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Friday, November 30, 2012

Conservative Bishops Embrace Hero Of Catholic Left For Sainthood

Dorothy Day, publisher of "The Catholic Worker," shown circa 1960. (AP)

Dorothy Day, publisher of “The Catholic Worker,” shown circa 1960. (AP)

Catholic social activist Dorothy Day died in 1980, but the work she began in the early 20th century still goes on today. There are more than 200 Catholic Worker houses across the country feeding, clothing and sheltering the needy.

Days’ followers continue to protest injustice and war in all its forms. And the Catholic Worker, the newspaper she helped found in 1933 remains a strident voice for Catholic left.

Dorothy Day’s devotion to the poor has drawn comparisons to Mother Theresa, but Day herself often said: “Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.”

That plea has apparently gone on deaf ears. Earlier this month the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted unanimously to move forward with Dorothy Day’s canonization cause – a move that’s widened the gap between Catholic conservatives and liberals.

Conservative clergy supporting Day’s canonization say Day’s life resonates with their struggles to  fight abortion and government regulations requiring businesses to provide contraceptive care in health care coverage. Even though Day had an abortion as a young woman, she came to support the church’s opposition to abortion.

But Robert Ellsberg, who has edited books containing Day’s journals and letters, says Day would vehemently disagree.

“She would consider that a gross manipulation of her message,” Ellsberg said.


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  • J__o__h__n

    Can’t she be honored for her actual accomplishments instead of conjuring up a miracle to credit her with to make her a saint?

  • Richard

    We have Catholic Worker Houses in the UK. They do wonderful work.
    One young lady from Sweden I know became a catholic was inspired by Dorothy Day

  • Br Phil

    A woman who lived her life in radical grace by living Gospel values everyday regardless of what the church establishment said. The Catholic Workers do wonderful work across the globe. Dorothy is, im sure rolling over in her grave. She is quoted as saying “Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed that easily”.

  • robertamorocco

    The USCCB had a “voice vote” that required a “majority” and “passed,” according to their Website and Catholic News Service.  Neither Cardinal Dolan nor the USCCB called the vote unanimous; no  count was made of  yeas, nays, and abstentions. Additionally, Cardinal Dolan told the bishops pre-vote that a “yea” vote would not be a vote in favor of Day’s cause, but in favor of continuing the local investigation (see ondemandvideo for November 13, Tuesday, Afternoon General Session, Part 1, minutes 35:55 ff).
    Day certainly aimed to be a “strident voice” and succeeded. She was unable to divorce herself from her Marxist beliefs and friends, as Carol Byrne documents in “The Catholic Worker Movement (1933-1980): A Critical Analysis,” published in 2010. Her concern for the poor was mixed up with her viewing the problems of the mentally disturbed, drug addicts, and alcoholics as caused by the US’s “capitalist society.” Even as she embraced personal celibacy,  sexual immorality was a recurring problem on the Catholic Worker farms–which she was aware of as her coworkers implored her to do something to correct the situation.  The blog “Dorothy Day Another Way” presents further evidence of Day’s views, such as citations for her famous saying, “Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system,” and her praise  in the “Catholic Worker” for Garibaldi, by whom “the Papal States were wrested from the Church in the
    last century, but there is still the problem of investment of papal funds. It is always a cheering thought to me that if we have good will and are still unable to find remedies for the economic abuses of our time, in our family, our parish, and the mighty church as a whole, God will take matters in hand and do the job for us.  When I saw the Garibaldi mountains in British Columbia . . . I said a prayer for his soul and blessed him for being the instrument of so mighty a work of God. May God use us!” It seems a bad sign for her cause that Ellsberg, who edited the “Catholic Worker” for several years under Day’s watchful eye, and who  is now a member of her Guild’s Executive Committee, believes the bishops have erred in viewing her as a pro-life woman who would oppose government imposition of contraception and abortion.  But that seems to be what his statement  “She would consider that a gross manipulation of her message,” means.  Not all of Day’s  Catholic Workers share her orthodox Catholic anti-abortion  views, which is also a problem.  There seems to be something that misleads many of  her followers to call themselves “Catholic” as they disagree with Church teachings. Could it be her example of  stating she would instantly obey if ordered to change the paper’s name or to cease publication–made more than once to  cardinals and bishops–and then not doing so, as was  well known and discussed at the Catholic Worker?

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