Busted Halo
January 26th, 2009

In the fourth installment of his video blog from Washington D.C., contributing editor Marc Adams checks in a week after the inauguration, with an important reminder that the work is not over; it has just begun.

January 26th, 2009

Called Out Of Darkness book cover

I came out of childhood with no sense of being a particular gender, and no sense of being handicapped by being a woman because I didn’t believe I was a woman or a man.

Let me say briefly, because it’s too painful to relate in any detail, that I learned all about gender in adolescence, even as I moved against gender distinctions and refused to accept gender limitations.

Plunged into a coeducational high school at fourteen, I soon caught on that there were tremendous liabilities to being a girl. There was no such thing as gender equality. No one had yet spoken the word “feminism,” and my view of life soon involved negotiating my way through a minefield in which “good girls” could be destroyed. A raft of activities could result in one losing one’s reputation, and at the very worst, one could get pregnant, have to give up the baby for adoption, or one’s entire life might be destroyed.

I passed through these adolescent years, with considerable misery, and with some happy experiences, but the lessons—that girls were responsible for keeping boys in line sexually, that good girls never gave in until the marriage night, that brides, pure as lilies, ought to want husbands who had acquired a little experience, that housework was noble and important, that marriage was to be desired over the single state, that one should have as many children as God chose to send to one—these lessons made little or no lasting impression on me. I remained a person in rebellion, and continued to gravitate to subjects beyond my immediate milieu.

I needn’t linger on the blunders or trials of this period, except to say that religion became mixed up with it.

I think I lost my intimate conversation with God during this period. I think I stopped talking to Him and looking to Him to help me—long before I lost my faith.

My deepest convictions transcended gender. The God in whom I believed transcended gender. Reason and conscience and heart …

January 25th, 2009


Erin recently broke up with her boyfriend of two years. They were serious and considering marriage, but he didn’t want children and Erin, 27, very much wants a family. She knows she made the right choice but she’s still heartbroken, she told me recently in an email.

Erin, a longtime reader of this column, feels called to the vocation of Catholic married life — and is frustrated that she hasn’t yet met the partner with whom she can live out that call.

Here’s what she wrote to me:
“How does one live a single life with this vocation? It’s very confusing — not to mention painful and rather unhealthy — when I find myself sizing up all the men in my life as potentials, even friends that I know I shouldn’t. Some might call it desperation.

I want to be comfortable being single, but the fact is I’m just not. I want to be married, I want to share a life with someone, I want to raise a family, argue over the mortgage, and struggle over to whose family will we go for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. I want that life, my prayer has been that God also wants that life for me, and I’m sure we will both be greatly rejoicing when it happens.

What I’m struggling with at this moment is what to do in the meantime?”
Less impatience, more enjoyment
Erin’s questions are ones that many of you are struggling with — or remember struggling with before you got married. Her email really touched me, because I felt the same way during my 20s: I wanted to get married; I wanted to meet the right person; and while I trusted in God, I was impatient.

Life was going to be complete when I met the right guy and got married, I told myself. Sure, there would be tough times, but I would be part of a team and I’d feel like I had arrived into the “married person” club.

Being married is wonderful (and that team spirit is perhaps the best part.) …

January 22nd, 2009


On June 28, 2007 at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls, Pope Benedict XVI announced officially that a special Jubilee Year dedicated to the Apostle Paul would take place from June 28, 2008 to June 29, 2009, on the occasion of the bimillenium of Paul’s birth, which historians have placed between the years 7 and 10 A.D.

As the Paulist Fathers—who sponsor Busted Halo—prepare to celebrate once again the feast of the Conversion of Paul on January 25, it is worthwhile recalling who this man was and why there is a year dedicated in his honor? First, Paul is responsible for a large part of the New Testament. The letters ascribed to him are about a quarter of the whole, and if you add the 17 chapters of Acts that are given over to him, it is more like a third. After Jesus, one could argue, Paul is the central figure of the New Testament.

In addition, Paul is (as far as we know) the first Christian author. Then there is the fact that the letters have been preserved, even though they are clearly written for particular purposes and addressed to Christians in one city rather than another. That means that from the very beginning Christians must have thought that they had something of general importance.

What kind of a person is it that has bequeathed this legacy to us? One of the great advantages of letters is that, for the most part, they are personal. Paul is writing real letters, to real people, aiming to solve the difficulties that arise in real situations.
The Road to Damascus

Things changed for Paul when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. The effect on Paul was quite startling. From that, it followed that what these “irritating Jesus people” had been claiming was, after all, true: that the Crucified One had indeed been raised from the dead by God; therefore, he was indeed God’s Messiah (which …

January 19th, 2009

In this third installment of his video blog from Washington D.C., contributing editor Marc Adams speaks to his parents, Mary and Roland Adams about why they decided to travel 3,000 miles from Southern California to attend the Inauguration of Barack Obama. As an interracial couple who have been together for over 30 years, the Adamses offer some very personal insights and experiences on race, history and opportunity in the United States.

January 17th, 2009

In this second installment of his video blog from Washington DC during inauguration festivities, contributing editor Marc Adams visits the Inauguration Superstore.

January 15th, 2009

deacon-insideHave you ever looked up at the altar at church and wondered who the adult male was on the altar with a diagonal stole that made him look like Star Trek’s Lt. Worf?

This person is what the Catholic Church calls a Deacon. At the Second Vatican Council, the Church decided to restore the ministerial role of Deacon to the Catholic tradition. In ancient times, deacons served as servants. They ministered to the needs of all in the early church communities. But few people know more than a little about deacons.

Most deacons are married men with families of their own. They are called into the ministry to serve communities in a variety of ways alongside their role of assisting at mass and preaching the gospel. Deacons are called from the people of the parish community to bring the Word of God to those same people, doing a variety of things: from directing religious education, to serving food in the parish soup kitchen, to leading a letter-writing campaign to politicians. Deacons come from all walks of life. Some have doctorates while others only finished high school. Deacons also have “secular” jobs in the world — their ministry is not their primary occupation.
Two types of deacons
Permanent deacons are the aforementioned married men, but all priests also are ordained as deacons before they transition into their priestly vocations. These “transitional deacons” usually remain deacons for a short period of time (nine months to a year) before their priestly ordination.

Men must be married already to become a married permanent deacon. Single men called to the ministry of deacon take a vow of celibacy and may not marry; married deacons also take a vow of celibacy upon the death of their wife. In special cases, dispensations can be made for deacons to remarry, but these are rare.
Meet a Deacon
Deacon Greg Kandra has been cultivating a career as an Emmy Award-winning television producer at CBS for nearly 20 years. Recently, Deacon Kandra discussed some basic questions that people have about deacons.


January 15th, 2009

mlk_innerThe record spins. The needle hits the vinyl. A rhythmic tune bursts out from the speakers and penetrates my soul. At the same time, the emotional lyrics capture my young imagination. As I stare at the record sleeve, I’m transported to a time I have never known, a place far from home, and a struggle of monstrous proportions. While most kids today learn about the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in their elementary school classes, I first heard about this great champion of civil rights from a Motown record. And from this introductory lesson, I began to see how his legacy lives on in my life and how his example challenges me to reflect Christ to others.

I grew up in a biracial family in the largely white area of Orange County, CA. My parents made a special effort to create a loving home and supportive environment for my younger brother and I, always emphasizing that our African American and Caucasian background gave us “the best of both worlds.”

I Want My…

But at the age of five, race was the last thing on my mind. I was enthralled with music. I watched MTV nightly back when their programming consisted primarily of music videos. I listened to the radio constantly. I even started sounding out tunes on the piano that I had heard from movies. But nothing beat lying down by the record player and listening to all of my parents’ old records. My mom’s collection gave me the best of classic rock while my dad had stockpiled what seemed to me to be every Motown record ever made.

It was in my dad’s collection that I stumbled on Stevie Wonder’s song “Happy Birthday” from his Hotter Than July album. The song—released in 1980—was a passionate call for the national recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Birthday, years …

January 14th, 2009

In the run-up to the inauguration, residents of the District of Columbia and surrounding areas are clamoring to capitalize on the flood of people who are expected to descend on the city in just a few days. Some people are hoping to make quick cash by renting their homes for astronomical sums (in some cases thousands of dollars for only a few nights stay). In this first installment of his video blog about life in DC leading up to the inauguration, Marc Adams explores the morality behind hitting visitors who want to share in the historical moment with exorbitant prices. Should people feel a sense of guilt or is it simply capitalism at work? Two people in a DC neighborhood give their take.

January 14th, 2009


A family member of mine recently said, “Shellie, I’ve accepted that you are working in the sex industry.”

My thought? “It’s about time.”


When I look at my life, even I must admit that it is really sex filled. I am a teen-mom coordinator for a local Nashville nonprofit. That pretty much consists of trying to encourage 13 to 19-year-old “grown-way-too-soon” young women to use biblical insights, my advice based on experience (I myself am a sex abuse survivor with a history of promiscuity) and a little common sense when it comes to making sexual choices. I speak pretty frequently on a book that I wrote in 2004, Inside of Me: Lessons of Lust, Love and Redemption . (I think the title that is pretty self-explanatory.) Oh… and then there’s the porn thing.

No, I am not an ex-porn star, but I do spend a lot of time on the periphery of that culture. You see, I am a blogger for XXXChurch.com, a website that serves as an online ministry to porn addicts. Yeah, I’m sure a few of you are gasping. I am pretty used to that by now. It’s an odd “ministry,” but trust me, no matter how taboo it is and continues to be — especially and unfortunately within the Church — it is needed.

According to SafeFamilies.org, 2006 porn industry revenue was $13.3 billion in the U.S alone. Ten percent of people admitted to downloading porn, 28 percent of those being women. Seventy percent of men between 18 and 34 visit at least one pornographic site per month. (See sidebar for more statistics.) Oh, but here’s the real shocker (at least it will be for some of you): In 2001, over 37 percent of pastors said that porn was a struggle for them; over half of evangelical pastors admitted to viewing pornography. Twenty-nine percent of born-again adults believe it’s OK to view movies with sexually explicit behavior.

Some of these stats may be staggering, but this is something that should not …

January 12th, 2009


There has been constant discussion in our news media about the continuing conflict between Israel and Palestinians in the tiny strip of land on the Mediterranean known as the Gaza Strip. In an earnest effort to both understand better and take action, Marc Adams, a contributing editor at Busted Halo, began an online conversation with a group of former Jesuit volunteers, friends and family. His initial questions regarding how to deal with the crisis have generated a rich dialogue about what we, here in the US, can and should do about the situation in Gaza.

Much of the email correspondence centered on how to understand the facts on the ground — including our media’s portrayal of the state of affairs versus the reality — and what people can do to help foster peace in the region.

What follows is a small sampling of that continuing discussion. I have added some reflections based on the seven years I lived and worked in the region — including Gaza — as well as my continuing efforts as an activist for peace and human rights, which have brought me back to the area several times since then, to work with a variety of grassroots groups. Below that are resources and links to other voices on the war, and suggestions for practical ways in which people can get involved and help to make a difference.
In Marc Adams original email he wrote:
“As what seems to always be the case, Israel has responded to deadly rocket attacks against its people with (what seems to me) brutal overpowering by its military against many innocent civilians in Gaza. Can someone please explain to me why there can’t be a cease-fire? Does anyone have any good ideas of what I or we can do as citizens of the US to help end this dire situation? It’s so frustrating to hear President Bush give unwavering support of Israel and to see President-Elect Obama remain silent. In my view, BOTH sides (Israel and Hamas) are at fault and the sooner everyone can admit to

January 11th, 2009


Millions of singles made a New Year’s resolution to be more proactive about their love lives. Sound like you? If you want to find that special someone in 2009, it’s going to take some effort. (Amazingly enough, Mr. or Ms. Right will probably not intercept you between your car and your office, or jump into your path as you walk bleary-eyed for your morning coffee.)

While I know that the guys out there are looking for love, too, it’s usually women who spend the most time worrying about their odds of marriage, wondering if there’s something wrong with them. And it’s no wonder: Women read articles in the newspaper about how being too smart or too funny or earning too much money scares men off. That kind of nonsense is enough to drive anyone nuts!

On the book tour for my first book, Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women, I traveled all around the country speaking to groups of SWANS® — Strong Women Achievers, No Spouse — about the sociological trends that were making it possible, now more than ever, for a woman to have a rewarding career and a fulfilling personal life. Energetic, passionate, intelligent and honest women shared their experiences with me (including many on this website), and time after time, they asked me for my advice.

Where do you meet men who are interested in smart women?
How should we talk about our jobs when we first meet a guy?
What can I tell my mother to make her realize times have changed and being single at 30 isn’t so terrible?

As professor of sociology teaching courses on the American family, my students would often ask for my guidance about their futures, too:

Should I go to the prestigious graduate school program I got into, even though my boyfriend doesn’t want me to leave the state?
What kind of career can I have that will allow me the flexibility to have a family as well?

These were all excellent questions—but there has been no advice specifically geared toward smart women. Most self-help books on dating …

January 10th, 2009

Question on Sinful Priests.

Coming Attractions for Sunday’s Gospel

Out of the Haze: reflects on Jesus’ Baptism

Church Search is in Mt Pleasant, Michigan

January 8th, 2009

We’re a lot like Radio Shack: you’ve got questions, Father Dave has answers. In this episode of Mass Class, Father Dave handles several call-in questions of faith, including those about: striking the chest gesture during mass, over-the-phone confession, the sacrifice of Jesus, and RCIA. (Originally aired: 12/03/08) The Busted Halo Show with Father Dave Dwyer is on Sirius Satellite Radio, Channel 159, and XM 117, Monday through Friday, 7:00pm to 10:00pm EST. Give us a call with your questions and comments: 1-888-3-CATHOLIC, or at bustedhalo@thecatholicchannel.org. Go to www.sirius.com to get subscription information.

January 8th, 2009

Epiphany of the Lord. The three gifts of the Wise Men for us today are actually three lessons, including the idea of always bring our very best when in the presence of the Lord. (Preached on Sunday, January 4th, 2009, St. Malachy’s Church, Broadway and 49th, Times Square, New York City.)

January 6th, 2009


One of the most common (and frequent) questions Busted Halo gets from people is, What exactly does the Catholic Church teach about oral sex? It is an understandable question that is not easily answered with a simple yes or no response. The fact is, the Church’s teachings can’t be compartmentalized into questions on only one form of sexual expression. In order to understand what the church says about oral sex, one must first be aware of the Church’s teachings on the nature and purpose of all sexual expression.

First and foremost, the Church reserves all sex for marriage. This is not simply a way to restrict our natural sexual impulses, but rather to use them for what they were properly intended, namely for procreation of children and to build unity between husband and wife. Even Pope Benedict has spoken openly of his concern that limiting the Church’s attention on sex to “just moral prohibitions” can lead people to “have the impression that the church’s real function is only to condemn and restrict life. Perhaps too much has been said and too often in this direction—without the necessary connection to truth and love.”

While you won’t read any definitive lines in the Catholic Catechism when it comes to oral sex, the church does draw some directives from its traditional teaching on sexuality to provide some guidance. Many people are surprised to hear that even within marriage, the church makes a distinction between oral “sex” and oral stimulation. If we define oral sex as orally stimulating the male partner to orgasm, then the church would prohibit that even for married couples.
Getting Specific
Two books that offer specific directions about the Catholic Church’s teaching on oral sex are Christopher West’s Good News about Sex and Marriage: Answers to Your Honest Questions about Catholic Teaching (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Publications, 2000) and Vincent Genovesi’s In Pursuit of Love: Catholic Morality and Human Sexuality (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1996).

Christopher West is a popularizer of the “Theology of the Body” based on Pope John …

January 4th, 2009
January 3rd, 2009


Emilie Lemmons, a writer and mother of two (although as she would say “not necessarily in that order”), is someone few people outside of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area probably know. If you read her blog, Lemmondrops, however, you had a window into the daily struggle and heart-wrenching experience of a woman who shuddered at the possibility of dying too young from cancer with two young children in tow.

Before her diagnosis, Lemmons wrote for the Catholic-based paper The Catholic Spirit, of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis/St Paul. The Spirit, as it is known in Catholic media circles, is an exceptional Catholic newspaper that really values its journalistic integrity — it doesn’t just do fluff pieces on “nice Catholic stories.”

Lemmons was at the heart of that kind of truthfulness — bishops and church officials often questioned how she could ask such a tough question when she was supposed to be “on their side.”

Joe Towalski, her editor at the paper, remarked: “Emilie, of course, was on the church’s side. But she never felt she had to sacrifice good journalistic principles in telling the Good News, and she was a big reason The Catholic Spirit was named the top large-circulation diocesan newspaper in the country for its work in 2003, 2005 and 2006.”

One piece in particular focused on Catholic identity on college campuses. She told the story straight. Notre Dame is doing the “Vagina Monologues” and Boston College officials are clashing with an abortion rights group on campus. More traditional-minded Catholics were lamenting the loss of Catholic identity, while academicians argued that the colleges that were Catholic enclaves were not respected as complex centers of thought. And her piece included a human rights angle about how faculty members who did not espouse Catholic teaching were dismissed at some schools.

When she became pregnant with her second child, Lemmons, 40, was diagnosed with cancer, a soft-tissue sarcoma that eventually would spread and take her life. The mother of a 2 year old and a 9 month old baby turned her attention towards motherhood and dealing with cancer …

December 30th, 2008

As I write about William F. Buckley, I can’t help thinking of my dad. They were alike in many ways, and my father introduced me, through the TV screen, to Buckley. I once told Buckley that he’d played a huge role in the formation of my political thinking—as I’d been watching “Firing Line” since it appeared on PBS when I was 9 years old—and he said, “Well, that’s a frightening thought.” Of course, it was a frightening thought. Why was a 9-year-old watching a political debate show led by this devout intellectual with the vocabulary of a… well… the vocabulary typical of no one at any education level? Cause of my dad. My atheist dad.

My father may have been against religion, but his ethical example, his dignity, and his love and respect for nature and his fellow man were spiritual practices if ever I’ve seen them. I know I got part of whatever religious core I have though him. And he and the author of “God & Man at Yale” shared many values.

Bill Buckley is best known for starting the magazine National Review, and, largely through that publication, for leading a revitalization of conservative politics in America. But there has always been a tension within conservatism between what Buckley represented and what at one time called itself the “Know Nothings” — anti-intellectual, often anti-immigrant, populism.

The conservatism William F. Buckley stood for was a heartfelt belief in individual liberty, collective responsibility and a healthy respect for traditions. His was not a politics of fear. It was a thoughtful and a decent politics. One that he was more than happy to defend against reasonable opponents.

Buckley’s “Firing Line” was no relative of the modern split screen scream-fest, with surrogates of Left and Right speaking from memorized talking points, bullying their way to dominate the audio feed. On “Firing Line,” Buckley maintained a level of politeness that approached serenity. You finished watching an episode feeling edified, rather than feeling bolstered in an already-fixed position.

And Buckley’s politeness was not the false platitude of a politician’s …

December 30th, 2008

Yankee Stadium (1923-2008)

The champagne was all over my shirt and Derek Jeter stood there laughing. I had just played his accomplice by interviewing Darryl Strawberry in the corner of the locker room so that Jeter could spray him in the face with champagne moments after the Yankees had clinched the American League’s Eastern Division in 1996. Later that year, they won the World Series for the 23rd time in their history, and an even bigger celebration ensued.

A few years before I began covering the locker room for WOR Radio, I was a young cub radio reporter following around WFAN’s Yankee beat reporter, Suzyn Waldman. Down in the bowels of the stadium we’d see all kinds of strange things. One year we heard the click-clack-click-clack-cliiiick… as Don Mattingly ran and dragged his metal cleats on the stadium concrete, making sparks. John Wetteland used to roller blade down there with a hockey stick and tennis ball, checking us reporter types into the walls. Charlie, the keeper of locker and press room gate, would check our credentials every night without a word. I used to think he was older than baseball itself.

Perhaps the biggest treat was being able to walk down the clubhouse ramp, come out of the dugout and step onto the field to interview players before game time. It was magical to be standing where so much of Yankee history had taken place. The white façade around the stadium and the rumble of the #4 train in the distance were different from a player’s-eye view. Old Timer’s Day brought the likes of Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto and Reggie Jackson to the field for interviews and a few laughs. The pinstripes would make my eyes cross sometimes, watching them blur around the bases or shagging flies. There were days I thought about watching my first game with my dad, from the cheap seats in the left field bleachers, never expecting to ever be as close to the action as I now was. It was pure magic in a stadium filled …

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