The Dorothy Day Few of Us Know

She lamented the encroachment of the state and the perils of the welfare system. She once compared abortion to genocide and the U.S. government to Nazi Germany. She cheered on income tax resisters, dismissed the benefits of the minimum wage, and worried about the decline of freedom in an increasingly bureaucratic society.

But this was no Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann.

It was Dorothy Day, the heroine of the Catholic Left who walked a picket line with Cesar Chavez, was a civil rights advocate and anti-nuclear weapons activist, and made no secret of her contempt for capitalism, consumerism, and corporations.

But Day’s status as a Leftist icon—a “saint for the Occupy era” as The New Yorker recently put it—has always chafed against certain inconvenient facts. Day’s advocacy of distributism—a third way between socialism and capitalism advocated by such Catholic conservative stalwarts as G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc—has always made her an uncomfortable fit for the Left. And, when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops endorsed her cause for canonization, her staunch pro-life views garnered some attention in the ensuring news coverage.

But just how far out of step she was with the Left remains largely unknown.

Day co-founded the Catholic Worker Movement in 1933 with Peter Maurin and, from the beginning, she expressed grave misgivings about the New Deal in her columns for the Catholic Worker newspaper she launched the same year. She derided President Roosevelt for “experimenting to find a ‘way out’ of our economic ruin” and chided fellow Catholics for accepting the new economic legislation as the “the lesser of two evils.”

Looking across the Atlantic at Great Britain, she described “social security, health laws, education laws, etc.” as a “sop thrown to the proletariat” and saw parallels with the New Deal:

Roosevelt will be elected on the platform of Cake and Circuses. During the depression years the relief checks flowed in, and now during the war years the government checks come regularly on the first of every month. The millions who are thus bought and paid for do not want any change. They are afraid of change. Mothers of six children cash their $180 stipend every month and go on a binge of department-store buying, movies, … candies, radio, and even sometimes a car. It’s amazing how much you can get in the way of luxury if you just do without the necessities. [Quoted in an article in the summer 1999 issue of the St. John’s Law Review.]

That column, written in 1944, aroused such ire among readers that Day was forced to write a response the next year, in which she defended the poor but did little to mask her antipathy towards the New Deal:

We believe that social security legislation, now balled as a great victory for the poor and for the worker, is a great defeat for Christianity. It is an acceptance of the Idea of force and compulsion. It is an acceptance of Cain’s statement, on the part of the employer. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Day believed that state welfare programs doubly corrupted the poor. Government funds induced those with limited means to “hug” luxuries like cigarettes, liquor, movies. Such “dissipations,” moreover, were a vain effort to ignore their responsibilities to attend to basic necessities—“the leaking plumbing,” the “lack of coal,” and the “crowded quarters where the poor mothers’ heads reverberate with the din of the not too healthy children.”

Day saw government methods of raising revenue also morally ruinous. During World War II, she offered this scathing assessment of war bonds:

And they are not only being taxed, but they are being seduced. Their virtue is being drained from them. They are made into war profiteers, they are forced into the position of usurers. The whole nation, every man woman and child, is forced to become a profiteer-hideous word-in this war.

Day’s sheer disdain for the state lent a libertarian flavor to her writings. She dismissed minimum wage and anti-child labor laws as “palliatives.” She bristled over how the United States was becoming a country where it was necessary to have identification papers. She faulted President Truman’s proposed nationalization of the steel industry as short-sighted. And she feared that the “all-encroaching state” was leading to “socialized medicine”—when Truman proposed what would later become Medicaid and Medicare. She was no less compromising on the issue of taxation, once invoking St. Hilary on the issue: “The less we ask of Caesar, the less we will have to render to Caesar.”

To be sure, some of Day’s newspaper articles also could be construed as sympathetic with communism, but she was under no illusion about what communism meant in practice. Her columns often rued the loss of faith and the rejection of God that had occurred in the Soviet Union in her columns. And she defended anti-communist hero Alexander Solzhenitsyn against the “vituperations” of the pro-communist newspaper the Daily Worker.

In one particularly revealing exchange in in 1936, Day’s office received a telegram from the Daily Worker calling on her to issue a Christmas message “against fascist barbarism, assault on religious freedom, and threat to world peace.” Day responded:

Catholic Worker joins in appeal for democracy and peace, therefore asks you to join protest against all dictatorships, fascist and Bolshevist, against all suppression of civil liberties, fascist and Bolshevist, including freedom of religious propaganda, education, and organization, against all war, whether imperialist, civil, or class. Merry Christmas.

Day parted ways with the Left on other issues as well.

In one 1950 column, she wrote disapprovingly of how coal miners frequented taverns where there were “slot machines selling contraceptives, like chewing gum or chocolate.” She repeated her reprimand on contraceptives for Vietnam-era soldiers on leave before battle. “What a misuse of life forces!” Day wrote.

Day, who had an abortion early in life, became an ardent pro-lifer who didn’t shy away from discussing the issue in her columns. She urged her readers to follow the entirely of the Church’s teachings on abortion, birth control, and divorce in a column published in the early 1970s—when the modern feminist movement was in full swing. “We may stretch towards it, falling short, failing seventy times seven, but forgiveness is always there,” Day wrote.

Day was an advocate for civil rights and women’s suffrage—her protesting often landing her in jail—but in one 1963 column she sounded more like John Paul II than Gloria Steinem in condemning pre-marital sex:

Sex is a profound force, having to do with life, the forces of creation which make man god-like. He shares in the power of the Creator, and, when sex is treated lightly, as a means of pleasure, I can only consider that woman is used as a plaything, not as a person. … On the other hand, the act of sex in its right order in the love life of the individual has been used in Old and New Testament as the symbol of the love between God and Man. Sexual love in its intensity makes all things new and one sees the other as God sees him. And this is not illusion. … It is the foretaste we have of heaven and all other joys of the natural world are intensified by it, hearing, seeing, knowing.

Day was an activist throughout her life, but she nonetheless cautioned against the “heresy of good works,” insisting that “[a]ction must be preceded by thought.” Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and sheltering the homeless without reforming the social order so people could do those things for themselves was a treat-the-symptoms approach that betrayed a lack in faith in both God and one’s fellow man, Day said.

Day was no scholar but she read widely in literature, philosophy, and theology. She was well-versed in the writings of such diverse figures as Martin Buber, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Charles Péguy and often quoted from them in ways that suggested more than a passing familiarity with their works. She displayed a remarkable ability to seamlessly weave sacramental theology, the wisdom of the saints, and Church dogma into columns about the pressing political and social issues of her day.

Day famously enjoined others against calling her a saint, saying she did not want to “be dismissed so easily.” But it is precisely her potential canonization that compels us to take the sweep of her activism and writings seriously—to shun the easy caricatures of secular hagiography and seek to understand her life in the only way in which it makes sense, in the light of Christ’s own life.

Stephen Beale


Stephen Beale is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. He is a former news editor at and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on and A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history.

  • Alecto

    Day was correct, she is no saint for the Occupy or any era. Right or left isn’t the issue and to obsess about her politics (whatever they were) is to miss the purpose of sainthood. Her story is one of political advocacy, controversial entanglements with radical political ideals and ideas, not religious or even spiritual ones. Everything led that woman to a political conclusion which demonstrates to me her focus was on this life, not the life to come. She was not the kind of person who exuded an otherworldly light, as saints worthy of such honors are. The cause of her sainthood is craven, cynical and expedient in this era of “new” evangelization.

    Saints have an indefatigable focus on final things: death, judgment, heaven, hell. Dorothy Day sought the limelight, sought fame, sought a platform which her conversion to the Catholic church gave her. I see none of the virtue, humility, selflessness, piety and quiet spirituality I see in saints who inspire holiness and fidelity like Rita of Cascia, Therese of Lisieux, Jeanne d’Arc or so many, many other women did. This is the tarnished, lowest common denominator for sainthood in 2013, the standards for which have been so diluted as to render their outcome indistinguishable from other politically-motivated follies. I have a few relatives I’d like beatified and canonized, because they are most certainly before Dorothy Day in heaven for their suffering and holiness. Instead of cheap imitations, let’s have real examples of devotion and holy lives.

    • Kevin

      Dorothy Day has many dimensions; thank you to Mr. Beale for highlighting some of those that are commonly overlooked.

      She may or may not be canonized–time will tell–but Alecto’s characterization of the essential attributes of saints is off the mark. They will inevitably be focused on final things, to be sure, but that need not be their exclusive focus. Virtue, including humility, selflessness and piety, can be expressed in ways other than “quiet spirituality.” Joan of Arc is an interesting choice as a model; she was hardly an uncontroversial candidate for canonization, variously charged with being self-aggrandizing (an inexperienced young woman claiming that she was called to lead an army); with being a militaristic nationalist (her claim to fame was helping the French in battle against the English); and with being just plain weird (dressing in men’s clothing). It would be a stretch to describe the spiritualities of Sts. Paul, Jerome, or Augustine as “quiet.” My point is not that any of these figures should not have been canonized, but rather that the political views, cultural backgrounds, and psychological profiles of the saints are bewilderingly and wondrously diverse. Again, Day may or may not be canonized, but the fact that she was a strong personality and involved in political demonstrations will not disqualify her.

      • Alecto

        All of your statements about Jeanne d’Arc come from her critics and those men who condemned her. The woman I know was a peasant who was a model of quiet spirituality. A woman who heard the voice of God calling her in a field. She humbly submitted to the will of God for her life and paid for it with her life. She served by leading.

        Day’s politics should not be the reason for canonization, but that thread exists throughout her life. What distinguishes Day from others to elevate her to sainthood? Miraculous healing? Conversions? What? And why now? I wouldn’t consider her a Christian model of anything except her own expansive ego. And so, the cause of her sainthood, like her entire life, is political.

        • ubiPetrusEst

          Yes, politics are a major issue in Day’s cause, as Carol Byrne’s “The Catholic Worker Movement” documents. Before Cardinal Dolan started pushing for Day’s canonization, it was rising like a lead balloon. Now there’s been a flurry of articles and even some videos pro-Day.

          When the USCCB had a voice vote (no count was made), His Eminence stated that he hoped his fellow bishops would vote to continue the investigation of her cause–which was all the vote did. However, he assured them that if they had objections to her cause, they would be given the opportunity to voice them (minutes
          35:55 ff at the Tuesday afternoon General Session, part 1, November 13,
          2012 General Assembly, But the matter of objections seems to have been dropped by Cardinal Dolan.

          The “Catholic Worker” had a circulation of 100,00 in its heyday. According to the CW’s December 2012 “Publisher’s Statement,” the circulation is now under 30,000 issues. In the 1960s and 1970s, CW acts of civil disobedience got lots of news coverage. That doesn’t happen often now, the exception being the “Occupy Wall Street” movement in which the CW is involved.

          The November 2012 CW included items in support of the gay rights movement in Kenya and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in the US, and stated that a “documentary film” favoring women’s ordination would be shown at an upcoming Friday night meeting.

          Day’s clerical advocates insist erroneously that she left behind her Marxist views. Similarly, many of her lay advocates prefer to discuss Joan of Arc, Thomas More, St. Augustine, etc, etc rather than the substance of what Day said and did. Or else they offer their positive “feelings” about her cause and admit that they know little about her.

          Finally, here’s an example of Day’s “expansive ego” in her own words:
          “Walter Winchell mentioned me this morning to point
          out the great freedom in the church, citing Joe McCarthy and Gene
          McCarthy, Brooklyn Tablet and Commonweal, me and someone else, I cannot remember” (All the Way to Heaven, 2010 p. 269). My guess is that Clare Boothe Luce is the person Day forgot.

        • Kevin

          My point is not to advocate for Day’s canonization nor to question Joan’s. It is instead to observe that some of the comments here seem to reflect an overly restrictive or narrow view of what constitutes heroic virtue or extraordinary sanctity (saintliness). I know that my statements about Joan are from her critics, and they’re not views that I share. The point is that, for those who want to disqualify someone from sainthood by finding something controversial or political in that person’s life, there is ample material from the lives of past saints who have in fact been canonized.

          I honestly don’t know whether there are any miracles associated with Day’s life, but even if not, that doesn’t take her out of the running: there are plenty of canonized saints who did not work miraculous cures during their lives. Day will need a couple of them through her intercession, just like everyone else, if her cause is to advance. Again, I’m not advocating for her canonization, but it goes too far to say that there is nothing in her life worthy of emulation. She devoted a good chunk of it to living among and serving the poor while living in poverty herself. Pope Francis, for one, would admire that, I think.

      • Alecto

        One more thing about Joan: her story is similar to King David’s. Two people elevated by God from their humble status to lead their people to victory over occupiers. However, unlike David, Joan was the embodiment of chastity and humility.

        • BellaTerra66

          How do you know that for a fact?

    • BellaTerra66

      “Saints have an indefatigable focus on final things: death, judgment, heaven, hell.” Your idea of ‘sainthood’ is way too small.

    • dbwheeler

      Thank you for verbalizing what I felt but couldn’t express. What a gift you have!

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    Dorothy Day was, in many ways, a product of the French Catholic Revival, associated with Maurice Blondel, Léon Bloy, Charles Péguy, Marc Sangnier and others.

    Péguy was a profound influence on Emmanuel Mounier, the founder of Personalism, with its attack on a society, “capitalistic in structure, liberal in its ideology, bourgeois in its ethics,” which Mounier famously described as the Established Disorder [le désordre établi] Peter Maurin used to tell everyone, “There is a man in France called Emmanuel Mounier. He wrote a book called The Personalist Manifesto. You should read that book.”

    In economics, they were socialist, but anti-statist, very much in the anarchist-syndicalist tradition of Proudhon, particularly his mutualism, “We want the mines, canals, railways handed over to democratically organised workers’ associations… We want these associations to be models for agriculture, industry and trade, the pioneering core of that vast federation of companies and societies, joined together in the common bond of the democratic and social Republic…” They were bitterly opposed to what they saw as the State Capital of the Communist and Socialist parties. Mounier was the child of peasants and shared all the peasant’s contempt and loathing of the bureaucrat [fonctionnaire].

  • Bill Russell

    Prudence is a virtue, and there was no heroic evidence of that in her opposition to the USA’s involvement in the Second World War and its struggle against unspeakable evil.

  • Donna Ruth

    Here we are generations into a welfare system that Day rightly saw as a dangerous crutch that often begets complacence, entitlement, and envy. It is difficult to go back for a number of reasons: the first is that the basic underpinnings which were once rooted in some flavor of societal morality have waned. There was a time when we were encouraged to self-police by dint of faith, or at least the Golden Rule. Now we cannot escape a culture of rude entitlement where we are exhorted to do unto others before they do unto you.

    How would one say to the stay-at-home, welfare-collecting single mother of four who has the bare minimum of education and few marketable skills: Sorry gal, you have three years to get yourself job-marketable; then you are cut off. It will work in some circumstances – but, then again, there needs to be increased job availability (hah!), with salaries that will at least match the welfare income, as well as the daycare costs, and reasonable, affordable transportation and rent.

    Day lived in this milieu of poverty and want, and daily saw the needs firsthand. She could not help but be colored by the environment in which she was saturated. It is never cut and dried, but multi-layered. The answers are not easy. Those who live and work in these environments are constantly overwhelmed by the desperation, debilitation, sin and woundedness they see around them. Few cases are alike. Those, like Day, who see it daily, expend much thought about how the many generational, societal problems around poverty can be addressed directly, aware they are bucking a political system that is too often short-sighted and self-serving. Day was a work in progress, constantly examining the needs around her. She reflected upon this publicly on a personal, societal, political and governmental level. She had a right to; she knew poverty intimately. God bless her. This woman who spent her life trying to make a difference for the poor needs to be cut some slack.

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  • Grey Bear

    Communist should never be canonized !

    • Susan Quinn

      True. Fortunately, she was not a communist.

      • ubiPetrusEst

        Well, you disagree with Day’s own description of herself. She was not a dues-paying, card-carrying Party member (membership was restricted and a “privilege”), but she identified herself as “an ex-Communist” in the November 1949 CW. She was “an ex-Communist” who continued to appear with Communists publicly to support common causes, was an invited observer at a Communist Party USA Convention–all after her entrance into the Catholic Church. More information is easily obtainable in Carol Byrne’s book “The Catholic Worker Movement (1933-1980): A Critical Analysis” and at the blog “Dorothy Day Another Way,”

        • Susan Quinn

          I am not disagreeing with you – but she clearly said she was an EX-communist, and I was referring to the person she BECAME. But you are right that she did identify earlier with the party.

          • ubiPetrusEst


            As an undergraduate in the 1960s I attended CW Friday night meetings, as well as a retreat with Fr. John Hugo and Dorothy Day at the Tivoli CW Farm. Back then, I thought as you did, that Day was an “ex-Communist.”
            But her writings reveal that she became a Catholic in December 1927 and then continued for the next forty-plus years of her life as a Catholic to praise Communists such as Marx, Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, Castro, and Mao Tse Tung. She continued to appear and to speak in public with such prominent Communists as Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, an old friend who was one of the three founders of the Communist Party USA and became the Party’s head in later life. She continued to believe in class war and a coming “revolution,” which she said the Communists were also expecting to occur. Her “pacifism” encouraged others not to fight against Communists.

            The more one reads Day, the more obvious it becomes that she claims to believe something, only to contradict or qualify her statement in the
            next phrase or sentence frequently introduced by the word “but.” Day declared she could not endorse violence, BUT endorsed and praised the “social advances” achieved by the violence of Castro and Ho Chi Minh.

            Please read my other comments, which give quotations and sources; and please read Carol Byrne’s comment, which is pertinent to our discussion. Dr. Bryne’s “The Catholic Worker Movement (1033-1980): A Critical Analysis” is essential reading on how Day embraced Marxist/Communist beliefs until her death in 1980. You can find more information at the blog “Dorothy Day Another Way” ( and at “Jewish Catholic Simplifed.” The author of the latter blog writes: “To be honest, Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement brings up a lot of bad memories for me. When my [Jewish] parents first converted they became devoted followers of these group[s]” (April 8, 2013, “Dorothy Day Revisited Again,” ).

  • Every word or thought that a person who does some good doesn’t make them a paragon of wisdom inspired by the Holy Spirit. Let’s let the Church investigate and decide if she is worthy of imitation by others, ie., saintly life.

  • The author of the article FAILED to cite even once, Dorothy Day’s autobiography. It would have been nice to read a balanced article.

  • She saw the Christ who is way beyond ideology.

    • Kansas City Bill

      This is exactly the point the author was missing. It is completely futile to try to understand Dorothy Day within the arbitrary ideological boundaries of the US political system. She sought to apply Christ’s teachings to the modern world she saw irrespective of which side of the imaginary partisan line her works reflected. It is utter falacy to describe her writings and beliefs in any kind of political context.

      • David Raber

        That’s right. And this is why it is a big mistake for Catholics to identify themselves with any secular political party, left or right. George Weigel and that crowd are just as wrong-headed as the Liberation Theologians.

  • ubiPetrusEst

    As Bill Fant rightly observes, this article does not present a balanced view of Day. For example, Stephen Beale’s assertion that “some of Day’s newspaper articles also could be construed as sympathetic with communism, but she was under no illusion about what communism meant in practice” is contradicted by Day’s own writings in the “Catholic Worker” (CW):

    “We stand at the present time with the Communists, who are also opposing the war [World War II]…. The Sermon on the Mount is our Christian manifesto.” (“Our Stand,” June 1940)

    “And there was Lenin. He hungered and thirsted and at times he had no fixed abode. Mme. Krupskaya, his widow, said that he loved to go into the peace of the pine woods and hunt mushrooms like old Mrs. Dew down at Easton did, and we with her one October. He lived one time in the slums of Paris, and he lived on horse meat when he had meat, and he started schools for the poor and the workers. ‘He went about doing good.’ Is this blasphemy?” (“On Pilgrimage,” April 1948)

    “Up to now the Communist Party [USA] has been a legal party and has maintained workers’ schools, social centers, publications, strike headquarters, relief setups, etc. As for their conspiracy to overthrow the government by force and violence, I do not think that the state has proved its case. . . . I do know that the general argument runs like
    this: The [US Communists] believe, of course, that violence will come. (So do we when it comes down to it, and we are praying it won’t.) They believe that it will be forced upon the workers by the class struggle which is going on all around us now. . . . Class war is a fact and one does not need to advocate it. The Communists point to it as forced upon them, and say that when it comes they will take part in it, and in their plans they want to prepare the ground, and win as many as possible to their point of view and for their side. And where will we be on that day?” (“Beyond Politics,” November 1949)

    “Mao-tse-Tung. . . . Karl Marx . . . .Lenin . . . . These men were animated by the love of
    brother and this we must believe though their ends meant the seizure of power, and the building of mighty armies, the compulsion of concentration camps, the forced labor and torture and killing of tens of thousands, even millions.” (“The Incompatibility of Love and Violence,” May 1951)

    “I was always much impressed, in reading prison memoirs of revolutionists, such as Lenin and Trotsky … by the amount of reading they did, the languages they studied, the range of their plans for a better social order. (Or rather, for a new social order.) In the Acts of the Apostles there are constant references to the Way and the New Man.” (“On Pilgrimage,” December 1968)

    “In 1954 I had written an article for the ‘Catholic Worker’ entitled ‘Ho Chi Minh and Theophane Venard, the hero and the saint.’ … If we had had the privilege of giving hospitality to a Ho Chi Minh, with what respect and interest we would have served him, as a man of vision, as a patriot, a rebel against foreign invaders.” (“On Pilgrimage, January 1970)

    Documentation of Day’s attempts to graft her never-abandoned Marxist views onto Catholic teaching is amply provided in Carol Byrne’s 2010 “The Catholic Worker Movement (1933-1980): A Critical Analysis.” Dr. Byrne consulted materials from the NYU Tamiment Library collection on the American Left, the CW Archives at Marquette University, as well papal teachings and writings by Day’s coworkers. The complete “Supplementary Notes” to the book are at “Dorothy Day Another Way,” where the quotations listed above can also be found.

  • GC

    Why does activism of whatever sort now always have to be tarred with the name “politics”? If God wants Dorthy Day canonized she will be. I count myself a great admirer; however, I am troubled by the direction the Catholic Worker movement has taken since her death–less Gospel and more post-60’s radicalism and analysis.

  • Dr Carol Byrne

    Stephen Beale missed the point by a mile when he stated that Day was “far out of step with the Left” and presented this opinion as a little known fact. What is generally unknown is the
    most important aspect of her work – her lifelong support for Communism, which has
    been ruthlessly suppressed by her Leftist supporters who are seeking her

    Day, of course, denied several times that she was a Marxist, but there are good grounds for believing that she stood in the intellectual tradition that started with Marx and that she was inspired by figures (both Communist and anarchist) who developed Marxist themes such as Lenin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Castro, Che Guevara, Kropotkin, Proudhon, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Rosa Luxemburg, to name some of the most prominent. (These and many others, such as Saul Alinsky, are mentioned by name as the object of her admiration in the pages of the Catholic Worker.)

    As for Marx himself, Day often presented him in CW as a man deserving of the highest admiration. She did not mention the many details of his life which would revolt the sensibilities of any decent person. And she ignored the effects of his Communist Manifesto which inspired governments known primarily for atrocities committed not only against other nations, but against their own people.

    Day stated, or rather quoted Communist Roger Garaudy as stating, that “Karl Marx has shown us how we can change the world.” (CW April 1957) As one example of her aim to bring Marx’s thinking into the Catholic Church, especially through the Worker-Priest Movement which was riddled with Marxism, she also stated that “most of our priests” who were “sons of working men” were lacking in “the leadership that the workers have had in Karl Marx, in his analysis of the social order.” (CW March 1947)

    Examples abound in CW and in Day’s other writings of her firm faith in Marx’s analysis of the social order. She promoted class warfare, antagonism between worker and employer, denigration of the clergy, anti-capitalism, abolition of inequalities, and anarchism – all ingredients of the Marxist dialectic which is rooted in atheistic Communism. Yet Day sought to convince people that they were compatible with a Christian view and could be incorporated into the teaching of the Catholic Church. A fuller treatment of the issue is contained in my book, “The Catholic Worjer (1933-80): a Critical Analysis”.

    Given the convergence of these key Marxist theories in Day’s political outlook , how can anyone claim that Day was “out of step with the Left”?

    • Stephen Beale

      Dr. Byrne, You are incorrect. She opposed class warfare and antagonism between worker and employer. Here’s one example:

      To assent to violence is to give way to the spirit of the times This is
      truly betraying the workers,

      Agreeing with the necessity for force is making concessions to the
      immediate, the expedient. It is in reality denying the doctrine of the
      brotherhood of man and the dogma of the Mystical Body. “Why must the
      members war one against the other?”

      To become one with the workers — to be the poorest of the poor, yes.

      But to assent to the mob spirit is a
      betrayal. It is to be carried on the wave of a movement. It is the easiest
      way. To use all of our spiritual forces to propel that movement of the people
      is to be guilty of a terrible wrong.

      Link here:

      • ubiPetrusEst

        On the contrary, Day repeatedly stated her belief in class warfare, and her writings often encouraged it. She also praised bloody Communists such as Castro, Mao Tse Tung, and Ho Chi Minh for the supposed “social advances” that their violence–which she could not “condone”–had achieved:

        “Class war is a fact and one does not need to advocate it. The Communists point to it as forced upon them, and say that when it comes they will take part in it, and in their plans they want to prepare the ground, and win as many as possible to their point of view and for their side. And where will we be on that day?” (“Beyond Politics,” CW, November 1949)

        “But I am sure that God did not intend that there be so
        many poor. The class structure is of our making and our consent, not
        His. It is the way we have arranged it, and it is up to us to change
        it. So we are urging revolutionary change.” (“Poverty Is to Care and Not to Care, CW, April 1953)

        “A Jewish convert said to me once, “The Communists hate God, and the Catholics love Him. But they are both facing Him, directing their attention to Him. They are not indifferent.
        Communists are not in so bad a case as those who are indifferent. It it
        the lukewarm that He will spew out of His mouth.” (“From Union Square to Rome,” p. 174)

        ” ‘Thou art neither cold nor hot … because thou art lukewarm … I am about to
        vomit thee out of my mouth,’ our Lord says. Far better to revolt violently than to do nothing about the poor destitute.” (“Letter to an Imprisoned Editor,” CW, January 1960)

        [Charles Schwab, head of Bethlehem Steel, donated money for a Catholic orphanage.] I could not but feel that his was tainted money…. It was, I felt, money which beonged to the workers. He had defrauded the worker of a just wage. His sins cried to heaven for vengeance. He had ground the faces of the poor. ‘Let not the oil of the sinner fatten my head’ (Ps. 140:5).” (“From Union Square to Rome,” p. 137)

        Fortunately, the Papal States were wrested from the Church in the last century, but there is still the problem of investment of papal funds. It is always a cheering thought to me that if we have good will and are still unable to find remedies for the economic abuses of our time, in our family, our parish, and the mighty church as a whole, God will take matters in hand and do the job for us. When I saw the Garibaldi mountains in British Columbia . . . I said a prayer for his soul and blessed him for being the instrument of so mighty a work of God. May God use us!” (“Hutterite Communities,” CW, July-August 1969).

        “If I wrote to Archbishop Cooke and asked that Nativity Church be kept open, I wonder if the pastor and curates would agree. Of course, things would get stolen. If there are curtains, heavy rich red plush ones, in front of the confessionals, they might be taken home to be used as covers in the cold tenements, where too often the furnace breaks down. Or the candlesticks might disappear from the altar, to supply the light when the welfare check was used for food and the gas and electric was shut off.” (“On Pilgrimage,” CW, October 1968)

        • Stephen Beale

          ubiPetrusEst you leave out important context in that first quotation from her November 1949 column. Here it is:

          “If we spend the rest of our lives in slums, as I hope we will who work
          for and read the CATHOLIC WORKER, if we are truly living with the poor,
          working side by side with the poor, helping the poor, we will inevitably
          be forced to be on their side, physically speaking. But when it comes
          to activity, we will be pacifists, I hope and pray, non-violent
          resisters of aggression, from whomever it comes, resisters to
          repression, coercion, from whatever side it comes, and our activity will
          be the works of mercy. Our arms will be the love of God and our
          I don’t see the other quotations as advocating class warfare at all. In one she says violent revolt is better than inaction, but she’s not advocating violent revolt. She’s trying to convict Catholics who do nothing. Reading through her writings she’s always pressing for nonviolent resistance and pacificism. The revolution she wants is ultimately a revolution of hearts and minds. This is apparent throughout her writings.

          • ubiPetrusEst

            “The revolution of hearts and minds” Day wanted must be
            examined in light of the Communist revolutions she repeatedly endorsed. If Day’s commitment to nonviolence were genuine, how could she accept “social advances” achieved through the violence that she claimed to renounce? Yet she discounted violence in China, Cuba, and Vietnam because she approved of the coercive social actions taken after the bloodshed lessened.

            Similarly, Day’s hope that CWs will be “nonviolent resisters of aggression” must be taken with a grain of salt. Thomas Merton and others in the peace movement recognized the violence in the
            “nonviolent” acts of draft card burning and destruction of property at
            federal sites. Day rightly protested “burning” by napalm, but she propagandized that CW Roger LaPorte’s burning of himself to protest the Vietnam War was a way “to die for love” (“Duty of Delight, 2011, p. 422). She wrote: “And now he is dead–dead by his own hand, everyone will say, a suicide. But after all, there is tradition in the Church of what are called ‘victim souls.’ ” (“Suicide or Sacrifice?” CW, November, 1965). Merton had a different view of LaPorte’s suicide and Day’s influence on impressionable young men, and this irritated her. As the thirteenth anniversary of LaPorte’s death drew near, Day remembered that Merton had written to warn her “not to urge our young men to do this! Hard to forgive him his stupidity” (“Duty of Delight,” p. 652). What about her glorification of self-incineration for a political cause?

            Following her usual pattern, pacifist Day defended the vile Black Panther Bobby Seale, who participated in the violent demonstrations of the 1968 “Days of Rage” (“Duty of Delight,” p.497). These few examples should suffice in this attempt to highlight aspects of Day’s writings that are often overlooked, not just in Stephen Beale’s article: her Marxism, her pro-Soviet propaganda, and her pro-Communist activities.

    • Stephen Beale

      Dr. Byrne, it is not true she denigrated priests. She criticized priests who did not preach and follow the fullness of Church teaching. Regarding anti-capitalism and anarchism, those are positions that are not exclusive to Marxism. Such attitudes are shared by some German romantic philosophers, existentialists, distributists, and so-called paleoconservatives.

      Finally, it is true that she sympathized with some elements of communism, but, as a I state in the piece, she was under no illusion as to the reality of what communism meant in practice. Her writings are rife with criticisms of the communist Soviet Union. One example is above in my piece. Here’s another:

      It is hard, I repeat, to talk to you of religion. But without faith in each other, we cannot go on. Without hope we cannot go on. Without hope we cannot live. To those who are without hope, I remind you of Christ, your brother. Religion, thought in terms of our brotherhood through Christ, is not the opiate of the people. It is a battle “mighty to God unto the pulling down of fortifications.” Do not let either capitalist or Communist kill this noble instinct in you.


      • ubiPetrusEst

        It would be helpful if Stephen Beale would provide the date and source
        of his quotations from Dorothy Day.The groups he mentions may support
        Day’s views, and anti-capitalism and anarchism may not be “exclusive to
        Marxism,” BUT Marxism is what inspired Day her whole life. Thus, she
        presents an idealized view of Marx and Lenin as secular saints. In
        addition, she advocated for many Communist beliefs and, as Dr. Carol Byrne
        writes in “The Catholic Worker Movement (1933-1980): A Critical
        Analysis,” she intertwined these beliefs with Catholicism, so that “this
        political slant became a kind of religion with its own doctrines” (p.
        295). Here are some examples, including the complete quotation of Day’s fabricated “Papa Marx” and “Christ-like” Lenin:

        “To see only the good, the Christ, in others! Perhaps if we thought of how Karl Marx was called ‘Papa Marx’ by all the children on the street, if we knew and remembered how he told fairy stories to his children, how he suffered hunger and poverty and pain, how he sat by the body of his dead child and had no money for coffin or funeral, perhaps such thoughts as these would make us love him and his followers. Dear God, for the memory of that dead child, of
        that faithful wife, grant his stormy spirit ‘a place of refreshment, light and peace.’
        And there was Lenin. He hungered and thirsted and at times he
        had no fixed abode. Mme. Krupskaya, his widow, said that he loved to go
        into the peace of the pine woods and hunt mushrooms like old Mrs. Dew
        down at Easton did, and we with her one October. He lived one time in
        the slums of Paris, and he lived on horse meat when he had meat, and he
        started schools for the poor and the workers. ‘He went about doing
        good.’ Is this blasphemy?” (“On Pilgrimage,” CW, April 1948)

        “We belonged to that school of youth which lived in the present, lived the life of the senses. Lenin was to excoriate that school in his famous letters to Rosa
        Luxemburg when he talked of bourgeois youth and its bourgeois morality. He spoke rightly. But it was not to be expected that all had his genius. His life followed the pattern of all great men–a single-mindedness, a purity of heart, a search for the new society for man.” (The Long Loneliness, 1952, 1996 reprint, pp. 85-86)

        “It is only through religion that communism can be achieved, and has been achieved over and over.” (“From Union Square to Rome,” 1938, 2006 reprint, p. 154)

        • Mark

          Marxism is primarily not a doctrine of socialism but a doctrine of historical materialism. Please retake Philosophy 101 before you condemn a saint for not being a neocon.

          • ubiPetrusEst

            Day is a Servant of God and has not been declared a saint by the Church. Marxism is a doctrine of historical materialism, and Day subscribed to it even after she became a Catholic.She confused and joined economic issues with spiritual ones as shown in her erroneous assertion that the “new heaven and new earth” the Apocalypse describes are to be brought about by human actions that lead to a “distributist” and “commune”-based economy. The examples she presented and praised were Communist countries or religious groups such as the Hutterites. Please take a course in remedial reading as my post does not “condemn a saint for being a neocon.”

    • miki tracy

      “Dr.” Byrne, you’re such a liar. Shame on you.

      • ubiPetrusEst

        Is this meant to be our laugh of the day? This comment has no substance and is simply name calling. It’s at the level of a schoolyard taunt, even though the author is co-founder of the CW movement’s Gilbert House (named for GKC–I trust initials are sufficient).

    • Anonymous

      It is no surprise that she was inspired by Proudhon and Kropotkin. If you were familiar with Proudhon’s work, you would see that his form of Anarchism known as “Mutualism” is basically Distributism but ‘socialist’. Proudhon wasn’t a Christian, he was a pantheist who adhered to Christian morality but he definitely wasn’t a Communist.

      And Kropotkin’s work about mutual aid is very aligned with Christian morality. He advocates a society where the community helps itself and grows decentralized, not GULAGs and Red Armies and secret polices and a political state with an agenda trying to maintain control and protect the “revolution”.Nothing really that far from Distributism in theory.

      When it comes to other names mentioned like Marx, Guevara and Lenin, we must remember the time and place she was at. She was fed communist propaganda because there was no internet to show us how much it did suck and Stalin wasn’t even dead in most of the periods you mentioned, the Distributist movement was almost dead, Guevara was new cool and hip and branches of anarchism more aligned with Christian morality (such as Proudhon’s and Benjamin Tucker’s Anarchism) were forgotten by the Masses.

      In other words: She couldn’t really know how bad it really was in marxist countries because the marxist governments didn’t let the truth out. She sympathized with Marxist analysis, and that’s fine because that’s the only good thing about Marx’s work and she wanted to act and thought that amongst Marxists there was more in common with her ideology. Besides, there was a time when Proudhon was famous. the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s isn’t that time. And Belloc and Chesterton never had any presence in political movements.

      Associating with communists doesn’t really make one a communist. She might have been a non-marxist socialist for most of her life, but saying she was a communist is going too far. Not all forms of Socialism are Marxist or violent.

      • ubiPetrusEst

        Your defense of Day’s ignorance and naivete is negated by her writings. I once thought the same as you did, Here is an example that Day recognized “how bad it really was in marxist countries”:

        “Mao-tse-Tung…. Karl Marx…. Lenin…. These men were animated by the love of brother and this we must believe though their ends meant the seizure of power, and the building of mighty armies, the compulsion of concentration camps, the forced labor and torture and killing of tens of thousands, even millions.” (“The Incompatibility of Love and Violence,” CW, May 1951)

  • ubiPetrusEst

    Stephen Beale writes that Day “urged her readers to follow the entirety of the Church’s teachings on abortion, birth control, and divorce… ‘We may stretch towards it, falling short, failing seventy times seven, but forgiveness is always there,’ Day wrote.”

    A closer reading of her December 1972 “On Pilgrimage” CW remarks reveals that Day’s subject is the FORGIVENESS of the sins committed when people do not follow the Church’s teaching on abortion, divorce, and birth control. Here is what she wrote:

    A flood of water (and Christ is living water) washes out sins–all manner of filth, degradation, fear, horror. He is also the Word. And studying the New Testament, and its
    commentators, have come in this my 76th year, to think of a few holy words of Jesus as the greatest comfort of my life.
    “Judge not.”
    “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
    “Forgive seventy times seven times.”
    All words of our Lord and Saviour. “I have knowledge of salvation thru forgiveness of my sins,” Zacharias sang in his canticle.
    And so, when it comes to divorce, birth control, abortion, I must write in this way. The teaching of Christ, the Word, must be upheld.
    Held up though one would think that it is completely beyond us–out of our reach, impossible to follow. I believe Christ is our Truth and is with us always. We may stretch towards it, falling short, failing seventy times seven, but forgiveness is always there.

    Note that the quotations she gives all deal with forgiveness. Thus, we must believe that even if we fall “short, failing seventy times seven” and have abortions, get divorced, and use birth control, “forgiveness is always there.” Day continues in the same vein:

    He is a kind and loving judge. And so are 99% of the priests in the confessional. The
    verdict there is always “not guilty” even though our “firm resolve with the help of His grace to confess our sins, do penance and amend our lives” may seem a hopeless proposition. It always contains, that act of contrition, the phrase “to confess our sins,” even though we have just finished confessing them, which indicates that the priest knows, and we know, and we want to be honest about it, that we will be back in that confessional, again and again.

    Day emphasizes perpetual forgiveness–rather than progress,conversion, and amendment–by stating that “the verdict there is always ‘not guilty’ even though our ‘firm resolve … [to] amend our lives’ may seem a hopeless proposition” and “the priest knows, and we know … that we will be back in that confessional, again and again.” Her final choice of the term “not guilty”–rather than “pardoned” or “forgiven”–is also interesting.

    Today, we might feel that Day’s consciousness needed to be raised in regard to another sexual issue she addresses in the same column: “It was during the Second World War. And there was a man in our house of hospitality arrested for indecent exposure…. I later learned from a famous psychiatrist, that these men (AND WHAT CHILD HAS NOT SEEN THEM) who expose themselves, seldom are dangerous, and are often cured” (capitals added).

    • Alecto

      Thank you for your post. It illuminates important issues for Catholics, especially now during Lent. I must ask whether contrition is required for absolution, because I believe that it is. If I do not intend to amend my wicked ways, but rely always on forgiveness without admonition, without condition, without penance, what does that make me? Is absolution automatic? Should it be? I don’t believe it is. If I have no contrition for my sins, I don’t lie to the priest and to Jesus and say that I do. I pray for the grace to feel the full consequence of my sins, the offense to God, and then confess them.

      • dbwheeler

        Thank you yet again. I’d never read anything like that and being a convert, knew instinctively that my confessions were not all they could or should be. I think I will have to write down some of your insights or I will forget them.

  • Dcn Doug McManaman

    What a marvelous article this was. Thanks,

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  • Pallium

    I suspect that the author never met Dorothy Day ( I had that privilege). The author ignores the political and social realities of the time (and Day’s growth and development over the years). Which of us would stand behind our writings composed at 21…faced with the poverty she saw about her? Does the author know about how popular the Russian “experiment” was during the 20’s and 30’s among young and idealistic Americans. The McCarthy era witch hunt in the 50’s had a basis in fact. Many young people became members of the Communist Party before WWII. To select quotes over many years and then stitch them together around a mannequin of the author’s invention is unfortunate.

    What I saw was a woman worn by the sands of time, a woman who had her failings…but whose deep empathy with the least among us was burning brightly in her eyes. I think that Dorothy Day would be surprised and indifferent about canonization.

  • OBX47

    Sounds like she would be a star in today’s GOP and that is not a complement.

    • ubiPetrusEst

      Sounds like she’d be a GOP star, but it is not so. Day differentiated between the ideal and the real. Despite her remarks about Social Security and her cracks about “Holy Mother the State,” she had a different reaction when her daughter, Tamar, and her husband, David, separated. Day wrote: “Tamar is better….She will have to get State aid. She and David believe in it and I do too for emergency measure–my relatives won’t help…. They think I should support Tamar and her family but you know how little authors get” (“All the Way to Heaven,” pp. 279-280). The next day she wrote in her diary: “Investigator came this a.m. at 9. Very nice. I called Tamar later; she said no lien on house but a survey of personal property to see if there is enough to take lien on. $40 a month for each child, and something for her. She feels the tension. Distributism versus welfare state.” (“Duty of Delight,” p. 325). So “tense”: Tamar received $360 a month from the State of Vermont for her children, “and something for herself.”

      • Catherine Anastasia Breezy

        So…she had 9NINE children???

        • ubiPetrusEst

          Yes, Dorothy Day’s daughter, Tamar, had nine children. Two of them–Martha and Katy–are active in advocating for Day’s cause for canonization.

          Day’s approval of this aid to Tamar seems to cast doubt on the beginning sentence of the above article: “She lamented the encroachment of the state and the perils of the welfare system.” Day’s high-minded and idealistic stand against Social Security was rather flexible. Day knew from her own experience that there are times the individual’s family and friends and church and school and sports team and the local eating and drinking place can’t offer sufficient help.

          • dbwheeler

            I find the very name Catholic Worker offensive. No one is ‘the worker; except in socialist states …we’re people of parts and work is just one of aspect of them. It is a divisive and shallow distinction. So much about this woman (and I read a bio of her years ago trying to be fair) is too controversial and frankly, a morass, a bog, a hidden pool of dark and conflicting ideas. What is the attraction? Why this driving compulsion to force the sainthood spin? St. Dorothy Day! As likely to have St. Doris Day…no, more likely.

            • ubiPetrusEst

              Yes, Day had many controversial and confusing views that many people are not aware of. For example, Day declared in the “Catholic Worker” newspaper: “To
              labor is to pray — that is the central point of the Christian
              doctrine of work. Hence, it is that while both Communism and
              Christianity are moved by ‘compassion for the multitude,’ the object of
              communism is to make the poor richer but the object of Christianity is
              to make the rich poor and the poor holy” (“The Church and Work,” September 1946) .

              Day mixed up Christianity with her own socialist views and never gave up her use of Marxist terms. In the quotation in Beale’s article abpve, Day protests that Social Security will prevent “change.” Day wanted social unrest and change; she believed and hoped for a “revolution” that would lead the US to socialism as practiced in countries such as Cuba, Russia, and mainland China–all countries she praised in her newspaper.

              Day frequently found it frustrating when others questioned her adherence to her loudly proclaimed ideals. She wrote about it herself, as follows:

              “When we talk of the joy of suffering–“in the Cross is the joy of spirit” (Imitation [of Christ] book 3 chapter 12)– we are accused of being “necrophiliacs,” as Harry Sylvester called me, when he did not like John McKeon’s review of his book, The Golden Boy. A priest also who reviewed my book insinuated that there was something morbid in my love for the poor.
              Strange criticisms. Other jibes–when Bob drove the city car to the baptism, the godmother said, “I thought you were doing without cars.” When after waiting from 6 to 12 to break my fast, I said I was starving, Anne Marie spoke out, “I thought from your article about the Carthusians you were going to begin a fast.” And she began talking about her hunger during the occupation in Paris. Emily [Coleman], when she came to live with us, was much disillusioned. “When you quote the early Fathers [of the Church] ‘the coat which hangs in your closet belongs to the poor,’ I thought you lived in beautiful poverty and simplicity, and you certainly have more than one coat and dress.’ The other day after a conversation during which I chattered to a friend she gave me a reminder of St. James’s epistle on the dangers of the tongue, and I realized I had been complaining.” (“The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day,” 2011, p. 284)

              Yes, Doris Day is easier to admire. When asked to abort her son, Terry Melcher, to advance her acting career, Doris told the person making the request to go to hell. Doris is more well known than Dorothy, and several people have asked, “They want to make Doris Day a saint?” when they heard Dorothy’s cause mentioned.

              For more information on the socialist Catholic Day, Carol Byrne’s “The Catholic Worker Movement (1933-1980): a Critical Analysis” is very helpful, and the blog “Dorothy Day Another Way” has Dr. Byrne’s complete supplementary notes.

              • dbwheeler

                Sorry I pushed your buttons. Actually, it’s not a topic in which I’m knowledgeable or even passionate about. I respect your views and in actuality, it is all in God’s Will in either case and most assuredly not in ours. Have a nice day.

              • slainte

                Que Sera, Sera
                Whatever will be, will be
                The future’s not ours to see
                Que Sea, Sera.
                Both Doris and Dorothy contributed significantly to our society.

          • Catherine Anastasia Breezy

            You mean, these things don’t pay the bills???

    • dbwheeler

      Complement means something that completes, or makes perfect, such as complementary colors, like red and green. I take it you meant compliment, and you’re probably one of those so-called democrats that voted for obama ?

  • montanajack1948

    If all of us were Dorothy Days, there’d be no need for the “welfare” programs she decried. And if all of us were angels, there’d be no need for government either. I think Dorothy Day was a wondrous example of how to live a Christian life, and a human one; I’m not sure we ought to hold her up as a political philosopher.

    • sixlittlerabbits

      Well, Day’s daughter and nine grandchildren needed help from a “welfare” program when Tamar and her husband David Hennessy had marital difficulties and later separated (see “The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day,” 2011, p. 325, and “Dorothy Claims That Catholics Have Not Sufficiently Cared for Their Own, 1939-1970” at ).

  • Stephen Beale

    Thank you all for your comments on this piece. I feel a need to correct one misconception among those who commented: This piece was not an attempt to present a holistic assessment of Dorothy Day’s social and political thought. The aim rather was to highlight those aspects of her writings and views that seemed to have gone ignored.

  • Miki Tracy

    Dorothy is very much my mother, and one of the primary reasons that I returned to the Catholic Church. She was my definitive introduction to G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, the Catholic Land Movement, and the papal encyclicals. The early Catholic Worker papers, even up until her death in 1980, were replete with offerings from the readins of the Mass, the Early Church Fathers, the lives of the Saints and the Breviary. She said that without the Liturgy, and the Eucharist as our center, all social justice would fail, and I believe her. It saddens me that the vast majority of those who call themselves Catholic Workers have no idea who Dorothy really was; she was neither Right nor Left, she was a faithfully practising, 1st Corinthians, Martha-Mary Catholic in love with the Passion of Christ, and I love her for showing me the path to Him.

    • ubiPetrusEst

      Let me offer a counter-testimonial on Day’s personal piety. She was a daily communicant and a Scripture-quoting (and misquoting) writer. In 1937, Mass was offered facing the people at the CW farm with Day’s approval (CW, March 1966); she supported a group who disrupted the Sunday Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral as a political protest (CW, February 1967). She emphasized the Eucharist as “food” to a fellow retreatant: “I told her of Fr. Jos Woods and a conference in which he said, ‘The Blessed Sacrament is to be consumed, not just adored. He is our life, our food, and we do not adore our food as such. We might as well adore
      the altar.’ ” (“Duty of Delight,” p. 325).

      This view may help to explain how Day allowed certain activities to occur on CW premises with the Blessed Sacrament present, as when she tolerated and enabled immorality at the Catholic Worker farms. During visits to Tivoli in the mid-1960s and 1971 I was puzzled and confused by the laxness there and thought that Day must be unaware. But her diary “The Duty of Delight” reveals that she knew of the “sexual immorality”–her term –(pp. 419, 454), decided to “try to sell” the farm (p. 486), and then took 10 years to do so (p. 675).

      My dear mother-in-law was a friend of Emily Coleman and knew Dorothy Day, but was no fan of Ammon Hennacy. Day praised his fasts, even though he washed his mouth out with coffee or soda; she presented him in print as a “fatherly” figure while she asked him privately if he slept with women when he visited their apartments overnight. Irony of irony, Joan Thomas, Ammon’s second wife, met him at the CW after Day told her, “Oh, you must meet Ammon. He knows all about fasting. And he likes pretty girls”; Thomas describes this as “an extremely puzzling remark for a bona fide Christian woman” to make” (“The Years of Grief and Laughter,” 1974, p.
      7). When Ammon married Joan outside the Church, he remained a “Catholic” Worker; he had become a Catholic because Dorothy was one. She eulogized him in “Ammon Hennacy: Non-Church’ Christian” (CW,February 1970).

  • In 1952, Dwight Macdonald published in The New Yorker a two-part profile, reprinted in 1957 in Memoirs of a Revolutionist (reissued in 1970 as Politics Past) of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement she helped found. I recommend it highly, as I do everything by Macdonald.

    • ubiPetrusEst

      Thanks for information about the reprinted Macdonald interviews. When reading them, readers might like to know what Michael Harrington said in “Voices from the Catholic Worker”:

      “I remember when Dwight Macdonald was interviewing Dorothy for the ‘New Yorker.’ Like so many people, Dwight fell in love with Dorothy. Not in the passionate sense, but in admiration. So he did something which … if the magazine had known about it at the time, it would’ve blown a gasket! He gave Dorothy his manuscript before he turned it in. I was right there when Dorothy was sanitizing her life. Dwight had come across the quotation in Malcolm Cowley’s book, ‘Exile’s Return,’ that said Dorothy could drink all the Italian gangsters under the table in the Sixth Avenue speakeasies. And to hear Dorothy tell it, when she was in these speakeasies, she was drinking sarsparilla or something.” (ed., R. Riegle Troester, 1993, p.75)

      • Splendid vignette. Readers may also recall that “Our Invisible Poor”, the long review in The New Yorker in 1963 (reprinted in Discriminations) by Dwight Macdonald of The Other America by Michael Harrington, once brought to the attention of John Kennedy, helped launch the War on Poverty.

  • “in one 1963 column she sounded more like John Paul II than Gloria Steinem in condemning pre-marital sex”

    See the kindred view of this subject (in the regular department on “CHILDREN … and Ourselves”) in this issue from 1950 of MANAS, a one-man weekly edited from 1948 to 1988 by a Los Angeles-are Theosophist, neo-Platonist, Indophile, and WWII conscientious objector much indebted to the social philosophies of Gandhi, Thoreau, Tolstoy, Ortega and a cast of hundreds of other inner lights by whose everlasting flames of soul every enchanted word of the paper was backlit..

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  • BellaTerra66

    Well, Mr. Beale, you certainly opened up a can of worms, didn’t you? 🙂 /// I’ve been reading and rereading DD’s books (she wrote so little — too little) for almost 50 years. I have loved her all my adult life. She is a saint to me. Thomas Merton also. And The RCC is never going to canonize either one of them because — they were real saints. 🙂

    • dbwheeler

      I’m not surprised at your thinking Ms.Day a saint if you include Merton on your saints wannabes list. In his later years he was almost more zen buddhist than Catholic. Why not read some good books by Blessed Bishop Sheen?

      • BellaTerra66

        Why not read some really good books by Ms. Day and Thomas Merton?

        • dbwheeler

          To be honest,Bella, I have done so…plus I was recently given Merton’s letters that were recently published. I try not to be biased without at least trying to read and understand if my initial assessment was in error. I am only speaking for myself and would not discourage others from doing so should they be inclined. You never did answer my question, but then I have a very good idea what your answer would be. I much prefer Hillaire Belloc and Chesterton and find their cause for sainthood by far the greater over that of Day or Merton! God bless and enjoy whatever it is that brings you closer to Him. ;o)

          • BellaTerra66

            To be honest, DB, your condescending tone does not do you justice, I’m sure.
            PS: God is not male.

            • ubiPetrusEst

              To disagree is not to be condescending. Rather than reply to the content of DB’s response, you merely mislabel what DB has said. BTW, many people find Dorothy Day’s books boring and/or hard to read and understand. Very often she reworks material from her columns and regurgitates material. Just take a look at some of the negative reviews on Amazon.

              • BellaTerra66

                You’re right, of course. To disagree is not necessarily to also be condescending. But DB was also condescending too. And most Catholics who are frozen in 1950s Catholicism usually are.
                And you think her books are boring and/or hard to read? So what. I never thought they were. So what.
                And you REALLY want me to take Amazon’s negative reviews of her writings as ANY indication of who she was and all the good she did? You are kidding, right? (If case you didn’t get it, THAT was my being condescending.)

                • ubiPetrusEst

                  Well, go ahead and cast the first stone, as it’s okay for you to condescend while you criticize others for what you perceive as that fault. I only mention the negative reviews as accessible examples because advocates of Day often have difficulty believing or admitting that ANYONE views Day as a confusing writer who is not a heroine or someone worthy of emulation.

                  • BellaTerra66

                    Look, no one is perfect. No one. Not DD, Thomas Merton and certainly not Bishop Sheen. I’m just tired of Catholics who think that going to Mass on Sundays, saying their Rosary, going to Confession once a week, fasting during Lent, and giving a few dollars to Catholic charities (only bonafide ones, of course) is what constitutes Catholicism. DD makes them uncomfortable because she practiced real Christianity. She didn’t play it safe. We want to be comfortable and to play it safe. Of course we don’t want to emulate her! We don’t even want to emulate Christ! We want to follow The Vatican! Well, now that we’ve got a Pope who seems to know what Christianity is really about — we’ve got a Vatican that keeps contradicting him. 🙂 I can’t wait to see what happens over the next few years — well, unless he has the same ‘fate’ as Pope John XXIII.

            • Bob Brown

              regarding your PS:”God is not male”
              In the second person of the Blessed Trinity, He most certainly is Male!

              • BellaTerra66

                No, God is NOT male. According to RC dogma, the second person of the trinity took a male body. God is no more male than God is a white-haired old man and a dove.

                • Bob Brown

                  What? Where who did He take it from?

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  • ubiPetrusEst

    This article starts with a “revealing exchange” between Dorothy Day and the Communist Party in 1936. Perhaps readers will find a later effort by Day worth reading.

    “We are taught that it is a sin to keep silent when we should speak
    out in defense of the right, thus consenting to wrong . . . that God
    turns even malice and wrong doing to His own ends . . . that we must be
    ready to uphold truth at whatever cost to ourselves . . . that it is
    only the truth that can imbue men’s hearts with true freedom. So with
    all these things in mind we sent the following message to the editors of
    The Daily Worker:

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

    The editors The Catholic Worker. D.D.

    P.S. Seriously speaking, since it has been called to our attention
    that the faithful are forbidden to read Marxist writings, we withdraw
    our facetious offer of our mailing list.” (“The Daily Worker Case,” Catholic Worker, April 1956; italics in original)