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The Catholic Worker Movement (1933-1980): A Critical Analysis
by Dr Carol Byrne was published in November 2010 by AuthorHouse UK. This is an eye-opening account, based on authentic documentary evidence, of two American Catholic radicals Dorothy Day (1897-1980) and Peter Maruin (1877-1949), founders of the Catholic Worker Movement (CWM), who, during the Great Depression and the Cold War, made common cause with Communist-led movements to build a new society where “Social Justice” would reign supreme. It is against the background of their involvement with Communist-led movements for political revolution that their ideology of a new social order can be seen in its true light. The aim of the book is to expose their attempts to make Socialism acceptable within the Catholic Church under the guise of “Christian Communism.”
This book is a wake-up call for those who envisage “Social Justice” solutions that replicate Socialist patterns of control over political, social and economic structures. It is a timely reminder that, although Communism has officially “fallen”, its influence is a slow-burning process smouldering away at the Christian foundation of Western society. The importance of this message to the survival of traditional Catholicism is obvious: as Dorothy Day’s cause for canonization has been opened by the Vatican, there is an ongoing need to alert people to the dangers of importing into the Christian community the same revolutionary principles espoused by Lenin and his followers. This book will appeal to anyone interested in issues concerning the continued dangers posed by “cultural Marxism” to our Christian-based cultural heritage.
For further information on how to obtain a copy, see book and author details below.
Readers of this book can obtain additional information chapter by chapter from the supplementary notes printed below.
Decades later, Day admitted her support for the Washington Hunger March of March 1932 “which I supported and wrote about as a reporter for Commonweal or America.” (CW July-August 1977)
What did the delegates at the League for Foster and Ford find attractive about Communism? This is how Day presented the situation to Catholic readers in ‘Communism and the Intellectual’, America, January 28, 1933:
"Malcolm Cowley, a young poet and critic and one of the editors of the New Republic, said briefly that capitalism does not preserve culture and would eventually destroy all culture, so as a critic and poet he would vote Communist because Communism upheld the tradition of culture so dear to his Harvard and New Republic heart.
Donald Henderson, who with his wife has been in the public eye for Communist activities lately, spoke for the universities. He said that the narrowing of the economic base of the system of education, the curtailed salaries, doubling up of classes, reduction of free privileges, increasing of fees, tended so to keep the children of working parents from enjoying educational advantages that it proved to him the failure of the capitalist system and the necessity for its overthrow. From the tremendous applause which greeted Henderson, one would judge that a great part of the audience was made up of college students and instructors.
Eugene Gordon, journalist, speaking for the Negro intellectual, pointed out how other leaders had failed in their attempts to emancipate their race: Communism is the only way out for the most pitiable victims of the capitalist system. Their slavery has been perpetuated by wage slavery. They have been kept by the capitalists, ignorant, illiterate, superstitious, loyal, patriotic, and happy."
In support of William Foster, Day wrote the following eulogy in another article in America, April 29, 1933:
"[T]ake the case of William Z. Foster, the Communist candidate for President, a man respected and admired, even extolled in the weekly “capitalist” press. The New Yorker had a long article on Communist organization and Foster's part in it, and there was another leading article in the New Republic about the work of this man. From these articles, one could assume that Foster is a good man, a disciplined man, who lives for his ideals and above the venality associated with political figures."
It is important to know that Foster was on the National Committee of ACLU (the American Civil Liberties Union) in the 1920s and a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. During his visit to Moscow in 1921, he was appointed the Soviet agent in the US of the Red International of Labour Unions (Profintern). He joined the Communist Party on his return to the US. He was an unwavering supporter of Stalin and a loyal ally of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union even in face of the Soviet invasion of Hungary and Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin. When he died in Moscow in 1961, he was given a State funeral and his ashes interred in the Kremlin Wall near those of John Reed and Bill Haywood. In the Preface to his book, Towards Soviet America, he recommended the “practical application of the lessons of the Russian revolution to the situation in this country.” (p. xviii)
With reference to Communist meetings in support of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Ammon Hennacy recalled that Day sat with him “on the stage”: Ammon Hennacy, The Book of Ammon, first published 1964, reprinted by Fortkamp Publishing, Baltimore, 1994, p. 314
Michael Harrington reported Day’s presence on the speaking platform in Rosalie Riegle Troester, Voices from the Catholic Worker, Temple University Press, 1993, pp. 75-6
The papal ban concerning the decree issued by the Holy Office on 1 July 1949 is erroneously thought to apply only to the Communist Party of Italy. But an examination of its contents would show that not only is this not mentioned, but the object of the condemnation is support for Communist Parties (partibus communistarum ). It further went on to excommunicate those who “publish, promote or read books, journals or leaflets which defend the action or the doctrine of Communists...or write for them.” (edere, propagare vel legere libros, periodica, diaria vel folia quae vel doctrinae vel actioni communistarum patrociniantur, vel in eis scribere.) This decree was acted upon by bishops around the world, including Day’s own Cardinal Spellman of New York.
Anna Louise Strong’s obituary was published in CW June 1970. Her publications include How the Communists Rule Russia (1927), Workers' Life in Soviet Russia, (1927), Peasant Life in Soviet Russia (1927), The Soviets Conquer Wheat (1931), her very popular autobiography I Change Worlds: the Remaking of an American (1935), This Soviet World (1936), The Stalin Era and The Soviet Constitution (1937)
Day mentioned with approval the Communist policy of “abolishing private property altogether and setting up communes” in CW July-August 1969 when she stated:
"We are living in an era in which vast countries like Russia and China have solved the problem of agribusiness by abolishing private property altogether and setting up communes, which may be areas consisting of thirty villages, as in China, or collective farms, as in the Soviet Union and Cuba."
The Letters from China were published by New World Press, Peking, 1963
Day recommended Debs as a “great leader in the labour movement” and his book, Walls and Bars , as “well worth studying” for “his suggestions as to what can be done” in CW January 1974.
Muste’s obituary was published in CW February 1967.
Day frequently talked of Solovyev and cited his works ( CW July-August 1962), acknowledging her debt to him as the “prophet of ecumenism”. ( CW October-November 1971) Berdyaev, whom she quoted throughout her life, was hostile to the bourgeoisie as a class and was a major influence on the foremost intellectuals of the French Catholic Left – e.g. Emmanuel Mounier and Jacques Maritain – when, as an émigré from Russia, he brought with him his plans for a new Christian social order based on the Gnostic philosophy of Personalism. (See Catherine Baird, ‘Religious communism? Nicolai Berdyaev's contribution to Esprit's interpretation of communism’ in Canadian Journal of History , April 1995.)
For a fascinating account of the propaganda value of travel to Russia by members of the Western intelligentsia, including religious and cultural leaders, see Paul Hollander, Political Pilgrims: Travels of Western Intellectuals to the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba , OUP 1981.
As an indication of Day’s alignment with Marxist ideology after her conversion to Catholicism, an article she wrote for the New Masses which was published on 6 October 1930 was later selected for inclusion in an anthology of feminist literature written by a panoply of well-known Communist Party activists and supporters such as Grace Hutchins, Agnes Smedley, Josephine Herbst and Anna Louise Strong. (See Charlotte Nekola, Paula Rabinowitz, Writing Red: An Anthology of American Women Writers, 1930-1940 , Feminist Press at the City University of New York, New York, 1987, pp. 279-281.)
Day introduced her readers to Michael Gold’s Jews Without Money in CW February 1977. We are told that Gold himself was fond of repeating a quote from the novel: “O workers’ Revolution!...You are the true Messiah!” (See Barbara Foley, Radical Representations: Politics and Form in U.S. Proletarian Fiction, 1929-1941, Duke University Press, 1993, p. 312.)
Gold’s postcard to Day was published in CW July-August 1961. The full text reads:
"I was invited by the Writers’ Union here for a visit. Liz and I are also being given one of the famed ‘cures.’ They can’t give one a new body but they sure restore some of the life juices. Our next stop is a sanitarium [ sic ] on the Black Sea - the water and the sun cure.
All the best,
Mike. (friend of socialized medicine and Soviet Humanism.)"
The propaganda value of Soviet socialized medicine is illustrated by Tricia Starks, Body Soviet: Propaganda, Hygiene and the Revolutionary State , University of Wisconsin Press, 2008.
According to Virginia Gardner’s autobiography, she left the Communist Party for personal reasons, and stated: “I was glad I had been a Communist, and sorry I no longer was – but I was not heartbroken about it. My values remained the same.” (Virginia Gardner, Ruminations on a Long Life: An Autobiographical Typescript , (ca. 1989), Tamiment Libraries and Robert F. Wagner Labour Archives)
Information on Soviet Friendship Societies can be obtained in Louis Nemzer, ‘The Soviet Friendship Societies’, Public Opinion Quarterly , Vol. 13, No. 2, 1949.
Day wrote about her meeting with Raymond Wilson in CW September 1971.
Day eulogized Rayna Prohme in CW October-November 1971.
Prohme’s letters can be read in Baruch Hirson and Arthur J. Knodel, Reporting the Chinese Revolution: The Letters of Rayna Prohme , University of Michigan Press, 2007.
Prohme was Borodin’s chief propaganda assistant, and worked from an office below his private quarters, where she met foreign press reporters and reiterated to them the Soviet view of the Revolution. (See Peter Rand, China Hands: The Adventures and Ordeals of the American Jouralists Who Joined Forces with the Great Chinese Revolution , Simon and Schuster, New York, 1995, p. 47.)
Henry Francis Misselwitz, a foreign correspondent for the New York Times, recorded that when he was in Hankow in 1927 and wanted to have an interview with Borodin, it was Prohme who personally arranged it at short notice for him. See The Dragon Stirs: An Intimate Sketch-Book of China's Kuomintang Revolution 1927-29 , Harbinger House, New York, 1941, p. 97.
Proof of Borodin’s plans to bring the Bolshevik Revolution to China was provided by Lionel Curtis, The Capital Question of China , Macmillan and Co., 1932. He explains on p. 167 that after a raid of the Soviet embassy in Peking on 6 April 1927, documents were discovered which proved Borodin’s role as an agent provocateur and head of an organized group of Soviet-backed revolutionary agents. These documents were published by Wilbur C. Martin and Julie Lien-ying How, Documents on Communism, Nationalism, and Soviet Advisers in China, 1918-1927; Papers seized in the 1927 Peking Raid , Columbia University Press, New York, 1956. They also revealed that once the conquest of China was complete, Borodin was planning to replace the Kuomintang with the Communist Party supported by the Red Army and bring about the “Bolshevization” of China by the usual Soviet means of terror and infiltration.
For examples of Prohme’s pro-Communist propaganda, see Harold Isaacs, The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution , Secker and Warburg, London, 1938 who quotes extensively from the Hankow People’s Tribune of 1927. Copies of the 1927 issues of the People’s Tribune can also be consulted on microfilm at the History, Philosophy and Newspaper Library of the University of Illinois.
The “romanticized” portrait of Prohme was written by Vincent Sheean, Personal History , Garden City, New York, 1931. On the other hand, another American journalist, Miles W. Vaughan, reporting simultaneously on the China situation, saw a different side to her character. He considered her as “merely a stubborn American girl filled with half digested revolutionary ideas and almost totally lacking in common sense.” (Miles W. Vaughan, Covering the Far East , Covici-Friede, New York, 1936, pp. 160-161)
The information on Prohme’s obsession with China was supplied by Milly Bennett, On Her Own: Journalistic Adventures from San Francisco to the Chinese Revolution , 1917-1927 , ed. A. Tom Grunfeld, New York, M E Sharpe, 1993, p. 226. Bennett was a close friend who moved into Rayna’s flat and later wrote about their joint life in Hankow.
Day recommended the biography of Lenin written by his widow, Nadezhda Krupskaya in CW October-November 1971:
"To understand more about the struggle the world is in right now, it is good to read such personal accounts as the work of Lenin’s widow, Nadeszda Krupskaya, who shared his exiles and his later work; also the autobiography of Leon Trotsky, whose name was linked with Lenin’s until Stalin came into power and the reign of terror began."
Day’s reference to the inspiration she received from Krupskaya’s description of Lenin’s revolutionary groups appeared in CW November 1935:
"In reading the life of Lenin written by his widow, we were very much impressed some time ago at her account of what she terms a memorable meeting which was held in Paris one Sunday afternoon. Lenin had been living in exile all over Europe and gathering groups together wherever he could. It was just before the Russian revolution, and the meeting that took place was made up of some forty people.
We thought of that meeting of the people who were so soon to revolutionize a huge country and influence the thought of the entire world, while we attended the meeting last month of the Rural Life Conference in Rochester, New York."
Day wrote about John Reed’s book, Ten Days that Shook the World, in CW October-November 1973 and CW March-April 1978.
Day recommended Bertram Wolfe’s book, Three Who Made a Revolution in CW July-August 1962.
Day advertised Edmond Wilson’s book, To the Finland Station , in CW April 1956.
The evidence for Lenin’s reign of terror comes mainly from the Russian Archives. See Dmitri Volkogonov, Lenin: A New Biography , edited and translated by Harold Shukman, New York, The Free Press, 1994. Dmitri Volkogonov was a former General of the Soviet Army who, as Chairman of the Commission of the Russian military archives, had access to thousands of KGB files. His book is based on a wealth of primary evidence in the form of original documents pertaining to Lenin which enabled him to reveal the secrets of the Soviet Archives. Volkogonov has provided proof that “everything done in Soviet Russia after Lenin’s death was done according to his blueprint, his precepts and his principles: the totalitarian state, the bureaucratic society, the dominance of a single ideology, militant atheism, the planned economy, the incredible exploitation of labour, the endless militarization of the country, the tireless search for new enemies. ”
See also Alexander Yakovlev, A Century of Violence in Soviet Russia , Yale University Press, 2002. Using documents from the Communist Party archives, Yakovlev shows the atrocities committed by the Bolsheviks and provides evidence that there was no qualitative change in the Communist Party from Lenin to Stalin.
Day’s references to Louis Budenz are taken from CW December 1946. Her biographer, William D. Miller, revealed that “when Louis Budenz became a Catholic, Day wrote in CW that she hoped Budenz would not take to the lecture circuit to denounce his old faith.” (William D. Miller, Pretty Bubbles in the Air: America in 1919 , University of Illinois Press, 1991, p. 142.)
Budenz stated immediately after his conversion to the Catholic Church: “Communism and Catholicism are irreconcilable. Communism, I have found, aims to establish a tyranny over the human spirit; it is in unending conflict with religion and true freedom.” (Louis Budenz, This is My Story , McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1947)
Day praised the Hutterite community as a model of true Christian living in CW July-August 1969.
Day promoted “Christian communism, as practised in Catholic monasteries” (CW December 1936.)
Day equated Marx with St Paul in CW December 1961 when she stated:
" 'From each according to his ability and to each according to his need,' Karl Marx said. And St. Paul said, 'Let your abundance supply their want.' "
In CW of November 1949, we find the CWM aims include the statement: 'We do believe in, "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.'"
Day’s stated aim was to reconcile “the Marxist to the Christ” (CW November 1949).
Day’s tribute to Sidney Hillman as a “great labour leader” appeared in CW July-August 1946.
Scriptural endorsement for military warfare can be found in the Old and New Testaments. See, for example, 1 Machabees 8:23. Judas Machabeus, extolled the warrior’s role and refused to surrender to superior enemy forces, saying: “Far be it from us to do such a thing as to flee from them. If our time has come, let us die bravely for our brethren, and leave no cause to question our honour.” (I Macc. 9:10) John the Baptist told the soldiers not to intimidate anyone and to be content with their pay (Luke 3:14), without giving any command to leave military service; Jesus praised a centurion for his faith (Matt. 8:9) even though he belonged to the Roman army that had invaded and conquered Israel; it was another Roman soldier who acknowledged the divinity of Christ at the crucifixion; and we read in Acts 10 that Cornelius was a “devout and God-fearing centurion”, an officer of the Cohors Italica, “highly regarded” by the community, who was baptized by St Peter without being required to leave the army. St Paul made many allusions to Roman army discipline and triumphs, using them as analogies for the Christian life.
St Augustine’s view of the benefits of war is found in The City of God , Chapter 12, ‘That Even the Fierceness of War and All the Disquietude of Men Make Towards this One End of Peace, Which Every Man Desires’, p. 407.
This is what Day wrote about the sacrifices soldiers had to make for God and country:
War is devilry. It calls for sacrifices indeed, but not at the altar of love. “Greater love hath no man than this.” A great blasphemy this, to use Christ’s words in connection with men going to war. They go because they are drafted, because they are afraid of what their neighbors will say, because the pay is good, because the benefits accruing afterward (the G.I. Bill of Rights) are great. And they are told by the press and the pulpit that they are going because they love their fellows, and they are filled with a warm glow of self-love. And then they are given their intensive training in how to escape death, how to kill. Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his brothers, and the Russians are our brothers, the Negro is our brother, the Japanese are our brothers, the Germans, the Mexicans, the Filipinos, the Jews, the Arabs.
So let’s not have any more talk about God and country. The battle is for this world, for the possessions of this world. (Dorothy Day, “Letter to the Editor,” Commonweal , May 21, 1948.)
Writing in 1941, George Orwell remarked:
"Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help that of the other…a German or Japanese pacifist would be “objectively pro-British”.’ But of course he would be! That is why pacifist activities are not permitted in those countries (in both of them the penalty is, or can be, beheading) while both the Germans and the Japanese do all they can to encourage the spread of pacifism in British and American territories."
(George Orwell, ‘Pacifism and the War’, first published in the Partisan Review , August-September 1942. Reprinted in ‘The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell’, 1968)
Day always opposed efforts to combat Communism and stated: “Forget the negative idea of ‘fighting Communism’.” ( CW May 1937) Her true position on the Spanish Civil War became clear when she admitted many years later:
"When my friends back then kept saying that the Catholic church in Spain was fascist, was part of a fascist coalition, was corrupt and a bulwark of all the worst, most exploitative elements in Spain, I had to agree. I knew what they were saying was politically and economically true."
(Quoted in Robert Coles, Dorothy Day: A Radical Devotion , Da Capo, 1987, p. 79)
The truth, however, of the anti-Franco position (known at the time by the Church), was revealed decades later by Ronald Radosh in Spain Betrayed , (Yale University Press, 2001). Based on documents in the Moscow Archives, the book reveals in detail the role played by the Soviet Union in the Spanish Civil War – how Stalin not only swindled the Spanish Republic out of millions of dollars in arms deals, but also sought to turn Spain into a Soviet satellite state by taking over and running the Spanish economy, government and armed forces.
Day threatened that “if we do not do our Christian duty of loving and serving, the poor of the world will take by force that which is denied them by justice. ( CW July-August 1954)
It is interesting to note that the Pacifist monk, Fr Thomas Merton, supported Day’s stance. He stated that some CW
"may get quite hot about the fact that you want to point out that Castro may have had good intentions and in actual fact has been less wicked than our mass media want him to have been. People who are scared and upset use a very simple logic, and they think that if you defend Castro as a human being you are defending all the crimes that have ever been committed by Communism anywhere and they will feel that you are threatening them." (Quoted in Nancy Roberts, Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker , State University of New York Press, 1984, p. 156.)
As for Castro’s intentions, they were what can be expected from a political leader with a Marxist worldview, and the people under his despotic rule had every reason to be “scared and upset”; for he did, in fact, perpetrate just about “all the crimes that have ever been committed by Communism anywhere” in the world.
Even before her visit to Cuba, Day supported Castro’s revolution. “We are on the side of revolution” while praising Castro’s takeover of Cuba which was accomplished by force of arms. ( CW July-August 1961) The anomaly was obvious to American Catholics: while the Cuban bishops in their pastoral letters were alerting the people about the evils that would come from Castro’s turn towards Communism and urging resistance, Day was extolling his policies to the skies.
By the time of Day’s visit to Cuba in 1962, Castro had arrested and expelled thousands of priests and nuns from the island, but Day stated that they “left voluntarily” and were “not coerced to go”. ( CW October 1962) She could not have been unaware of their expulsion, for in the previous year, September 1961, after Castro had violently suppressed the traditional pilgrimage in Havana in honour of Our Lady, he expelled 131 clergy, including one bishop, calling them “Franco fascists” and parasites “unfit for revolution”.
Day went on to condone Castro’s actions:
"I am most of all interested in the religious life of the people and so must not be on the side of a regime that favors the extirpation of religion. On the other hand, when that regime is bending all its efforts to make a good life for the people, a naturally good life (on which grace can build) one cannot help but be in favor of the measures taken." ( CW September 1962)
This is how Day sought to justify violent revolution:
"All those young ones and older ones, who are committing themselves to violent revolution as the only way to overcome evil government, imperialism, industrial capitalism, exploitation, — in other words evil, — are not only following their conscience but also following tradition... This is the way young people are reasoning. To do otherwise is to betray one’s brothers, they believe, to leave them to slow and agonizing death in war or by cold, hunger and disease. So we cannot judge the young." ( CW May 1970)
Day’s speech at Melbourne University in praise of Castro was recorded by Val Noone in Disturbing the War: Melbourne Catholics and Vietnam , Melbourne, 1993, p 283.
Day praised Ho Chi Minh as “a visionary, a patriot and a rebel against foreign invaders” in CW January 1970.
Colonel Bui Tin published his testimony in Following Ho Chi Minh: The Memoirs of a North Vietnamese Colonel , Hurst and Co., London, 1995, p. 30.
For an eye-witness account of these brutalities, see Thomas Dooley, Deliver Us From Evil , Farrar, Straus, and Cudahy, New York, 1956, p. 11. Dr Dooley was an American Catholic who served as a physician in North Vietnam where he helped thousands of refugees escape from the advancing army. He later established clinics and hospitals for the care and treatment of refugees from North Vietnam. His book gives an eye-witness account of the injuries inflicted on some of the Catholic population under Ho Chi Minh.
“Peter Maurin’s ideas incarnate” (CW October 1970)
With reference to Kenneth Kaunda, President of Zambia, Day believed him to be “outstanding leader” and the recipient of God’s favour who had “the vision and the integrity which enlightens our minds and brings us bright hope for the future.” (CW December 1970)
Day did nothing to disabuse her readers about the real intentions of Fr Hessler and his companions: armed international revolution, as explained by Fr Bonpane: “Only guerilla warfare will alleviate the misery of the masses in the underdeveloped countries.” (Quoted in Mark Jason Gilbert, The Vietnam War on Campus , Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000, p. 102.)
The Maryknoll report can be accessed in ‘Maryknoll in Central America’, Part I: 1943-1969’, p. 3, in Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers Archives, Box 11, folder 1, Maryknoll Mission Archives, Maryknoll, New York.
The revolutionary tactics of the two priests and the nun were reported in Time , 2 February 1968.
That Fr Bonpane really did believe that Christianity was synonymous with the Communist revolution is confirmed by his open letter to the Pope, published in his book, Guerillas of Peace , South End Press, Boston, Massachussets, 1985. There he demonstrates his full support for Fr Ernesto Cardenal, erstwhile Sandinista Minister of Culture in Nicaragua, who proclaimed: "Marxism is the only solution for the world. For me the revolution and the Kingdom of Heaven, mentioned in the Gospel, are the same thing. A Christian should embrace Marxism if he wants to be with God and with men.”
Fr Hessler’s letter was quoted in Judith Stoughton, Proud Donkey of Schaerbeek. Ade Bethune, Catholic Worker Artist , Minnesota, North Star Press of St. Cloud, 1988, p. 128.
Prior to the discovery of these documents, there was no direct evidence in the public domain that Hanoi was actually steering the U.S. anti-war movement’s activities. A 1971 Circular, for instance, mentions that “the spontaneous antiwar movements in the US have received assistance and guidance from the friendly VC/NVM [Viet Cong/North Vietnamese] delegations at the  Paris Peace Talks.” (On Antiwar Movements in the US, Vietnam Centre and Archive, Item No. 2150901039B, 16 July 1971) It was a two-way process, for David Dellinger, who had long been an advisor to the Hanoi government, was also a consultant to the North Vietnamese Delegation at the talks.
As travel to North Vietnam was restricted to those whose passports had been validated by the State Department, both David Dellinger and Abraham Muste (posthumously) were listed among those who had their passports revoked for breaking the law in this respect. (J Y Smith, ‘Hanoi Trips Cost 28 Passports’, Washington Post , 10.3. 67) Howard Zinn recounts how he and Fr Berrigan rejected the very idea of passports, on the grounds that they did not recognize the government’s right to approve or disapprove where citizens travel. (Howard Zinn, The Politics of History , University of Illinois Press, 1990, pp. 223-4) Yet Fr Berrigan experienced no qualms of conscience about recognizing and relating to the Hanoi government, whose military had orders to shoot any citizens attempting to leave the country without permission.
In a front page Editorial Day wrote in 1954: “It is not Christianity and freedom we are defending in the jungles of Vietnam, but our possessions.” (Quoted in Roger Streitmatter, Voices of Revolution: the Dissident Press in America New York, Columbia University Press, 2001, p. 197). Day repeated “it is not Christianity and freedom we are defending, but our possessions” in CW May 1954.
She insisted that American intervention was motivated by the desire to exploit the Vietnamese workers by taking advantage of a cheap source of rubber. Here the role of America in Vietnam was seen in the perspective of imperialist domination and economic interests. Day’s comment bore a remarkable resemblance to a statement made by Irving Sarnoff of the Communist Party National Committee, one of the most rabid critics of the US:
"It is our responsibility to show that Vietnam is not just a mistake made by a previous administration, but part of the nature of a system that requires a cheap source of raw materials and a market to drop its surplus goods and capital." (The Vietnam Centre and Archive, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, Douglas Pike Collection, Unit 11, Monographs, Item No. 2390903004, p. 33)
Day’s charge was somewhat off beam, for at the time of the outbreak of the war Vietnam did not possess any obvious or direct economic significance for the US. It was not a great source of raw materials for American industry. Nor did it provide a big market for American goods or a particularly lucrative outlet for capital investment. Research shows that prior to the Vietnam War American commercial relations with Vietnam were only a small fraction of the trade and investments in other parts of Asia such as Philippines, British Malaya and the Dutch East Indies. (See Mark Bradley, John Lewis Gaddis, Imagining Vietnam and America: the Making of Postcolonial Vietnam, 1919-1950 , University of North Carolina Press, 2000, p. 45). Day’s idea that rubber was a predominant factor in determining US involvement in the war is equally untenable and stands in need of qualification.
How important the anti-Vietrnam war movement was to Soviet objectives was revealed by Stanislav Lunev, a former agent of the GRU (the foreign intelligence administration of the Russian Armed Forces) who defected to the US in 1992. Stanislav Lunev was a Soviet GRU (the foreign intelligence directorate of the Russian Armed Forces) agent who defected to the United States in March of 1992 after a successful career of espionage in China and the United States. The GRU worked directly for the Chief of Staff of the Soviet Army. He stated in his autobiography:
"The GRU (Russia’s main military intelligence administration) and the KGB helped to fund just about every antiwar movement and organization in America and abroad. Funding was provided via undercover operatives or front organizations. These would fund another group that in turn would fund student organizations. The GRU also helped Vietnam fund its propaganda campaign as a whole.
What will be a great surprise to the American people is that the GRU and KGB had a larger budget for antiwar propaganda in the United States than it did for economic and military support of the Vietnamese." ( Through the Eyes of the Enemy: The Autobiography of Stanislav Lunev , Regnery Publishing Inc., 1998, p. 78)
It is obvious that by supporting the Soviet-backed peace movements, Day was also supporting Soviet military operations against her own country.
Day condoned the actions of young demonstrators against the Vietnam War who disrupted a Mass with their placards and unseemly behaviour: “I would not myself have chosen such a place for a demonstration, but I have permitted my name to be used by the group in their effort to raise funds to defend themselves.” ( CW February 1967)
Day drew Dellinger’s recently published book, More Power than we know , in CW July-August 1975.
Solzhenitsyn made these remarks during his Harvard University speech in 1978, ‘A World split Apart”.
It was Louis Budenz who testified that the plan to spearhead a nationwide strike against the US government was a Kremlin-controlled intitiative. See Louis Budenz, The Techniques of Communism , Ayer Publishing, 1977, p. 196.
The new unions were formed under the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) whose President, John L. Lewis, aimed to organize all the large industries, particularly automobile and steel, into “One Big Union” capable of holding the entire nation to ransom. For that purpose he enlisted the aid of 60 well-known Communists. For instance, he appointed Harry Bridges (see below) as the western Director of the CIO, and Lee Pressman (identified by Whittaker Chambers as the leader of a Communist cell operating in Washington DC during the 1930s and early 1940s) as its General Counsel. He sent Wyndham Mortimer to organize the United Automobile Workers strike at General Motors in Flint, Michigan, while Gus Hall (future Chairman of the Communist Party of the USA and recipient of the Lenin Award (the highest honour in the Soviet Union), was made a founding organizer of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) and led the strike at Bethlehem Steel Company in Pennsylvania.
Day stated in CW February 1945 that “the manufacturer robs and cheats the poor”.
Day’s exhortation to join the TWU appeared in CW February 1936.
An example of direct opposition came from Fr Edward Lodge Curran, Chancellor of the Diocese of Brooklyn and President of the International Catholic Truth Society, who actively campaigned against the New York-based TWU.
The information on Quill’s membership of the CPUSA is provided by Michael Nash, Director of the Tamiment Library, New York, in ‘Communist History at the Tamiment Library’, American Communist History, Vol. 3, No. 2, 2004, p. 280.
Quill admitted collaboration with the Communists. See Shirley Quill, Mike Quill Himself: a Memoir, Devin-Adair, Greenwich, Connecticut, 1985, p. 63.
Day admired Quill’s organizing drive: “I do think that he has done a good job of organizing the transit workers”, she declared. (CW October 1938)
Day stated: “Bridges...was certainly in my mind one of the great labour leaders of this country, one of the greatest in its history.” (CW May 1974) One cannot avoid the conclusion that this was because she, too, looked to the Soviet Union as the model for a Socialist America.
Day stated her support for industrial unionism:
The Catholic Worker stand is clear in regard to industrial unionism; together with the priests with whom we have talked, we stand pledged to support it. (CW August 1936)
Day’s article entitled ‘Join The Union! Natural And Supernatural Duty’ was published in CW September 1937.
Bishop Muench’s remarks were quoted in Fr Thomas T. McAvoy, Roman Catholicism and the American Way of Life, University of Notre Dame Press, 1960, p. 93.
Day’s comments on Sidney Hillman appear in the obituary she wrote in CW July-August 1946.
Day clearly stated her support for a General Strike:
"As for the General Strike, advocated not only by Robert Ludlow but also by me since the beginning of the war (see the early issues of The Catholic Worker), we advise people to think of it a bit more seriously, and not just as an anarchistic and nihilistic dream." (CW December 1948)
And for a national organization to achieve the Industrial Workers of the World objective:
"If you have a strong union and good conditions in one town, you would have to help another town achieve those same conditions, by both moral and physical support. And only a national organization can do this." (CW September 1937)
It is evident that Day was advocating nothing less than a Communist-style coup to paralyze the operation of government and to replace it by a government of the workers, a state of affairs that must be brought about “even at the price of overturning the whole industrial Capitalistic system.” (CW March 1947)
The PWOC was directed by Herbert March who made no secret of his being a Communist. When the Packinghouse Union (UPWA) was formed in 1943 as the successor of the PWOC, Herbert March (a member of the National Committee of the CPUSA and former organizer of the Young Communist League) was an executive board member, and Chicago’s Communists continued to be the dominant influence in the union well into the 1950s. See Rick Halpern, Down on the Killing Floor: Black and White Workers in Chicago’s Packinghouses 1904-1954, , University of Illinois Press, 1997, p. 197.
The priests who helped organize the 1946 Packinghouse Union strike were Fr Sigmund Wlodarczyk, an organizer for the PWOC, Fr Bernard Sokolowski of St Stanislaus’s Church, Fr Ambrose Ondrak of St Michael the Archangel Church (later Abbot of St Procopius Abbey), Fr Edward Plawinski and Fr Louis Grudzinski of St John of God Church, Fr Roman Berendt of Sacred Heart Church and Fr Joseph Kelly of St Rose of Lima Church. Photos of most of these priests on the picket line can be seen in Jeannette Swist, Back of the Yards, Arcadia Publishing, 2007, p. 90.
The irony of the Catholic-Communist alliance was not lost on the Press, as Time magazine reported:
"last week, while Catholic priests tramped with the U.P.W.A. pickets, a trailer from Communist Party headquarters fed the strikers coffee, doughnuts and copies of the Daily Worker." (Time, ‘Hog Butchers for the World’, 4 February 1946)
Ruth Pinkson’s testimony was publsihed in ‘Life and Times of an Elderly Red Diaper Baby’, Judy Kaplan and Linn Shapiro, eds., Red Diapers: Growing Up in the Communist Left, Urbana, 1998, p. 233.
Evidence of the Communist infiltration of the Ohrbach strike is found in Daniel J. Opler, For All White-Collar Workers: The Possibilities of Radicalism in New York City’s Department Store Unions, 1934–1953, The Ohio State University Press, 2007, p. 17.
Bernie Entin’s status was confirmed by his fellow-Communists in Alan D. Entin, ‘Salud, Entin’, The Volunteer, Journal of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, March 2006, p. 7.
The incident of strikers blocking customers’ entrance to the store and the intervention of the police were recorded in ‘125 Pickets Seized At Ohrbach Store’, The New York Times, 17 February 1935.
Day’s statement about the State injunction appears in the Conclusion to her book, House of Hosptiality.
Day interpretation of the strike was one-sided:
"there was mass picketing every Saturday afternoon during the Ohrbach strike, and every Saturday the police drove up with patrol wagons and loaded the pickets into them with their banners and took them to jail. When we entered the dispute with our slogans drawn from the writings of the popes regarding the condition of labour, the police around Union Square were taken aback and did not know what to do. It was as though they were arresting the Holy Father himself, one of them said, were they to load our pickets and their signs into their patrol wagons. The police contented themselves with giving us all injunctions. One seminarian who stood on the side lines and cheered was given an injunction too, which he cherished as a souvenir." (Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness, pp. 201-2)
A detailed and unbiased account of the strike can be found in Daniel Opler, ‘Monkey business in Union Square: a cultural analysis of the Klein's-Ohrbach's strikes of 1934-5’, Journal of Social History, Volume 36, Number 1, Autumn 2002, pp. 149-164.
The National Biscuit Company’s strategy was a success according to the financial section of Time for 7 May 1934 which noted that “National Biscuit held even with earnings at 42¢ per share for both quarter years.”
Evidence for Norman Thomas’s involvement in the National Biscuit Company strike is found in Melanie A. Yolles ed., The Norman Thomas Papers Guide, Chadwyck-Healey, Cambridge and Alexandria, 1985, p. 16.
Norman Thomas’s call to action for an anti-capitalist revolution was published in Time, 9 Jan 1933.
Day’s condemnation of the Borden Milk Company is found in the Conclusion of House of Hospitality.
Evidence of Evelyn Preston’s position in the League of Women Shoppers is found in Martin Dies, The Trojan Horse in America, Dodd, Mead, New York, 1940, p. 171. The League’s Communist credentials are further confirmed by the fact that its Chicago General Secretary was Jessie Lloyd O’Connor, a political activist whose Communist credentials are only too evident. While living in the Soviet Union she worked with Anna Louise Strong on the Moscow Daily News and from 1933 to 1935 she chaired the Pittsburgh chapter of the League Against War and Fascism (an affiliate of the Comintern i.e. the Communist International founded in Moscow in 1919 for world-wide revolution.) Miss Preston herself was the common-law wife of Communist Roger N. Baldwin.
The Bethlehem Steel Company was a major arms supplier for the Allied armed forces during World War II and produced material for the construction of the US Navy’s fleets as well as parts for fighter planes.
Day stated in House of Hospitality that the Mayor, Daniel Shields, provoked the outbreak of violence at the Bethlehem steel plant.
Evidence that agitators were responsible for the violence can be found in ‘Forging America: The History of Bethlehem Steel’, Chapter 5, The (Allentown) Morning Call, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/all-bethsteel-c5p12,0,7741326.story.
It is significant that Day not only defended the strikers’ violent behaviour (as she had done in the 1937 autoworkers’ strike against General Motors in Flint, Michigan), but she also sought to protect the strikers from criticism and allay public fears of Communist infiltration:
"Of course speakers and writers, over the radio and in the public press, try to discredit the strikers by talking of Communist influence and propaganda and sabotage. But I doubt if even a Dies agent could have found a Communist in the Bethlehem strike." (CW April 1941)
If that were so, why was this very strike claimed as a Communist victory by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, the future Chairman of the Communist Party of the USA? She proudly announced in the Communist newspaper, The New Masses:
MAY DAY traditionally celebrates victories won; makes new demands; presses forward slogans of immediate action. Have we won victories in 1941? You tell it, you hundreds of thousands, union men of Bethlehem Steel. (The New Masses, May 6 1941)
As Day was familiar with the internal workings of the recently-formed Steel Workers Organizing Committee and on speaking terms with some of its prominent members, she must have had privileged information on the background to the Bethlehem strike. She had also interviewed John L. Lewis of the CIO and pledged her support for his Communist-organized “One Big Union” drive. Only one conclusion is possible: Day was keen to hide the role that Communists played in organizing workers at Bethlehem Steel, and the intimidation, violence and destruction of property perpetrated by the strikers.
A contemporary report on the Gravediggers’ Strike which mentioned that over 1,000 coffins were left unburied in the cemetery was published in Time, 14 March 1949.
Cardinal Spellman’s condemnation of the Gravediggers’ Strike as “an anti-American, anti-Christian evil and a strike against the Church” was recorded in John C. Cort, Dreadful Conversions: the Making of a Catholic Socialist, Fordham University Press, 2003.
Day’s biographer, William Miller, accused Cardinal Spellman of injustice to workers and repudiation of Catholic teaching:
"While he eventually broke the strike, Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker bore profound and direct witness to his egregious repudiation of Catholic social teaching on the rights of workers. Dorothy Day had decided that “the strike was justified”, and members of the Catholic Worker joined striking workers on the picket line at the cemetery." (William D. Miller, Dorothy Day: A Biography, Harper & Row Publishers, San Francisco, 1982, p. 404)
The Food, Tobacco and Agricultural Workers of America were identified as a Communist-led union by Louis Budenz in The Techniques of Communism, Ayer Co. Publishers, Chicago, 1953, p. 193. See also Herbert Romerstein and Eric Breindel, The Venona Secrets: Exposing Soviet Espionage and America’s Traitors, Regnery Publishing, Inc. 2001, p. 114; also listed as one of the CIO unions in the “Communist camp” in Judith Stepan-Norris, Maurice Zeitlin, Left Out: Reds and America’s Industrial Unions, , Cambridge University Press, 2002, p. 13; it was expelled from the CIO in December 1949 for its Communist constitution.
One of the many instances when Day mentioned her vision of “a new heaven and a new earth, wherein justice dwelleth” was in CW February 1940.
With reference to the house where Day lived as a child, Forest relates: “In the library of the house, Dorothy first read Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, Charles Dickens’ Bleak House and Little Dorritt, and other books that stirred her awareness of injustice in the world and also offered images of sanctity. These books she would read again and again for the rest of her life.” (Jim Forest, ‘A Harsh and Dreadful Love: Dorothy Day’s witness to the Gospel’ in a collection of essays entitled ‘Under the Forest-Flier Tree’ published in the Orthodox Peace Fellowship Quarterly, In Communion.)
Another reason why the Church condemned Victor Hugo’s novel was that it provided the perfect breeding ground for all types of utopian projects for the reconstruction of society and gave rise to an atmosphere favourable to Communism, making it easy for the writings of Karl Marx to be well received in certain contemporary circles. The point needs to be emphasized that the “Communist mentality” was already a going concern among the intellectuals of France and Germany from the 1830s onwards.
In the battle of ideas, what was most troubling for the Church was that the rationale behind this revolutionary ideal of liberty was to shake off the shackles of the inherited values and received wisdom of previous generations which had been heavily influenced by Christianity. Victor Hugo had come under the influence of the apostate priest, Fr de Lamennais, the father of Modernism, who believed that the Church should espouse the ideals of freedom and democracy enshrined in the principles of the French Revolution, and proposed a reform of the Church along those lines. With his great literary talents and his ability to exert a lasting fascination over the mind, Hugo brought Romanticism to a new level: his novels acted as a powerful imaginative stimulus which served as a conduit of Fr de Lamennais’s liberal ideas into the Catholic world.
She once admitted to being “fascinated by the story of the lives of both Marx and Lenin.” (CW July-August 1962)
Day’s infatuation with the 19th-century American communes is clear from her statement:
"there is an interesting chapter in Edmond Wilson’s To the Finland Station on the growth of communities in the United States which he calls the great nursery for these experiments, from the time that Robert Owen came to America in 1824 and was helped by Horace Greely in the New York Tribune to propagandize his movement, which resulted in forty groups going out to build what they called phalansteries (including Brook Farm in its second aspect). Katherine Burton has written a very good book on Brook Farm, Paradise Planters, which can be obtained at any library." (CW April 1956)
In the same passage, Day mentioned with evident approval the role played by Horace Greeley, Editor of the New York Tribune, in promoting the work of the Welsh Socialist, Robert Owen, by using his newspaper “to propagandize his movement.” But let us not forget that in the same newspaper Greeley also helped Karl Marx to propagandize his movement by publishing over 500 of his articles between 1851 and 1861. (Both Marx and Engels were Greeley’s London correspondents for the Tribune, and much of Marx’s contribution to that newspaper was lifted wholesale and used in his Capital.
Day’s reference to Katherine Burton’s Paradise Planters is meant to arouse enthusiasm for the Brook Farm community settlement which operated in New England from 1841 to 1847, based on the belief that communal property and co-operative work were essential to the good life. The “phalansteries” that Day mentions were immense buildings housing hundreds of people all living on a collective basis with a shared economy. However, the enterprise, like the Welsh Socialist Robert Owen’s equally utopian venture, ended in financial ruin for the organizers, and the community dispersed, riven by internal conflict and ruined by inept administration. That is precisely why Katherine Burton ended her account of Brook Farm with the ironic words: “Only their dreams were still buried on the soil of Brook Farm.”
Morris Hillquit (born Moishe Hillkowitz) stated his Socialist aims in his book, History of Socialism in the United States, Funk and Wagnalls, New York, 1903, p. 177.
VF Calverton (born George Goetz) founded the Modern Quarterly in 1923 and published articles by prominent Communists such as Leon Trotsky, John Dewey and Earl Browder; he himself was a frequent contributor to many left-wing publications including the Daily Worker. His influential writings contributed to the long process of moral dissolution culminating in the 1960s which helped to normalize promiscuity, homosexuality and radical feminism among the American public.
As for Morris Hillquit, the class struggle was the lynchpin of his social reforms, as he himself explained:
"The cardinal point in which there is general agreement in the socialist ranks is that no socialist revolution can be successfully accomplished in the United States without the active support and participation of the large masses of the American workers acting as a class in conscious and organized opposition to the ruling classes." (Morris Hillquit, ‘Radicalism in America’, first published in the Socialist World, reprinted in the Socialist World, Chicago Vol. 1, No. 4, 15 October 1920, p. 18)
Day mentioned her early association with Hillquit in Chapter 7 of her autobiography, From Union Square to Rome.
Both Day and Maurin regarded the Israeli Kibbutz (plural Kibbutzim) as the blueprint for social reform:
"the Kibbutzim of the present day in Israel about which the late Martin Buber has written so beautifully in Paths in Utopia…bear in them the ideas and the beginnings of the solution of our problems today, of agriculture, of city slums, of unemployment and many others, as Peter Maurin our founder has always said." (CW March 1968)
Day acknowledged Martin Buber’s personal influence on her when she referred to him as “the great Jewish philosopher from whose work Paths in Utopia I have gained the most encouragement towards community.” (CW September 1958) She later described Buber as “the only modern writer who held out hope for a modern, voluntary community as a place where men and women could live in love and in the happiness which God intended for them.” (CW May 1978)
However, Day’s confidence in his vision of the Kibbutz as such a society was misplaced. In Paths in Utopia, Buber had stated that ultimately the criterion of its success would be whether it exerted “a structural influence on the amorphous urban society in whose midst it perforce exists.” (Paths in Utopia, p. 141) but given the fact that the Kibbutz itself underwent complete structural change and adapted itself to its capitalist surroundings, the social experiment must be considered a failure.
This is how Day described the Catholic Worker: “We were not an institution, or Home with a capital letter, but a home, a private home.” (CW February 1938)
The critical comments about the dissolute behaviour at Easton Farm were quoted in James Terence Fisher, The Catholic Counterculture in America, 1933-1962, UNC Press, 2001, p. 121.
Day’s platitudes about the brotherhood of man appear in CW March 1952.
Day mistook the meaning of the early Church Fathers in their exhortations to hospitality. For example, St John Chrysostom, in his Homily 45 on the Acts of the Apostles allowed the faithful to exercise discretion in offering hospitality to strangers: “ though you may not wish to take them into your houses, at any rate in some other way (receive them), by supplying them with necessaries.” Regarding some cases, he stated: “receive them not into thy house.”
She mistakenly attributed her particular idea of hospitality to St Jerome. When St Jerome (who himself founded a hospice in Bethlehem) praised hospitality for the poor, he was not referring to the private Christian home. His words “Welcome poor men and strangers to your homely board, that with them Christ may be your guest” were part of a treatise on the clerical life dedicated to St Nepotian, Bishop of Altino in Italy. (Letter LII, 384 A.D.) Also he commended the example of the Roman senator, Pammachius, who had become a monk and opened a Hospice for Strangers in the Portus Romanus (Letter XLVI, 397 A.D.)
The description of Day as being “not very ‘family friendly’” was made by Larry Purcell, founder of the Catholic Worker in Redwood City, California quoted in Dan McKanan, Dorothy Day: Practising the Works of Mercy in a New Generation, Liturgical Press, 2008.
Day’s daughter, Tamar Day Hennessy, born in 1926, told the National Catholic Reporter:
"I was only 8 [she was 7] years old when it started. She was travelling a lot, and I was left to be taken care of by various people, and I got very ill. It was hard for both of us. She had her work, and yet at the same time she had me. She was devoted. She was torn." (Margot Patterson, ‘Dorothy Day’s daughter Tamar: an extraordinary, difficult childhood’, Cover story: National Catholic Reporter, 7 March 2003)
Even in school holiday time, Day sent Tamar away to relatives or summer camps. In 1933, Day herself recalls that her daughter “is spending most of the summer on my sister’s farm and I am free for work.” “A lot of other children did have a difficult time being in the Worker,” Tamar said. “I think Dorothy was very aware of the fact that you can’t do both well, and she was right.”
Day insisted that people should have a sense of “personal responsibility to take care of our own” in her autobiography, The Long Loneliness, Harper Collins, New York, 1952, p. 179. Her misapplied Scriptural references to giving up family attachments are found on p. 123 of the same book.
The neglect of her own daughter’s need for maternal care at such a tender age was blatantly at odds with her statement about “the personal application of Christian principles. It is necessary to do the thing one’s self.” (CW November 1945)
Day recommended the establishment of nursery schools to care for babies, thus enabling the natural mother to seek and retain a job: “There is great need of a nursery school for children under one year of age”. (CW November 1934) Later, she extended this to children of school age:
"With children all day in school women have come to feel the isolation of the home, the lack of community facilities such as day nurseries. They know they have a contribution to make to the common good. Their talents are unused and undeveloped. And above all, there is the crucial need to earn money to help support and to educate and provide training in turn for the young ones." (CW January 1965)
So great was her enthusiasm for Nyerere's policies that she described them as “Peter Maurin’s ideas incarnate.” (CW October 1970)
William Miller’s comparison between Day and Alinsky can be found in his book, Dorothy Day: A Biography, Harper and Row, San Francisco, 1982 p. 408.
Saul Alinsky’s quotes can be found in Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals, Vintage Books, New York, 1971.
Day’s encounter with Alinsky is mentioned in CW January 1950. She compared him to St Teresa in CW October-November 1972.
It was Maurin who put into Day’s mind the notion that she could continue with her Socialist radicalism by combining it with her newfound faith without violating Catholic principles. This is confirmed by Day’s main biographer, William Miller, who states:
"Personalist radicalism found the idea of the Church no obstacle to its philosophy or methods; to the contrary, it was only through personalist radicalism that the dynamite of the Church could be ignited. Maurin thus united orthodoxy with radicalism, and this principle was understood and has been faithfully followed by Dorothy Day." (William D. Miller, A Harsh and Dreadful Love : Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement, Liveright, New York, 1973, p. 25)
We must note the gratuitous assumption that the radical politics of Day and Maurin were in harmony with Catholic orthodoxy.
Day claimed the “right” to independence in social, political and economic questions:
"The Catholic Church is authoritarian in a way; it won’t budge on what it believes it has been put here to protect and defend and uphold. But the church has never told its flock that they have no rights of their own, that they ought to have no beliefs or loyalties other than those of the pope or one of his cardinals. No one in the church can tell me what to think about social and political and economic questions without getting a tough speech back; please leave me alone and tend to your own acreage; I’ll take care of mine." (Quoted in Robert Coles, Dorothy Day: A Radical Devotion, Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA, 1987)
As far as Day was concerned, the Church’s sphere was entirely in the internal forum and was limited to the domain of doctrine which requires interior consent:
"The Church is infallible when it deals with truths of the faith such as the dogma of the Immaculate Conception...When it comes to matters of the temporal order - capital vs. labour, for example - on all these matters the Church has not spoken infallibly. Here there is room for wide differences of opinion." (Dorothy Day, Loaves and Fishes, p. 122)
Day’s work before and after the Council was based on Religious Liberty. Patrick Jordan, who lived at the Catholic Worker from 1969 to 1975 and knew Day personally, put it in a nutshell: “At Vatican II, she noted her admiration for John Courtney Murray. She felt grateful for the church’s clear but long overdue statement on religious freedom and the primacy of conscience.” (Patrick Jordan, ‘An appetite for God: Dorothy Day at 100’, Commonweal , 24 Oct, 1997)
For confirmation of Day’s notion that the Church had no right to exercise moral authority through the intermediary of government officials or to intervene in her affairs, we have the testimony of fellow anarchist, Ammon Hennacy, who lived for many years at the Catholic Worker:
"She felt that man of his own free will accepted God or rejected God and if a man chose to obey the authority of God and reject the authority of the state it was not unethical to do so...Dorothy felt that the authority of God only made her a better rebel and gave her courage to oppose those who sought to carry over the concept of authority from the supernatural to the natural field where it did not belong. She said that the use of the word anarchist might shock people; that Peter Maurin, though an anarchist, had generally used the word personalist instead, but she felt that Bob Ludlow and myself used it rightly." (Ammon Hennacy, The Book of Ammon , first published in 1964, reprinted by Fortkamp Publishing, Baltimore, 1994, p. 139)
Day misinterpreted St Paul in order to justify her brand of Personalism:
"Perhaps St. Paul defined The Catholic Worker’s idea of anarchism, the positive word, by saying of the followers of Jesus, “For such there is no law.” For those who have given up all ideas of domination and power and the manipulation of others are “not under the law.” (Galatians 5). For those who live in Christ Jesus, for “those who have put on Christ,” for those who have washed the feet of others, there is no law. They have the liberty of the children of God." (CW May 1970)
Ammon Hennacy, with Day’s approval, spoke for the Catholic Workers when he wrote:
"We shall continue to insist on the primacy of the individual conscience; upon a reliance on the Sermon on the Mount rather than ecclesiastical pomp and power. We know that we are following Him rather than denying Him in His name." (Ammon Hennacy, op. cit., p. 473)
Day’s reference to priests as “dead branches” can be found in CW December 1946.
Day’s 1957 statement on the “terrible injustice of our capitalist industrial system” was quoted in Robert Ellsberg, The Selected Writings of Dorothy Day: By Little and By Little, Orbis Books, 2005, p. 280.
Day’s participation in illegal draft card burnings was chronicled in Dorothy Day, Patrick Jordan, Dorothy Day: writings from Commonweal, Liturgical Press, 2002, p. 162.
David McReynolds witnessed the proceedings as follows:
"Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker joined A. J. [Muste] in hosting the draft card burning on November 6 in Union Square. Both made brief statements, and then each of the five of us stepped forward to burn our cards." (David McReynolds, ‘A.J. and the 1965 Draft Card Burning’, Muste Notes, Vol. 13, No. 2 , Winter 2006, published by the A. J. Muste Memorial Institute. The other protesters were Tom Cornell, Marc Edelman, Roy Lisker and Jim Wilson)
The event was recorded by the New York Times which reported on 7 November 1965:
"The men who burnt their cards were Marc Paul Edelman, 19 years old, of 263 Primrose Avenue, Mount Vernon, New York; Thomas C. Cornell, 31, of 175 Chrystie Street [the Catholic Worker premises], David McReynolds, 36, of 5 Beekman Place [Muste's Headquarters] and James E. Wilson, 21, of 175 Chrystie Street.
Another speaker, Miss Dorothy Gay [sic], publisher of the Catholic Worker, also spoke at the rally. She was all but drowned out by hecklers who chanted "Moscow Mary."
Day was a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), which had been founded by A J Muste. McReynolds, a member of the Socialist Party, the War Resisters League and the FOR, was later to become the Socialist Party’s US Presidential candidate. He served on almost all the committees of the anti-war coalitions during the Vietnam War. Cornell had been affiliated with the Catholic Worker and FOR before founding the Catholic Peace Fellowship. Marc Edelman was a member of the New York Civil Liberties Union (See the Marc Edelman Papers in the Tamiment Library of Communist history, TAM 427.)
The opinion that Day and her comrades were engaged in “prophetic witness” was published in ‘Burning Draft Cards’, Commonweal, 19 November 1965.
Emmanuel Mounier’s anti-American sentiments are examined in Seth D. Armus, French Anti-Americanism 1930-1948: Critical Moments in a Complex History, Lexington Books, 2007, pp. 60-61.
Maurin’s comments on Communism are found in his Easy Essays, ‘Not Communists’
Day located one of the sources of Maurin’s ideas when she stated that he “derived his inspiration, not from the education he received from the Christian Brothers, but from his contact with French radical thinking.” (CW May 1976)
For Mounier’s reference to the Sillon, see John Hellman, Emmanuel Mounier and the New Catholic Left, 1930-1950, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1981, p. 207.
For Mounier’s admission of indebtedness to Marxism, see Emmanuel Mounier, Feu de la Chrétienté, Seuil, Paris, 1950, p. 52.
For Maurin’s recommendation of the Personalist Manifesto, see CW April 1950.
That Mounier’s brand of anti-capitalism was inspired by Marx is clear from his explanation that Personalism was in his estimation a means “for the attainment of Socialism…through movements of peasants and workers organized with the more enlightened portions of the bourgeoisie.” (Emmanuel Mounier, Personalism, Boughton Press, 2007, p. 106)
Mounier aimed to eliminate Capitalism” lest new growth should be generated from the “bases of the system”. (Emmanuel Mounier, A Personal Manifesto, Longmans, Green and Co., Foreword by Dom Virgil Michel, translated from the French by monks of St John’s Abbey, New York, 1938, p. 187)
He was in favour of using violence, if necessary, to destroy every last trace of the capitalist system:
"if, when the new forms are sufficiently mature to replace those of the diseased order, it becomes evident that the change can be brought about only by violence, as will be probable, then there can be no valid reason for refusing to use violence." (ibid., p. 283)
But whom did Mounier have principally in mind to spearhead his anti-capitalist revolution? Two categories of society are singled out. First, the young people to whom he dedicated the Personalist Manifesto who would “read it as a call to creative activity” (ibid., ‘Author’s Note’, p. xxii)
He also envisaged Communists and their fellow travelers as collaborators in this scheme as “the only ones…with sufficient force...to put an end to the despotic reign of money.” (Emmanuel Mounier, ‘Rassemblement Populaire’, Esprit, June, 1936)
Mounier favoured communal living. In 1939 he acquired a large property at Châtenay-Malabry, south of Paris, which was divided into apartments “owned co-operatively by himself and his friends.” (Charles E. Reagan, Paul Ricoeur: his life and his work, University of Chicago Press, 1996, p. 20)
In order to eliminate “acquisitiveness”, Tawney proclaimed that “proprietary rights shall be maintained when they are accompanied by the performance of service and abolished when they are not.” (R H Tawney, The Acquisitive Society, G. Bell and Sons, 1921, p. 176)
Maurin stated that the workers were “pawns of capitalist and imperialist gain” in CW October 1939.
Maurin was quite clear on the issue when asked to state his personal views on private ownership:
"About ownership, the size of a piece of land depends on the size of the family. There can be the combination of the two kinds, private ownership and communal ownership. I always make a case for the communal ownership, which is the ideal." (Peter Maurin, Catholic Radicalism , New York, 1949, p. 207, reprinted as ‘Four Interviews with Peter’ by Arthur Sheehan in CW April, May, June and July-August, 1943)
It is clear from this statement that in Maurin’s distributist economy land would be allocated according to a predetermined need for each family, depending on its size.
Tawney’s reference to Communism as the ideal comes from his book, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, with Introduction by Adam B. Seligman, Transaction Publishers, 1998, p. 32.
Time Magazine, on the occasion of Maurin’s death, described his ideal as a collectivist society “retaining the barest minimum of private property.” (Time, 30 May, 1949)
The wisdom of the ages does not support Maurin’s ideal. Writing in 350 BC, Aristotle criticized the principle that social evils can be remedied by a system of common property. He went on to explain:
None of these evils, however, is due to the absence of communism. They all arise from the wickedness of human nature. Indeed, it is a fact of observation that those who own common property, and share in its management, are far more often at variance with one another than those who have property in severalty. (Aristotle, Politics, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1946, 1263a)
Day stated that “Peter shocked people by calling for an ‘abolition of the wage system’” in CW May 1953.
In CW April 1963, Day quoted Peter Maurin who reiterated the expression “fire the bosses” and also “Work not Wages”, “Labour is not a commodity to be bought and sold”.
Day’s reference to St Antoninus can be found in CW March 1937.
For Tawney’s statement that “the true descendant of the doctrines of Aquinas is the labour theory of value” and that “the last of the Schoolmen [the Scholastics] was Karl Marx,” see R H Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, p. 36.
The idea of abolishing the distinction between manual and intellectual work was a key concept in Socialist education. Lenin’s widow declared in 1932:
“By correctly combining physical labour occupations with mental labor occupations and doing this on a large scale we shall undermine the very foundations of the social divisions of people into intellectuals and people engaged in physical labour.” (Nadezhda Krupskaya, On Labour-Oriented Education and Instruction, a compilation of documents written between 1918 and 1936, English translation published in 1982 by Progress Publishers, Moscow, p. 146)
Maurin expressed the opinion that “The farmers often feel inferior to “so-called educated” city folks. The city people look down too much on the farmers” in Peter Maurin, Catholic Radicalism, New York, 1949.
In his Easy Essays, Maurin included William Morris among his list of enlightened Englishmen “who got rid of their blinkers.” (‘A Few Englishmen’) Morris made his vision clear in his declaration of the Socialist League which he founded. It began, “Fellow citizens, we come before you as a body advocating the principles of revolutionary international socialism; that is, we seek a change in the basis of society¬, a change which would destroy the distinctions of classes and nationalities.” (E P Thompson, William Morris, Romantic to Revolutionary, Merlin Press, 1976, p. 732) True to his master, Morris sought to mobilize the working class as a revolutionary force to overthrow the status quo of property and privilege. His opposition to machinery was grounded in his desire to destroy Capitalism and entrepreneurship. Day also personally recommended the work of William Morris. (CW February 1974)
Day quoted Maurin that the machine “deprived a man of what was as important as bread, his work, his work with his hands, his ability to use all of himself, which made him a whole man and a holy man.” (CW June 1949)
Kolakowski’s remarks are taken from Volume 3 of his book, Main Currents of Marxism, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1978, 3 vols., p. 530.
According to Catholic Worker sources, Maurin admired Mounier’s journal and used it as a pedagogical tool: “Maurin admired L’Esprit as an ecumenical journal which promoted a just world, and he began to use it as an aid to his own teaching.” (Nancy L. Roberts, Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker , State University of New York Press, 1985, p. 7)
Referring to the symposium of all faiths, Day was happy to affirm Maurin’s religious pluralism: “Peter Maurin was constantly restating our position, and finding authorities from all faiths, and races, all authorities.” ( CW May 1951)
She later stated on the same subject:
"Peter Maurin felt that here was a beginning of what he called a new synthesis, an attempt to apply the teachings of the Gospel to the world around us." ( CW February 1967)
The convergence of Muste’s ideas with those of Day and Maurin is striking. Where Day urged everyone to “strip themselves” of temporal possessions and join the revolution on behalf of the poor, Muste called on “those who can bring themselves to renounce wealth, position and power accruing from a social system based on violence” to engage in “the struggle of the masses toward the light” and create a new society. (See A J Muste, ‘Sketches for an Autobiography’, in The Essays of A.J. Muste ed., Nat Hentoff, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1970, pp. 104-105.)
Muste believed that his followers (including the Communists) constituted “the true Church”:
"it was on the Left – and here the Communists of the period cannot be excluded – that one found people who were truly “religious”… the Left had the vision, the dream, of a classless and warless world…This also was a strong factor in making me feel that here, in a sense, was the true church. Here was the fellowship drawn together and drawn forward by the Judaeo-Christian prophetic vision of a “new earth in which righteousness dwelleth.”" (A J Muste, Saints for This Age , Pendle Hill Publications, Pennsylvania, p. 20)
According to Baldwin’s friend and neighbour, Peggy Lamson, Baldwin made the following statement in 1919: “To us who passionately cherish the vision of a free human society, the present institution of marriage among us is a grim mockery of essential freedom....We deny without reservation the moral right of state or church to bind by force of law a relationship that cannot be maintained by the power of love alone....The highest relationship between a man and a woman is that which welcomes and understands each other’s loves….The creative life demands many friendships, many loves shared together openly, honestly, and joyously....” Quoted in Peggy Lamson, Roger Baldwin: Founder of the American Civil Liberties Union: A Portrait , Houghton-Mifflin, Inc., Boston, 1976, pp. 116-7.
It is important to realize that Margaret Sanger’s birth control policies were based on eugenics. She stated: “The most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.” ( Women and the New Race , Eugenics Publishing Co., 1920, 1923) She had a strategy for the eradication of those she deemed “feebleminded.” “More children from the fit, less from the unfit -- that is the chief aim of birth control.” ( Birth Control Review , May 1919, p. 12)
Baldwin’s ultra-radical roots can be seen in his association with the revolutionary anarchist, Emma Goldman, whom he admired for what he described as her “direct attack on the foundations of society.” (Roger N. Baldwin, New York City, 29 January 1974, in Paul Avrich, Anarchist Voices: An Oral History of Anarchism in America , AK Press, 2006, p. 62) What Baldwin, Goldman, Day and Maurin had in common was an ideological tie to Russian anarchism – they were all influenced by the anti-state theories of Peter Kropotkin.
Apart from his admiration for Kropotkin, another characteristic of Baldwin that commended him to Maurin was his uncompromising stand on Pacifism. He refused to register for the draft during World War I on the grounds of his opinion that the State has no right to require conscription, and his trial, conviction and imprisonment made him famous. (Roger Baldwin, ‘The Individual and the State’, speech delivered on 30 October 1918 in the Federal Court in New York just before being sentenced to prison, in James Milton O’Neill, Modern Short Speeches – Ninety Eight Complete Examples , Read Books, 2007, p. 350)
At the time of Maurin’s Conference, Baldwin was a full-blooded Stalinist and demonstrated his commitment to Soviet economic and political policies in his speeches and publications. Having made two trips to Russia in 1927 and 1928, staying on both occasions in the home of Kropotkin’s widow who lived just outside Moscow, he published on his return a collection of Kropotkin’s Revolutionary Pamphlets and a book entitled Liberty Under the Soviets , written in praise of the USSR. ( Roger N. Baldwin (ed.), Kropotkin’s Revolutionary Pamphlets , Vanguard Press Inc. 1927. The Vanguard Press was established by a large donation from the Garland Fund (of which Baldwin was the Director) and specialized in publishing revolutionary books and books in praise of the Soviet Union.
Baldwin’s other publications of the 1920s and 30s demonstrate his frank admission of pro-Soviet leanings. In the Foreword to Letters from Russian Prisons, he stated his belief that post-revolutionary Russia was “a great laboratory of social experimentation of incalculable value to the development of the world.” (Roger Nash Baldwin (Ed.), Letters from Russian Prisons , Albert and Charles Boni, New York, 1925) In 1934, published Freedom in the USA and the USSR in which he stated: “I too take a class position. It is anti-capitalist and pro-revolutionary,” and added: “The class struggle is the central conflict of the world; all others are incidental.” Taking the Soviet Union as his model, he considered violent and criminal acts excused or justified provided that they were carried out for revolutionary purposes:
"When that power of the working class is once achieved, as it has been only in the Soviet Union, I am for maintaining it by any means whatever. Dictatorship is the obvious means in a world of enemies at home and abroad. I dislike it in principle as dangerous to its own objects. But the Soviet Union has already created liberties far greater than exist elsewhere in the world...[There] I saw ... fresh, vigorous expressions of free living by workers and peasants all over the land. And further, no champion of a socialist society could fail to see that some suppression was necessary to achieve it. It could not all be done by persuasion...[I]f American champions of civil liberty could all think in terms of economic freedom as the goal of their labours, they too would accept “workers’ democracy” as far superior to what the capitalist world offers to any but a small minority. Yes, and they would accept - regretfully, of course - the necessity of dictatorship while the job of reorganizing society on a socialist basis is being done."
He quoted the British Socialst, Harold Laski, (a favourite of Maurin’s) who wrote during a visit to the Soviet Union to the effect that “liberty of the individual to develop his powers to the full – the test of any social system – is greater there than in any country in the world.”
Greenbaum wrote of his predecessor, Rabbi Finkelstein:
"He saw Judaism as a pivotal force in the establishment of a world order, and he saw the Seminary as the single greatest Jewish institution in the world and, as such, saw it as the vehicle for bringing the message of Judaism to the world." (Michael B. Greenbaum, ‘The Finkelstein Era’, in Jack Wertheimer (Ed.), Tradition Renewed: A History of the Jewish Theological Seminary , Vol. I, The Making of an Institute of Higher Learning, The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York, 1997, p. 173)
Day tried to justify Maurin’s inter-faith activities on the grounds that:
"His friends were Jews, Protestants, agnostics, as well as Catholics, and he found a common ground with all in what he termed the Thomistic doctrine of the common good...He was a man of tremendous ambition, in spite of his simplicity, or perhaps because of it. He wanted to make a new synthesis, as St Thomas had done in the Middle Ages, and he wanted to enlist the aid of a group of people in doing this. He was no more afraid of the non-Catholic approach to problems than St Thomas was of the Aristotelian." (Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness , Harper, San Francisco, 1st published 1952, reprint 1980, p. 170)
She also stated:
"Peter began his teaching of the Thomistic doctrine of the common good by pointing out that since we lived in a pluralist state we had to find common ground with believers and non-believers." ( CW May 1957)
It was particularly stated that each speaker had free rein to express his beliefs without “any intention to minimize or dilute in search of a common denominator.” (Dorothy Day-Catholic Worker Collection, DD-CW Series W-10, Box 1, Marquette University Archives, quoted in Marc H. Ellis, Peter Maurin: Prophet in the Twentieth Century, Paulist Press, New York, 1981, p. 117)
“My whole scheme is a Utopian, Christian Communism” (as reported by Day in CW May 1967.)
Day quoted Maurin as having given a definition of radicalism: “the word means getting down to the roots." (CW May 1977)
“The answer lies in a return to a society where agriculture is practiced by most of the people.” Peter Maurin, Easy Essays, ‘Regard for the Soil’
Day confirmed that this is how he “saw the solution to all the ills of the world: unemployment, delinquency, destitute old age, man’s rootlessness, lack of room for growing families, and hunger.” (Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness, p. 280)
“Peter did not believe in the use of force to bring about this new society.” (CW May 1953)
One of Maurin’s mottoes was to “put business out of business”. (CW January 1954) Another was to “Fire the bosses”. (CW April 1961)
The Debs archive was instituted in memory of Eugene V. Debs, America’s foremost Socialist and labour agitator. The following books written by Maurin are contained in the Debs Collection: Catholic Radicalism: Phrased Essays for the Green Revolution. 1st edition, with drawings by Ed Willock, Catholic Worker Books, New York, 1949, and Easy Essays, with designs by Adeì de Beìthune, Sheed and Ward, New York, 1936. In addition, Maurin is celebrated in a work by Ammon Hennacy contained in the Debs Collection: Two Agitators: Peter Maurin, Amon Hennacy , Catholic Worker Books, New York, 1959
With regard to the economy, one of Maurin’s mottoes was to “feed the poor and starve the bankers” (CW May 1935)
A friend of Maurin’s, Martin Paul, illustrated this point in his reference to Maurin’s remarks at a meeting of the National Catholic Conference of Rural Life in Spokane, Washington:
During the conference, in an informal discussion with bishops and archbishops, Maurin suddenly interjected into the discussion, “We will lead and the clergy will follow.” (Quoted in Mark H. Ellis, Peter Maurin, Prophet in the Twentieth Century , Paulist Press, New York, 1981, pp. 139-140)
Day claimed that Bishop O’Hara of Kansas City once said to Maurin: “you lead the way – we will follow.” (CW July-August 1964) If true, this is a reversal of the traditional role of a Catholic bishop, and is not in keeping with the type of Catholic Action mentioned by Pope Pius XI and described as “the collaboration of the laity in the apostolate of the hierarchy.” As usual, Day misrepresented the situation by insisting that lay people are entitled to form groups for charitable purposes (which the Church has never denied), while leaving out of account the real issue at stake which is the use of the title “Catholic” by such groups without permission of the hierarchy.
Furthermore, he stated that the lack of clergy interest in his idea of Catholic Action was the reason why people were leaving the Church and becoming interested in Marxism and Fascism. In his scheme, it was imperative that the clergy should come closer to the people by working alongside them: this was part of his “theology of labour”, his imagined synthesis of faith and work which led him to conceive of a “theology grounded in sociology”. (CW June 1934) Here we can see the root of his confusion between faith and social reform: as one of the Catholic Workers explained, Maurin equated Christianity with his “green revolution”: “he tended to identify Christianity with handcrafts and subsistence farming.” (James Hennessey, American Catholics: A History of the Roman Catholic Community in the United States, Oxford University Press, New York, 1981 p. 268)
In Maurin’s plan for a new social order, we learn that “One model which he held up was the kibbutzim in Palestine.” (James Hennessey, ibid.) This is confirmed by Day herself when she mentioned Maurin’s support for Kibbutzim as one of the models representing “the beginnings of the solution of our problems today, of agriculture, of city slums, of unemployment and many others.” (CW March 1968)
Regarding the communal farms, Day admitted that “we cannot point to any successful one.” (CW May 1958) She had held high hopes that it would be productive enough to feed the urban poor (CW May 1947), but she had to admit later that the economic challenges of farming made the Catholic Worker farms “not self-sustaining”. (CW December 1952)
Day was constantly sending out appeals to CW readers and others for money to support the families who worked the farms. (See, for example, CW October 1951 and CW November 1957.) This continued to be the case long after Day’s time. It is recorded, for instance, that in the 1993 Annual Financial Report for Charitable Organizations – filed with the New York Department of State – The Catholic Worker listed $300,000 in direct public support from contributions from subscribers and other supporters. See Sarah Slavin, U.S. Women’s Interest Groups, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1995, p. 104.
Martin Paul, who lived with his family on a Catholic Worker farm, recalled: “Because we had to make a living, I drove a school bus for a while, and I got some assistance through the G. I. Bill of Rights.” (Quoted in Dan McKanan, The Catholic Worker after Dorothy Day: Practising the Works of Mercy in a New Generation, Liturgical Press, 2008, p. 169)
Day’s account of the fight over an egg appeared in Dorothy Day, ‘Peter Maurin’, unpublished manuscript, c. 1948, p. 145, quoted in Marc Ellis, Peter Maurin Prophet in the Twentieth Century, New York, Paulist Press, 1981.
Everywhere Day went to visit Catholic Worker farms around the country, she commented in euphoric terms on their success in community building. She mentioned, for instance, the joint farm venture of two Catholic Workers, Martin Paul and Larry Heaney (CW February 1961), as a particularly good example, but her words were contradicted first by Martin Paul who commented years later: “We were never a real community in the sense of what we wanted...a Catholic worker community, a communal farm”, and secondly by Ruth Heaney with the statement: “I think my kids suffered from these ideas.” (Quoted in Dan McKanan, op. cit., pp. 154 and 169)
The story of the kidnapping was recorded in Dan McKanan, op. cit., p. 167.) Astonishingly, it transpired that William Gauchat, the child’s father, was willing to continue exposing his children to the moral and physical danger of sharing their home with vagrants, calling his decision the Christian duty of “Personalism”.
Day called for the “withering away of the State” in CW November 1949
Day often stated that Maurin acted as her mentor: she recalled, for instance, how he first came to her “with Kropotkin in one pocket and St Francis in the other.” (CW February 1974)
In Memoirs of a Revolutionist, Kropotkin clearly described his early efforts “to work out the constructive part of an anarchist-communist society.” (Peter Kropotkin, Memoirs of a Revolutionist, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston and New York, 1899, Part 6, Section XVII )
Day revealed that Kropotkin was “in a way [Maurin’s] favorite among the lay writers.” (CW May 1953)
Day stated: "Peter read Kropotkin’s theoretical works. It was the idea, the abstract thought, that got him and that he hoped would get me." (CW May 1967)
In fact the idea of Maurin’s anarchist principles gaining influence in society was a source of evident satisfaction to her:
"Everywhere, the discussions started by Peter, are going on. The candle he has lit has been lighting many another candle and the light is becoming brighter." (CW May 1947)
But what are we meant to see by the light of Maurin’s candle? Day’s misuse of the symbolism of light is significant. She did not seem perturbed by the fact that “the philosophical anarchism of Peter Kropotkin” which she said interested Maurin (CW June 1975) did not represent the light of Christianity.
Kropotkin’s statements on the French Revolution are quoted from the Conclusion to P Kropotkin, The Great French Revolution, 1789-1793, (N F Dryhurst, Trans.) New York, Vanguard Press, 1927. (Original work published 1909) In the same work he argued that “the principles of anarchism . . . already dated from 1789, and that they had their origin, not in theoretical speculations, but in the deeds of the Great French Revolution.”
Of key significance in Kropotkin’s analysis of the French Revolution was his emphasis on its class-based character: from an anarchist perspective it was a question of “the people” versus the monarchy. But there was more at stake than just the desire for a classless society: the French Revolution basically took the form of a rebellion against all authority.
According to Kropotkin, justice would be ensured by the masses rising up “spontaneously” against all forms of authority, guided by their own instincts and imbued with the revolutionary spirit. But he omitted to say that the so-called “spontaneous” movements towards revolution were in reality fuelled by the type of anarchist propaganda in which he himself excelled. He promoted insurrection against governments and made impassioned pleas to the workers to rise up against the bourgeoisie, all in the name of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Furthermore, there is hardly anything spontaneous about groups of irate citizens “organized by streets, districts and parishes” (Peter Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread, G P Putnam’s Sons, New York and London, 1906, p. 98) determined to wreak vengeance on the “ruling classes”. Nor can we overlook the fact that Kropotkin’s social order leaves no room for the reasoning and freedom of others: they are simply subjugated to his own view of what is allowable. The inevitable result is that his “morality”, which ultimately depends on power, becomes just another way of oppressing others.
Both Day and Maurin supported Kropotkin’s anarchism. “Law has no title to the respect of men,” Kropotkin wrote in 1898 adding:
"Born of violence and superstition, and established in the interests of consumer, priest and rich exploiter, it must be utterly destroyed on the day when the people desire to break their chains." (Peter Kropotkin, ‘Law and Authority: An Anarchist Essay’, in Roger Baldwin (Ed.), op. cit., p. 206)
His conclusion was based on the slogan of the French Revolution:
"No more laws! No more judges! Liberty, equality, and practical human sympathy are the only effective bulwark we can raise against the anti-social instincts of a few among us." (ibid.)
However, Day chose to ignore Pope Pius XII’s message about the necessity of the State. A year later she published an article by Robert Ludlow which takes a position diametrically opposed to that of the Pope, and which decries national sovereignty as a threat to peace and a hindrance to the common good:
"It remains true, however, that the national State is a hindrance to man – not because it is a State but because of the concept of national sovereignty which makes of each State a strutting, egotistic maniac ready to pull the trigger at any offence to its vanity. Through labour unions, through non-governmental organizations and (most importantly) through the Church we may help to oppose this concept and work for some union in which the individual States will agree to surrender national sovereignty in favour of a world society." (CW June 1955)
This is a clear indication that the Church was to help in the construction of a world federation of communes which corresponded to Kropotkin’s objective. It is paradoxical that Day should treat the Catholic Church (which was always the most formidable and uncompromising challenge to Communism) as a means to attain Communist goals.
Kropotkin’s view that the State always acted in economic life “in favour of the capitalist exploiter” are found in his book, Evolution and Environment, Black Rose Books, Montreal, 1995, pp. 97-8
Kropotkin’s plans for expropriation of property were all-embracing:
"General expropriation alone can satisfy the multitude of the suffering and oppressed. We must take it from the realm of theory into that of practice. But in order that expropriation should correspond to the principle that private property should be abolished and given to all, that expropriation must be accomplished on a massive scale. On a small scale, it will only be seen as vulgar pillage; on a large scale, it is the beginning of social reorganization. ..The entire means of production must revert to the community, social property held by private individuals must go back to its true master - everyone - so that each may have their broad share in consumption, thus production may continue in all that is necessary and useful, and social life, far from being interrupted be taken up again with the greatest energy." (Peter Kropotkin, ‘L'Expropriation’, Le Révolté, 23 December, 1882)
For Kropotkin, “the expropriation of dwellings contains in germ the whole Socialist revolution.” (Peter Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread, originally published in 1926, p. 100)
In The Conquest of Bread, he described the method of procedure for a successful expropriation campaign which he planned to be carried out by groups of mob-handed volunteers:
"Then, without waiting for anyone’s leave, those citizens will probably go and find their comrades who were living in miserable garrets and hovels and will say to them simply: ‘It is a real revolution this time, comrades, and make no mistake about it. Come to such a place this evening; all the neighbourhood will be there; we are going to redistribute the dwelling-houses. If you are tired of your slum-garret, come and choose one of the flats of five rooms that are to be disposed of, and when you have once moved in you shall stay, never fear. The people are up in arms, and he who would venture to evict you will have to answer to them.’" (ibid., p. 97)
For those landowners who would not relinquish their property voluntarily to the anarchist mobs, Kropotkin had the final solution: the most efficient means of expropriation would be carried out at gunpoint, as he recommended to his fellow-anarchist, Errico Malatesta:
"Do you know what would still be of the greatest importance for us? Riflemen. Oh! If only we could get them in our sections, Soloviev would not have failed in his aim, the houses and barns of the nobility would have fallen long ago." (Quoted in Caroline Cahm, Kropotkin and the Rise of Revolutionary Anarchism, 1872-1886, Cambridge University Press, 2002, p. 141)
This indicates that, for Kropotkin, the dynamics of the class struggle did not exclude the option of armed robbery. The reference to Alexander Soloviev is particularly pertinent to the subject of terrorist violence, for he had made an unsuccessful attempt to gun down Tsar Alexander II in April 1879. It is undeniable that Kropotkin evinced sympathy for political assassinations.
Kropotkin’s pamphlet on the assassination of the Tsar was ‘La Vérité sur les Exécutions en Russie’, Geneva, 1881.
In his opinion, violence was always justified in the cause of the revolution:
"I think that when a party like the Nihilist of Russia, finds itself in a position where it must either disappear, subside or answer violence with violence – then it has no cause to hesitate and it must necessarily use violence." (Quoted in Caroline Cahm, op. cit., p. 109)
Day revealed her adherence to Marx’s theory of historical determinism which posits the inevitability of class warfare when she published the statement that “there is an inevitable and persistent conflict which can only be overcome when the capitalist ceases to exist as a class.” (CW May 1972) The epithets “inevitable and persistent” indicate a permanent revolution. This means that the workers of the world must continue fighting to eliminate their eternal enemy, the bourgeoisie for the right to own and operate the means of production. Following Marx, Day believed that the workers of the world would be all equal, self-managing and free only when there would be “no longer an employer-wage-earner relationship”. (CW May 1972) In contradiction to the papal encyclicals which taught that workers and employers are interdependent and should work in harmony with one another, Day insisted that “the working class and the employing class have nothing in common” (CW February 1956), that wage-earners are but slaves to the masters who hire them and that “the labourer is systematically robbed of that wealth which he produces over and above what is needed for his bare maintenance.” (CW May 1972). The only solution would be the abolition of the wage system and “the elimination of a distinct employer class.” (CW May 1972)
Day called for “a new order, a classless society”. (CW March-April 1970) and put forward her theory of distributism thus:
"The aim of Distributism is family ownership of land, workshops, stores, transport, trades, professions, and so on. Family ownership in the means of production so widely distributed as to be the mark of the economic life of the community – this is the Distributist’s desire. It is also the world’s desire." (CW June 1948)
Day asserted her belief in the “firm foundation of non-ownership” (CW May 1957)
With reference to the London squatting campaign, Day stated:
"Sometimes perhaps we arouse a little fear in the hearts of our friends. For instance there had been a demonstration in England just after the war, when the needy moved into some of the uninhabited homes of the rich and just took over. We expressed ourselves in the CW as pleased with this expropriation." (CW May 1958)
The building of new homes was slowed down because materials were rationed and resources were needed for war-damage repairs. In spite of the impressive programme of both private and council house building embarked upon by the new Labour government in 1945, supply could not keep up with the growing demand. In the meantime, the government adopted a temporary policy to house 20,000 people in 700 unoccupied army camps. (‘Squat’s End’, Time, 30 September 1946)
This is how Day regarded Distributism in the domain of employment, by quoting from G K Chesterton:
"The following quotation started me off on a whole chapter in the novel I have been writing off and on for some years. It will probably start those of you who read this on a discussion that will last the night. It made me think of Peter Maurin's "Labor is a gift, not a commodity," and the Communist slogan of the depression, "Work, not wages."
"If a machine were used on a farm employing fifty men that would do the work of forty, it means forty men become unemployed. 'But it is only because they were employed that they became unemployed. Now you and I, I hope to heaven, are not trying to increase employment. It is about the only thing that is as bad as unemployment.' In other words, he did not want men to be employees. Men working for themselves, men their own employers, their own employees, that was the object of Distributism." (CW June 1944
This tenet of Socialism - the rejection of the worker-employer relationship - was specifically condemned by the Popes in their encyclicals on the Church's social teachings.
"I started The Catholic Worker at the instigation of Peter Maurin, I did not ask permission – I did not discuss it with the chancery office. Father Harold Purcell, Fr. Parsons, and Fr. McSorley all advised me to launch out, but not to ask permission." ( CW July-August 1964)
This was in breach of Canon Law: Canon 686. § 1. Nulla in Ecclesia recognoscitur associatio quae a legitima auctoritate ecclesiastica erecta vel saltem approbata non fuerit. (Code of Canon Law, 1917)
Day stated that “we of the Catholic Worker...want to make ‘the rich poor and the poor holy’” (CW November 1949)
“make the rich poor and the poor holy”, a sentiment she attributed to Eric Gill CW March-April 1967
Geoffrey Gneuhs made his statement in First Things, May 1998.
Michael Harrington is quoted in Voices from the Catholic Worker compiled by Rosalie Riegle Troester, Temple University Press, 1993 as follows:
"I arrived at the Worker shortly after Cardinal Spellman had sent McIntyre down to read the riot act. What was apparently bugging Spellman was that the paper was called the Catholic Worker. What he was angling for, and didn’t get, was for [Dorothy] to drop the word ‘Catholic’."
In the same book he quoted Day as having said:
“If our dear, sweet cardinal, who is the Vicar of Christ in New York City, told me to shut down the Catholic Worker, I would close it down immediately.”
Jim Forest made his statement in his book, Love is the Measure: A Biography of Dorothy Day, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 1994.
Ammon Hennacy, Day’s anarchist friend and assistant editor of CW, recalled:
"In February of 1960...while I was speaking in Chicago at the Catholic worker house...a phone call came from the Chancery office and a loud voice could be heard roaring that unless we took the name Catholic off our headquarters they would send the police and have the place closed up. It was a Monsignor who had evidently been angered at the complaints of Catholics who objected to our distributing anti-tax leaflets in front of the Federal Building...I told Dorothy about it later that day, and she said, “His bark is probably worse than his bite. We have had that sort of trouble before." (Ammon Hennacy, The Book of Ammon, first published 1964, reprinted by Fortkamp Publishing, Baltimore, 1994, p. 272)
A significant fact emerges from Hennacy’s interpretation of the reasons for the Chancery’s objections to the name “Catholic” as a designation for the movement: CWM supporters have always viewed their difficulties with the Church authorities from a class-based angle, seeing it as a conspiracy of bourgeois “conservative” Catholics pressuring the hierarchy to rein in the Catholic Workers, and of “imperialist” clergy conveying their displeasure to Day. What CWM supporters failed to appreciate was that in any enquiry into the legitimacy of an organization or publication bearing the title “Catholic”, the first principle which the hierarchy is bound to uphold is the prescriptions of Canon Law and other ecclesiastical laws. That is because these laws have been formulated with the objective of protecting the sacred mission of the Church against usurpers of its triple right to teach, rule and sanctify.
Day stated: “we have as much right to the name Catholic as the Catholic War Veterans have.” (CW December 1965)
Day threatened to hold a massive demonstration at St Patrick’s Cathedral (as she had done of previous occasions over union issues.) Michael Harrington, who had urged her to resist any orders from the hierarchy, reported:
"Dorothy was often asked what she would have done if the Cardinal had insisted that she close down the CW. She told Robert Coles she would have obeyed — but would have also invited the CW readership, some ninety thousand, to join her in a day of fasting and prayer at St Patrick’s Cathedral." (Michael Harrington, op. cit.)
Day described her co-founder, Peter Maurin, for instance, as one “crying out like a prophet” (CW November 1946) to make known his radical message for society and her anarchist fellow Worker, Ammon Hennacy, as “a John the Baptist calling attention to the urgency of the day.” (CW July-August 1958)
Referring to the ecumenical Third Hour group, Iswolsky stated that “Dorothy Day spoke at many of our meetings.” (Helene Iswolsky, No Time to Grieve; An autobiographical Journey from Russia to Paris to New York, Winchell Company, Philadelphia, 1985)
Day stated that the purpose of the group was to “work for peace between the Churches: Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, and, indeed, all Protestant groups.” (CW January 1976) She was prepared to promote a form of syncretism based on Gnostic beliefs:
"Father de Menasce, French Dominican, spoke at the Third Hour meeting last month...and said through the mystics of every faith, the Sufi of the Mohammedans, the guru of the Buddhists, the prophet of Israel and the saints of the Protestant and Catholic and Eastern Churches we would meet on a common ground in a stretching out of the soul to God." (CW April 1952)
Day affirmed that “the Catholic Worker crowd was always satisfied with ecumenism which meant learning from Hutterites, Doukobors, Indians, Mennonites, Amish, Brethren, as well as Quakers”. (CW May 1971)
Day spoke from the pulpit of a Methodist church in Mount Tabor, Portland. (CW May 1940)
In Love is the Measure, Jim Forest, a former editor of CW, relates how she took him to meetings of the Third Hour in Manhattan where Iswolsky (supposedly a convert to Catholicism) was promoting Russian Orthodoxy. (Forest later left Catholicism and converted to the Russian Orthodox Church.) He also records that Day introduced him to liturgies in New York’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral which she herself attended: “It was Dorothy who first took me into a Russian Orthodox Church, a cathedral in Upper Manhattan.” (‘Getting from Here to There’, in Toward the Authentic Church, ed. Thomas Doulis, Light and Life Books, Minneapolis, 1996)
This was repeated in Leningrad at the Monastery of St Alexander Nevsky (CW 1972)
An overall view of Day’s spirituality reveals that there was nothing either specifically or necessarily Catholic about her beliefs. It has been remarked that Catholic truth did not figure high on her agenda:
"when Dorothy Day became a Catholic in 1927, she was not attracted by the church’s orthodoxy, but by the fact that it was the religion of the masses." (Dan McKanan, The Catholic Worker after Dorothy Day: Practising the Works of Mercy in a New Generation, Liturgical Press, 2008, p. 182)
In order to propagate this notion of the Church as the “Brotherhood of Man”, Day took it upon herself to instruct her fellow Catholics as follows:
"We think of all men as our brothers then, as members of the Mystical Body of Christ." (CW January 1936)
She professed an “immanentist” view of man that clashes with orthodox Catholic doctrine:
"Catholics believe that man is the temple of the Holy Ghost, that he is made to the image and likeness of God. We believe that of Jew and Gentile. We believe that all men are members or potential members of the Mystical Body of Christ and since there is no time with God, we must so consider each man whether he is atheist, Jew or Christian." (Dorothy Day, From Union Square to Rome)
Day also stated:
"We believe that all people are brothers and sisters in the Fatherhood of God. This teaching, the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ, involves today the issue of unions (where people call each other brothers and sisters); it involves the racial question; it involves cooperatives, credit unions, crafts; it involves Houses of Hospitality and Farming Communes. It is with all these means that we can live as though we believed indeed that we are all members one of another, knowing that when “the health of one member suffers, the health of the whole body is lowered.”" (CW February 1940)
Everybody who ever existed would be part of the Mystical Body in Day’s estimation, an idea she had picked up from one of Fr Hugo's Retreats:
"The Mystical Body is the union of the human race through His redemptive will, from Adam to the last man." (Quoted in James Terence Fisher, The Catholic Counterculture in America, 1933-62 , p. 59)
This would, of course, include Communists:
"We are all members or potential members of the body of Christ, St. Augustine said. And since there is no time with God, this includes Chinese, Russians, Cubans and yes, even those who profess Marxism-Leninism." (CW July-august 1962)
Day attributed this false teaching to St Augustine:
"St. Augustine … wrote in The City of God, “All men are members or potential members of the Body of Christ.” "(CW October-November 1972)
St Thomas Aquinas taught:
“The sacrament of Baptism may be wanting to someone ... both in reality and in desire; as is the case with those who neither are baptized, nor wished to be baptized: which clearly indicates contempt of the sacrament, in regard to those who have the use of the free-will. Consequently those to whom Baptism is wanting thus, cannot obtain salvation: since neither sacramentally nor mentally are they incorporated in Christ, through Whom alone can salvation be obtained.”
Day was so confused about the “Mystical Body” that she went so far as to present Gandhi, a Hindu, as the epitome of Christianity:
" "Greater love than this no man hath – that a man lay down his life for his friends.” There is no public figure who has more conformed his life to the life of Jesus Christ than Gandhi, there is no man who has carried about him more consistently the aura of divinized humanity, who has added his sacrifice to the sacrifice of Christ, whose life has had a more fitting end than that of Gandhi...In him we have a new intercessor with Christ; a modern Francis, a pacifist martyr." ( CW Feb 1948)
Day stated: “I firmly believe that our salvation depends on the poor” (CW November 1949), and from her personal interpretation of Christ’s words: “He said that salvation is through the poor, when he told us, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.’ ” (CW July-August 1949)
This was the position of Leonardo Boff, one of the leading exponents of Liberation Theology, who gave his own liberal interpretation of Matthew 25:
"The gospel of Jesus is quite clear on this point: at the supreme moment of history, when our eternal salvation or damnation will be decided, what will count will be our attitude of acceptance or rejection of the poor...Only those who commune in his history with the poor and needy, who are Christ’s sacraments, will commune definitively with Christ." (L. and C Boff, Introducing Liberation Theology, Burns & Oates, Tunbridge Wells, 1987, p. 45)
Day stated: “The mystery of the poor is this: That they are Jesus, and what you do for them you do for Him.” (CW April 1964)
It was from Fr Michel that she inherited the idea that lay participants in the liturgy were “other Christs”, a radical notion that was carefully inserted into the Liturgical Movement and became a key factor in the prayer services performed at the Catholic Worker houses. Day claimed:
"Living the liturgical day as much as we are able, beginning with prime, using the missal, ending the day with compline and so going through the liturgical year we find that it is now not us, but Christ in us, who is working to combat injustice and oppression. We are on our way to becoming “other Christs”." (CW January 1936)
It was an astonishingly bold move on Day’s part to use the expression “other Christs” for members of the laity engaged in social reform, thus reducing Christ to one of many competing messiahs in a politically correct world. She must have been aware that the Church applied the consecrated term alter Christus (other Christ) to members of the ordained priesthood in order to highlight the sacrificial nature of the priest and his special intimacy with Christ. Therefore it is only priests who can legitimately take holy pride in being “other Christs” in the faithful performance of their ministry. Thus Day took what pertains to the true essence of the Catholic priesthood and applied it to herself and her confreres. It hardly needs to be said that it is not in order for lay Catholics to proclaim themselves “other Christs”. The virtue of humility guards against the assumption that “it is now not us, but Christ in us, who is working to combat injustice and oppression”. No Catholic, however externally devout and well intentioned, can have the comfortable certainty that all their actions are good in every particular without falling into the trap of pride and presumption.
Although there were various Managing Editors to carry the paper forward during Day’s absence, there is no doubt that its contents reflected entirely her personal world-view. She clarified the position thus: “The one realm in which I do have the last say, is the Catholic Worker itself. I do choose what is to be published and what is to be left out.” (CW May 1956)
On another occasion she stated:
"The chancellor of the archdiocese of New York asked me if I saw everything that went into the Catholic Worker, for which after all I am responsible as editor and publisher. I told him yes, and that is true with few exceptions, when the paper was printed during my absence, and the material coming in late was used at once, assuming my approval." (CW July-August 1962)
But Day, in her own right, was capable of delivering the most venomous darts of all, as when she stated: “Though she [the Church] is a harlot at times, she is our mother.” ( CW January 1967) Nothing could be more odious to Catholic sensibilities than to describe the Church as a harlot – this echoes the most heinous anti-Catholic bigotry of biblical fundamentalists who have designated the Catholic Church as the “great harlot” and the “Whore of Babylon”. Such an attribute denigrates the relationship between Christ and His Church which is traditionally represented as the immaculate bride of Christ who produces holy children for the heavenly Father. In his encyclical Mortalium Animos, Pope Pius XI, quoting the words of the 3rd-century martyr St Cyprian, had explained:
"The Bride of Christ cannot be made false to her Spouse: she is incorrupt and modest. She knows but one dwelling, she guards the sanctity of the nuptial chamber chastely and modestly."
Day’s statement is, at the very least, a profanity uttered in extremely bad taste. Some would go so far as to say that it smacks of blasphemy. To suggest that the Church has been at any time a harlot is to accuse Christ of having joined Himself to an unfaithful bride. Wherever members of the Church have fallen into sin – a situation which its divine Founder allows to exist even in the hierarchy – this cannot be attributed to the Church itself which is an incomparable teacher and model of holiness, but to the refusal of individual members to heed the Word of God. Nor is it a reason for lessening respect for the Church by making it a target for abuse and false accusations.
This had already been explained by Pope Pius XII: “And if at times there appears in the Church something that indicates the weakness of our human nature, it should not be attributed to her juridical constitution, but rather to that regrettable inclination to evil found in each individual, which its Divine Founder permits even at times in the most exalted members of His Mystical Body, for the purpose of testing the virtue of the shepherds no less than of the flocks, and that all may increase the merit of their Christian faith.” Mystici Corporis , 1943, # 66.
Day claimed in House of Hospitality that Catholic Worker policies were “indeed the downward path which leads to salvation.”
Day stated “In a time when we are living in an acquisitive society, Peter Maurin is THE POOR MAN”, Day commented ( CW May 1947)
This is Day’s assessment of Maurin:
"I am writing of a genius, a saint, an agitator, a writer, a lecturer, a poor man and a shabby tramp; all in one." ( CW October 1944)
The quotation about the “face of God” was taken from an early biography of Peter Maurin written by Day. See Dorothy Day and Francis J. Sicius, Peter Maurin Apostle to the World , Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 2004, p. xiv
Day stated that Maurin was the “St Francis of modern times.” ( CW June 1949)
The advice of St Ignatius was taken from his Spiritual Exercises, 12th Rule for Thinking with the Church.
Maurin’s article, ‘The Case for Utopia’, was published in CW April 1934.
Peter Maurin proposed “making immediately illegal all interest on money lent” in his Easy Essays , ‘Avoiding Inflation’.
"Isn’t there an element of greed in the desire to have, for instance, new linoleums, electric refrigerators, new radios, new cars?...Why not a little more of the Franciscan ideal of holy poverty? Why not a little more disdain of the unnecessaries of life?" ( CW October 1933)
That her opposition to “luxuries” was part of her class warfare mentality is obvious from her aim to “combat the bourgeois spirit by the Franciscan spirit.” ( CW January 1936)
Day conferred the title of “God’s fellow-worker” on Maurin in CW October 1944.
Day stated: “Peter is God’s fellow worker because when he prays, he is saying, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” and then he goes around trying to see to it that God’s will be done”. ( CW October 1944)
She invested him with the gift of interpreting God’s will for the people:
"How can he tell what is God’s will, many people may say. “What is God’s will?” And Peter, who never answers questions directly, will begin quoting some of his easy essays, as we have come to title them in The Catholic Worker." ( CW October 1944)
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn’s message was published in the New Masses , May 6, 1941.
Day’s remarks on Maurin, Marx and Nyerere were published in CW October 1970.
Day stated that Fr Hugo was “the priest who has influenced my thinking, my understanding of the spiritual life more than any other.” ( CW October-November 1975)
Fr Hugo described Fr Lacouture’s “illumination” experience as “a marvellous insight into the whole vista of the Christian life, as one sees an entire countryside in a flash of lightning.” (John J. Hugo, A Sign of Contradiction, Éditions Scivias, Quebec, 1999, p. 60)
Fr Hugo explained that Fr Lacouture had an “eminently practical way of conceiving religious doctrine.” This led him to disdain knowledge gleaned from “bookish” sources that appealed to the intellect as a “remote and abstract presentation of religious truth.” (ibid., p. 61)
An example of Fr Lacouture’s thinking on this subject was provided by one of the Catholic Workers, Julian Pleasants, who attended one of his retreats at Oakmont, Pennsylvania when Fr Hugo preached on meditation:
"It wasn’t meditation in the usual sense of contemplating something very abstract or spiritual. It was often just saying to myself, “How will I deal with what I have to do today?” “What would Jesus have done and what can be expected of somebody like me?”" (Quoted in Rosalie Riegle Troester, Voices from the Catholic Worker, Temple University Press, 1993, p. 127)
This was just another variation on the “See, judge, act” formula of the Young Christian Workers, the heirs to the Sillon who were encouraged to put “Social Justice” principles (as they saw them) into practice in the circumstances that confronted them. Fundamentally, it was a question of trusting one’s own subjective judgement over against the dogmatic side of Catholicism, thereby emancipating the faithful from the necessity of adhering to fixed, rigid doctrines handed down by the Church as part of divine Revelation. From there it is only a short step to civil anarchy, the rejection of all forms of power structures and particularly the sovereign integrity of nations. The point needs to be made that Fr Lacouture’s teaching was an echo of the Anabaptists’ view of Christianity involving the total separation of the religious from the political authorities, the Church from the State, which is the forerunner of Religious Liberty in the Modernist sense.
An example of his faulty theology was provided by Day herself who was influenced by him directly and also through Fr Hugo:
"Fr. Lacouture says: “If we cannot see Jesus in the poor man, we surely cannot see Him under the poverty-stricken veils of bread. The reason the world does not love the poor is because the world does not see Jesus in the poor - no faith. Faith is finding God where the senses do not see Him and where they are least able to see Him.” "(CW February 1947)
After Fr Lacouture had been forbidden by his Jesuit Provincial to conduct any more retreats, exiled and later suspended a divinis , Day took an overnight train to visit him in Ontario and assure him not only of her own support, but that of the CWM. ( CW February 1947) When he died, she wrote a long article in praise of his work. (CW December 1951)
Fr Hugo decided to “spend the rest of my days as a priest diffusing the magnificent vision of the Christian life that I had been contemplating during those glorious eight days.” (John Hugo, Your Ways are not My Ways, Vol. 1, 1986)
Fr Hugo attacked the priesthood in these terms:
"The chief concern of the priesthood, of the practical priesthood, is to “keep things going.” The things here referred to are the material elements of the Church. For this, money is necessary. And so the young priest is taught to raise money, and he soon learns that his value to a parish and his status among his fellow priests, as also among the better fed section of his parishioners, rests on his ability to learn this great art.
And now he learns: the “envelope system”, card parties, dances, bazaars, bingo, prizefights, raffles and in short every variety of easy-money device. These activities are promoted from the pulpit, originally intended for promoting the word of God; while the word of God is shortened or omitted, so that adequate attention can be given to the one thing necessary – money.
Here he is, the artificer of souls, the craftsman who alone can fashion the most precious of all works – here he is among his account books, his index cards, his money boxes, his raffle wheels, his gambling supplies. This mixture of penury, charlatanry and cunning is now euphemized as “pastoral theology.” And in it many priests spend their whole lives. Meanwhile what happens to the souls?" (John J. Hugo, A Sign of Contradiction, p. 47)
Fr Hugo’s remarks on birth control are quoted in Robert F. Baldwin, Weapons of the Spirit: Selected Writings of Father John Hugo, Our Sunday Visitor, 1997, p. 95.
Fr Hugo’s remarks on “bourgeois complacency and smugness” are quoted in Robert F. Baldwin, op. cit., p. 95.
Mgr Clifford Fenton, for many years a professor at the Catholic University of America and the Editor of the American Ecclesiastical Review, attended Vatican II as an advisor to Cardinal Ottaviani. He was an opponent of Modernism in all its forms, and is best known for his opposition to John Courtney Murray’s theories of Religious Liberty. Fr Connell was also Editor of the American Ecclesiastical Review and President of the Catholic Theological Society.
Fr Hugo’s reference to the “Powers of Darkness” comes from his book, A Sign of Contradiction, p. 26.
The Liturgical movement has meant everything to the Catholic Worker from its very beginning. We had our communion procession and even the altar facing the people, as far back as 1937. ( CW March 1966)
As a disciple of Dom Lambert Beauduin (whose ideas he transplanted on to American soil), he sowed the seeds of revolutionary reform which led eventually to Vatican II’s Constitution on the Liturgy. Beauduin was most interested in so-called ‘pastoral’ reforms to bring the liturgy into line with the spirit of the times and above all within reach of the active participation of the faithful. This was the theme of his book, Liturgy the Life of the Church, originally written in French and later translated by Dom Virgil Michel. It is known that Beauduin spearheaded new relations between Catholics and Orthodox in the ecumenical monastery of Chevetogne in Belgium that gave rise to the condemnation of such actions in Pius XI’s encyclical, Mortalium Animos (1928). So subtle was Beauduin’s plan for liturgical reform that it took decades to expose his harmful influence; let us not be deceived by Michel either: what goes for Beauduin goes for his disciple, Fr Michel.
Day co-operated in many ways with the spread of Michel’s ideas among American Catholics, with the objective that “their thinking will be influenced by the teachers who come from St. John’s.” (CW December 1935) See CW December 1935 and October 1953 for Day’s account of Michel’s connections with and influence on the CWM.
Following in the footsteps of his Benedictine master with whom he remained in close contact, Michel undertook an extensive though surreptitious commitment to ecumenism. Prevented by the American hierarchy from playing a public role in the nascent ecumenical movement, he nevertheless encouraged and co-ordinated various ecumenical efforts through correspondence, personal dialogue and the use of his magazine, Orate Fratres , to disseminate Beauduin’s innovative ideas. His biographer, Paul Marx, shows that Michel was “in contact with “High Church” and “liturgical movements” among various non-Catholic communions as well as with Anglican and Orthodox religious communities.” (Paul Marx, Virgil Michel and the Liturgical Movement, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1957, p. 381) Michel’s ideas in all these areas were so ‘progressive’ that they received high approbation from the Lutheran theologian, Ernest Koenker, who was pleased to see Catholic priests such as Frs Virgil Michel, Louis Bouyer and Martin Hellriegel viewing the liturgy from a Protestant perspective. (Ernest B. Koenker, The Liturgical Renaissance in the Roman Catholic Church, University of Chicago Press, 1954) It is not surprising, therefore, that the ideas for liturgical reform proposed initially by Benedictines Lambert Beauduin, Ildefons Herwegen and Odo Casel and later adopted by Michel were implemented at St John’s Anglican Church, Newcastle, UK, in the 1920s. (Paul F. Bradshaw, The New SCM Dictionary of Liturgy and Worship, SCM Press, 2002, p. 286)
In liturgical art and architecture, Michel’s influence was widely recognized as having had a significant impact on the design of “futuristic” churches that would characterize the coming decades. He favoured a radical redesigning of churches which should be both simple and functional so as to facilitate the activity of the congregation and reflect the unity of all humanity. To this end he collaborated with modernistic architects, such as his friend and colleague Fr Hans A. Reinhold, to produce models for future reforms. Michel published an article in his Orate Fratres magazine (14 July 1929, pp. 278-279) in 1929 by architect Maurice Lavanoux proposing the simplification of the sanctuary. In particular, he envisioned a new arrangement for the altar which should be free-standing, separated from its superstructure, so as to allow the celebration of the Dialogue Mass facing the people and the eventual introduction of the vernacular into the Roman rite. (Paul Marx, op. cit., p. 381) Michel was also associated with the Dialogue Mass and the Offertory Procession for the Catholic Workers at Maryfarm where it was regularly celebrated in a barn among the hay and pigs. (Testimony by Sr Ruth in Rosalie Riegle Troester, Voices from the Catholic Worker, Temple University Press, 1993, p. 23 who recollects that Dom Virgil Michel would come for the Dialogue Mass in the barn.) Even after his death, Michel’s influence on liturgical art and architecture lived on. The internationally acclaimed architect, Marcel Breuer, designed the new St John’s Abbey in 1958, working “with the modernist aesthetic to produce liturgical environments inspired by Michel.” (Peter W. Williams, Perspectives on American Religion and Culture, Blackwells, Oxford and Malden, Mass., 1999, p. 400)
For Michel’s Marxist views on the class struggle see Virgil Michel, Christian Social Reconstruction, Bruce, Milwaukee, p. 13 and ‘The Labour Movement’, Commonweal, 3 June 1938.
That is the key to understanding why Michel became a friend and co-worker of Day and contributed regular articles to CW – they shared a kindred spirit. It throws light, too, on the real meaning behind Michel’s novel idea of the liturgy being the “Mystical Body of Christ.” His notion of maximum lay participation in the liturgy, linked to specific forms of social action, was an implicit attempt to democratize and equalize the relationship between the clergy and the laity – it shifted the emphasis away from the unique role of the priest as alter Christus to the collective action of the laity as “other Christs.” We will recall that this was the position adopted by Day and the Catholic Workers.
It also explains the demise of traditional Catholic devotions such as novenas which had sustained Catholics in their faith in a personal way – these did not promote the goals of the Liturgical Movement envisioned by Michel and his followers (i.e. social activism through liturgical participation), consequently they were considered not to be “liturgical” and were marginalized. If anyone were wondering why popular devotions which had nourished the faith of many generations of Catholics were phased out, it was because of the emphasis on the “collective” rather than the individual which Michel introduced into the Liturgical Movement. He had managed to convince himself that the faithful had for centuries been deprived of a proper understanding of their role as active participants in the Mass so that they developed a selfish and “individualistic” pursuit of personal piety to the detriment of the communitarian aspects of the liturgy.
But, as Pius XII pointed out in Mediator Dei , the accent in the liturgical revival should be placed where it rightly belongs, within the minds and hearts of the faithful more than in external actions. “The chief element of divine worship,” he stated, “must be interior.” It is the individual who prays, the individual who meets Christ and the individual who receives grace.
It has been claimed by some traditionalists that Michel’s ideas were in themselves well conceived but that they had been perverted by those who took over the liturgical reforms after his death. But this idea is disproved by the fact that it was not just his successors who were responsible for changes in the liturgy. There was the formative influence of his Benedictine confreres (Beauduin in Belgium, Ildefons Herwegen and Odo Casel in Germany) and the active assistance of his contemporaries (Frs William Busch, Gerald Ellard S.J., Reynold Hillenbrand and Martin Hellriegel) who formed a united front and helped Michel launch the Liturgical Movement in 1925:
There is no question as to his influence in shaping the direction of the movement, and even more importantly, in laying the foundations for the liturgical renewal…there were others, even before Michel, who endeavoured to bring about the same change. (Keith F. Pecklers S.J., The Unread Vision: the Liturgical Movement in the USA, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1998, p. 26)
When Fr Reinhold visited St John’s Abbey, Minnesota, in 1938, the year of Fr Michel’s death, he found that already “the monks shared my liberal economic and political views” and he confirmed that “we were all of one mind on liturgical reform.” (Hans Reinhold, H.A.R., The Autobiography of Father Reinhold, Herder and Herder, New York, 1968, p. 124)
Politics, then, for the reformers, fitted into liturgy like a hand in a glove. Michel and his contemporaries gave a single, coherent message for the reform of the liturgy and Church architecture. The connection between Michel’s proposed reforms and those of Vatican II which revolutionized the Church’s liturgy and architectural heritage is incontrovertible.
Nothing could illustrate Michel’s influence on Day more clearly than her address to the Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia on 6 August 1976. The principal theme of the Congress – Jesus the Bread of Life for a Hungering World – had an obviously equivocal message that could be, and was, exploited by those who rejected the Church’s clearly defined meaning for the Eucharist. Whereas the aim of previous Eucharistic Congresses was to foster devotion to the Eucharist and honour Christ’s presence in the Sacred Species, the emphasis here was on the people – their active participation in the liturgy, their giving bread to one another and ensuring the “proper distribution of property.” (See James O’Toole, Habits of Devotion, Cornell University Press, 2005, p. 232) What role there would be for the priest in a self-feeding community is, of course, questionable.
Day fitted well into this naturalistic setting. In her speech to the Congress, she referred to the Catholic Workers’ bread lines for feeding the poor as “a eucharistic celebration of sorts.” (Quoted in James O’Toole, op. cit., p. 233-4) Virgil Michel’s innovative idea of conflating the liturgy with social work into one big “celebration” had evidently borne false fruits: the activity of the people both in and out of the liturgy took on sacramental status, while the real meaning of the Blessed Sacrament was ignored. Thus Day not only intensified the already existing confusion over the Real Presence but also devalued what was the prime duty of the liturgy – the adoration of God.
Day recorded that Mgr Hellriegel’ chapel was already the “liturgical centre of America.” (CW June 1937)
Mgr Hellriegel’s fame in the Liturgical Movement was due to his position as an innovator. Having been influenced by his visits to the monastery of Maria Laach (the home of liturgical experimentation in Germany), Fr Hellriegel took the bold and innovative step of introducing novelties into the liturgy when he was chaplain to the convent of the Most Precious Blood in O’Fallon, Missouri. These included the Dialogue Mass facing the people as early as 1922. (See Kathleen Hughes, The Monk’s Tale: A Biography of Godfrey Diekman O.S.B Liturgical Press, 1990, p. 144, note 12) The first public Dialogue Mass facing the people was celebrated by Abbot Ildefons Herwegen in the crypt of Maria Laach in 1921. He then teamed up with Frs Virgil Michel and Gerald Ellard S.J. in 1926 to produce Orate Fratres, a magazine of liturgical reform that would spread their innovative ideas throughout the USA. It is noteworthy that Fr Hellriegel was a close collaborator with Fr Michel who in turn shared the same goals as Fr Ellard.
Day co-operated in many ways with the efforts of all three, seeing in the Liturgical Movement an opportunity to link her political agenda with that of the liturgical reformers and gain some sort of ecclesiastical backing. In 1935 she sent one of her Catholic Workers, Adé Bethune, to study the new ideas on the liturgy under Gerald Ellard at his Summer School of Catholic Action held in New York. And she supported St Benet’s Bookstore in Chicago, managed by her fellow Catholic Worker, Nina Polcyn Moore from 1943, which was a centre of information on liturgical reform linked with the “new theology” and “Social Justice” issues.
The high point in Fr Hellriegel’s career came in 1940 when he was appointed to the parish of Holy Cross in St Louis and achieved what no other priest had achieved in the USA – the application of liturgical reform at parish level. (Hitherto, liturgical experimentation had been confined to certain monasteries and pioneering groups of students, workers and immigrants.) In fact, he turned his parish of the Holy Cross into an international showcase attracting thousands of admiring visitors from among the “progressives” and drawing much criticism from the traditionalists in the St Louis Diocese. First he introduced the Mass in German for his parishioners. Then he built up a thriving schola cantorum to sing a variety of hymns during Mass, including Gregorian Chant. But the rationale behind the choir (which he moved from the choir loft to the altar) was to accustom the congregation to singing at Mass, as a first step towards greater participation of the laity in various liturgical roles. During one of her visits to Holy Cross, Day wrote admiringly about the liturgy, noting with enthusiasm that “the whole congregation sings the Mass” and that there was “a reading of the epistle and gospel every day by one of the boys of the eighth grade.” (CW February 1948)
Mgr Hellriegel gave his views on the position of the choir: “I am afraid that the “loft”, “born out of due season”, is not too conductive either to the spiritual life of singers or to the promotion of congregational singing. The choir should have its place between altar and congregation, to bring the two together: not up in the loft.” (Martin Hellriegel, ‘Active Participation’, Caecilia, January-February 1956) (Caecilia, published in O’Fallon, Missouri, was a journal of Church music whose editor was Dom Ermin Vitry OSB.)
He was in favour of the “Offertory Procession”: “Part of the celebration is an offering for the poor which the children, all of them, the first graders included, make at the offertory of the Mass. Near the altar we erect two large tables, covered with linen and burning candles, on which the gifts are deposited. Every child offers something: some bring fruit or preserves, others canned food, and the poorer ones perhaps a potato or two.” (Martin Hellriegel, Orate Fratres, vol. 16, November 30, 1941)
With regard to ecumenical input into the liturgy, the late Fr Richard John Neuhaus, a former Lutheran pastor, Editor of First Things, said that he was attracted to the liturgy at Holy Cross for ecumenical reasons: “in the latter part of the 1950s, we Lutherans from Concordia Seminary would hang out at Holy Cross, in the hope of catching a glimpse of what might be, of what should be, of what could be.” (Fr Richard John Neuhaus, Antiphon, 6, 2001, p. 2) He later confirmed that his hopes had been satisfied “under the auspices of the sainted Monsignor Martin Hellriegel.” (Fr Richard John Neuhaus, First Things, October, 1997)
Another former seminarian from Concordia Seminary in St Louis, Ernest Beck, who also wanted to become a Catholic priest, was urged by Mgr Hellriegel to seek ordination from a German bishop after the American hierarchy had turned him down because he was already married. (See Joseph Fichter, The Pastoral Provisions: Married Catholic Priests, Sheed and Ward, Kansas City, 1989, p. 69) Time magazine of 10 July 1964 reports that the ordination took place in Mainz with the consent of Bishop Hermann Volk who assigned him a rural parish. But the inevitable outcome followed: from the very beginning of his ministry, there was gossip and scandal among the villagers of Altötting on account of a married pastor, much to the annoyance of the Bishop. (See Margaret Lavinia Anderson, ‘Piety and Politics: Recent Work on German Catholicism’, The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 63, No. 4, December 1991, pp. 681-716)
Fr Reinhold looked to Protestantism as justification for his rejection of Canon Law: “The Protestant canonist Rudolph Sohm used to say that canon law was the downfall of Christianity and the dominating force in the Catholic Church. She was the Church of canon lawyers, he would say, while the Church of grace was Lutheranism.” (H.A.R., The Autobiography of Father Reinhold, Herder and Herder, New York, 1968, p. 54) (It is noteworthy that Rudolph Sohm believed that it was impossible to bring together an ecclesiastical law of order and the Church of Christ.)
Fr Reinhold’s difficulties with local bishops are mentioned in Linda Kulzer and Roberta Bondi (eds.), Benedict in the World: Portraits of Monastic Oblates, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 2004.
In his autobiography (op. cit., p. 57), Fr Reinhold traces his early attempts at liturgical experimentation, first as a disciple of Dom Odo Casel in a Benedictine abbey and then as a parish curate in Niendorf where he introduced the Dialogue Mass and the Offertory procession as early as 1926. On other occasions he celebrated Mass on a kitchen table, facing the people.
Day welcomed him to the Catholic Worker in New York. (See Keith F. Pecklers, The Unread Vision. The Liturgical Movement in the United States of America: 1926-55, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1998, p. 138)
Day recalled how he was summoned to the Chancery and threatened with expulsion from the diocese for rallying support among the seamen in the 1936 East Coast Maritime strike, and forbidden to speak in public. (CW March 1968) This is confirmed by Fr Reinhold himself in his autobiography (op. cit., pp. 105-7)
It is entirely consistent with Fr Reinhold’s Socialist views that he supported the worker-priest experiment in France. (See H.A. Reinhold, Commonweal, vol. 65, No. 22, March 1957)
Day commended him as “a truly great man, to be loved gratefully by all the laity because of his work for their participation in the work of worship.” (CW September 1954)
Mgr Hillenbrand wrote a glowing recommendation for Day’s 1939 book House of Hospitality for Commonweal. (See Dorothy Day, Patrick Jordan, Dorothy Day: writings from Commonweal, Liturgical Press, 2002, p. xiii)
Day included herself as an “ardent supporter of the vernacular movement.” (CW March 1966)
The radical nature of Hillenbrand’s theology can be assessed in the words of his most famous disciple and protégé, Mgr John Egan, taken from the latter’s biography:
From Monsignor Hillenbrand Jack [Mgr Egan] had learned that his role as priest was to be servant, servant of the servants of God. “The lay people were central. They were truly the Church, so that the hierarchical model of the Church – the Pope, the bishops, the pastors, the lay people – was not only outmoded: that mode was irrelevant to the work of the Church in the world.” (Margery Frisbie, An Alley in Chicago, The Ministry of a City Priest, Sheed & Ward, Kansas City, 1991, Ch. 6)
Day recorded with evident satisfaction that, at a meeting of the Women of the Grail which she attended, Hillenbrand gave the opening speech and “emphasized the priesthood of the laity.” (CW October 1943
Day commented favourably on the reforms that Fr Hovda introduced into the Mass, particularly the vernacular. (CW February 1955)
This is what Fr Hovda thought about the Mass:
"The great identification with Jesus Christ and with the priesthood of Jesus Christ is again, now, baptism and not holy orders. So the entire assembly is the primary minister in liturgy, and the variety of specialized ministries, which we are in the process of rediscovering again in our life as Church, are all in the service of the assembly, dependent in many ways on that assembly. Sacraments are no longer things that the priest brings to the rest of us but rather symbolic actions that we all do together. We need offices of ministry for the doing of them, to be sure, but they are our common action, with the different roles that a liturgical assembly requires." (Gabe Huck, ‘A Tree Planted in a Stream’ in James Francis Darsey, Toward Ritual Transformation: Remembering Robert W. Hovda, Liturgical Press, 2003, p. 21)
Looking back over her life, Day considered Fr Hovda as one of her “old friends”: he used to visit her over the years and she was prepared to accept his spiritual guidance on biblical matters. (CW June 1978)
Michael Davies’s comments are found in Liturgical Revolution, vol. 3, [Pope Paul’s New Mass, Angelus Press, Kansas, 1992.
She was in fact a self-confessed devotee of the modern liturgy: “I do love the guitar Masses, and the Masses where the recorder and the flute are played.” (CW May 1967) These she called “the intimate Masses, the colloquial Masses, the folk-song Masses, and so-on…where everyone gathers close around the altar inside the sanctuary, as close to the priest as possible.” She even welcomed the “house-Masses”, a recent innovation that was beginning to become popular in the post-Vatican II Church, but then she had been hosting them at the Catholic Worker since the early days of the movement.
A CWM member, Brian Terrell, wrote:
"During my first years in New York, we had a dining room Mass every Monday night. Right there on that metal table. And we were within ten minutes’ walk of probably thirty Masses with silver goblets. Some priests would use the missal, some wouldn’t. [Dan] Berrigan would come sometimes and he’d never wear vestments, but Dorothy wouldn’t be upset." (Quoted in Rosalie Riegle Troester, Voices from the Catholic Worker, Temple University Press, 1993, pp. 80-81)
On at least one occasion, a coffee cup was used for the Consecration. The story goes that Day later buried the cup to prevent its reuse for mundane purposes. But in the prevailing anarchy of the Catholic Worker, she could not guarantee that a similar incident would not happen again. Besides, she seemed to accept with equanimity the various liturgical abuses that went on around her provided they were enacted by her friends.
In his book, Living Buddha, Living Christ, the Buddhist peace activist, Thich Nhat Hahn, recalls his experience of sharing the Eucharist with Fr Daniel Berrigan. In Part 1 of the book, the monk described the Eucharist as one ingredient in a “delicious fruit salad” of many religions.
Fr Berrigan was radicalized by his experiences with the French worker-priests and influenced by liberal theologians to the point where he found himself in bitter opposition to the Church:
"I saw this worker-priest movement, which I so admired, squashed before my very eyes. In 1954, our icebox pope, Pius XII, had the movement dissolved in one swift stroke. Four years before, he had issued the shameful document, ‘Humani Generis’, which was directed against some of the great French theologians who had nourished me for years – Teilhard de Chardin, Yves Congar, Henri de Lubac. I saw at close hand intellectual excellence crushed in a wave of orthodoxy, like a big Stalinist purge. It hit me directly, it made me suffer deeply, it filled me with determination to carry on the work of the men who had been silenced." (Fr Daniel Berrigan, quoted in Francine du Plessix Gray, ‘Acts of Witness’, The New Yorker, 14 March, 1970)
Particularly disturbing is Fr Berrigan’s excoriation of Pope Pius XII for having issued a document to preserve the purity of the Catholic faith. Jesuits were traditionally known as “foot soldiers of the Pope”– they took an oath of special fealty to the Roman Pontiff – and for one of their sons to criticize a Pope publicly was a serious betrayal of their Order’s mission. Fr Berrigan’s statement reflects his desire for liberation from ecclesiastical control, and was part of the revolt against a clergy-dominated Church which characterized certain Modernists of the time.
It is only against the background of this war against the hierarchy that Fr Berrigan’s clerical life and political activities can be understood: the freedom of conscience that he so earnestly claimed and his recasting of the Church’s liturgy were a clear message that, in his opinion, the hierarchy of the Church was a form of “imperialism” and an unjust imposition on the faithful.
The account of Fr Berrigan’s religious service at the Catholic Worker can be found in Francine du Plessix Gray, op. cit.
"Liturgy and sociology go together, and one cannot read an epistle or Gospel telling of the love of brother which is the fulfilling of the law and our first obligation (owe no man anything save to love one another, for love is the fulfilling of the law) and of the feeding of our enemy as a way to peace, without condemning the economy under which we live, a war economy."(CW February 1955)
Fr Sturzo always operated independently of the hierarchy. In 1919 he founded his own political party, the Italian Popular Party or Partito Popolare Italiano (PPI), without seeking permission from the Vatican (which in any case wanted to remain politically neutral), and became its General Secretary, operating outside of Vatican control – perhaps that is what Day was referring to when she stated admiringly that he “led by example rather than by law” ( CW February 1954). But, unlike Day, at least he agreed not to dignify his party with the title “Catholic”
Fr Sturzo published his article entitled ‘My Political Vocation: What Drew an Italian Priest to Politics?’ in Commonweal, vol. 34, no. 23, September 26 1941, pp. 537-540.
The story goes that it was Pope Benedict XV who appointed him, but that is an assumption made by the Press which put about the rumour that the PPI had been formed “under Vatican orders” and that Fr Sturzo was the “official spokesman for the Vatican.” (New York Times, 1 May 1922) But the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Gasparri, claimed that Fr Sturzo’s party was an initiative that emerged as a result of “spontaneous generation”, without any political intervention from the Holy See.(See Hubert Jedin, Wolfgang Müller, John Dolan, History of the Church, 10 vols., vol. 10, New York, 1979, p. 574)
Fr Sturzo’s “political vocation” was a whirlwind of activities, according to his own testimony: “In 1899, I was appointed Municipal Councillor of my town, later Provincial Councillor, governmental authority of Caltagirone; and immediately afterwards, Mayor. For twenty years I was also National Councillor, and Vice President of the Italian Communes; and during the same time, often a member of national governmental commissions. I did not, however, drop Catholic and Social Action. In fact, I was appointed a life member of the General Council of the Catholic Economic Union, elected a member of the Executive Committee of the National Catholic Electoral Union, and General Secretary of Catholic Action. It is difficult for me to remember how many appointments I had in my thirty years of public life in Italy.” (Walter Romig (ed.), Book of Catholic Authors: Informal self-portraits of famous modern Catholic writers, Walter Romig and Co., Detroit, 1942, p. 252)
Day’s support for Fr Sturzo’s agenda gives the lie to her claim for “non-violent revolution.” In justification of Fr Sturzo, she expressed the view that “Father Sturzo did far more to combat Communism in Italy (by doing away with the reasons for it) than Mussolini, who later reaped the credit where Father Sturzo had sown.” (She expressed this opinion in House of Hospitality). The efforts of Fr Sturzo and his Party members to co-operate with the large and powerful Socialist Party earned for them the epithet “White Bolsheviks”, a term applied to the Catholic Left in Italy during the two ‘red years’ of 1919-20. (See John M. Foot, ‘White Bolsheviks?’ The Catholic Left and the Socialists in Italy 1919-20’, The Historical Journal, vol. 40, no. 2, Cambridge University Press, 1997, pp. 415-433)
In 1935 the CW , began publishing a series of articles on Fascism. Of particular interest is Day’s denunciation of Franco as an authoritarian figure because he was opposed to Religious Liberty.
Fr Sturzo expressed his opinions on the Spanish Civil War in his book, Church and State, New York, 1939, pp. 511-12.
While in exile, Fr Sturzo continued his “political vocation” by rallying young people to his cause, first in London and later in the USA. In London he founded the People and Freedom Group in 1936. (See See Giovanna Farrell-Vinay, ‘The London exile of Don Luigi Sturzo (1924-1940)’ in The Heythrop Journal, Vol. 45, Issue 2, April 2004, p. 158) It is not to Fr Sturzo’s credit that he appointed as Chairman Virginia Crawford, an arch-feminist and errant wife whose high-profile divorce had earlier given rise to a national scandal. (In a court hearing of 1885 Mrs Crawford, a Catholic, admitted adultery with Sir Charles Dilke, MP, heir-apparent to Gladstone, the Prime Minister)
The association’s aim was to educate young people about Christian Democracy (Sturzo-style), and the first course of action its members took was to launch a public campaign against Franco’s involvement in the Spanish Civil War, slander his name as a Fascist and try to prevent him from gaining control of the country.
Here we must note the incongruity of Fr Sturzo’s stance within the Catholic community of London and indeed throughout the country. It has been shown from reports in the major weekly Catholic newspapers of the time that British Catholic responses to the events of the Spanish Civil War were generally favourable to the Nationalist cause. (See Frederick Hale, ‘Fighting over the Fight in Spain: The Pro-Franco Campaign of Bishop Peter Amigo of Southwark’, The Catholic Historical Review, vol. 91, no. 3, July 2005, p. 468) While Fr Sturzo was conducting his anti-Franco campaign in London, Cardinal Arthur Hinsley, Archbishop of Westminster, and his fellow bishops in London were speaking out in support of Franco. On 16 August 1936, Bishop Peter Amigo addressing a congregation of over 1,000 from the pulpit of St George’s Cathedral, Southwark, reflected the generally accepted Catholic attitude when he explained that Franco’s forces were fighting a holy war against Russian-inspired Communism and that they were in reality “fighting for the Church of God.” (Frederick Hale, op. cit., pp. 472-473)
Yet Sturzo refused to see the Spanish Civil War as incorporating a legitimate defence of the Catholic Church. He was surrounded during his London sojourn by a number of like-minded Catholics who objected particularly to the Catholic hierarchy’s warnings about the “Red menace”. It is of the utmost significance that the only reported anti-Franco protests from Catholics in England came from those with a distinctly anti-clerical and Socialist turn of mind: what was uppermost in their minds was neither the Catholic faith nor the rights of the Church, but the desire to attack the privileges of the clergy and the secular landowners, and to promote the demands of various Pacifist, anti-imperialist and feminist groups.
When Fr Sturzo went to the USA, Day recounts how he supported the CWM financially and also by contributing articles to CW ( CW September 1959), and how he resumed contact with his old friend, Fr H A Reinhold. (CW March 1968)
It is significant that in spite of all the evidence against Fr Sturzo being a truly Catholic leader acting according to the mind of the Church, Day was prepared to recommend him as a model for other priests and for the faithful: “we need to study such a teacher as Don Luigi Sturzo who held political office and founded a party which worked towards credit unions, co-operatives, labor unions, land for the people.” (CW February 1954) She was still publicizing his thought on the Spanish Civil War, conscience and the State in 1970 during her lecture tour of Australia. (See Val Noone, Disturbing the War: Melbourne Catholics and Vietnam Spectrum, Melbourne, 1993, p 283) Her highest accolade was written in these terms:
"I hope there will be a shrine to him in the little village in Sicily where he started working for the poor, and that biographies will be written. To read of such men arouses courage in others." (CW September 1959)
It is evident that for Day the demands of Socialism took precedence over the good of the Church.
Day described the St Joseph’s House of Hospitality as “a branch of the Catholic Worker Movement” (CW June 1944)
Fr Rice was a regular columnist for The Pittsburgh Catholic and aired a weekly radio programme from 1937-1969.
John Cort’s remarks about Fr Rice supporting the Communist TWU leader, Mike Quill, can be found in his book, Dreadful Conversions: The Making of a Catholic Socialist, Fordham University Press, 2003, p. 145. Cort’s testimony is confirmed in the historical records of the TWU by Joshua B. Freeman, In Transit: the Transport Workers Union in New York City, 1933-1966, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 2001, p. 149.
The reference to Fr Rice’s complicity in ACLU demands is found in Kenneth J. Heineman, ‘Model City: the War of Poverty, Race Relations, Catholic Social Activism in 1960s Pittsburgh’, The Historian, 22 June 2003.
Fr Rice’s replacement of Catholic staff at Holy Rosary School is mentioned in several publications, including one of his own: Charles Owen Rice, ‘The Lady Poverty’, Pittsburgh Catholic, 22 December 1966; Lou Florian, ‘Msgr. Rice Is Tackling Problems in New Distressed Area Parish with Usual Zeal’, Washington (Pennsylvania) Observer, 14 March 1966; Roy Lubove, Twentieth-Century Pittsburgh: Government, Business, and Environmental Change, New York, 1969, pp. 166-67
Information on the cache of dynamite in the grounds of Holy Rosary Church is provided in Patrick J. McGeever, Rev. Charles Owen Rice: Apostle of Contradiction , Pittsburgh, 1989, pp. 178-79.
Day claimed Fr Rice as “our own dear friend.” (CW May 1967)
Fr Rice ran for election to the Pittsburgh City Council in 1971. (See Charles J. McCollester (ed.), Fighter with a heart, writings of Charles Owen Rice, Pittsburgh labour priest, University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA., 1996).
The Berrigan brothers called Day their “mother and teacher.” (Nancy Roberts, Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker, State University of New York Press, 1984, p. 165)
According to Day, Frs Philip and Daniel Berrigan were heroes of the people, “victim souls whom God is using for his purpose to bring about changes in his Church.” (CW May 1974)
In 1968, both Berrigan brothers had issued a public statement denigrating, among other organizations, the Catholic Church as an oppressive, racist and war-mongering body:
"We confront the Catholic Church, other Christian bodies and the synagogues of America with their silence and cowardice in the face of our country’s crimes. We are convinced that the religious bureaucracy in this country is racist, is an accomplice in this war and is hostile to the poor."
In an interview with Robert Coles in 1971(‘A Dialogue With Radical Priest Daniel Berrigan’, Time, 22 March 1971), Fr Daniel Berrigan stated: “I never expect decent activity from great power, whether it be church power or state power,” and further concluded that these institutions are not fit to exercise their authority. It is highly significant that when asked in the same interview who does have decision-making authority in society, he answered “We do”, meaning the ensemble of radical dissenters who are prepared to suffer for their convictions. Among these self-elected inhabitants of the moral high ground , Day held a prominent place in Fr Berrigan’s estimation, as we see from the Introduction which he wrote to the 1981 edition of her book, The Long Loneliness.
Day’s public support for the Berrigan brothers at the St Ignatius church rally was recorded in Robert Hariman (Ed.), Popular Trials: Rhetoric, Mass Media and the Law, University of Alabama Press, p. 173.The evidence indicates that the rally had been orchestrated by Fr Daniel Berrigan in order to further political rather than religious objectives. In the first place, St Ignatius was a Jesuit Church (run by the same order to which Fr Berrigan belonged) which had succumbed to the Vatican II era of radicalized priests engaged in social and political matters. This is clear from the speakers with whom Day shared a platform. There was the internationally-known figure, Noam Chomsky, a self-confessed anarcho-Socialist and leading spokesman for anti-American sentiment. Fellow-travellers evidently recognized a kindred spirit in Fr Berrigan, for he was granted the Chomsky Award in 2002, a distinction conferred on those who, in the words of its selection committee, display the “qualities which have characterized Noam Chomsky's life and work.” There was the Rev. James Pike, Episcopal Bishop of California, friend and associate of William Stringfellow, a Protestant theologian who was known for the grass-roots political character of his theology. Stringfellow was a strident critic of the social, military and economic policies of the US, and later harboured Fr Berrigan when the latter was a fugitive from the law. And there was Dr Harvey Cox, a Protestant Liberation Theology Professor at the Harvard Divinity School who was on the National Committee of CALCAV (Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam), an ecumenical organization founded by Daniel Berrigan.
An interesting anomaly arises from Day’s support of the Berrigans’ activism for which they were found guilty and sentenced to prison. As a follower of Gandhi, Day was out of step with his philosophy: he eschewed property destruction and did not regard it as nonviolence. In the face of criticism from the public over this issue, she realized that this was a third rail that she must avoid, so she quickly changed her mind and put it about that property destruction was “not the Catholic Worker way.” But it was an about-face which was hardly convincing in view of her passionately held views which she expressed during and after the Berrigans’ trial.
Day’s speech at the Catholic Worker in support of the Berrigans was an implicit encouragement to break the law:
"I would like every one of you to meditate the acts of witness given by Fathers Daniel and Philip Berrigan and the rest of the Catonsville Nine – on the witness offered by Tom Cornell [who had departed for jail the previous day], David Miller [the first American to publicly burn his draft card] and many of our other Catholic Workers. There is only one way to end this insane war. Pack the jails with our men!" (Francine du Plessix Gray, ‘Acts of Witness’, The New Yorker, 14 March, 1970)
Hoffa’s ties to organized crime were recorded in Thaddeus Russell, Out of the Jungle: Jimmy Hoffa and the Remaking of the American Working Class, Temple University Press, 2003.
Hoffa’s generosity to Fr Kern and Fr Kern’s celebration were recorded in Arthur A. Sloane, Hoffa, MIT Press, 1991, p. 70.
Day mentioned that Fr Kern gave her a Ford car for her use. ( CW January 1961)
Details of the activities of the “Ecclesiastical Shakedown Society” were given in Time, 16 May 1960.
Details of Fr Kern’s picketing outside the Playboy Club were given in Leslie Woodcock Tentler, Seasons of Grace: A History of the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit, Wayne State University Press, 1995, p. 394. Being from Detroit, Dr Tentler has childhood memories of Fr Kern who was considered a local hero. The information for her research on Fr Kern came from the Archives of the Diocese of Detroit, including the Cardinal Mooney papers. She also interviewed the late Justine Murphy whose husband founded the Detroit Catholic Worker House and worked closely with Fr Kern.
There is the testimony of a Detroit resident who stated: “Detroiters still recall with a smile the newsphoto of Monsignor Kern marching with the Bunnies who were picketing the Playboy Club” in Javan Kienzle, Judged by Love: A Biography of William X Kienzle, Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2004, p. 102.
Myra Wofgang’s Communist activities are recorded in Dorothy Sue Cobble, ‘Lost Visions of Equality: The Labour Origins of the Next Women’s Movement’, Labour’s Heritage, vol. 12, Winter/Spring, 2003, pp. 6-24.
Fr Kern’s support for Brian McNaught and his march down Madison Avenue are recorded in Jay McNally, ‘A Controversial Founding’, Catholic World Report, December 1996. It is also reported that Auxiliary Bishop Gumbleton and Mgr Joseph Imesch (later the bishop of Joliet, Illinois) issued a public statement supporting Dignity’s goals and that, ever since Fr Kern’s public display of solidarity, Dignity Detroit continues to operate quite openly from Most Holy Trinity parish.
Mgr Egan’s career drew the Archdiocese of Chicago into local and national politics. He directed the Archdiocese Office of Urban Affairs from 1958 to 1969. He was national chaplain for Women Young Christian Workers, and directed the marriage preparation course, the Cana Conference, from 1947 to 1957. He served as a board member for Saul Alinsky’s Industrial Workers Foundation. He organized for trade unions and supported the Civil Rights Movement, marching with Martin Luther King in Selma in 1965. He was a founding member of the National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice. He worked at Notre Dame University between 1970 and 1983 and returned to Chicago to become the director of Human Relations and Ecumenism for the Archdiocese. In 1976 he facilitated the establishment of the Call to Action Conference in Detroit. In 1987 he directed the Community Affairs Office.
Mgr Egan invited both both Day and Saul Alinsky to a meal at which they were guests of honour as “two great advocates of the poor”. (See Margery Frisbie, An Alley in Chicago: the Ministry of a City Priest, Introduction by Fr Theodore Hesburgh, Sheed and Ward, Kansas City,1991, Chapter 16)
In 1957 Alinsky personally trained Egan, at Archdiocesan expense, as his first priest-intern in community organizing. (See Lawrence J. Engel, ‘The Influence of Saul Alinsky on the Campaign for Human Development’, Theological Studies, Vol. 59, December 1998, p. 646)
It was common knowledge that Alinsky’s organizing was the “centrepiece of Egan’s urban strategy.” (See Steven M. Avella, This Confident Church: Catholic Leadership and Life in Chicago, 1940-1965, University of Notre Dame, 1992, p.238)
Egan accessed Archdiocesan funds for Alinsky’s urban renewal programmes in the 1960s, and in 1957 alone he funneled $118,800 from the Archdiocesan funds for IAF activities within the Catholic Church. (See Margery Frisbie, op. cit., Chapter 8)
On Day’s release from prison in 1973, Mgr Egan enthused:
"I met Dorothy outside the jail and we sat under a tree nearby. We talked about everything Dorothy wanted to talk about. I just listened. I was so deeply impressed with that woman, her convictions, her love for the poor, her stand on the war, her stand for unions. Her passion for justice is something I’ll never forget. I’ll never forget sitting under that tree with her." (See Tim Townsend, ‘The Reluctant Saint; Will The Movement To Canonize Social Activist Dorothy Day Overshadow The Movement She Founded?’ Chicago Tribune, 26 December 1999)
Day must have known about Egan’s reputation as an icon of liberalism. As dissident theologian, Fr Richard McBrien (another Catholic enfant terrible who had troubles with Church authority) put it, Egan was “a pioneer in the marriage and family apostolate, a pioneer in the urban ministry apostolate, a pioneer in the lay apostolate, a pioneer in the building of priests’ associations, a pioneer in inner city (minority) ministry, a pioneer in community organization, a pioneer in priestly ministry as a ministry to the whole Church and to the whole of society.” (Quote from Fr Theodore Hesburgh, President of Notre Dame University, in the Preface to Margery Frisbie, op. cit.)
Day said she had a speaking engagement at Brandeis University (CW October 1958)
"Abbie Hoffman was deeply impressed by Day." (See Marty Jezer, Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel, Rutgers University Press, 1993, p. 49)
After Hoffman’s death, his brother, Jack, described Fr Gilgun as “one of the most influential people in Abbie’s Life.” (Part of an exhibit at Worcester Historical Museum, dated February 1, 2007 and dedicated to Abbie Hoffman’s memory)
Day was considered among the “dissident” Catholics who attended the Phoenix:
"Dorothy Day also spoke at the Phoenix, as did Ammon Hennacy...Robert Drinan , a liberal Jesuit from Boston College who would soon win election to Congress, also spoke, as did other dissident Catholic activists and theologians." (Marty Jezer, op. cit., p. 49)
Hoffman had a reputation as a trickster:
Making up facts, telling stories, and ad-libbing would become Abbie’s trademarks in Worcester. According to Daniel Dick, a local Catholic radical, Abbie Hoffman was a “master of make-believe” and a “genius at giving impressions.” The image was, if not everything, then certainly all-important. “Abbie knew that it wasn’t what you did, but what people thought that you did, that counted,” Dan Dick recalled. (Jonah Raskin, The Life and Times of Abbie Hoffman, University of California Press, 1997, p. 39)
Rosa Luxemburg, one of the most prominent activists of the international Communist movement, issued the following anti-clerical diatribe:
"The enormous riches piled up by the Church without any effort on its part, come from the exploitation and the poverty of the labouring people. The wealth of the archbishops and bishops, the convents and the parishes, the wealth of the factory-owners and the traders and the landed proprietors are bought at the price of the inhuman exertions of the workers of town and country. For what can be the only origin of the gifts and legacies which the very rich lords make to the Church? Obviously not the labour of their hands and the sweat of their brows, but the exploitation of the workers who toil for them; serfs yesterday and wage-workers today. Further, the allowance which the governments today make to the clergy come from the State Treasury, made up in the greater part from the taxes wrung from the popular masses. The clergy, no less than the capitalist class, lives on the backs of the people, profits from the degradation, the ignorance and the oppression of the people. "(Rosa Luxemburg, Socialism and the Churches , Part 6, first published by the Polish Democratic Party, 1905)
Day was evidently in agreement with this perspective, judging by the following comments she made after her visit to New England:
"workers with every skill built the great cathedrals over the centuries. I must remember these things when I visit a 1500 acre (untilled) monastery, and think of the unused riches in stocks and bonds, interest-drawing “investments”, perhaps part of our wartime economy, part of the exploitation of South Africa, Rhodesia and Mozambique, and the Portuguese colonies. Those parishes in New England made up of Portuguese rejoice in Our Lady appearing at Fatima in Portugal, but seem to know nothing of the colonialism still so much a part of that once great empire. We have not yet begun to build a new world." ( CW February 1974)
A common theme in Day’s anti-clerical outlook was her insistence that religious leaders, because of their ecclesiastical wealth, were guilty of direct or indirect oppression of innocent people:
"The scandal of businesslike priests, of collective wealth, the lack of a sense of respect for the poor, the worker, the Negro, the Mexican, the Filipino, and even the oppression of them by our industrialist capitalist order – these made me feel often that priests were more like Cain than Abel. “Am I my brother’s keeper”, they seemed to say in respect to the social order. There was plenty of charity, but too little justice." (Quoted in James Hennessey, American Catholics: A History of the Roman Catholic Community in the U.S ., New York, Oxford, 1981, p.267)
Day accused the clergy of being so engrossed in amassing fortunes and material considerations and in condoning war as a means of protection that they did not have time for preaching:
"What strange purification is this, that emphasis is so laid on the building of churches, schools, rectories, convents -- plants, in other words, so that now priests do not have time to preach the word of God! On the one hand, forebodings of war and the wiping out of cities; on the other hand, a mad heaping up of brick and mortar rather than of living stones of the temple of which Christ is the cornerstone. Too much attention to the drives for building funds, and too little to the growth in the knowledge and love of God. It's like people always getting ready to live, getting ready to teach, to preach, to providing the place, rather than going as our Lord did, without place to lay his head, communicating the good news, instructing hungry people, people hungry in heart and soul for the knowledge that would make them realize what it is to be a child of God, a son of God." ( CW November 1959)
Her criticism is misplaced, for Catholic churches were not just places for preaching the Gospel but for housing the Blessed Sacrament so that Our Lord would not be without a place to lay His head; they were considered to be sermons in stone, conveying the meaning of the faith to those who used them; and they were the Domus Dei, the House of God, reminding the faithful that they were children of God entering the earthly home of their heavenly Father. One cannot help noting the Naturalism inherent in Day’s outlook: she was fully committed to providing Houses of Hospitality for the poor of this world, but not for the Heavenly Guest.
Day criticized what she saw as “scandal of the wealth of the Church, the luxury of the Church which began in the very earliest days.” (Dorothy Day, ‘The Meaning of Poverty’, Ave Maria , 3 December 1966)
Day charged that the Church caused successive waves of persecution by accumulating too much material wealth, “so much so that it has meant persecution after persecution to detach her from her belongings on this earth.” ( CW April 1950)
Day’s reference to “the rejoicing that should go with this stripping and martyrdom” is found in CW April 1950.
Day’s charge that the wealth of the Church in America is responsible for the persecution of nuns and priests in other parts of the world is found in CW November 1949.
In Day’s estimation, Catholic churches should not be built as long as poverty exists: “On the one hand Churches are being rebuilt, and on the other the poor are still living in rubble in America as well as in Europe.” ( CW July-August 1949) “Right under one’s nose”, she complained, “there is always plenty to complain of: Churches, schools, monasteries being built while the municipal lodging house is packed with mothers and children separated from husbands and fathers because of lack of housing.” ( CW December 1949)
Day regarded the wealth of the Church as a “scandal” and condoned the immorality of expropriation by Socialist dictators, adding: she condoned the immorality of such actions by stating: “if we listen to our Lord, Who said, ‘If they take your coat, give them your cloak too,’ we could meet such things with holy indifference.” ( CW February 1965)
Day was not averse to implying that the Catholic bishops were responsible for the plight of the poor (whom, as we have seen, she equated with Jesus) and even for their deaths:
"when I see bishops living in luxury and the poor being ignored or thrown bread crumbs, I know that Jesus is being insulted, as He once was, and sent to his death, as He once was." (Dorothy Day, quoted in Robert Coles, Dorothy Day: A Radical Devotion , Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA, 1987)
What Day was unable to comprehend was that a Catholic bishop, as the representative of Christ in his diocese, has an obligation to surround himself with a splendour suited to the exalted nature of his office, while his personal, spiritual life was meant to be one of abstention and sacrifice. It follows that any criticism directed against episcopal symbols of honour can be construed as part of a larger assault on the hierarchy.
Pope Pius XI, aware that this kind of criticism was the perennial stock-in-trade of all anti-clerical factions, stated that “the whole history of the Church plainly demonstrates that such appearances are unfounded and such charges unjust”, adding that “it is the height of injustice to hurl these calumnies and reproaches at the Church and her teaching.” ( Quadragesimo Anno , #126) Therein lies the basis for the Socialist Revolution which aims to undermine the Church’s authority over temporal affairs and with it the Social Reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Even the sight of a monastery surrounded by acres of land would induce a paroxysm of envy: “the poor continue to live in shacks and shanties, and the religious are housed in the equivalent of palaces.” ( CW February 1953) On one occasion, Day asked Bishop (later Cardinal) McIntyre to turn one of his rectories over to the poor, and was not impressed by his refusal. “What kind of homes do priests live in?” she once asked, “How large are their rectories, their monasteries, their house of studies? How can they speak of “home” so glowingly, how can they talk of the large family with such unction, when they see the two-room apartments, the four-room apartments on Mulberry street, on Mott street?” (CW Sept 1946) These were not just rhetorical questions, for Day had a practical solution to hand which was consonant with a Socialist ideology: the answer, for Day, lay in direct action to put Church property into efficient production so that the whole of society would benefit:
If all the land owned by the Church, for instance, and by the different orders that is not being used at the present time, were turned over to the unemployed and their families...then the real wealth of the Church would be increased tremendously. ( CW October 1938)
What this meant in practice was for the clergy to change places with the poor and for squatters to invade and make secular use of the monasteries, presbyteries and episcopal residences:
"the Benedictine oblates amongst us would like to go to some of the Benedictine monasteries and become squatters on their vast tracts, and so induce them to start again the guest houses which are part of the rule of the order. They don’t need all the land they have, and we have plenty of landless folk." ( CW May 1958)
But this was a form of coercion which contradicted Day’s claim to eschew the use of force in achieving “Social Justice” for the poor. Moreover, the Benedictine tradition never incorporated a system of radical hospitality of the kind envisaged by Day which was essentially a political protest against the capitalist system. The crucial point is that whereas the Benedictine guest-houses welcomed a steady stream of visitors – pilgrims, poor travellers and strangers as well as high-ranking prelates and members of the nobility (always segregated according to social class with greater comforts given to the higher orders) – for Day, squatting was part of the battle between the bourgeoisie, the property-owning class and the “oppressed” workers. Squatting was not only a question of undermining the Benedictine tradition, but it showed that Day was not above serving as a rabble-rouser in a barely concealed attempt at a “grass-roots” revolution against the Church’s ownership of landed property.
Day also berated the Church for its teaching on the transient nature of life on earth which emphasized the glory of the world to come: for Day, it was a scandal to be told “Seek first the kingdom of heaven.” ( CW March 1947) She accused the Church of neglecting the poor in anticipation of a “fuller life” hereafter: the religious, she wrote, “so neglected the needs of the poor and of the great mass of workers and permitted them to live in the most horrible destitution while comforting them with the solace of a promise of a life after death.” ( CW September 1962) For Day, “religion, as the Marxists have always insisted, has, too often, like an opiate, tended to put people to sleep to the reality and the need for the present struggle for peace and justice.” (CW November 1959) It is evident that she saw the Church from a secular angle and that her priorities came from the social and political arena. It is obvious that the motivating force behind Day's objection to the wealth of the Church was the same as that of the Socialists who, in the name of liberty of conscience, demand the abolition of all power and privileges which the Church enjoys in the public sphere.
Day accused Charles Schwab of being an “enemy of labour” because he opposed unionization, and of having “sweated and starved” the children of the poor and stolen from them the money he donated to house orphans. ( CW October 1933)
These were unjust accusations made in vintage Marxist tradition. During the Great Depression, many industrialists tried, at their own risk and against enormous odds, to recover the economy by providing employment, but conditions were so bad that parents sent their children out to work. Schwab himself was bankrupted as a result of the Depression. As a baptized though largely non-practising Catholic, Schwab had at least given of his surplus wealth to charity, which was one of the recommendations in the papal encyclicals. In addition to his philanthropy to the Church, he financed many large-scale civic structures, an Industrial School for the sons of the poor at Homestead, Pennsylvania, university and musical schools, and practically built the town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, around the steel industry.
Schwab financed the magnificent Church of St Michael the Archangel and a Carmelite convent at Loretto; St Thomas’s Church at Braddock. ( New York Times , 11 January 1903) In 1909, he donated his entire Staten Island estate in New York, valued at half a million dollars, to the Sisters of Charity. ( New York Times , 6 July 1911)
Yet Day commented:
"Wouldn’t if be swell if these gifts were rejected with thanks? I’d rather worship in such a store as Father Cornelius Ahern officiates in when he says Mass for his Negro congregations over in Newark than in the finest church in the world, built with the money sweated from miners and miners’ children and wives." ( CW October 1933)
(From 1930-1940, Fr Cornelius Ahern was pastor of Queen of Angels Church, Newark, a parish set up exclusively for African-Americans. There he introduced liturgical reforms anticipating those of Vatican II.)
In November 1965, when Day was in Rome, she wrote:
"On the way I saluted the statue of Garibaldi, who was God’s instrument in relieving the Papacy of those encumbrances, the Papal States." (Dorothy Day, On Pilgrimage , William B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan: 1999, p. 33)
Garibaldi invaded the Papal States with his insurgents – an act that Day, despite her absolute Pacifism, described as a “mighty work of God” ( CW July-August 1969)
Day noted approvingly: “Fortunately, the Papal States were wrested from the Church in the last century.” ( CW July-August 1969)
Pope Pius IX explained the seriousness of crimes of theft against the Church:
“To do violence to this highest power of the Apostolic See, to disjoin its temporal authority from its spiritual power, to disassociate, separate by force and cut off the duties of Pastor and Prince, is nothing less than to overturn and destroy the work of God. It is nothing less then to attempt to inflict the greatest damage on religion and to deprive it of its most effective defense. Then the highest Ruler of the Church would be unable to offer help to the Catholics spread all over the earth, who request his help and support because of his spiritual power.” ( Respicientes , 1 November 1870, # 12)
Day, however, remained uninfluenced by these papal admonitions, being of the opinion that we should regard these things with “holy indifference”, adding: “All the land taken from the papacy has meant no diminution of her influence in the world.” ( CW February 1965)
For those who supported the Worker Priest movement (particularly the French Dominicans), the priest’s role was no longer to bring supernatural truth to others but to receive it from the poor as the authentic interpreters of the Gospel. That is why it was considered essential for the priest to go and live among the poor so as to learn from them.
In 1937, Yves Congar OP called this new view of the Faith “the mystique of incarnation”, a fanciful title for what was in reality the inversion of the traditional concept of the priesthood. It was widely believed among the proponents of this new theology that only those who could find God through the daily circumstances of living among the poor could discover the real significance of Christianity for the world. The French Dominican, Fr Louis Joseph Lebret, identified the worker-priest movement using the metaphor of marriage: “Our mission demands of us a total marriage, for better and for worse, a carnal [charnel] marriage with the worker movement.” (Quoted in Emile Poulat, Naissance des prêtres-ouvriers, Casterman, Paris, 1969, p. 405)
There is perhaps an unwitting irony in his remark: one could hardly find a more apt metaphor for the adulterous union of the Church and the Revolution. This concept of “incarnation” (also referred to as “engagement” and “sacrament of presence”), signifying direct action in the sense of political and social involvement, is of crucial significance for an understanding of the worker-priest movement. With regard to engagement”, this French expression, widely used by the liberal Catholic group of intellectuals established around Emmanuel Mounier and his review,Esprit, became the leit-motif of the worker-priest movement.
Cardinal Liénart, Bishop of the industrial diocese of Lille and an active promoter of trade unionism, received plaudits from Moscow in 1943 for his openness to Communist influence in the trade unions. (See W.D. Halls, Politics, Society and Christianity in Vichy France, Berg Publishers, 1995, pp. 160-161 who cites a Radio Moscow broadcast of 21 April 1943: “We must give great praise to Cardinal Liénart. He could not oppose all collaborationist measures. The Communists will be able to help the cardinal to defend the Christian unions at present being attacked by the Boches [offensive term for the Germans] and the men of Vichy.”)
Day, whose interest in the movement was self-evident, also used the term “gap” in the sense understood by the worker-priests:
To try to bridge that terrible gap between the clergy and the laity, between the man of God and the man of the family – truly this is a great work, and a work which we must comment on, and commend. (CW November 1946)
In the worker-priests’ mind, a priest was no longer a man set apart for the performance of sacral duties, but was to become “a man of the temporal”. (Fr Lebret quoted in E. Poulat, op. cit., p. 526)
The Church, they argued, was too closely allied with “bourgeois” interests to understand the workers’ concerns and was even in collusion with the rich to oppress the poor. Day, as we know, thoroughly endorsed this view, and on one occasion she went so far as to make wild accusations against the clergy for collusion with railway operators by accepting money as “a bribe to the Church so that the railroads can continue their exploiting of workers.” (CW November 1946) She continued in similar vein against Catholic chaplains whom she accused of being paid off by wealthy mine owners to maintain a guilty silence over poor working conditions.
This was precisely the mentality of the worker-priests who accused the Church of “alienating” the workers and charged that the Church needed to go through a process of “désembourgeoisement” to shed its association with Capitalism and win the workers back. For that purpose, traditional methods of evangelization were, in their opinion, useless because they were all imbued with a “bourgeois spirit”. Frs Godin and Daniel rejected the conventional priestly training hitherto offered by the Church on the grounds that it turned the seminarian into a “bourgeois” and therefore into a class traitor. In their book they claimed that the missionary’s responsibility was to create communities of workers who would not be incorporated into parish structures. Using models of community organizing drawn from their experience with the Young Christian Workers, they envisaged working-class “cells” which would, by some mysterious means, “radiate” Christianity from their midst. Naturally, there must be clergy specially trained for this new type of evangelization who would be in perfect harmony with the workers and make the class struggle an integral part of their apostolate. One of the worker-priests, Fr Louis Augros, later described the nature of the new concept of the Church which was being taught in the Mission de France seminary in Lisieux which made a clear break with traditional Catholic doctrine. (Louis Augros, De l’église d’hier à l’église de demain, Paris, 1980)
Therefore, the argument ran, the workers needed leaders who shared their everyday experiences in social and trade union matters to organize strike action and stir up a localized protest against economic conditions. It would be the role of the worker-priests to “conscientize” the masses by proposing a new form of the Church’s social teaching to incorporate the necessity of revolutionary class struggle. “Incarnation” meant entry of the Church’s sacred ministers into the world of class warfare where they would be fighting in alliance with the Communists against their “bourgeois” fellow-Catholics.
Already we can see the cracks in the masonry. To begin with, the idea of “mission” being used as a pretext for joint Catholic and Communist enterprises cannot be a legitimate exercise of missionary work. Pope Pius XI had only recently issued the encyclical Divini Redemptoris proscribing any co-operation with Communists, pointing out that their humanitarian activities were only a “pseudo-ideal of justice”. The fundamental purpose of “mission” understood in the traditional Catholic sense of the word is the conversion of unbelievers to the Catholic faith. But according to the testimony of some of the worker-priests, the precise opposite happened: instead of the Communist workers becoming Christians or the lapsed returning to the Church, the worker-priests were perceived by the Communists as one of themselves.
Neither was it a question of the worker-priests listening to and learning from the poor, as Day claimed. (CW November 1946) They had ears only for those among the poor who were impregnated with Marxist thought patterns either because they were already Communists or had been converted to that way of thinking by the worker-priests themselves. As for the rest of the poor, they could be ignored. They were either suspected of aspiring to “bourgeois” status or else viewed as suffering from “false consciousness” by failing to grasp the necessity of “historical determinism” which decrees that they should rise up and cast off the “imperialist yoke” of their capitalist masters. It was another way of saying that the Church should learn from a Marxist analysis of society and show solidarity with Communist aims – the destruction of the whole economic and political system of Western nations.
The proposal to establish the worker-priest movement also had a wider objective that went beyond the confines of the working class to draw the rest of the Church into its sphere of influence. It was thought that by forming friendly ties with local Communists and engaging in joint projects with them, the worker-priests could lead the way in Christian-Marxist dialogue. They wanted their spirit of camaraderie to neutralize negative feelings and hostile attitudes towards Communism found among Catholics and counter the anti-Marxist crusading spirit that characterized the majority of priests.
As for worker priests in Russia, Day regarded these initiatives as “magnificent beginnings” which should be publicized and praised for fulfilling a “need”. (CW November 1946) For an account of the sufferings of priests in Russia, see Dimitry V. Pospielovsky, A History of Marxist-Leninist Atheism and Soviet Anti-Religious Policies, St Martin’s Press, New York (1987). This is the first of a 3-volume book which documents the Soviet propaganda campaigns and persecution of Christians from the beginning of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917.
Day blamed the “rich and powerful” for their criticism of and opposition to the worker priest movement:
"The criticism comes from the rich and powerful, whose greed and wealth make them sensitive to the criticism of these new articulate “poor,” as well as from their lawful superiors, the present Cardinals of France and the Holy See in Rome." (CW March 1954)
She called attempts to suppress the movement a “crucifixion of the good” (CW March 1954)
Hans Kung stated: “The end of the worker-priests is a tragedy! And the end of the worker-priests is also the end of the theology which supports them.” (Hans Kung, My Struggle for Freedom: Memoirs, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2003, p. 99)
Day herself was present at one of the CWM Friday night discussions addressed by a French worker-priest. (CW November 1948) The letter she published in that issue reads as follows:
"My life in the factory has begun to be a slow and increasing revolt against the capitalist world. This began with the inhuman attitude of the employer who inspects the workers like a room of machines. It continued with the question of the wages, of efficiency, of the conditions of women’s work, the fighting for union rights, with all this atmosphere of factories, while the worker for a century has felt that he has been oppressed and exploited. Outside my own experience I had in the same line the reactions of our mechanic who is weighted down with forty years of work; he appears to me as a beautiful example of a specialist worker, who is conscientious, a type of man whom I love as much as a scientist or a statesman. His conversations which are rare are almost always echoes of this revolt slowly growing in the heart of the working class. Either it be that the worker has no right to eat his bread between seven and noon, or it be that his time is checked and his efficiency scheduled. The wage earner is not a free man, he is sold out. He is not a man who works with an engineer or an employer, but a factor of production which has been hired and will be exploited to the maximum, not even directed by a human feeling of efficiency but rather solely by the profit of money. Capitalism distills today more than ever, in the consciences of the workers the feeling of being pawns and the urge to revolt. And the priest goes on to link up the indifference of the Masses to religion with their resentment towards the Church which they feel has exploited them and lined up with the capitalist."
Fr Perrin’s views on the necessity for Christian-Communist collaboration are quoted in Itinéraire d’Henri Perrin: Prêtre-Ouvrier (1914-54 ), présenté par ses amis, Paris, 1958, pp. 82-83.
The content of the “Green Paper” is discussed in John Petrie, The Worker-Priests, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1956, pp. 159-64.
Day supported “priests and laymen and laywomen working together among the ‘republics’ we mentioned in Colombia, among the tin miners in Bolivia, the fishermen of Recife, Brazil.” (CW March-April 1967)
Day stated that “Our Lord was a worker, yes, as well as a priest”. (CW September 1946)
Day quoted from Canon Cardijn’s pamphlet, ‘The Spirit of the Young Christian Workers’, in evident agreement with the view that workers’ lives were “a continuation of the mission of Christ the Worker.” (CW September 1946)That she took this unorthodox concept seriously is evident from her admiration for those priests who came to live at the Catholic Worker, e.g. Fr Roy and Fr Duffy where they spent most of their time engaged in unpriestly occupations such as building, digging and farm work.
Day made a rallying call for priests to spearhead the anti-capitalist revolution in the name of Karl Marx:
"The young priest who keeps his faith in his fellows, who begins to see the work to be done in the social order, may be discouraged at the magnitude of the task in the face of the apathy of the day. But I would say to him, work, study, pray, start the struggle although there seems small chance of success. You have nothing to lose but your chains, as the Marxist says… so let us begin our revolt now…even if it means overturning the whole industrial capitalistic system." (CW March 1947)
With reference to “most of our priests”, she stated:
"they have not had the leadership that the workers have had in Karl Marx, in his analysis of the social order, and his condemnation of it. They have accepted this social order; they have not questioned it. They have said, “The poor you will always have with you.” They have said, “Seek first the kingdom of heaven.” Their great strength was also their weakness. Their conviction of heaven was so strong that they did not think this world worth bothering about." (CW March 1947)
Day later called for a new social order based on the economic system of “distributism” that should, in her view, become the preoccupation of the priesthood:
"In the coming crisis, of war and revolution, during the break-up of cities in case of atomic war, farming communes will be a necessity. The missionary priest all over the world is working along these lines now. If the priesthood studied distributism as a long-term movement and did not play two ends against the middle by endorsing the present capitalistic system, we would be ready for what the future would bring." (CW February 1948)
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