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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
May 18th, 2008

Devotion to Mary goes back a long way in the Catholic church. But Catholics do not believe that Mary is divine and we don’t pray to Mary. God, made flesh in Jesus and present in the Holy Spirit, is the only One to whom we pray.
We do believe that Mary holds a special place among the saints of the church, and that the saints are part of a community of faith and love that doesn’t end with death. This “communion of saints” includes both the living and dead. We don’t “pray to” the saints either, but we believe that we can ask those who now live with God to pray for us, just as we pray for persons who have died.
Catholics don’t worship Mary; rather, we honor her. We honor Mary as the…

May 18th, 2008
My husband and I got married in a civil ceremony. We always knew we were going to do it in a Catholic ceremony though. Nobody knows but us. We already have a marriage license obviously, what sort of certificate does the priest need to sign? We dont want him to know either....is there any way to keep it a secret and pretend we were never married through the courts?

Thank you for sending your question to “Ask Fr. Joe.”
First of all, let me say that there will be no problem with your getting your married “validated” in the Catholic Church. I’m assuming that neither of you has been married before in a valid Catholic marriage so no annulment would be necessary.
Catholics who marry in a civil ceremony need only to get their marriage con-valided, that is, to exchange your vows in the presence of a priest or deacon. You are already married civilly so you can only get one marriage license. It will be necessary for you to produce a certificate of your marriage in order to get married in the Church so there is no way you can keep this secret from the officiating…

May 18th, 2008

I’m assuming from your note that you were divorced and have remarried without receiving an annulment of your first marriage from the Church court. If so, your priest is following the practice of the Church of reserving communion for those who are “in communion” with Church teaching and practice. Church teaching holds that marriage is a permanent, lifelong commitment grounded in Jesus’ teaching “let no one separate what God has joined” (Mark 10:6-9). The Church does not believe that a civil divorce enables a Catholic to remarry.
You might want to make an appointment with your parish priest to talk over your circumstances with him. It may be possible to obtain an annulment…

May 18th, 2008

This is a hard question to answer, and I appreciate the anquish with which you must ask it.
If you were married in a Catholic ceremony, you would promise to do all within your power to have your children baptized and raised as Catholics. Your non-Catholic husband would not be required to make any promise, but would need to be informed that you had made such a promise. So the primary responsibility for raising your childen as Catholics would rest with you.
In your present situation, I would encourage your desire to have any children of your marriage baptized and raised as Catholics, but you will have to be prepared to do it on your own. You mention that your husband has stated that he does not want take part in the childen’s…

May 18th, 2008
If for example, John Smith were my best friend and a strong believer in reincarnation, would we accept him? I mean, would we accept his belief that he will be incarnated, or will we simply shut down his beliefs and say he is destined to heaven or hell?

Thanks for your question.
First and foremost, the question of what happens to us after death leads us into a place of mystery. We don’t have a photograph or a road map. The most basic decision that Christians make in the face of death is to trust in the reality of a God who wills eternal life, not death for us. The first letter of Paul to Timothy speaks of “God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Tim. 2:3-4). As Catholics, we believe that God’s will for salvation for all is conditioned by our human freedom to say “yes” or “no.” God does not force Divine life and love upon us. God’s gift of salvation is given to anyone…

May 18th, 2008

Opus Dei is what is known as a “personal prelature” of the Pope. This means that unlike a diocese or a parish, Opus Dei has their own Bishops and priests that aren’t connected with a geographical diocese.
At the basic level, Opus Dei is a Lay run organization of people committed to living a spiritual life in the everyday.
John Allen has the best book on Opus Dei and I’d recommend it for further study.…

May 18th, 2008

Catholics believe that suicide is a serious evil in and of itself. It’s a sin against God, who is the author of all life, against the love of one’s own self as a creation of God, and against neighbor because it breaks the ties each person has with the human family. In Catholic teaching it is not permitted under any circumstances.
Even though suicide is considered such a serious sin, we cannot make any judgment about the eternal state of someone who has committed suicide. There are at least two reasons for this.
One reason is that we have no idea what the interior state of the person committing the act of suicide might be. So often persons who commit suicide do so because of depression, mental illness or because…

May 18th, 2008

The term used for lay ministers of the eucharist is not “exceptional” but “extraordinary.” “Ordinary” is the Church’s term for someone who is ordained. For example, a bishop is often called an “ordinary” because he is the ordained spiritual leader of a diocese. “Extraordinary” means “outside ordination” referring to a minister who has not received the sacrament of Holy Orders.
Since 1973 bishops have been authorized to appoint non-ordained Catholics to distribute communion during the Mass. Lay ministers are also appointed to bring the eucharist to those who are sick or homebound. Dioceses vary in their practices…

May 18th, 2008

All things being equal, the Church would prefer that Catholics marry Catholics. Shared religious beliefs and practices are important factors in establishing a closer union with another person. Catholics also see marriage between Catholics as an essential way of passing on the Catholic faith from one generation to the next.
America is, however, a society in which Catholics and people of other religious faiths encounter each other each day. Marriages between Catholics and other Christians are quite common. The Church allows such marriages but asks the Catholic to promise that he or she will do all possible to continue in the practice of the Catholic faith and have any children baptized and raised as Catholics.…

May 18th, 2008
As many Catholics do, I have some serious disagreements with the Catholic church's teachings. I joke that "I'm a bad Catholic but obviously still identify as a Catholic. How can I reconcile issues over things like abortion, acceptance of other religions, gays/females as priests.

The first big conflict in the Church was over whether to admit Gentiles to baptism, without binding them to practice all the laws of Moses, and whether Jewish Christians could then associate with them as brothers and sisters in Christ. On this issue two very prominent church leaders, St. Peter and St. Paul found themselves in disagreement. As Paul tells us in his letter to the Galatians, “when Kephas (Peter) came to Antioch I opposed him to his face because he clearly was wrong” (Galatians 2:11). Even though they disagreed on such a crucial matter, these two saints have been forever linked together to such an extent that we celebrate their feast on the same day, June 29.
Recently the New York Times reported…

May 18th, 2008
I mean, we follow Jesus, but he didn't even write it; his friends did. If it was written so many years after his death by failing memories, why do we live by it? (What about the missing years?) Why do we base our beliefs on a man who 1) is like the rest of us and just wants peace, 2) was written about by other people who only told their version of the story, 3) wasn't important enough to be followed during the missing years?

These are great questions and I hope I can do them justice. The four gospels are important to us because they provide us with the first testimonies of faith. They share the story of Jesus from the perspectives of four quite different communities of Christians living in the first century. They were written between 40 and 70 years after the crucifixion of Jesus. They are not biographies and are not truly concerned about the details of Jesus’ life. Instead they try to convey the meaning of Jesus. The meaning of his life and death was revealed through the kind of person he was. His actions of healing people who were sick, forgiving persons who had sinned and challenging people to be merciful to one another were a living…

May 18th, 2008

This is a question that many Catholics are asking after hearing the recent statement of Bishop Sheridan of Colorado Springs that he would refuse to give commununion to a political candidate whose views are not in line with church teaching against abortion. Archbishop Burke of St. Louis has established a similiar policy, as have two bishops in New Jersey, but these seem to be a minority among the American bishops.
Archbishop Sean O’Malley of Boston said last summer that Catholic politicians who support legal abortion should stop receiving communion by their own choice. But Archbishop O’Malley added that the church does not deny communion to people who come to receive it, presuming that they do so…

May 5th, 2008
Stop Looking for Your Soul Mate!

The honeymoon is over, and being somebody’s “everything” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Catholics need to break up with the quest for “the one” in favor of a more realistic perspective on relationships.
Recently, my friend Angela called me in tears. Angela, 31, and her husband have been married for three years and they are very well-suited: They can spend hours at a time together talking and laughing, are attracted to each other, get along with each other’s friends and families, and are on the same page when it comes to faith, politics, and financial matters. But recently, she told me, the “glow” had worn off. The two were involved in their own…

April 17th, 2006
An interview with the author of The Collar: A Year of Striving and Faith Inside a Catholic Seminary

The Collar chronicles the journey of five men who have left their careers and former lives behind to begin formation for the Roman Catholic priesthood. In his realistic, human, and at times, gripping account of seminary life, Jonathan Englert gives a fly-on-the-wall perspective on the faith journeys of these five individuals, including a recently widowed father of four, a blind violinist, and an avid hunter from Wyoming.
Due to the shrinking population of ordained priests, a growing number of Catholics, and the aftermath of the clergy sexual abuse scandals, seminary life is a topic that promises to continue to fascinate Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
With a master’s degree in journalism from…

April 12th, 2003
Confessions of a Possibly Dangerous Mind

Mirror, mirror on the wall…
I was looking in the mirror recently (I’m trying to lose weight and this is a good way to ruin my appetite…), and I realized that it’s actually healthy to look at myself as I really am.
I know that sounds pretty simplistic, and I’m nothing if I’m not a simple person, but I mean I really take time to look at who I am. Not looking in the mirror to check my hair, or to see if my sideburns are even, or to see if my butt looks big in these jeans (all right, I’ll admit I’ve never looked for that). But I look in the mirror to see who I really am…versus the person that I just want other people to see.
And this is basically the first step I make to start seeing how God really…

November 23rd, 2002
Thanksgiving Was Not the Über-Holiday for Us

It is November, and I am barreling headlong into the end of the year. But first, I have to make it past the Thanksgiving table.
Growing up working-class and Filipino here in the U.S., Thanksgiving has never felt to me like a real holiday. Or rather, it has never as big a deal to me as to my Anglo and African-American friends, whose families have lived here for generations. Not because it’s a secular holiday with its own mythology, because it’s easy enough to give it a religious backdrop. You could even say that, as Catholics, we celebrate Thanksgiving at every Mass; after all, that’s what Eucharist means.
In our house, though, Thanksgiving was just another day off from school or work. We really could…

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