Busted Halo
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Richard G. Malloy, SJ :
103 article(s)

Richard G. Malloy, S.J., Ph.D., is Vice President for University Ministries, the University of Scranton, Scranton, PA, and author of A Faith That Frees (Orbis Books).
October 20th, 2009

Is getting drunk a mortal sin?…

I stopped drinking Jan. 1, 1979.  My personal history in college and some family dynamics made me wonder about my drinking.  Quitting drinking is one of the healthiest and sanest things I’ve ever done.  So I know what it is to drink, and I know what it is to live without alcohol.

If you are asking the question, be concerned.  Most people do not drink to get drunk.  Most people do not often, or normally, get “wasted.”  Getting drunk once in a great while, or at some great fun occasion… most likely is not a deadly sin (But one drunk driving incident can kill you or someone else.  Think Ted Kennedy!).

Habitual drunkenness is not congruent with our commitment to be followers of

October 6th, 2009

What is the deal with the Vatican now saying that there is no Limbo? Isn’t this a change in doctrine?
The issue is more about the relationship of baptism and salvation, than it is about limbo.  The teaching on limbo didn’t change so much as the teaching on salvation without baptism changed.  At Vatican II the church shifted gears and taught: “Those also can attain to everlasting salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the gospel of Christ or his church, yet sincerely seek God, and moved by grace, strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience” (Lumen Gentium #16.  trans. Abbot).  The catechism realizes that “God has bound salvation to the…

September 22nd, 2009

Question:  I am a young man who recently came back to the Catholic church and I am happy to have found God back into my life.  The problem is that i am in a serious relationship for 7 years now, are we are getting married in 2010 and are having sex regularly.  Technically I’m in a state of mortal sin since I use condoms and I have sex before getting married. I do confess this in the sacrament of reconciliation but sometimes it don’t feel like I truly repent.  In some ways I don’t … I enjoy sex and its hard to say no to my girlfriend.   How can I continue to be faithful to god and his commandments while still be tempted by sexual activity?…

The way of fidelity is to resist temptations.  Married people

September 15th, 2009

Quetsion:  How can we be sure that heaven exists?  In the whole history of the world how come no one has ever crossed over or communicated from heaven? It seems that we were created from nothing, then it makes sense that we would go back to nothing. Thanks very much busted halo for answering.

How can we be sure anything… exists beyond our immediate, personal experience?  I’ve never been to China, but I am sure it exists.  I’ve never seen my DNA, but I know it’s there.  Consideration of epistemological methods (“How do we know?”) is one of the hallmarks of the Catholic intellectual tradition from St. Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas to Thomas Merton, Karl Rahner, S.J., and Bernard Lonergan, S.J., in the

September 8th, 2009

Question:  What is known about the use of Angel and Saints Oracle Cards? There appears to be “readers” who offer this as a spiritual guide. The cards suggest the use of saints like St. Francis, Mother Teresa and Padre Pio as spiritual guides. I doubt the Church would endorse such practices and a reader being paid to provide this service seems to mimic psychic or tarot card reading practices. Is a Catholic in “harms way” to seek or receive and be influenced by such card readings for oneself? Thank you!…

Many people think religion is about pleasing God or getting God to do something we want done.  Religion at its best is all about living in loving relationship with God.  The manipulative

September 1st, 2009

“For freedom Christ has set us free” (Gal 5:1).  God loves us and God’s grace frees us.  That’s the foundational truth of our faith.  All else is understood in relation to that overwhelming reality: God loves us.  We can trust God to forgive us and wipe out all our past transgressions, sins, and failures (cf. Mk 2:5; Lk 7:47; Lk 15:11-32; Col 1:14; Jas 5:15; 1 Jn 1:19).  Let go of the past and let God be God in your life.  The unknown author of the 14th century spiritual classic, The Cloud of Unknowing… said it best: “It is not what you are, nor what you have been, that God sees with his all merciful eyes, but what you desire to be” (chap 75).  Better than agonizing over past indiscretions, spouses might

August 25th, 2009

Consult professionals who deal with people who experience your condition.  It is only relatively recently in human history that we have discovered so much about our world (think of the advances in physics and biology these past 100 years) and ourselves (sexuality wasn’t even spoken about in very recent eras).  The reality of transgender people may be as old as humanity but the ability to do something to transform a person’s gender on both the physical and psychological levels is only a few decades old.  One who feels trapped in the “wrong” body should consult widely.  Most importantly, take your feelings to God in prayer and listen long and lovingly to what God desires of you in this life.
The Church’s…

August 18th, 2009

No.  Chastity calls us to undertake the often difficult task of integrating sexuality into our relationships with others and with God (CCC #2337).  At the end of one’s life God is going to ask us how much we loved one another.  The teachings of the church guide us, but at the end of the day, we will have to look God in the eye and say, “This is what I did with the time you gave me on earth.”  Always err on the side of love.
But remember, love is not simply whatever “I” want.  Stephen L. Carter, a Yale Law school professor and novelist, wrote: “Love is an activity, not a feeling – didn’t one of the great theologians say that?  …  True love is not the hapless desire to possess the cherished object of one’s…

August 11th, 2009

Mortal sin means “deadly” sin, the choice to so reject God’s love that the life of grace “dies” in a person.  The meanings of masturbation range over a variety of acts and life situations.  An overly “act” centered approach to sexual morality, in my humble opinion, fails to take into account the multiplicity of meanings and complexities of the human condition.  Masturbation by a 13 year old boy is radically different from masturbation by a person who is refusing to have sexual relations with a spouse because of unresolved anger and conflicts.  Overall, it is difficult to imagine someone using masturbation alone in such a manner that God is definitively rejected, with full consent of the will…

July 28th, 2009

The teachings of the Church about sexuality come from the same sources that the church consults to develop teachings on other matters like economics or liturgy, i.e., scripture and tradition.  What the church teaches about sexuality is rooted in understandings of what it is to be a human person in relationship with oneself, others and God.  Ultimately what the church teaches about sex is that we should be chaste.  Chastity is “the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man (sic) in his bodily and spiritual being” (CCC #2337).  Jesus became one of us “so that we might become God” (CCC #460).  In loving one another as Christ has loved us, we should realize that…

June 23rd, 2009
A skeptical Jesuit finds a holistic connection

When Dr. Hill removed his future son-in-law’s ruptured appendix two weeks before the wedding, it gave me a great line for the homily: “Salim is the only guy in history who is happy to see his father-in-law coming toward him with a knife.” It also gave me confidence in surgery. As I watched Salim and Bridget dance at the reception, I thought, “If Dr. Hill can make somebody that well, that quickly, maybe I should give him a call.”
Had to happen sometime. After passing fifty without ever having gone under the knife… it was time. The hernia on my bellybutton that used to be golf ball-size, was now a baseball. My waiting for it to fix itself didn’t seem to be working.
Dr. Hill looked…

March 4th, 2009
A Jesuit priest dares soon-to-be graduates to consider service

Unlike any time in recent history, college seniors are being forced to think long and hard about what’s next. Though some no doubt are struggling mightily to ignore that question for another few weeks, with the current economic crisis deepening and unemployment rising it’s understandable that young adults would have a lot of anxiety about it. For those who might feel paralyzed, I’d like to offer one suggestion: Be of service to others.
Look, you’re young, free and able to take a year and do something great for those who could really use your talents and energy. The Obama administration is encouraging more young people to consider some form of service. Grad schools look more closely at…

December 22nd, 2008
What will you give away?

How should we celebrate Christmas in tough times? Maybe the way we should have been celebrating the birth of Christ all along. All religious traditions call us to be generous and care for the poor and needy.
“All you can take with you is that which you’ve given away.”
To see that saying framed and embroidered you have to watch It’s a Wonderful Life … very often and closely. Capra’s camera focuses in on the saying, which appears under the picture of Peter Bailey, as George and Uncle Billy discuss how to confront the run on the bank. George and Mary put up their honeymoon money to keep the “old, broken down” Bailey Building and Loan afloat, and out of the hands of miserly Mr. Potter,

December 1st, 2008
In response to Cara O'Brien's "Do We Invite God"

I smiled ruefully on reading Cara O’Brien’s article, “Do We Invite God?” Whether to “invite” God to the wedding is clearly a sincere question for her—and many other young adults. But it indicates both a common misconception (as if God needs an invitation to be present and care for us) and a fundamental mistake that many brides make by getting so wrapped up in their wedding that they miss the opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Matrimony. I urge young couples to strive to keep things simple and get married, not “wed-Dinged.”
Many young women planning weddings think in terms of what is best for “me,” what “I” like, what “I”…

November 12th, 2008
A boomer contemplates the millenials on the night of the election

Nov. 4, 2008 — … I’m hanging out in an enormous public room at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia. A large screen TV has one election coverage team chattering and there is an even larger screen on which is projected another channel’s chatterers. We flip from channel to channel (Fox News eliciting boos and laughs), while the screens flip between the talking heads and brightly colored maps of the U.S.A. The states are slowly filling, red and blue and more blue.
Dozens of students, black and white and Latino and Asian, lounge on couches or chat with friends. They type on laptops and click and text. Many have one ear bud from an iPod in one ear; the other ear is “open” for the outside world. This

February 12th, 2008
Security concerns for Barack Obama are evidence that race is still very much an issue for some Americans

Recently, several media outlets, including the New York Times, have printed stories on the increased security surrounding the Senator and his family. “Obama must be wary of the assassin’s gun” was a headline in The Australian…, a major newspaper in the land down under. Members of white hate groups increase their rabid, racist rhetoric on the internet, cowardly hiding their identities behind anonymous website login names, just as they used to hide under white hoods.
Whites should be infuriated and ashamed when we learn that a Google search “assassinate Obama” gets almost 200,000 hits. I am disgusted when I realize the admirable and brave Michelle Obama and her beautiful little

January 17th, 2008
Giving young adults what they truly want

“Fr. Malloy, are you a virgin?” So inquired an undergrad in my intro to sociology class. Every semester, usually just before Fall or Spring break, I hand out index cards and tell the students “we’ve been studying religion as an institution in society. Here’s your chance to ask a priest anything you ever wanted to ask. Go ahead. Write down your question. Don’t sign your name. No topic is off limits.”
The questions run the gamut from “Do you really believe God exists?” and “Why is there so much suffering in the world?” to “We know you’re really the exorcist for the diocese. C’mon, why can’t you just tell us?”…

December 27th, 2007
Rearranging my sense of the world

David Halberstam I will miss. Our relationships with writers tell us much about ourselves. As the young teacher and former student of C. S. Lewis says in Shadowlands, “We read to know we are not alone.” I feel more alone, and my world is a lesser place, without David Halberstam.
Some writers we like a lot. I’ve read most of Stephen King’s stories, and his On Writing is well worth any writer’s extensive study. Bag of Bones is one of the great stories about a writer (even if John Irving’s The World According to Garp is so much deeper and darker). Most of what King writes is addictively entertaining. Lots of long, late nights: Cujo. Misery. The Stand…. And if I could take only one DVD

July 25th, 2007
Why recent reports of the death of God are greatly exaggerated

Sam Harris’s The End of Faith (2004) has spawned a viral strain of books viscerally denigrating religion. Everything from Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion (2006) and Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell (2006) to Christopher Hitchens’ God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything… (2007) argue that religious claims—and those who make them—are unreasonable and can therefore be discounted or ignored. The publication of a spate of books that share such similar points of view raises obvious questions such as “why now?” and “why are these arguments receiving such a positive reception?” I believe it is because the Gospel message of love,

March 22nd, 2007
How the history of Chile can help us

Imagine being tortured and raped, and then being forced to watch as the ‘evil-doers’ rape your daughter. All the while you know you do not have the information they want. You simply do not know where your son is, and these security forces want to find him.
No, this is not some plot out of a Stephen King novel. This atrocity actually happened in Chile in the early 1980s when the U.S supported, brutal Pinochet dictatorship was in power. As part of my formation as a Jesuit priest, I served in Chile from 1981-1984. Everyone was aware of the practice of torture in the country. The protest group Sebastian Acevedo regularly, and at great risk to themselves, publicly denounced the use of torture. The group was named…

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