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Re-reading Dorothy Day Print E-mail
By Robert Royal   
Monday, 17 March 2014

Pope Francis has turned the spotlight on the poor and marginalized – particularly in his native Argentina, where he knows them intimately – but also in the whole world. Which somehow has spurred me to re-read Dorothy Day (1897-1980), advocate of the poor and exploited workers here in North America, who is an icon among social-justice Catholics. The cause for her canonization has begun, so she already bears the title “Servant of God.”

I’m glad I did, because I’ve come upon some surprises.

Day was a newspaperman’s daughter and gifted writer in her own right. The family moved often as her father jumped from one job to another. One early, formative experience came during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The Days were living in Oakland and didn’t bear the direct brunt. But Dorothy was impressed with how people opened their doors to refugees from the ruined city.

Her father’s paper had burned to the ground. So on to Chicago. There, she won a scholarship to the University of Illinois, where she joined the Socialist Party. Ironically, her scholarship had been established by William Randolph Hearst, the famed newspaper publisher – and capitalist – model for the title character in Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane.  

She left the university after two years, and got involved in radical causes, writing on women, the poor, war, and workers for far-left outlets. Along the way, she produced a novel that brought a large sum of money when Hollywood bought the film rights. Eugene O’Neill, and other prominent writers became friends (though she was no intellectual, a good thing since it kept her away from the wilds of Marxism).

All that was garden-variety literary leftism and soon passed, as have the causes in the form she confronted them. But there’s another side of her, one that interests the Congregation for the Causes of Saints – and us.

To begin with, she faced crucial personal choices. While she was living among radicals who led irregular lives, she had multiple affairs and even an abortion. (If canonized, she might become patroness of those deluded by modern sexual mores into conceiving, then destroying their own offspring.)

Her only daughter was born while she was a common-law wife to Forster Batterham. He was British, a keen naturalist, the kind who thinks the splendors of nature somehow exclude or oppose faith – and was less than delighted about children or Dorothy’s growing attraction to Catholicism.

She gave up this man she loved – which today might even be criticized by some as bowing to mere Roman rules. But Dorothy gravitated towards simple truths: “In the eyes of God, any turning towards creatures to the exclusion of Him is adultery, and so it is termed over and over again in Scripture.”


          Dorothy Day by Judd Mehlman for the New York Daily News (1965)

Conversion affected her social activism. Though earlier mostly Socialist (her friend Elizabeth Gurley Flynn later was elected head of the Communist Party USA, and she continued to cite figures like Castro, Ho Chi Minh, and Mao well past their sell-by date), the Catholic Dorothy Day was more influenced by Peter Maurin. They became “Distributists,” in the tradition of Chesterton, Belloc, and Vincent McNabb – though, if anything, even more improvident.

Their publication, The Catholic Worker, caught fire more from the purity of the participants’ lives – which meant voluntary poverty, small face-to-face community, and direct help for the poor – than anything it proposed theoretically. It showed up everywhere: in churches and Catholic schools, one copy in a mine five miles underground.

Maurin had grown up in rural France and advocated people producing their own food and manufacturing as many things for their own use as possible. Programmatically, a return to the land and worker ownership, those attractive sides of Distributism rooted in the centrality of meaningful work to human dignity. They also developed projects to care for the poor and jobless. Their real effectiveness, however, lay in the modest Catholic Worker houses they founded, which offered concrete love and assistance.

And with a sense of humor about themselves often absent from earnest seekers of social justice. Day reports, for example, that longshoremen would sometimes complain about people “poking stuff at us. . .first it’s the Communists, and then it’s the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and now it’s the Catholics.” And she was quite frank about their sometimes pie-in-the-sky pipedreams and practical failures. Day reports she once groaned to Maurin, “Why did you have to start all this anyway?”

A striking departure from most social justice activists involved their attitude towards the state. There’s long been a debate among Catholics about supporting government programs as a matter of “justice” – versus promoting “charity” in the sense of direct mutual care.

For Maurin, “charity” that did not engage and empower offended against the dignity and worth of workers. Catholic relief agencies themselves seemed compromised:

More and more of them were taking help from the state, and in taking from the state they had to render to the state. They came under the head of Community Chest and discriminatory charity, centralizing and departmentalizing, involving themselves with bureaus, buildings, red tape, legislation, at the expense of human values.
I’ve long said myself that the virtual state monopoly on education, charity, and now healthcare – however well intended – wrecks Christian liberty and the whole economy of caritas. But I am also skeptical whether a global Church can be effective in the absence of some organization.

Many things, of course, have changed since their day. Labor and capital alike have become, even more conspicuously, government cronies. Population growth and dependency on modern agricultural methods make the Distributist vision of a return of large numbers of people to the land both economically unlikely and environmentally inadvisable. 

But what has not changed is true Christian charity. The pope, like the Catholic Worker movement, has raised a challenge more radical than the usual political efforts: how do we rescue people from the illusions of individualism and collectivism? How do we instead recover, in modern conditions, the true Catholic ethos of persons in community?


Robert Royal
 is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is 
The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the Westnow available in paperback from Encounter Books.
 
 
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

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Comments (49)Add Comment
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written by Deacon Ed Peitler, March 17, 2014
"Many things, of course, have changed since their day. Labor and capital alike have become, even more conspicuously, government cronies."

Not to worry since, when the central government collapses under its own weight, there will be increased opportunity for 'person-to-person' charity on the part of all of us. The bureaucrats and institutionalists will be bringing up the rear. Be on the lookout for them. They will be the ones advancing slowly, heads drooped in despair, wondering how their grand designs could have ever failed.
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written by Mack Hall, March 17, 2014
Thank you.
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written by Myshkin, March 17, 2014
A few years ago I read the book "A Harsh and Dreadful Love" by William Miller, and became appreciative of the work of Maurin and Day. I even went out and got copies of Maurin's "Easy Essays" since they were the start of the whole movement. Day was the one who made the Catholic Worker work, but without Maurin's original vision, Day probably wouldn't have started it.

That said, I've come to realize the limits of their vision. It really incorporated a dose of "presentism" which led to a telescoping of the Roman Catholic teaching on social justice to the here and now. That there is no real hope for justice in this world -- that the Roman Catholic Church is a "field hospital" for a horrific battle raging until the end of time, not a sanatorium meant for occasional recuperation in an otherwise benign world -- escapes their concerns. We can bring the Reign of God here and now if only we try hard. It's from this base that we ended up with such semi-Pelagian hymns as Schutte's "City of God". Thus, even with good intentions we wander away from God ...
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written by Karen Stein, March 17, 2014
Small Christian communities focused on prayer, understanding and knowing the person of Christ. That will be the unifying force to enable Catholics to " rescue people from the illusions of individualism and collectivism" and to "recover, in modern conditions, the true Catholic ethos of persons in community." Small groups meeting weekly in our parishes - reading the Gospels and open to listening to the message that Christ personally gives to each person in the group. Not 'historical analyses' of the Gospels, but deep prayerful reflections. Letting the Holy Spirit bring about a reconversion of heart so that each person sees the needs of those around them. In a way this becomes the Upper Room experience that every Catholic needs to enable them to "go out" and make disciples of all. This is the New Evangelization that Pope Francis calls us to bring about in haste.
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written by Gary Valcour, March 17, 2014
Can someone please define "social justice"? How is it different from garden variety "justice"?
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written by Blake Helgoth, March 17, 2014
William,
I think it is more the "lilies of the field" from St. Matthews gospel sort of thing. Live in the present and trust God for tomorrow - today's worries are enough for today. God works through us to extend His kingdom, otherwise the sacrament of Confirmation makes no sense. I think Dorothy Day would have agreed however, that the reign is in the heart and a foretaste of kingdom to come.
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written by Mike Inman, March 17, 2014
The last 8 paragraphs seem to be the key to that which we should come to understand. For from Scripture itself Jesus asked only his followers, his Church, to care for the poor, the afflicted, the sick, the imprisoned, etc. Consider Jesus' remarks to the question is it right to pay taxes to Caesar? His answer was his question whose image in on the coin? Caesar's he was told. And His response was give unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and give unto God that which is God's. A good priest in his homily on this then took the time to look at each one of us and said to each of us, "You are God's coin..... Give yourself entirely to God" He then continued toward the truth that God NEVER ONCE asked Caesar, any Caesar, any government to take care of the poor, etc. That was/is for us God's people individually and as Church. Should not 70 plus years of totally failed government programs not be sufficient to demonstrate the error of our current ways?
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written by schm0e, March 17, 2014
The roots of American Catholic Communism are indeed deep.
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written by Peter Sirois, March 17, 2014
As for the government feeding the poor, etc. No, it is not the government's responsibility to do this. It is the government's responsibility to level the playing field; a field that has been far out of balance for many thousands of years. It seems that whatever we read about the life of Jesus, it always came to his mission of restoring that balance. Dorothy Day understood this.
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written by Athanasius, March 17, 2014
It is always a struggle to find the right balance between the individual and the common good. Prayer, study, and courage to initiate are needed. The fallacy of progressivism is that a perfect system exists if only we look hard enough and create the right bureaucracy. But that doesn't mean some form of organized help isn't needed. The key is balancing solidarity with subsidiarity, and recognizing that sometimes the best person to solve a problem is you yourself working in your own family or community.
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written by Edward J Baker, March 17, 2014
The problem with "social justice" movements is its complete absence of a recognition for the one cause of all the evil in the world: personal sin. The poor sin as much as those who might be in a position to exploit human weakness. Almost all criminals are poor as well as the innocently poor. An approach to justice for the poor that does not encourage repentance from sins and moral responsibility is a prescription for failure.
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written by Manfred, March 17, 2014
I am fascinated how canonizations follow the tenor of the times. Thomas More and Bp. John Fisher, two MARTYRS for the Faith, had to wait four hundred years (1535-1935) to be canonized, five years after the Anglican church(?) broke with every Christian sect and denomination on the subject of contraception at Lambeth in 1930. Pius XI, in an attempt to forestall the collapse on that teaching, issued Casti Connubii in 1931, and the canonizations followed in order to repudiate Anglicanism.

Dorothy Day would be an exemplary "saint" in the Novus Religion. A serial fornicator, aborter, Socialist, eccentric; I doubt if any miracles would be required. Why, gosh, who is anyone to judge? She reached out to the poor in a very ineffective way. But her heart was in the right place.
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written by Myshkin, March 17, 2014
@Gary V

Pope Pius XI's encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, n 57 (1931) defines it like so:

"Therefore, the riches that economic-social developments constantly increase ought to be so distributed among individual persons and classes that the common advantage of all, which Leo XIII had praised, will be safeguarded; in other words, that the common good of all society will be kept inviolate. By this law of **social justice**, one class is forbidden to exclude the other from sharing in the benefits. Hence the class of the wealthy violates this law no less, when, as if free from care on account of its wealth, it thinks it the right order of things for it to get everything and the worker nothing, than does the non-owning working class when, angered deeply at outraged justice and too ready to assert wrongly the one right it is conscious of, it demands for itself everything as if produced by its own hands, and attacks and seeks to abolish, therefore, all property and returns or incomes, of whatever kind they are or whatever the function they perform in human society, that have not been obtained by labor, and for no other reason save that they are of such a nature."

I highlighted the words so that they were easier to find in the paragraph. Feel free to read more about it in other Papal encyclicals online at the Vatican website.
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written by senex, March 17, 2014
As a contrarian, I view Dorothy Day more as an idealized ‘saint’ of early 20th century socialism, out of touch with the signs of the time. While her heart may have been in the right place, her mind was not. If she had had her way, the world would have become socialist, and we know whither that has led.

Today there seems to be a rush to canonize everyone who lived in the 20th century because he or she was an icon of a narrow social movement that did not account for the totality of the world and the rights of others who did not fit into to their paradigm. We have elevated social values at the expense of truth. Where are the saints among us like Therese of Liseux, who lived a convent life, but changed the mores of millions?
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written by Dr Carol Byrne, March 17, 2014
The big problem here is that supporters of Dorothy Day are not considering the whole picture, but are basing their assessment on a myopic vision of her life and works, with the result that some serious factual omissions have been made. No one doubts that she helped the poor. But the fact remains that she continued to believe implicitly in the truth and soundness of Marxist-Leninist doctrines and found in Marxist political theory a very convenient rationalization for her own instinctive desire to bring down the economic and political structures of Western society. Not even conversion to the Catholic Church managed to rid her of this rigid thought process.

In my book, “The Catholic Worker Movement (1933-80): a Critical Analysis”, (published by Authorhouse, 2010) I have provided proof, drawn from archival evidence, that even after her conversion to Catholicism, Miss Day became a member of several Socialist organizations and was actively involved in political groups whose founders and leaders where predominantly Communist Party members.

The book contains documentary evidence to prove that Day supported the policies of hostile foreign powers operating from Moscow, Havana, Peking and Hanoi against her own country, the USA. She also wrote favourably about such Socialist dictators as Lenin, Castro, Mao and Ho Chi Minh, even though they had all violently persecuted the Church in their respective countries. In fact, Day was so radical and anti-American that the FBI placed her on the federal government’s Security Index.

And why should we confer sainthood on someone who praised and supported the enemies of the Church when such activities were condemned by successive Popes of the time? This is how Pope Pius XI presented it in Divini Redemptoris: “Communism is intrinsically evil, and no one who would save Christian civilization may collaborate with it in any undertaking whatsoever. Those who permit themselves to be deceived into lending their aid towards the triumph of Communism in their own country, will be the first to fall victims of their error. And the greater the antiquity and grandeur of the Christian civilization in the regions where Communism successfully penetrates, so much more devastating will be the hatred displayed by the godless.” And in July 1949 his successor, Pope Pius XII, issued a decree of excommunication against anyone who collaborated with Communists or joined their associations.

The evidence is irrefutable that Dorothy Day was a radical revolutionary who strove throughout her life to bring Socialism into the Catholic Church under the guise of “Christian Communism” and Distributism.
Please read the above-mentioned book which is obtainable from Amazon and let the facts (which have been carefully suppressed) speak for themselves. This would avoid the embarrassment, not to mention the scandal, of canonizing a Catholic Communizer. For even more information, visit the blog "Dorothy Day Another Way."
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written by Mike Inman, March 17, 2014
I consider Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen who taught/preached on nation television in my late teen and early adult years as a most marvelous candidate for Sainthood. He was totally anti-Communist. I still from those days see Dorothy Day as a Communist and I have not know of any real change in her beliefs. I personally can see no creditable basis for her consideration to anything approaching such consideration. What am I missing, if anything?
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written by Seanachie, March 17, 2014
Has Dorothy Day earned and merited more consideration for recognition from Communism and Socialism than Catholicism?
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written by Gus, March 17, 2014
In response to Gary Valcour -- an answer to your question about how justice and social justice are different might be the article "Conservatism and Social Justice"
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written by Jack,CT, March 17, 2014
Dr Royal,
Very nice article and wonderful summary
of a reformed life!
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written by David H. Lukenbill, March 17, 2014
Before I had really studied her books and history, I was an avid supporter of Dorothy Day; but once I began to examine her life and work, it became apparent that she was deeply influenced throughout her entire life by the dogmas of communism; and her devout Catholicism was built on that foundation.

Once I read Dr. Carol Byrne’s book, The Catholic Worker Movement (1933-80): a Critical Analysis, which she speaks to in an earlier post, the case against her canonization became even stronger in my mind, as it will for anyone who takes the time to read it.

It is a must read for those skeptical of Dorothy Day, but aren’t sure why.
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written by Mr. Levy, March 17, 2014
Thank you for the highly informative post, Dr. Carol Byrne.
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written by Karen Stein, March 17, 2014
People get some things right and other things wrong.

Did Christ get it wrong by choosing Judas as one of the 12. No. Imperfect people can still do great things for God and humanity.
Not a great admirer of Dorothy, but I have seen worse examples of humanity that have accomplish much good. Rather, let's focus on the future and implement what Peter Maurin knew to be true. Know the person of Christ and act! Pope Francis is showing us the way. Just yesterday at the Angelus.

Pope Francis: Read Part of the Gospel Everyday
Urges Faithful in His Angelus Address to Listen to Jesus

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written by Alvin Brand, March 17, 2014
Compare the pros and cons of "Government charity" which includes education, vs. what was accomplished by say the
"Robber Barons", jobs, scholarships, museums, hospitals, charitable foundations, etc. etc. No comparison.
While "Government charity" keeps the vast majority of those being "helped" in poverty, private (mainly religious) charity challenges and advances the human being.
Dorothy Day may have had saintly intentions but was most likely on the wrong track.
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written by Jack,CT, March 17, 2014
The reviews are Mixed about Dr Byrene and her book.
I suggest that Loyal RC respect Cardinal Oconor who stated
DD denounced all her previous Political views when she
became Catholic and Recieved the Sacrament of Baptism.

So we then decide if "WE" are to judge this woman and
perhaps Cardinal Dolan is wrong to.....shall we all
listen so intently to those who slander our Church?
Sorry Dr Byrne I for one do not and neither have
many who entertained your book you shamelessly plug
here!
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written by Jack,CT, March 17, 2014
Adden: I guess what I mean to say is "I" Trust
one's "Confessor" more than a writer
who uses an entire life of "Sin and
redemption" to debunk our very own
Cardinals-
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written by Robert Royal, March 17, 2014
I appreciate all the comments that you have all posted here. But I think we've veered a little into thinking this is a matter of ideology. Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin were not the thinkers they believed themselves to be - or that others thought them to be. And a good thing. Whatever Marxist or socialist elements existed in their thinking, I myself find it completely insignificant. And that day is long past. It's far more significant, in my view, that they shunned the modern state. As I mention in the column, it's shocking to find DD quoting Castro, or Mao, or Ho Chi Minh. You have to be a certain kind of dumb ideologist to do that, and more so at the times she did it. I have no sympathy whatever with Marxists or socialists who mean well, since those political formations killed more people in the 20th century than any other political group, including the Nazis. But there's something more in their personal living with the poor. Pope Francis has this quality as well, much further from ideology than The Catholic Worker crowd. They get almost everything wrong about markets and productive enterprise. But they also see something important about those who will never be okay in any economic or political system. Christian charity starts there. We don't go to these people for a serious way of organizing the economy or society. We go to them because unlike the blowhards who talk about government programs, they simply care for the poor.
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written by Jack,CT, March 18, 2014
@RobertRoyal,Thanks you broke it down well on
both ends of the argument.
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written by Manfred, March 18, 2014
Post Script om Dt. Royal's post script: Robert: Does one have to be Catholic to live with/assist the poor? I know people who run a"food pantry" in Morristown, N.J. who provide hot lunches to the poor every day. Most of them are not Catholic. They will admit that most of their "clientele" have mental problems and lack coping skills. Should Francis issue a blamket canonization to all the workers there?
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written by Robert Royal, March 18, 2014
Manfred, just a thought, but it helps to range outside the usual ruts now and then if you want to be fully Catholic. Hence, my foray into Day and friends. You don't have to be Catholic to do what Mother Theresa did either. But she did it because she was a Catholic. The Catholic Worker crowd were laughably wrong on the big picture in politics and economics, as many religious people are. I myself wouldn't trust them to take care of any enterprise. I wouldn't trust Distributists like Chesterton, Belloc, or McNabb to do so either, But they ran those houses, farms, retreats, and tried to connect persons and community in a Catholic spirit. It's a part of Catholicism always worth having around.
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written by David H. Lukenbill, March 18, 2014
With all due respect Mr. Royal, feeling good about the work Dorothy Day did with the poor, yet founded an organization you would not allow to run anything, is a bit inconsistent with your apparent support for her canonization.

As noted in other comments, many people work with, and even live among, the poor, but that surely isn’t enough, on its own, to become a saint; rather, it would seem to be the totality of one’s life, including penance in action from past sins, that confers sainthood.

Dorothy Day never stopped being a public supporter of communism, as Dr. Byrne’s book makes clear, regardless of how she may have done penance for her ideology and party affiliation.
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written by Robert Royal, March 18, 2014
David: I have expressed no opinion on whether DD should be canonized. It's not my responsibility, and if anyone asked, I'd be inclined to say no - I think. I haven't read Dr. Byrne's book, but I'd also be inclined to think DD didn't much understand Marxism anyway and naively thought it would somehow help the poor, despite the constant teaching of popes and the clear historical record for anyone with eyes to see. That said, I think you're making ideology more important that it is in this context: If she is canonized some day, she wouldn't be the first saint to have gotten something quite big quite wrong. Thomas More thought torture and using the state to advance religion were permissible, which they seemed to be in his day. But he's no less a saint, indeed a very great one.
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written by Maggie Louise, March 18, 2014
"And naively thought it would somehow help the poor ". . .
Hasn't Pope Francis recently described himself as "naive"? It seems as if anything these days--word or deed--can be not only forgiven but lauded and/or excused as being naive. Naïveté seems now to be classified as one of the great virtues of the human psyche, just a step up from being a person who thinks to a person who feels, to a person who is naive. What can the next step possibly be?
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written by Loretta, March 18, 2014
I am dismayed at the responses that call Dorothy Day a saint for the Novus Ordo, a serial fornicator, an adulteress, etc. She was a sinner and she was some of those things. But she repented deeply and lived a faithful Catholic and Christian life following her conversion. Like St. Francis, she gave her life for and to the poor. She did not have the great grace that some have of being born into the fullness of the faith, and it is indeed a great blessing to have faithful Catholic parents who teach their children the faith by word and example. But again, when she found the faith she lived it more than most. What do the critics think of other saints who were sinners first? St. Paul comes to mind and St. Augustine., who lived with a woman who was not his wife for many years and fathered a child with her. Do we call him a serial fornicator? He left her too when he converted, just like DD left the father of her child. And she deeply repented of her abortion and was overwhelmingly grateful when God sent her a child despite her sin. It seems to me that she would be a good patron saint for post-abortive mothers.
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written by Jack,CT, March 18, 2014
It never escapes me "WHY" others dislike us (RC)
as we treat each other badly.
Dr Royal made no firm conclusion in
his original piece.

Why do we eat our own?

Most recently Cdl Dolan has defended DD but
we are no longer trusting of our leaders so
I suppose we should not be shocked either!

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written by minbee66, March 18, 2014
St. Paul and St. Augustine changed radically after their conversions. St. Paul joined and shared the lot of the Christians, whom he had previously persecuted. St. Augustine broke off with the Manicheans. In contrast, as Dr. Carol Byrne documents in "The Catholic Worker Movement, 1933-1980: A Critical Analysis" (2010)Dorothy Day never gave up her Communist friends and beliefs. She attempted to graft them onto the Catholic faith. For example, Day dated Mike Gold, who was a committed member of the Communist Party USA and later an editor of its official paper, "The Daily Worker." Years later she praised him repeatedly to her readers in the "Catholic Worker" (CW), her movement's newspaper. Gold wrote a "proletariat" novel called "Jews Without Money," in which his hero whines about his life on New York's Lower East Side. (If his parents hadn't emigrated to the US the hero's fate would have been much worse, given the pogroms and later massacres of the Bolshevik Revolution and the Communist government.) The hero rhapsodizes at the end, "O workers' Revolution, you brought hope to me.... You are the true Messiah." The last time Day praised this novel was in her final column, published in the October/November 1980 CW; she died on November 29, 1980.

Day would make a very poor "patron saint" for "postabortive women." Some female bloggers have interpreted Day's having an abortion as APPROVAL for their own abortions. Day wrote of her "missed maternity," and when addressing the issue publicly she discussed it in terms of economics (as a true Marxist would). The prolife movement became active with the Supreme Court decision of January 22, 1973. Day made the conscious decision to focus on the usual CW issues. She did not join the March for Life, but wore the "seamless garment" that reduces abortion to one among many issues, including the "peace" and immigration issues dear to her heart. Indeed, she records in her diaries, now published as "The Duty of Delight" (abridged ed., 2008, pp. 522-523,572; that she did not know "how" to deal with the lack of "sexual morality" at the Catholic Worker farms, including Tivoli, New York, which I visited in the early 1970s and where I witnessed the loose morals. (I naively and erroneously thought Day could not be aware of the abuses!)
As for Day's own abortion, there may have been models in her own family. Early in Day's life, after her mother had had several "miscarriages" (so Day states in "The Long Loneliness") Day acted for two years as a nanny after her youngest brother John was born when she was 14 and her mother was 40 or 45. He would be brought to Day's room at 4 am and she would care for him until she left for school; then Day would put him to bed at night. She speaks to him in "From Union Square to Rome" saying that he was like her "own child" (1938; 2006 reprint, p. 39) So it is eye-opening to read in "The Duty of Delight," Day's entry when she was 81: "I remember hearing my mother and her sisters talking about it when they thought I was asleep in the next room, methods of bringing on an abortion by themselves" (pp. 673-674).

As Robert Royal notes,Day's father was a newspaperman "and jumped from one job to another." Day complained years later that when her father was a sports reporter covering racing, he would take her teenaged brother John to Cuba for a month, where the main activities were gambling and drinking!
Day often romanticized and idealized her family and her life, and Carol Byrne's book is essential to an objective view of Day, who very revealing said, "Don't call me a saint, I don't want to be dismissed that easily."
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written by Thomas O'Donnell, March 19, 2014
Mr. Royal, thank you not only for your commentary but also your earnest and detailed responses to your critics. It advances the conversation rather than getting caught in the trap of too many internet comment boxes. I have an actual question/clarification regarding your above statement regarding Thomas More: is there a difference between More and Day (i.e., is the comparison imprecise) due to the fact that in More's day, the Church did approve of torture and of enforcing religion? In DD's time, the Church had already explicitly rejected Marxism; this I know. I am unsure whether More was rejecting the Church or not during his time. I find this to be the more important point ... not whether the saint had everything right (because certainly throughout history the Church has come to understand certain things, such as religious freedom or the death penalty, in new ways) but whether she or he listened to the Church's current teaching on the subject. (Of course, there are plenty of saints who called for Church reform as well.)
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written by David H. Lukenbill, March 19, 2014
I stand corrected Dr. Royal, as I had assumed (incorrectly) you supported her canonization because you posted a positive article about her; and I did not know that about St. Thomas More, thank you.

Also, this has been a real good discussion generated by your article.
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written by David H. Lukenbill, March 19, 2014
As I wrote in my book about the Church and Communism:

Dorothy Day, having been a Communist, could have become, after her baptism, a powerful advocate warning of the dangers of Communism; the traditional route taken by former Communists who became Catholic, as part of becoming Catholic is realizing the revealed truth is true, rendering all other proclaimed truths false, suspect, wrong; as I have discovered.

Not to act on this and reveal the wrongness of Communism and the rightness of Catholicism, is, almost in itself, proof that she did not find Communism wrong; and in fact, her work throughout her life, remained supportive of Communist positions, leaders, and countries.

I think that in Dorothy Day’s case, she had conflated Communism with Catholicism so deeply in her own mind and spirit that they were virtually one and the same thing to her—a classic case of being duped—a form of thinking still very prevalent within the Catholic left, especially those still, and they are many, enamored with Liberation Theology.

(pp.86, 87,92, Catholicism, Communism & Criminal Reformation)
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written by Robert Royal, March 19, 2014
David, it may be that everything you see is so, but, again, you and others are treating her as if she were a THINKER. So far as I can see, she and Peter Maurin alike never said anything much worth remembering of the conceptual kind except in so far as they understood the danger to person and community from both the state and from various other modern social developments. For me, real Marxism has a lot more intellectual bite and can be wrestled with. And in practice, it's utterly discredited. But the state is much larger today than ever, and those oppressive social forces greater too.

Thomas, that's a good question. And I thank you for trying to think about such questions rather than assume we can sort them into one side or another. Does it help More's case that the Church seemed to accept the mores of the time? You could argue it that way, I suppose. But what you gain for More you lose for the Church. Specifically with regard to DD, she and others went further with absurd ideologies like Marxism and tercermundismo than most social justice Catholics. But there are ways that her mushy Marxism has affinities even with recent Catholic social documents. I think both are ill informed and wrong - on the whole I'm a friend to markets, but real markets operating in a free space circumscribed by law, as JPII urged in Centesimus Annus # 42. Our crony capitalists and crony unionists are turning everything into a ward of the state, and a state that hardly operates on Catholic principles.

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written by AJ Joseph, March 19, 2014
Thank you, Dr. Byrne, minbee66 and David H. Lukerbill for bring the truth [and therefore trying to safeguard the faithful from grave error and harm] to this blog and Robert Royal. I see so many good people, smart people such as Mr. Royal completely blinded by socialism and communism these days - so much so they go on to promote someone such as Day! They don't even seem to know they are doing it. Instead of pointing out her errors - they laud her. I can't understand it really, but there are so many people blinded by this! It's such a victory for socialism and communism, it's truly heartbreaking - but I can understand why Mr. Royal is confused - with so many supposed "good" Bishops promoting her -even popes - what could be so wrong? We can trust our prelates right? And therein lies a huge problem. The Church itself promoting error. I of course mean no disrespect to Mr. Royal or those blind to the Truth, it's just that I can't sit by and let the Truth be trampled on.
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written by Jack,CT, March 19, 2014
So this Poor Soul left us 34 Years ago and
we sit in judge her life as if we are Jesus
in the flesh!

America needs Saints that we can call our own
why not simply trust her "Conversion" and
STOP all the insults,she was a sinner as
was all but one who walked this earth!

If there is any ? as to this "Servant
of God's" holiness I refer you to
EWTN and The 2010 Article in "Catholic
world news and the words of Cd Dolan.



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written by Robert Royal, March 19, 2014
Mr. Joseph: You may have meant no disrespect, but you expressed it. I worked against Communism in Washington for over a decade until it finally fell in 1991. What were you doing during that time? It certainly wasn't practicing charity since you seem to think both that I'm so dumb I didn't notice the horrors of Communism in practice or its absurdities in theory. I said as much in the original column, and you'd know that if you'd read it carefully. I'd like to propose something: this site is meant to be a place to try to think a little. Let's do something the others don't: let's read each other carefully and talk with one another as if we really believe we're engaged in a common project of making Catholicism as rich and effective as it can be in our time.
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written by David H. Lukenbill, March 20, 2014
Dr. Royal, I’ve read just about all of DD’s books when I was a supporter of her and her works, and I don’t see how you can say she wasn’t a thinker.
If you mean, as in the doctoral dissertation sense, whether she actually contributed something new to her field, perhaps not; but it is clear to me, that she thought quite deeply about those things in her life that were meaningful to her—even though much of her thinking was wrong, much of it was right.

Her influence still, I think, attests to her intellectual ability to proffer arguments synthesizing Catholicism and Communism, while hiding the latter under the banner of the former.

She was a smart lady, though dreadfully wrong about so much, and certainly not worthy to become a saint; unless there is an unpublished book she wrote somewhere where she renounces her life as a Communist and the evils of Communism, while extolling the Church.
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written by @FMShyanguya, March 20, 2014
There was an Apostle who was inordinately concerned with the poor.
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written by Jack,CT, March 20, 2014
Robert;(all concerned
I found myself watching old
interviews of DD all last eve ad I found her to be
the exact Opposite of the marxist she is depicted
as here.
So I turned to bio's and what people who were around
her felt and I found the same!
How one becomes a Saint is not up for a vote here or
is it?, People seem so intent to well voice there
dismay about "Everything having to do with her".

I respect some of the flips and flops",chalk it up to
"Viewwer Pressure",but why not a single mention of the
truly good she did?

One of DD friends said it best about her and I para -phrase
"DD lived what the church offers every day and gave all to
the hungry and needy not just a talking head but a leader
of a radicl movementt to feed the masses"

One of the things most attractive about DD is that she
understtod well u can disagree with aspects of the RC
church and still be a RC! you are not a better catholic
because u are informed but you are wiser just as she went
to the blessed sacrament daily,the mystery of the rosary and
fashioned her life around the church and was not just a talking head.

She is a testament to all mothers that abort that "Yes
Jesus STILL LOVES ME!

>>>>>>>>Perhaps if he forgives this and she suffered with
grief despite confession we can forgive her "Politics"?

FYI;I wander if she becomes a Saint how many of these
people will verbalize such Anger?


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written by Sue33, March 24, 2014
Jack,
Certainly Dorothy was forgiven for all of those sins of her former life for which she was truly sorry... and certainly, she regretted her abortion. No one here is "judging" whether or not she is in heaven or purgatory or hell. We have not the competence to make that determination. Rather, the conversation has centered around whether or not she should be canonized and held up before all Catholic peoples as a model of heroic virtue. Those "virtues" must also submit to the test of being faithful to Catholic teaching.

That she held onto her Communist ties throughout her life and not only never spoke out against the evils of Communism in her post-"conversion" years, but actually continued to praise Marxist tyrants throughout her life (even though several popes had condemned Communism as "intrinsically evil") shows her not to be in complete communion with Church teachings. Living chastely and doing good works does not make up for that.

In fact, in an age where so many Catholics have been mislead by Marxist doctrines and led away from Catholic teaching by just such communist/socialist errors, I believe it would be an mistake to canonize her. And just because some prelate likes the idea doesn't make it good. Prelates and priests are human beings and individually, make a lot of mistakes. History has shown us more than a few heretics that were bishops! And even those who are well-intentioned are often misled by popular social trends instead of Truth. So, until the Universal Church declares her a saint, I will certainly not be placing her anywhere near par with St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein), and the like. And frankly, even if the Church DOES decide she is worthy of canonization, while I will probably do some more research to discover how that could happen, she will not be on MY list of saints to imitate. Too much about her leads to dangerous ways of thinking that are far from the examples of obedient service offered by those time-honored saints already held up on the altar. IMO, obedience to proper authority will always be the test.
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written by Phil Runkel, March 26, 2014
The Catholic Worker Archives at Marquette University contain Day's correspondence, diaries, recorded talks,
and a wide variety of publications by and about her. We welcome all inquiries.
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written by minbee66, March 26, 2014
Certain claims about Dorothy Day are made so frequently that they are confused with facts. For example, Eileen Egan of Pax Christi, writing in "Dorothy Day and the Permanent Revolution" (1983), states that when Dorothy became Catholic, she separated not only "from Forster Batterham, the father of her child" but also from "the friends with whom she had shared the revolutionary ferment" of the [Bolshevik]"Soviet Revolution" (p. 1).

Years after becoming a Catholic, Day gushed, "certainly from any point of view, it was a privilege to be invited to attend [the 16th Annual Communist Party USA Convention] as an observer"("Catholic Worker" [CW], March 1957). Day's attendance is not puzzling, given Day's comments in the April 1956 CW:

"We at the Catholic Worker express our sympathy to The Daily Worker in the eviction they have suffered even though their beliefs are contrary to our own. Freedom of the press is a concept fundamental to Jeffersonians and libertarians and freedom in general is essentially a religious concept. The Smith Act itself shows that our country is so superficially religious that it is not willing to take the risk and consequences of a faith in freedom and man's use of it. (In a lighter vein), if we only had the space and could be truly charitable and hospitable we would offer the use of our offices and even of our mailing list, since the bureaucrats have confiscated yours, and we are sure that we would risk nothing in such a gesture but achieve a healthful clarification of thought. Yours for a green and peaceful revolution.
The editors The Catholic Worker. D.D.

P.S. Seriously speaking, since it has been called to our attention that the faithful are forbidden to read Marxist writings, we withdraw our facetious offer of our mailing list." ("The Daily Worker Case")

Long after meeting Maurin, Day kept up personal friendships and/or correspondence with Communist propagandist Anna Louise Strong, "Daily
Worker" editor Mike Gold, and Party Chair Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. She recorded in her diary that she paid a personal visit to Flynn on December 3, 1958; Day also wrote a eulogy for Flynn's memorial service, which was printed in the November 1964 CW as "Red Roses for Her." Flynn had a State funeral in Moscow’s Red Square with Khrushchev present(Carol Byrne,“The Catholic Worker Movement (1933-1980): A Critical Analysis," 2010, p. 6). Maurin died in 1948, and Day maintained her Communist associations until her death in 1980.

As a pedestrian thinker, Day maintained a supposedly "ex-Communist" mind-set: She attacked Truman for authorizing the use of the atomic bomb (CW, September 1945), but reacted differently when a deadly weapon was in Communist hands. In her diary of September 14, 1964, she wrote: "Khruschev came out with announcement that the Soviets had discovered a weapon that would end all life on the planet. How newspapers love such headlines. There is an end of this world for all of us anyway. And certainly the Lord can take care of this too."

She continued to interwine Christian and Marxist references in a way that gave both equal value, as in the following: "How many thousands, tens of thousands [of prisoners], are in for petty theft, while the 'robber barons' of our day get away with murder. Literally murder, accessories to murder. 'Property is Theft' [wrote French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in his 1840 book "What Is Property?"].
Proudhon wrote--The coat that hangs in your closet belongs to the poor. The early Fathers [of the Church] wrote--The house you don't live in, your empty buildings (novitiates, seminaries) belong to the poor. Property is Theft." (CW, December 1971)

Even in personal matters, Day was a persuasive writer, but not a clear or objective one. Day's lover Batterham was not English; he was of "English descent," born in North Carolina. She describes him as a "biologist" in "The Long Loneliness," then adds on the next page that his job was in Manhattan, where "he made gauges" (1952, 1996 reprint, pp.113-114). He spent weekends with her on the beach, unless his work was slow and he had more time. She lived with Batterham and called him her common-law husband, but then reveals that "he never allowed me to forget that this was a comradeship rather than a marriage" (p. 120). He quickly found an attractive replacement for Day after she locked him out of their cottage. Is it possible to have a "marriage" under these conditions? Critic Paul Elie, in "The Life You Save May Be Your Own" (2003, pp. 45-47) thinks not.

Why would we discount Day's own beliefs and allegiances when considering her cause for canonization? These confusing and inaccurate comparisons can do much harm and should be examined, not dismissed.
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written by Jack,CT, March 28, 2014
Sue;Ty for a sincere and great essay a compelling
one,I simply disagree and find a great deal of
heroic virtue in Ms Day.
I admit the residue of Marxism "Stains" her leg-
acy but we must look at her entire life is all I
am saying.

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