
A good approach might be to speak with him first. Tell him that you are concerned about what you saw because of what it might mean for the future. Suggest that he talk about it with your sister — if something serious happened, it’s better for her to hear it directly from him. But if he’s defensive about it, then you probably should speak with her. If her fiancé’s behavior at his…

March 8th, 2012

The Masons are a worldwide fraternal organization which originated in 18th century Europe. Membership includes ritual practice, charitable activity and adherence to a moral code; members seek to develop a broader sense of the self in relation to the divine. Masons must declare belief in a supreme being, but more specific views are not required. Hence Masons admit members of any religion, but many tenets of Masonry directly conflict with Church teaching. Masons hold a deistic rather than personal view of God, which precludes the Catholic understanding of God as Father, Son and Spirit. They also take a relativistic view of truth and religion, while Catholics believe that objective truth does exist and can be…

February 23rd, 2012

Question: If I caught a student cheating, but he’d lose a scholarship to a good college if I turn him in, should I look the other way? He is poor and from the inner city.…
This is a complex moral dilemma. Catholic moral teaching is that one cannot do evil that good may come of it — thus in spite of his noble goal of going on to college, the student’s cheating cannot be justified. Similarly, no matter how noble your goal of ensuring his scholarship, you cannot justify overlooking his dishonesty. However, the Church also recognizes that any moral act is comprised of the object, the intention and the circumstances. No moral act happens in isolation; the object (the nature and severity of the particular act of cheating),

February 22nd, 2012

If you’re already familiar with the US Bishops’ document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, you’re off to a good start. This document, reissued in 2011 in anticipation of the presidential election cycle, helps Catholics discern how the teaching of the Church can apply in matters of public policy. Check out the USCCB website at http://www.faithfulcitizenship.org/ for the full text of the document and many other excellent resources. Your next step should be to inform yourself more deeply about the particular issues that are at stake. What policies are being proposed on your local or state ballot, and what does the Church have to say about these issues? What local, state and national offices…

February 16th, 2012

As Catholics participating in civic life we have the responsibility to inform ourselves about candidates and issues and to form ourselves with the teaching of the Church, rather than blindly (or lazily) following any kind of party line. Thus you should ask if the positions of the Tea Party are in keeping with the principles of your Catholic faith. The Tea Party, actually a coalition of local and national groups rather than a political party, promotes fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government and free market economics. A key principle of Catholic social teaching which can be instructive here is subsidiarity — the idea that decisions should be made at the most local level possible in…

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