Was Dorothy Day a dissenting Catholic?

New book from Ignatius Press says no, describes Day as "a faithful servant to the Church's teachings on everything from sexual morality to social justice"

Dorothy Day

A woman recognized by name by Pope Francis in 2015 who “shaped fundamental values which will endure forever in the spirit of the American people,” Dorothy Day was a force in her time, advocating for the poor and living out the social justice teachings of the Catholic Church. But many people saw her — and still do today — as challenging the Catholic Church on its teachings of social justice. But Day was an obedient servant and demonstrated the Church’s love of the poor, which professor Terrence C. Wright details in his new book, Dorothy Day: an Introduction to Her Life and Thought.

Wright, Ph.D., an associate professor of philosophy and director of the pre-theology program at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, uses many of Day’s own writings to reveal her love of the Catholic faith and will to live out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy through her founding of the Catholic Worker Movement.

In Dorothy Day, Wright addresses the misconceptions about what many have noted to be dissent from the Catholic Church. In reality, Day, whose cause for possible canonization is sponsored by the Archdiocese of New York, was a faithful servant to the Church’s teachings on everything from sexual morality to social justice. Battling a dark period in her life, in which she had an abortion and attempted suicide, Day let the love of Christ penetrate her heart and converted to the Catholic faith.

She went on to become a founder of the Catholic Worker Movement with the help of Peter Maurin, and lived in intentional poverty with her own daughter, Tamar, in their hospitality homes, performing corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Dorothy Day explores her life with a brief biography but focuses more on her thinking and commitment to her faith.

“Dorothy Day was a woman passionately committed to the truth about the dignity of the human person and to justice for the cause of the oppressed,” said Mother Dolores Hart, O.S.B., author of The Ear of the Heart: An Actress’ Journey from Hollywood to Holy Vows. “I highly recommend this book about her inspiring life that shows the light of her strong faith in Christ shining in the darkness of human misery.”

From Christian Newswire.

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  1. Poor pacifist Dorothy. Never met a Marxist revolution she didn’t back, nor a Communist she didn’t like.

  2. Larry Northon says:

    Dorothy Day was a communist to the end of her life, as shown by her adoring praise of Fidel Castro; incongruous for a supposed “pacifist,” wouldn’t you think?

  3. Dorothy Day was an influential person in my growth as a practicing Roman Catholic. The writings of Day and Peter Maurin steered me to the encyclicals Rerum Novarem, Datis Nuperrime and Quadragesimo Anno. Was she a communist after her conversion to Catholicism? I doubt it. Some have accused the early Christians as communists.

    • Tom Byrne says:

      Ralph:
      I don’t think she was an out-and-out Red either, but some of her political commentary over the years raises flags for me, like telling Spanish Catholics they should let the Reds slaughter them rather than join up with Franco. Pacifism is no more Catholic teaching than socialism. Of course, saints don’t have to be declared right in everything they said on every topic. Let’s just not have a land rush on this one.

    • Steve Seitz says:

      Ralph,
      If Dorothy Day were not a communist of sorts, how would you address the comments by Larry and Hymie above?

  4. Dorothy Day might not have been a dissenting Catholic, but many of her ardent supporters today are. Whenever I hear someone speak approvingly or admiringly about Dorothy Day, I immediately suspect that person is a dissenter on all the predictable topics, and I’m rarely wrong. Many Catholic Worker employees and supporters are virulent anti-American, anti-capitalist, Communists. She might have been okay in her day, but something about her and her movement acts as a magnet for phony Catholics today.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I was not alive back then, but my understanding is that the Catholic Worker arose as an alternative to the Communists. Back then the Communist Party was attracting people by taking care of workers who lost their jobs or families who lost their breadwinner.

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