Hallelujah! The Conservative Catholic Hierarchy Taps an American Anarchist for Sainthood

From The New Republic - by Michael Kazin

One week after the presidential election, the Catholic bishops of the United States unanimously endorsed a female anarchist for sainthood. That news is not quite as shocking as it seems. Dorothy Day’s anarchism was of a decidedly pious kind. In 1927, at the age of thirty, she turned away from the secular leftism of her youth and was baptized in the Church, a moment she later confessed she had been waiting for all her life.

For the next half century, Day drew on the teachings of Jesus and papal encyclicals about social justice to build the Catholic Worker movement, which continues its mission in over two hundred locations today. Now as then, its members lead a thoroughly altruistic existence, living in community houses alongside the same poor people they feed, clothe, and pray with. Day also stuck by Church doctrine about when life begins, although she had endured an abortion of her own before she converted.

Not surprisingly, many bishops now exalt her for being faithful to the causes they care most about. Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York praises Day for what he called her “Augustinian” transformation: “there was a religious search, there was a pregnancy out of wedlock, and an abortion. Like Saul on the way to Damascus, she was radically changed.” Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the retired archbishop of Washington, DC,  values her empathy with the distressed: “Of all the people we need to reach out to…the street people, the ones who are on drugs, the ones who have had abortions, she was one of them.”

Yet,  Dorothy Day was far more than just a social worker equally dedicated to her Church and to the poor. She was a political radical, whose beliefs and activism often got her into trouble with the predecessors of the Catholic hierarchs who now seek to canonize her. In fact, it would indeed be a small miracle if today's Church leaders took stands resembling those which Day advocated with unwavering devotion.

An absolute pacifist, she incurred the resentment of Church authorities for opposing U.S. involvement in World War II and subsequent forays into Korea and Indochina. She mentored the Catholic activists who broke into a government office and poured homemade napalm on draft files in 1968 to protest the Vietnam war. And Day was such a resolute champion of labor that, in 1949, she even backed a gravediggers’ strike against a Catholic cemetery in New York City. When the powerful archbishop, Francis Cardinal Spellman, ordered seminary students to break the strike, she denounced him for bringing “so overwhelming a show of force against a handful of poor working men.” What Spellman did, she added bitterly, was “a temptation of the devil to that most awful of all wars, the war between the clergy and the laity.”

Like any good anarchist, Christian or not, Day had no faith whatsoever in the desire or ability of governing authorities to create a moral, egalitarian society. At the recent bishops’ meeting, Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago recalled asking her, just after the 1960 election, how she felt about having a Catholic in the White House “who can fight for social justice.” “I believe Mr. Kennedy has chosen very badly,” she snapped. “No serious Catholic would want to be president of the United States.” I doubt we will hear that line repeated from the pulpit once Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, and Andrew Cuomo start running for the White House.

To be fair, the American bishops do, on occasion, nudge politicians to be mindful of the needs of the poor. The Catholic leaders recently sent open letters to all members of the House and Senate with their concern about a hasty retreat from the fiscal cliff. The lettersdeclared, “A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects ‘the least of these’…The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first.”

But what came first for the bishops during the 2012 campaign was the supposedly urgent need to defend “religious liberty” against the Obamacare mandate that employers provide access to contraception for their female employees. Hoping to block it, Catholic clergy delivered countless speeches, held special masses, created rosary novenas and prayer cards on the issue, filed lawsuits, and advertised in both religious and secular publications and websites. It was a massive, unprecedented effort to carry out Pope Benedict’s edict,"Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted.” Who had time left to talk about poverty, much less to update the alarm an earlier pope, Pope Pius XI, had raised during the Great Depression about “the immense power and despotic economic domination…consolidated in the hands of a few”?

The Catholic Church has a long tradition of opposing libertarian laws and behavior, whether in the marketplace or in the bedroom. The former helped inspire the concept of a living wage as well as strong support for the labor organizers who built the CIO and the United Farm Workers. However, in recent years, the opposition to sexual freedom has dominated the Church’s political outreach and internal advocacy.

Perhaps the effort to make Dorothy Day a saint evinces a desire to redress the balance. But I suspect it will take more than this symbolic gesture to do the trick. As James Martin, SJ recently blogged in the Jesuit magazine, America:

The process of naming saints is not some kind of posthumously bestowed honor. It is more of a gift that the church bestows on itself…Dorothy believed we needed a new kind of saint. As she remarked as a child, “Where were the saints to try to change the social order, not just to minister to the slaves, but to do away with slavery?” I believe the possible canonization of Dorothy Day is an answer to that question. There are those who might try to fit her into a conventional mold. But I don’t think she will allow herself to be dismissed that easily.

Amen.

Michael Kazin’s latest book is American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation. He teaches history at Georgetown University and is co-editor of Dissent.

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Comments

The union was huge with my great grandfather and I always found it odd to see such a workerist catholic (albeit a diehard dem) either way I find this extremely interesting as an anarchist raised around Catholics. (I have never been a believer) good article though!

Environmentalists and aboriginals search the Bible (and Qur’an and Torah) in vain, for suggestions that biological ‘organizings’ are included in the sacred ‘Organizing’ aka Nature, as storm cell ‘organizings’ in the flow of the atmosphere are included in the grand ‘Organizing’ of the world-flow. Instead, they find the view that humans are ‘organisms’ or ‘things-in-themselves’ that are the jumpstart source of any ‘organizing’ that they are going to be included in.

However, if one reviews ‘the saints’, one already finds a notable ‘anarchist’ amongst them, St. Francis of Assisi, who believed that it was not necessary to ‘take ownership’ of organization, as the following excerpt from ‘St. Francis’ by G.K. Chesterton makes clear;

“It is therefore only necessary to note in a very few words what was the general nature of the controversy that raged after the great saint's death, and to some extent troubled the last days of his life. The dominant detail was the interpretation of the vow of poverty, or the refusal of all possessions. Nobody so far as I know ever proposed to interfere with the vow of the individual friar that he would have no individual possessions. Nobody, that is, proposed to interfere with his negation of private property. But some Franciscans, invoking the authority of Francis on their side, went further than this and further I think than anybody else has ever gone. They proposed to abolish not only private property but property. That is, they refused to be corporately responsible for anything at all; for any buildings or stores or tools; they refused to own them collectively even when they used them collectively. It is perfectly true that many, especially among the first supporters of this view, were men of a splendid and selfless spirit, wholly devoted to the great saint's ideal. It is also perfectly true that the Pope and the authorities of the Church did not think this conception was a workable arrangement, and went so far in modifying it as to set aside certain clauses in the great saint's will. But it is not at all easy to see that it was a workable arrangement or even an arrangement at all; for it was really a refusal to arrange anything. Everybody knew of course that Franciscans were communists; but this was not so much being a communist as being an anarchist. Surely upon any argument somebody or something must be answerable for what happened to or in or concerning a number of historic edifices and ordinary goods and chattels. Many idealists of a socialistic sort, notably of the school of Mr. Shaw or Mr. Wells, have treated this dispute as if it were merely a case of the tyranny of wealthy and wicked pontiffs crushing the true Christianity of Christian Socialists. But in truth this extreme ideal was in a sense the very reverse of Socialist, or even social. Precisely the thing which these enthusiasts refused was that social ownership on which Socialism is built; what they primarily refused to do was what Socialists primarily exist to do; to own legally in their corporate capacity.”

Anthropocentric-self-sourced control over ‘organization’ [authoritarianism] starts with control of possessions, aka, ‘property ownership’, something that the anarchist-Saint, Francis, rejected, not from out of ‘socialist/communist doctrine’, but out of a sense that the grand Organizing of Nature 'is' God/Divinity, and not only inhabits but creates man and the creatures; i.e. the capacity to organize is immanent in the continuously unfolding relational living space in which all ‘organizings’ gather and are regathered.

and who was pedophile of the year?

Assisi took it up the ass!

I am so confused. Was Dorothy Day an anarchist ? How can someone be an anarchist and be opposed to reproductive freedom ?

Was Dorothy Day "opposed to reproductive freedom"? What exactly does that mean?

I don't think abortion is or is similar to murder and definitely don't think it should be illegal, but I'm certainly opposed to abortion. I wouldn't have one and I don't think anyone should (depends on the situation obviously). If Dorothy thought abortion was murder, which is a valid opinion even if you and I disagree with it, then I imagine as an anarchist she was opposed to them in the same way an anarchist would be opposed to murder.

well you are a fucking moron

Actually I'm pretty smart when I fuck, which is why I've never needed to have an abortion.

Yes. Accidental pregnancies are the fault of people fucking dumb. That must be it. Thank goodness for smarty pantses like you!

ya, total moron. dictating what someone else might do with their bodies is just a bit oppressive. and perhaps you haven't realized that abortions aren't primarily for "accidents". uh, medical reasons, rape, regrettable shit-heads like yourself...
real sloppy argument, all over the place.

I have an opinion, but I'm not telling anyone they can't have an abortion, let alone "dictating" it (whatever that means). I'd discourage a friend from having one, but that's about it. I believe Dorothy Day had a similar take on it.

And it goes without saying that cases like rape and the mother's health are entirely different. It's actually disingenuous for you to bring them up. Especially since they are a small minority of abortion cases and abortions absolutely are primarily about convenience.

But convenience is important, too. Many women have difficult lives and have to make decisions that are impossible. I can sympathize with a woman who feels she has to have an abortion, I can even support her decision, but I still think abortion is bad for us. If you can't understand how that works, you're not ready to live outside of oppression yet.

this is such sloppy logic. The person didn't say they'd make anyone do anything. It's okay to have an opinion on something that people disagree with, this is why it's fucking amateur hour in here. If I think abortion is bad but don't do anything to make it so anyone can't have it, that's just like, my opinion, man. If I made it illegal for you to have one, that's oppression. Do you really not understand the difference?

seriously y'all are so fucking stupid.

If I told you you were a moron, but didn't do anything about it, it's just my opinion. But if I called you a moron and told you to read more books and gave you some to read, I would be liberating you. Do you read?

yes I read, please, oh proselytizing one, fill me with the knowledge of the lord and all hir works1!

Actually I'm an anarchist and I'm going to say abortion is bad and that within my zone of influence I would ban it. This isn't a contradiction of any anarchist behavior to enforce a standard or illegal condition within one's own social perimeter. This is what really hangs-up many theoretical anarchists, they become oppressed by a set of rules and standards which is exactly the antithesis of the anarchist way.

"...within my zone of influence I would ban it."

This sounds like Anarcho-Fascism. Fascism that is decentralized to the douchebag, himself.

I wonder if your "zone of influence" would cover a woman deciding for herself and her body in regards to an abortion.

Call it my territory, like everyone it's basically domestic space, maybe a radius of 30 feet, nothing fascist about this, I just don't dig negative fucking energies around me, like narcissistic weak women who fold to the capitalist pressure and destroy a perfectly good potentiality and life, cos it's just toooo hard, boohoohoo. They should take a good look at the under developed nations, women who walk hundreds of kms carrying their babies , without shelter or food, it makes me sick listening to these whining feminists in the richest western nations complaining about their fucking problems. Really disgusting self-absorption. I don't approve of wife beating, but,,,,,in an anarchist way the transitional stage MAY require some slapping.

I pray to Bob that you don't call yourself an Anarchist...there's too many alcoholics, assholes, capitalists, conservatives, catholic workers, and just plain awful people identifying as such...

Nah I'm a nihilist, gets me off the hook. Anyway, why the hell are you labelling me as any of these classifications [which indicates a tendency on your part to judge and moralise about people, as if YOU possess the ideal anarchist profile, how smug of you]?
Pray to Bob,,,,,, Black? Freaky!
Don't reply to this, nothing could be more depressing.

Dear worker: please could you break @news again and not fix it until such a time as your audience is less full of absolute fucking idiots? Thanks!

Sorry, can't do! Alienating people and describing them as fucking idiots is a totally authoritarian and oppressive move which makes YOU a fucking fascist!

not really

Nah, Bob Black is a way better person than you. He's never written about anti-abortion zones where no abortions happen within 30 feet of a douchebag.

Douchebag Autonomous Zones (DAZ's) are a bad idea.

So what is the anarchist view on desexing pet animals or livestock if by doing so means they will not reproduce and have to be culled? I myself also have a 30ft non-neutering zone and a DAZ so I can have some privacy.

I imagine as an anarchist she was opposed to them in the same way an anarchist would be opposed to murder

what? not all anarchists are opposed to murder.

No in my opinion it is located between what is 2nd and 3rd degree murder. There have to be some subtle descriptives to seperate various degrees of intent, motive or accidental circumstances. Arguments concerning the foetuses cognition are irrelevant, basically it's a potential being. If every creative potentiality was snuffed out, what does that say about society and civilization, that it has no faith or confidence in its own strength? The society may as well lie down in the foetal position AND DIE, because if it hasn't worked out how to assist and nurture potentiality in whatever form,,,well, what I'm sayiong is capitalism should curl up in a ball on the ground AND DIE!

Have you read Hakim Bey's Temporary Autonomous Zone ? He seems to make fun of people for support reproductive freedom/liberation. But, Hakim Bey/Peter Lamborn Wilson is an oddball.

Yes, Hakim Bey is not someone I look towards in regards to Anarchist inspirations. He comes across as a Trustafarian type and probably is...

http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/robert-p-helms-leaving-out-the-ug...

More info on Hakim Bey on him being not fond of reproductive freedom, him not having to work because of family money, and his views on pedophila, etc

personally i prefer Dorothy Day to platformists

personally I prefer almost anything to either of those

turtle sex ???

We catholic church now?

Dorothy Day was a total badass and this bullshit PR crap is just lame and not worth anyones attention. It would be like the AFL/CIO running a Joe Hill ad campaign.

http://www.mutanteggplant.com/vitro-nasu/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Doro...

Except that Dorothy Day was a Catholic and Joe Hill was not a member of AFL?CIO...

as an anarchist and a catholic this is pleasing to see dispite of the mass chaos and confustion the church has caused over 2000 years they still do some good stuff from time to time

"as an anarchist and a catholic"....more like "as an anarchist and a lover of hierarchy and authoritarianism"

"They do good stuff from time to time"...I can't stand Catholic Workers.

what what what? how can you be against hierarchy and stand behind the pope?
GTFO

or god.

just a point of interest, ... it is unlikely that the EZLN could have risen to power without the church, strange bedfellows that they may appear to be. meanwhile, there is nothing in church doctrine that says that the secular realm has to have a hierarchical organization. the history of the zapatista rebellion in chiapas goes like this;

"Chiapas had long voted for the ruling Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI) in relatively larger numbers than any other Mexican state. People were mostly forced by the local landowning elites to vote in this way. This gives some clue as to the all-encompassing grip the PRI maintained on Mexican society in Chiapas. It controlled the mass media, the few schools, the unions and the peasant organisations. The only significant counter balance to the PRI was the Roman Catholic Church. Thus, the rebels combined forces with the church to help organise peasant communities and support their struggles. By working alongside with what are generally the most trusted and revered members in Mexican peasant communities the rebels were able to slowly earn the trust and support of the local peasants. Sharing the hardships and general state of hopelessness with the peasants changed the rebels own perspectives to a point where the two became inseparable. Thus the guerrilla leadership did not take up arms and then call for local support. They consulted widely and thoroughly with local communities first until a consensus in favour of armed struggle was achieved."

Anarchists can be critical of ELZN (Zapatistas)

They're strong connections to Liberation Theology (Catholic Marxism/Marxist Catholicism) is a good point in understanding their ambivalence towards Anarchism.

Being critical of some or other doctrinal theory/philosophy is fine. But if you lived in shitty conditions in Chiapas and the EZLN knocked on your door looking for you to join in, would you have said, ‘Fuck off, and come back after you have eliminated all relations with Church and church-goers.’ Marcos started off as a Marxist critical of the Christian Church, but he was more interested in rallying the people to do something about being slaves to the political hierarchy, and lots of church-goers were in that frame of mind. Besides, most natives converted to christianity because they were forced to, and they took their pre-christian anarchist beliefs with them; i.e. just because they go to church does not mean that they are slaves to church dogma, or that they even believe in it. The stitching together of christianity and indigenous anarchism in chiapas was not by drafting a new doctrine that compromised on the gods of the natives and the God of christianity, it was achieved by archetypes such as ‘The Virgin of Guadalupe’, the ‘black madonna’. She was the big drawing card in the quote ‘conversion’ unquote of the indigenous population at the time of colonization.

the ‘christian anarchists’ of chiapas pretty much reflect the definition of a ‘christian anarchist’ of dorothy day and others;

“The dictionary definition of a Christian is: one who follows Christ; kind,
kindly, Christ-like. Anarchism is voluntary cooperation for good, with the right
of secession. A Christian Anarchist is therefore one who turns the other cheek;
overturns the tables of the money-changers, and who does not need a cop to
tell him how to behave. A Christian Anarchist does not depend upon bullets
or ballots to achieve his ideal; he achieves that ideal daily by the One Man
Revolution with which he faces a decadent, confused and dying world.”

do you want them 'in the social transformation’ or are you, as seems only too typical of our sick world, a purificationist that would rather continue to pick hairs out of the shit sandwiches the system continues to feed you?

A Christian Anarchist is therefore one who turns the other cheek;
overturns the tables of the money-changers, and who does not need a cop to
tell him how to behave. A Christian Anarchist does not depend upon bullets
or ballots to achieve his ideal; he achieves that ideal daily by the One Man
Revolution with which he faces a decadent, confused and dying world.”

this is a description of someone who is committed to never helping me. I don't see any reason why I should be respectful of their totally wack belief system

who says you have to like their belief system? marcos works with catholics on a project common to all their hearts [fuck theory and 'belief systems'], he didn't convert to catholicism but neither did he profane the catholics in the EZLN. don't be looking gift-anarchists in the mouth, or you'll be staying on the shit-sandwich diet fighting the good fight for hair-free product.

all the christian anarchists I've met in north america have been boring old people who would never consider doing anything except blogging, peaceful protests, and being morally outraged about things. sorry if I'm not enthusiastic about them as 'allies'

gotcha. my only exposure is aboriginal-christian anarchists [original turtle islander stock] who have a lot of moxie, like the chiapas strain.

She was into gay liberation way before her time, and was on best terms with her supporting actor Rock Hudson in many movies.

If Dorothy Day supported Gay Liberation, why is the Catholic Church (a homophobic institution/religion) tapping her for sainthood ?

Hey the catholic church fucks up all the time. Look at the fucking crusades. Major fuck-up!

jesus christ the logical fallacies in the comments on this article are astounding.

Jesus Christ was also into gay liberation and spent much of his time wandering around with a group of similarly minded young men. This is a fact.

Dorothy Day was not an advocate of Gay Liberation, she found homosexuality to be abhorrent. If I ever met an "anarchist" who thought homosexuality was abhorrent, I'd laugh in their face.

How could she find homosexuality abhorrent if she kissed Rock Hudson intimately and enjoyed his company off the movie set? Mae West was another actress who was way ahead of her time in the 1930's speaking up about and supporting gay rights.

I think you have Dorothy Day confused with Doris Day, which is pretty hilarious.

I think you're thinking of the movie "Pillow Talk" which is about anarchists who give away too much information just after they have had the Sex time. Rock Hudson and Doris Day both play anarchists who perform BDSM and then talk about the ALF and ELF acts they have performed while wearing recycled bike tire sex gear.

haha <3

Doris Day, Dorothy Day... what's the difference? Maybe making a saint of Doris Day would be cool. I hear she supports animal rights.

Oops damn Doris ain't Dorothy, damn.

Dorothy Parker was pretty cool, though. I'm fine with supporting Dorothy Parker.

You mean Doris Parker?

christian anarchism is a pretty archaic form of anarchist theory which predates nihilism, you guize ever heard of gauguin?

I don't think there is any chronological significance as regards christian anarchism except that it was possessed by one man named Jesus 2000 years ago. In whatever cultural or historical context , a political or metaphysical nihilist just IS at any moment in whatever era. Gauguin was a neo-colonialist escapist who dropped out over an aesthetic obsession, nothing more.

There's no such thing as christian anarchists. That's like being bi-curious. Just admit it. You like your penis/vagina as much as you like similar penises/vaginas. Get over it and stop being headless torso Grindr flakes.

Is Grindr flakes a breakfast cereal, just wondering?

It is if you're desperate. http://lmgtfy.com/?q=Grindr

OMG that is so vicious of you to say those things, OMG you are crass!

Thank GOD I'm not a cat-hole-licker @

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