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The Busted Halo Question Box
Ask our spiritual experts virtually anything!
This is the place where you can ask all of those burning questions that you wouldn't dare ask in person. We will post questions here (using your byline only with permission); we guarantee an answer to everyone.

Have your own question? Then pitch it to us!

Caitlin Kennell Kim
Fr. Rick Malloy, SJ
General Questions
Fr. Tom Ryan, CSP
Ecumenical, Interfaith
Neela Kale
Culture, Moral Theology
Ann Naffziger, M.A., M.Div.
Mike Hayes
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…

January 28th, 2013

It’s important to remember that Mary herself does not perform miracles; only God can do that. The Church does believe, however, that miracles can be related to the intercession and prayers of Mary on our behalf (see the story of the wedding at Cana in the Gospel of John), so over the years there have been many reported miracles connected with Marian shrines or…

January 25th, 2013

Q: Don’t animals have rights? Why doesn’t the church consider that animals have a soul? Shouldn’t we all be vegetarians? …
It depends what you mean by “rights.” If you mean a set of things that only a moral and self-aware creature can have, then non-moral and non-self-aware animals obviously do not have rights. But if by “rights”

January 23rd, 2013

Q: Why can’t I decide how I will die? Why doesn’t the church allow for physician-assisted suicide if the person doesn’t want to suffer?
One of the fundamental truths of Christianity is that our lives don’t belong to us. They belong to God and to the good of our most vulnerable neighbors. Just as our lives are not ours to do with as we wish,…

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…

January 21st, 2013

Catholic teaching states that Mary was conceived without original sin and that she also remained sinless her entire life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that “Mary benefited first of all and uniquely from Christ’s victory over sin: she was preserved from all stain of original sin and by a special grace of God committed no sin of any kind during…

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

January 17th, 2013

Q: What is the best way to decide what faith to be if you believe in different parts of all faiths?
A. Where do you find the most truth? I think that’s the question, because as you rightly observe, there is truth in all faiths. And we’re impelled by nature and bound by moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. Once we come to know it, we’re…

January 16th, 2013

What we call “science” today was first practiced at European universities founded by the Catholic Church. Almost no serious religion rejects science. However, history is littered with rejected scientific theories once assumed to be true, and because it is often difficult to tell whether scientific progress will produce good results, some…

January 15th, 2013

Fortunately for human beings, God is able to make God’s self known to people even without use of the Bible. We probably all know stories of people today who have religious experiences without prior knowledge of the Bible. You may think here of a young child raised in a secular family who relates a profound experience of transcendence, or of a self-proclaimed…

January 14th, 2013

Prevenient grace is a grace that comes without any effort or “earning” it on the part of humans. It reflects the fact that God takes the initiative to save us through Jesus Christ, and that we don’t earn God’s grace; we can only cooperate with it. To make a connection with Mary, the dogma of her Immaculate Conception (being conceived without original sin…

January 11th, 2013

Q: Why is the church so focused on banning contraception when over-crowding and over population is greatly dwindling the earth’s resources?

A: The Church is not trying to “ban contraception” — though given some of the recently media coverage I can understand why someone might think that it is.

January 11th, 2013

The Christian churches have what we call a “closed canon,” meaning that the books contained in the Old and New Testaments — all written by the turn of the first century C.E. — are definitively known as the sum of sacred scripture. So the answer is no; no further books will be added to the Bible.
The Second Vatican Council taught that God chose certain…

January 10th, 2013

Q. There are so many names for God, Allah, Yazad, Harvesp-Tavaan ect. why is my God or your God better than someone else’s God? Who is the true God?…
A. It’s not surprising that different cultures of the world in different historic contexts come up with different names for God. Words — names for God — are essentially just pointers to the Divine.

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…

January 7th, 2013

No. The words to the song were written by Englishman John Newton, a slave trader, as a response to a powerful conversion experience. After a terrifying storm at sea, Newton realized that it was only by God’s grace that he would be saved; these sentiments later became the basis for the song, which was written in 1772. The Library of Congress website has a good explanation…

January 4th, 2013

The Gospel of Barnabas is an account of the life of Jesus purported to have been written by Jesus’ disciple Barnabas.The only two known manuscripts of the Gospel of Barbabus are dated to the late 16th century and were written in Spanish and Italian. Note that the four gospels included in the Christian Bible (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) were all written…

January 2nd, 2013

If by “confession” you mean acknowledgement of wrongdoing and seeking of forgiveness, other religions do have confession. In Judaism, for example, it’s called Teshuva or “repentance”, apology, return, going back to who you are meant to be. Teshuva is the gesture of returning to God, of letting go of your arrogance, your…

January 1st, 2013

The Gospel writers don’t specifically mention the presence of Jesus’ mother at the tomb. Matthew tells us that Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” were at the tomb for Jesus’ burial (Matthew 27:61), and that they both returned to the tomb later and found an angel who informed them that Jesus had risen from the dead (Matthew 28: 1-8). The “other Mary”…

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…

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