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Michael O'Loughlin :
49 article(s)

Mike O'Loughlin is a writer living in Washington, D.C., covering religion, politics, and culture. In addition to Busted Halo, his writing appears in the Advocate, National Catholic Reporter, Foreign Policy, Religion & Politics, and America. He's also appeared on Fox News and MSNBC. Follow him on twitter at @mikeoloughlin.
June 5th, 2014

This Sunday, Shimon Peres, president of Israel, and Mahmoud Abbas, president of Palestine, will join Pope Francis at the Vatican for a “prayer meeting for peace,” the Vatican Information Service said.
The prayer meeting, which the Vatican has been careful to note is not a prelude to formal peace talks, is the result of the pope’s recent trip to Jordan, Palestine, and Israel.
“We’re meeting to pray, only that,” the pope said, “and then everyone will go home.”
The pope’s trip was full of symbolic gestures that promoted peace and condemned violence on both sides. So of course, the prayer meeting is noteworthy because violence in the Middle East remains a tragic reality. If these three men, whose…

May 1st, 2014
While the NBA shoots and scores, Congress sits on the sidelines

By last weekend, nearly everyone had heard about the racist rant caught on tape, attributed to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, and released by the celebrity gossip outfit TMZ.
Right away, anyone who’s anyone was weighing in on Sterling’s rant. Speaking at a press conference in Malaysia, President Obama lamented that the nation still struggles with issues of race, and said that he had “confidence that the NBA commissioner Adam Silver, a good man, will address this.”
Tuesday, Silver did just that, announcing a lifetime ban on Sterling’s attendance at NBA events, a $2.5 million fine, and that he planned to ask NBA owners to strip Sterling ownership rights.
In total, a mere four days passed…

April 3rd, 2014
The role young adults can play in addressing the great challenges facing society today

Last weekend, more than 100 students gathered at St. Clement Parish in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. Representing Catholic campus ministry centers from colleges and universities throughout the United States — Catholic, private, and public — these students were wrapping up a year of leadership training and faith formation as participants in ESTEEM (Engaging Students to Enliven the Ecclesial Mission), a project of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management and the St. Thomas More Catholic Center at Yale University.
The students spend their ESTEEM year attending workshops, small group sessions, retreats, and engaged in service opportunities. They read church…

March 6th, 2014

This week in 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated as president, the last time the event was held in March. It was the first of four inaugurations for FDR, the one during which he uttered the now famous “The only thing we have to fear is … fear itself” line.
The next day, he declared a four-day banking holiday to prevent people from cashing out their accounts and convened a special session of Congress and launched the New Deal.
Eventually, New Deal legislation would unleash the bulk of the modern social safety net in the United States. The Works Progress Administration gave jobs to unemployed Americans to build post offices, bridges, parks, and schools. The National Labor Relations Board was established…

January 16th, 2014
Fifty years ago, LBJ challenged us to end poverty. Are we any closer?

Last week marked the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s State of the Union address in which he declared “unconditional war on poverty in America.” He challenged Americans to end the great injustice:
It will not be a short or easy struggle, no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until that war is won. The richest Nation on earth can afford to win it. We cannot afford to lose it. One thousand dollars invested in salvaging an unemployable youth today can return $40,000 or more in his lifetime.
Poverty is a national problem, requiring improved national organization and support. But this attack, to be effective, must also be organized at the state and the local level and must…

December 5th, 2013

Pope Francis rocked the media again last week with the release of “Evangelii Gaudium,” (The Joy of the Gospel) an apostolic exhortation laying out his vision for a well-run, joyful church and a more just world. America magazine’s James Martin, SJ, wrote that he was unable to “remember a papal document that was so thought-provoking, surprising, and invigorating. Frankly, reading it thrilled me.”
New York… magazine’s Dan Amira had some fun with the document, publishing a quiz called, “It’s Time to Play ‘Bill de Blasio or the Pope?,’” in which he asks readers to guess if quotes are attributed to Francis or the ultra-liberal, populist mayor-elect of New York.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper

November 21st, 2013

In New Hampshire this past weekend, Gov. Martin O’Malley, Democrat of Maryland, told more than 1,000 Democratic activists that pride in oneself and in one’s city is able to transform lives and communities. Speaking at the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Manchester, the Catholic O’Malley recalled his tenure as mayor of Baltimore in the early 2000s, which at that time was the most violent city in the United States. He highlighted a campaign he started to drive down crime and drive up pride. It was simple, he said, once residents believed things could be better. The program was called simply, Believe.
“Belief is important. Belief drives action. Now, like Baltimore in 1999,…

November 7th, 2013

I had the pleasure of rereading Economic Justice for All earlier this week as I was researching another writing project. The first time I encountered this pastoral letter, written in 1986 by U.S. bishops, I was a senior in college, some time in 2007, completing an assignment for a Catholic social justice class. I remember being blown away, moved by the unequivocal words of support for the poor and middle class. This document stirred my passion for using politics for good, as a way to lift up the disenfranchised. It would not be an exaggeration to credit Economic Justice for All… with inspiring me to work in the Catholic sector, seeking ways to tell the stories of those who feel left out.
The pastoral letter, written a

October 17th, 2013
How the U.S. government shutdown impeded government’s good work

This past weekend, I ran the Chicago Marathon. I sometimes use my time running to think of ideas for columns, hashing out arguments and counter-arguments, and figuring out what I want to say, who I want to interview, and discern what people might find interesting or helpful. Knowing that my Church & State… column would be due following the run, I decided to spend some time thinking about what’s going on in the world of government. Of course, with the government having been shut down for two weeks by race day, the answer was, not much.
The small but influential contingent of Tea Party Republicans that forced the government shutdown didn’t seem to have a single goal in mind. At first, they cited their opposition

October 3rd, 2013
What lessons could U.S. leaders learn from Pope Francis?

The U.S. government is shut down. Have you noticed? Probably not. Planes are still flying. Trains are still moving. The post office is open, Social Security checks are still being delivered, and the military remains on guard. For most Americans, the closing of the federal government doesn’t interfere with the daily grind. Now, this isn’t to diminish the very real problems that a government shutdown creates, especially for those who rely on government for their livelihood and services such as nutrition assistance. For them, the shutdown of the government is quite painful. Rather, it’s worth noting that by making the effects of a shutdown as minimal as possible for most people, the rage that Americans…

September 19th, 2013

First, a heartwarming story out of Boston.
Glen James, a homeless man in his 50s, was walking through a parking lot when he noticed a black bag. Curious, he opened it, and what he found was astonishing. According to the Boston Globe,… inside was $2,400 in cash, $40,000 in traveler’s checks, a passport, and some personal papers. James could have used the money to find a place to live or buy the essentials that many of us take for granted. Instead, he did what all of us should do: He turned the bag over to the police.
“Even if I were desperate for money, I would not have kept even a penny of the money found,” he said Monday in a handwritten statement. “God has always very well looked after me.”
The Boston Police Department

September 5th, 2013

Pope Francis caught even BuzzFeed’s attention over the weekend when expressing his views on possible foreign intervention in Syria via Twitter:
War never again! Never again war!
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) September 2, 2013

We want a peaceful world, we want to be men and women of peace.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) September 2, 2013

How much suffering, how much devastation, how much pain has the use of arms carried in its wake.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) September 2, 2013

And to hammer home the point that the Catholic Church is against launching missiles into Syria, bishops here in the United States have launched a campaign of sorts against a possible war. In an e-mail blast, bishops implored…

August 22nd, 2013

Rowan Williams, the erudite former Archbishop of Canterbury, lamented that some Christians in the United Kingdom, the United States, and other Western nations claim “persecution” whenever they don’t get their way.
At the Edinburg International Book Festival, Williams said:
Persecution is not being made to feel mildly uncomfortable. I am always very uneasy when people sometimes in this country or the United States talk about persecution of Christians or rather believers. I think we are made to feel uncomfortable at times. We’re made to feel as if we’re idiots — perish the thought! But that kind of level of not being taken very seriously or being made fun of; I mean for goodness sake,…

July 25th, 2013

I was at a restaurant in the H Street corridor, a so-called up-and-coming neighborhood in northeast Washington, D.C., a couple weekends ago. Edison bulbs hung from the ceiling. Diners enjoyed 12- and 14-dollar artisanal drinks. Much of the menu consisted of organic, farm-to-table ingredients. At the bar, a group of three white men were drinking when the local Fox affiliate interrupted the Nationals baseball game. The jury in the George Zimmerman trial had reached a verdict. As it was announced that Zimmerman had been found not guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of the unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, the three white guys erupted into cheers. My friend and I paid our bill and left the restaurant.…

July 11th, 2013

Well, it’s official. Pope Francis is a hit.
Esquire… magazine, not exactly an outlet that praises the Catholic Church on a regular basis, highlighted some of the reasons why Francis is so “awesome”:
”He has said that he believes priests should be ‘shepherds with the smell of the sheep’ and he is living that way. He has, pointedly, not moved into the papal apartments, remaining at a cheap hotel where reportedly he eats breakfast with ordinary people. He refuses to take the papal limousine, traveling by minibus instead. More significantly, on Holy Thursday this year, Pope Francis became the first Pope in history to wash the feet of a woman. Not only did he wash the feet of a woman, but that woman was a Muslim.

June 27th, 2013

This summer, Catholic bishops in this country are again devoting the 14 days prior to the Fourth of July to their “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign. These two weeks, they said, will be spent educating Americans about what they see as the government’s infringement on the freedom of religion. As such, it’s also a good time to reexamine how we, as Catholics, contribute to the public square. How do we, as disciples of Jesus, live our faith today?
The campaign, now in its second iteration, is the result of what the bishops view as government involvement into what counts, from an IRS perspective, as ministry. The bishops believe that hospitals, schools, and other church-affiliated social service industries…

June 13th, 2013
Working with others to do good.

Pope Francis was the fifth most discussed topic on Reddit a few weeks ago. Reddit is the online cool-kids-table, where it seems that everything we find entertaining online originates. BuzzFeed is described as last week’s Reddit. Reddit users tend to be trendy Millennials, who have a penchant for finding content that will go viral, paying particular attention to progressive issues. Oh, and most are agnostic or atheist.
So what was the pope doing there?
Francis had made headlines for an off-the-cuff homily in which he gave a shout-out to atheists:
“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone,” the pope told worshipers at morning Mass on Wednesday.…

May 30th, 2013
Given recent violence, does the death penalty make sense?

I was talking to a friend last week when I asked, “You’re opposed to the death penalty right?” It was less of an inquiry than a way to transition to the next portion of our conversation. After all, she is in her 20s, Catholic, a Democrat, and more to the left of many issues than me. I began to tell the story I had in mind without really considering her answer when she interrupted me.
“Oh, not necessarily,” she said. “In some cases, I’m against it, sure, but sometimes it just seems fair.”
I was taken aback, surprised really. I decided to ask some more friends over the next few days. Again, almost all were in their 20s, shared a generally liberal outlook on politics, and were from faith traditions that oppose…

May 2nd, 2013

Tomorrow marks two weeks since law enforcement officials captured suspect number two, cowering in a boat, hidden by a tarp, and bleeding from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his neck. The night prior, the suspect’s older brother was killed in a firefight with police.

April 17th, 2013

When I got home from the office Monday, I did what I do most days: I changed into running clothes and put on my sneakers, readying myself for a few miles to alleviate the daily stress. Of course, Monday wasn’t like any other day.

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