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.