A canonical look at Dorothy Day’s cause

Three problems addressed
Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day

The following comes from a January 4 posting on Ed Peters’ CanonLawBlog.com.

The causa of Servant of God, Dorothy Day (1897-1980) occasions many questions for ecclesiastical leadership, some of them canonical.  I can suggest three: Day’s abortion, her alleged status as a Communist, and her apparent conflicts with New York’s Cardinal Spellman over the title of her newspaper, The Catholic Worker.

Abortion. Day’s abortion is not a canonical objection to her elevation, as the killing occurred nearly a decade before her 1927 conversion to Catholicism (from Episcopalianism), that is, before Day was bound by 1917 CIC 2350 with its penalty of excommunication. Thus, Day’s repentance for the deed (which she clearly expressed many times) and Confession of the sin (likely offered in her first Confession, celebrated the day after her reception into the Church) would have adequately addressed this tragedy as far as canon law is concerned.

Communism. Day’s status as a Communist is unclear, but by late 1949 she was clearly describing herself as an “ex-Communist”. The date is significant, in that the directives from the Holy Office (now, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) against Communist party membership by Catholics and certain degrees of cooperation therewith, are dated to 1949-1950.  In other words, Day seems to have left the Party (assuming she ever “belonged” to it) just as the ambiguities in canon law, by which such membership could be tolerated despite 1917 CIC 2335, were being addressed.

See gen., Richard Murphy (American priest, 1925-1994), The Canonico-Juridical Status of a Communist, Canon Law Studies No. 400, (Catholic University of America, 1959) 186 pp. Day’s still earlier “cooperation” with the Party (chiefly, it seems, by way of employment) would have been susceptible to the usual moral criteria for assessing one’s cooperation with evil, which criteria, it seems, Day sought and took seriously.

The Catholic Worker. It appears that Day was in conflict with Francis Cdl. Spellman over her use of the word “Catholic” in the title of her newspaper, The Catholic Worker. Spellman, it seems, made the correct argument that Day’s use of the word “Catholic” in the paper implied ecclesiastical endorsement of the views of her paper, or at least, suggested the strong consistency of her views with Catholic Church teaching. Day refused to remove the word “Catholic” from the paper.

Had the conflict arisen today, Canons 216, 227, and 300 of the Johanno-Pauline Code would have made Spellman’s case an easy one, and Days’ refusal to remove the word would have reflected canonical recalcitrance on her part. But none of those canons was part of Pio-Benedictine law, and so, Day was left with some canonical “wiggle room”. A deeper inquiry into this matter should be part of Day’s process, but the issue seems more to call for an assessment of the Servant’s prudence and docility, rather than of her compliance with canon law.

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  1. Abeca Christian says:

    Dorothy Day is another scandalizing mistake.

    More than ever I urge many to look deep within themselves and start to reflect more in one’s own personal spiritual growth. Nurture and tend to your personal healing. Turn away from sin and ask our Lord to help us to not fall out of His grace.

    We are far to busy concerned about the salvation of others, which is fine but right now we are needing to tend to our own because ultimately others have free will and they may be a distraction to stop self from reaching sanctifying grace. The evil one hates us to stay in God’s graces so he causes scandal and distractions to stop us or slow us down.

    In our daily prayers, we need to pray not only for the conversion of all sinners but for our own conversion as well.

    • Kenneth M. Fisher says:


      The Church needs to be very cautious in the matter of raising a person as an example for other Catholics, and that is what a cause for Canonization is. It is the declaration by the Church that the particular individual led and exemplary life and is worthy of veneratiion. It also is a declaration by the Church that that soul is enjoying the Beatific Vision.

      God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
      Kenneth M. Fisher

      • Abeca Christian says:

        Kenneth yes you are correct, thank you dear brother in Christ for your comments, I appreciate that lovely reminder.

  2. Even though Code of Canon Law may not have existed addressing the issue, her disobedience to Cardinal Spellman must be noted at the Vatican.

    Using the name “Catholic” which implies approval of the Catholic Church to many can cause SCANDAL and other unfortunate issues which leads to the loss of Souls. Days political beliefs are not necessarily those of the Catholic Church.

    The Catechism of the Council of Trent was in effect at the time.
    Page 444, last paragraph, which requires “obedience”.
    “Obey your prelates, and be subject to them; for they watch as being to render an account of your souls”.
    This catechism also refers to: Hebrews: 13:17.

    Disobedience in all things that are lawful is a very bad example.

    • If only disagreement with a prelate is necessary to block canonization, there are surely no Saints commenting here!

      • Brian,
        Prove your statement.
        How do you know?

        • Prove that disagreements with Bishops are common in these pages? That shouldn’t be necessary. Perhaps you’re new here.

          • “Disagreement” is a very mild word for it. Outing a bishop for corruption using public facts is not exactly a “disagreement” or difference of opinion.

          • When Bishops do not adhere to the CCC, they are wrong.
            Code of Canon Law clearly states that all the Christian Faithful have an obligation to make corrections and make needed corrections known to the public. See Can 212 #3.

            In addition the general responsibilities of a Bishop and of a Priests are stated in the CCC.

            Brian, again, prove your statement that there are No Saints here.

          • Oh, come on Oscar. I said “if”. I can’t know the state of anyone’s soul!

            As for disagreements, Bishops who urge their flock to heed the Church’s call for governmental protection of the poor are routinely castigated, and called commies and worse, in these pages

            To read that HER disagreement with a Cardinal provided as a reason to deny her canonization by the same ones who do this provokes laughter from me.

        • Oscar! It would be even more difficult to prove that there are any saints here! But we are all trying really hard. With God’s grace we just might make it.

      • Anonymous says:

        Brian S. there are people loyal to the Church who post here. Some of the ones who disagree with prelates post under various identities and are very aggressive, so they seem to hold more weight. We are all going to become Saints. We all have things to repent.

        • Anonymous, your theology of universal salvation has long been condemned by the Church.

          • Anonymous says:

            I do not subscribe to a theology of universal salvation. There is nothing in my post that says I do. Yes, it is possible that someone who posts here will not get to heaven. But, “Jesus,I trust in You.” I pray for the correction of their errors and mine. They are for the most part faithful Catholics on the way to heaven. We may go through Purgatory first.

    • That catechism was written for the aristocrat, serf type society of Europe. The actual Gospels treat the common man with actual respect.

    • Too many prelates gives commands to boys and other men that are scandalous. Painting a rosy picture of prelature is like dolling up the women of ill repute and parading them around in grand carriages drawn by white horses. There is a reason that the world of art began to explore realism. The Church is a bit sluggish at this, and Vatican II was its first attempt in modern times; some day maybe enough faith will be exercised by the Church to rise above all the spin meisters. History is full of these truly great moments of Catholicism; hopefully we will be graced to see some of it or at least a hint of it in our day.

    • Dorothy Day is far more well known than the late Cdl Spellman. Nobody cares about Spellman; countless care about Day.

      • Anton L. Seidl says:

        Dear Skai: My first acquaintance with the Catholic Worker was in 1949 as a young student in New York. Frankly, I found the paper remarkably similar in tone and tendency to the Daily Worker of the CPUSA. Dorothy Day was a communist sympathizer, if not a communist. Many Catholics flirted with communism in those days and tried to
        find common ground. The Catholic Worker movement in Chicago was strongly influenced by Saul Alinski who was very active in that city at the time. I know, was there.

  3. gee whiz — i’ll betcha SAINT PETER would have had trouble passing muster with the canon lawyers.

    if they have been invented back then!!!

    • Abeca Christian says:

      Its disgusting example to compare Saint Peter to this woman!

      • Really? Comparing the man who denied the Lord to Dorothy Day is disgusting? How can that be?

        During her life, Dorothy Day protested at being called a saint because she thought it would discourage people from even attempting to do what they could. I think you illustrate the basis of her concern.

        Saints were flesh and blood, they were all imperfect on earth.

    • max, St Peter is known to have engaged a prominent lawyer. Wouldn’t you know it, but that lawyer won … although not until St Peter was given a dream by God to show him the light. This is, btw, why Catholics do not have bar mitzvahs today. Centuries ago, most Catholics could not read; today most Catholics cannot read much or well. This is why the clerics are so inclined in many cases to treat their flocks as serfs. You really have to let them know that you are not their serf at times. Dorothy Day was attempting and succeeding in setting the serfs free. This is what always gets the status quo slaves, that man can be freed from tyranny. Although I admit that it is so far impossible for me to see how a large number of people could ever be free since it requires the best of human nature to achieve and … well … the old bell curve shows that considerable of these are not capable of being free, since they’d destroy themselves somehow. max, how would you free a fool from him or herself? Do you know if the Church has ever taught about this? If, for example, you max were a fool, how would you become free and stay that way?

      • Abeca Christian says:

        I kindly remind others that Peter was chosen as stated in Matthew 16:19 by our Lord:

        “And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven. ”

        Matthew 16:18 “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

        ……………………there is no comparison…end of conversation.

        • Abeca Christian says:

          I meant to add Saint in front of Peter….please forgive me and add the word saint in front of Peter to my last post. Thank you God bless you!

          • Of course Peter is a Saint and yes, he was chosen by Jesus to head the Church.

            The necessary reminder is that he denied the Lord. No one can sin more grieveously than that. This thread is about sainthood, not impecability.

          • One slight detail, Brian S., which explains some of the gross problems with errant theology, namely that St Peter’s denial of Christ occured before Pentacost. They all hid until the Holy Spirit entered their lives. Confirmation accomplishes this to a soul. There are therefore no such excuses now for any confirmed person to excuse themselves on that basis.

          • Abeca Christian says:

            Skai excellent rebuttal to Brian S theology. You sure know your bible, I found your comments filled with wisdom. You are so right on…many today have neglected the reality of Pentecost.

            Thank you Skai…I enjoyed those precious truths that you just conveyed so well.

          • Abeca and Kenneth, if I were going to play devil’s advocate in the cause of Dorothy Day, I’d bring up her relationship with Thomas Merton. I read a lot of his stuff, including the compilation of his last letters, some written on his last trip into the far East. Merton was in the company of homosexual activist Bishop Thomas Gumbleton during the conference days when Merton died suddenly by electrocution in the bathroom. Merton’s reputation prior to his monastic life included sex with women, and also when he was a hermit evidently he had a tryst with a woman, I think he wrote about this. So, the question would be how faithful was Dorothy Day if she was close friends with either Merton and/or Gumbleton? Day might be clear of their issues, but there is a lot to look into about it. Merton’s last letters gave me the impression that he was “expanding” his Catholic faith into other spiritual realms … maybe not such a good thing to do, as only a matter of days later he was reported to have been killed when an electric cord fell into the puddle of water he was standing in on the bathroom floor. Merton was a major influence on Catholics at the time … and he was moving into spirituality that the Church is not part of, at least as it has appeared to me. Who was he taking with him? Why did God allow him to die suddenly? Was Dorothy Day moving under such influence?

        • Of course, Peter had Christ in person. But I’m claiming theology? That Peter grieveously sinned, acknowledged it bitterly, and was forgiven is as orthodox as it comes.

          But Abeca states that comparing a Servant of God to a Saint is “disgusting”! How? Being named a Servant of God is a title given by the Church, and it is not given easily. It is a step in the canonization process. She apparently feels that the Church has not been protected in its judgements on this matter. If the Church felt such comparisons were “disgusting”, Day’s canonization would not have advanced this far.

          • Abeca Christian says:

            Brian S the question was she really a servant of God? There is a lot of talk about this woman and I do not seem to know a thing about her but only the scandals around her…scandals that are alarming to me. So fine judge me as you wish, I do not consider her someone to compare next to Saint Peter…so to me it’s no comparison! I am weary about people who are quick to add comparisons to such great saints…I find that alarming. When we are quick to compare in such high regard, I have to question it, it is reasonable to question…best to test the spirit to make sure it comes from God not from man!

          • Was Dorothy Day a servant of God? That is not up for debate, that is the judgement of the Church. Dorothy Day was proclaimed a Servant of God by the action of John Paul II when he granted Cardinal O’Conner permission to open her case for canonization in 2000.

            You have not specified what scandals you find alarming, but perhaps it would help you to reflect on the words of Cardinal O’Conner:

            “It has long been my contention that Dorothy Day is a saint…her life is a model for all in the third millenium, but especially for women who have had or are considering abortions. … …I contend that her abortion should not preclude her cause, but intensifies it.

            It has also been noted that Dorothy Day often seemed friendly to political groups hostile to the Church, for example, communists, socialists, and anarchists. …. After her conversion, she was neither a member of such political groupings nor did she approve of their tactics or any denial of private property. … What they held in common was a common respect for the poor and a desire for economic equity. … Much of what she spoke of in terms of social justice anticipated the teachings of Pope John Paul II and lends support to her cause.”

          • Abeca Christian says:

            The church hasn’t declared anything yet, it’s still in process, so all your arguments are foolish…all this disagreeing with me is foolish. I said nothing that would be offensive, I explained myself already on the post from January 10, 2013 at 1:01 pm. Enough said, the Lord blessed us to reason and I won’t jump the gun on something just because someone else decided too.

            Brian S your arguments are ridiculous to me! The church never compared her to St. Peter…so you fighting with me over that is simply foolish! and my disgust over it, well it’s not unreasonable.

          • Dorothy Day has been proclaimed a “servant of God” by the Church. That is not “nothing”, it means she has been found “heroic in virtue”.

            You should respect our Church’s judgement on this matter and stop the casual slanders. That you directly question the Church’s judgement on her status (“…was she really a servant of God?”) is most certainly offensive.

          • St Peter, before Pentacost, was not in union with God. At least, it would seem so, notwithstanding the Last Supper, ie first Holy Eucharist, because the Crucifixion and Resurrection had not yet occurred. Thus, there would not at that time have been a union with God, ie no Mystical Body of Christ. At that time, before the Resurrection, St Peter did not enjoy what the common Catholic enjoys today, which is some degree of union with God through Christ. Jesus Christ, true God and true man made it happen so that we, His creatures, could become true man and share also in the Divinity. Whereas, eg, marriage is a joining, faithful Eucharist is a uniting. Man and wife become one body; but man and God become one “body, blood, soul and divinity”. This, Brian S., is my understanding; I have not seen anything to the contrary. For all I know it is errant, but as I say, I have never read or heard of anything contrary to this position.

          • *I contend that her abortion should not preclude her cause, but intensifies it*: Even though a cardinal said this, it seems crude to me. God does not create evil so that good may come of it, but the Cardinal’s words can give such an impression. The thinking he displays in this quote is murky, unclear and sentimental at best. St Mary Magdalen, eg, was not talked up by Christ for her past sins but for her sorrow and gratitude for forgiveness. Dorothy Day might fall into that category, but the Cardinal didn’t exactly say that clearly, and so it remains unknown for sure what he was talking about.

          • Abeca Christian says:

            Brian you accuse me of casual slander…and you sir what are you exactly doing. Just agree to disagree with my disagreement to compare her to St. Peter…other than that…consider it over.

            Now if you want to compare her to a different saint that more in line matches her…well it’s entirely fine, after all we are all called to be inspired in the lives of saints and to try to imitate their goodness…it’s your own sentiments. Saint Peter is special because he knew our Lord personally and holds a special place that our Lord himself has personally and (biblical facts) has given him! (as I quoted the bible on them)

            I did read your comments that try to sway me to understand your point of view as well,(don’t worry I am not a stubborn goat nor as prideful, even though it’s hard to actually tell over these posts) I’m sure you make some good points but I still don’t see eye to eye in the comparison part. : ) Be at peace, I read your point of view. I am person who reflects and will pray about the points you made. The rest I leave in the Holy Ghost…..

            It’s obvious that you do not agree with me and that is fine…I don’t hold it against you,. : )

          • I didn’t bring up St. Peter, but OK – no more comparisons from me.

            But you accused her of causing scandal, referring, I suppose, to what you and others see as associations with left-wing politics and my point remains that that objection was and is throughly refuted – without regard for the outcome of her canonization process – by the fact that she was named a Servant of God.

            She has been declared that BY THE CHURCH – not by me or political others. That Church-granted and holy title – Servant of God – should carry all the answer to your accusation that an obedient Catholic needs.

          • Abeca Christian says:

            Well I’ll be silly and I thought this whole disagreement was because I didn’t agree with comparing her to St. Peter. Whew….

          • Anonymous says:

            Brian S., the title Servant of God indicates that someone’s cause for canonization has been opened. The title Venerable means that they have been found to have heroic virtue.

  4. What were those objections again?

    1) A repented pre-conversion sin, against which she testified publicly, powerfully, and repeatedly and especially to its most vulnerable and targeted populations,

    2) a timely obedience to canon law regarding possible political associations

    3) a conflict with a Cardinal fully permitted by the applicable canon law.

    • Defiant disobedience to her Diocese Cardinal in a lawful matter over which he had jurisdiction.
      The Catechism of the Council of Trent (in full force and effect at the time) was very clear on the requirement of obedience.
      This was scandalous and a bad example for others.

      • Oscar, even you post that the Catechism of Trent “was in full force and effect at the time”; this implies that it was a temporal document. Temporal documents have no magisterial authority. Popes, cardinals, etc are not themselves fully God, even those who are great saints. Blind obedience is nothing more than idol worship. Many the saint according to the Bible who argued with God. God listens and converses. Learn your faith on a higher level than simply following some tome in some collection of opinions. If it were not a collection of opinions, then it would be in effect today.

      • Nonsense. In our era “Rome” has not done much to prove its faith in Christ; rather pretty much the opposite. “Rome” presently is riding on the work of previous saints. It’s riding on the investments of its ancestors. OSCAR, I realize you prefer to have some legal fine print to guide you, and that is fine, as it is a teaching of the Church that weak faith requires strong adherence to the law. But strong faith does not worry about the law. Ask yourself what is the reason for being of the Pope and then ask why so many bishops need to exist. If a bishop is so unworthy, then why pay any attention to him? Why do you have to refer to a catechism that has been replaced several times? If one of the catechisms is not the same as another, and this is the case or otherwise there would not be more than one, then why would you impute absolute truth to any of them? The catechism is merely a book, OSCAR, filled with words. Many of the Protestants believe that the Bible is the Living God … but in fact it is a book. All these books could be destroyed, and yet God would exist. So why do you need a book, OSCAR, especially when that book changes from time to time? Why, also, do you need a bishop who demonstrates serious lack of faith? What is the point in listening to such a man?

        • When a pope speaks from the chair of Peter, he is speaking infallible truth. If you do not believe that, you should not be taking communion or call yourself a Catholic. Period. The Bible is the inerrant word of God. If you do not believe that, you should not call yourself a Christian. To say it is ‘just a book’ reveals that you are living in darkness. You might as well say that to pray is ‘just using words’. When you say ‘what is the point in listening to such a man, you reveal that you listen to your own ‘inner voice’ as a guide. What truth is your inner voice based on? Are you thinking Jesus is speaking directly to you? Just what do you think the Bible is?

          • Also, Skai, you pretty much reflect what I’ve come to expect from those that support Dororthy Day’s sainthood. I’m not interested at all in whether the woman is declared a saint or not, but seeing all the controversy about it should make anyone pause.
            The world will continue spinning yea or nay.

  5. Didn’t Dorothy Day feed the poor and oppose sin? Did she live a life of grace? Law depends on proof. The lawyers have been after her for decades, but so far they’ve found no proof that she served the devil, the world, or the flesh. Are her investigators all her opponents? Interesting how polarity addicted society can only look at matters through juridic eyes instead of through Jesus’ eyes. Where are the holy eyes in this woman’s cause?

    • OneoftheSheep says:

      Those unworthy holy eyes are here. I visited one of Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker Farms in upstate New York accompanied by my family and my maternal aunt Rita. We held a family subscription the the Catholic Worker Newspaper(the price being 1 cent per copy.) Dorothy was a champion of the poor and a contemporary of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She was anti war and went to jail for her beliefs. Please read her autobiography, “The Long Loneliness” and then take a fresh glance at her life. Would St. Augustine have passed muster? Her life was a radical conversion to Christ and service to his poor. The church will be richer for admitting this woman into the company of its saints. I wonder if her daughter Tamara is still alive.

    • Kenneth M. Fisher says:


      Have you not heard of “the Devil’s Advocate”?

      God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
      Kenneth M. Fisher

      • Kenneth, I have yet to find any hard evidence that Day was a tool of the devil.

        • Yes, of course, Kenneth, but I’m not convinced the devil takes so long to out … must be that infernal bureaucracy (oops, pardon my adjective).

  6. Wasn’t the NCReporter told to stop using “Catholic” too?

    • There are a lot of bishops who call themselves Catholics, and yet demonstrate great hostility towards God and man. Where are the canon lawyers with this problem today? Oops, of course, how could I overlook the fact that these canonists are paid by these bishops? More people should read all the things Jesus says about those in charge … pharisees, sadducees, scribes: these types run rampant in the Church hierarchy at times in history, such as now. You can read the CCC until the cows come home, but its greatest facit is its reference to divine revelation … which is most clearly found in the Bible. If you can’t understand the Bible, then why would you think you could understand the lawyer speak of the CCC? Ask yourselves, which of Jesus’ apostles were lawyers?

      • Skai-
        Are you calling Pope John Paul II a liar? The CCC was written for everyone to know what Catholics believe as stated by him.
        On the net go to: “What Catholics REALLY Believe SOURCE” for more quotes from both Blessed JPII and Pope Benedict about the
        CCC. The Bible references are numerous.
        Apparently you have not read the CCC.

        “….the Catechism has raised throughout the world, even among non-Christians, and confirms its purpose of being presented as a full, complete exposition of Catholic doctrine, enabling everyone to know what the Church professes, celebrates, lives, and prays in her daily life.” – Pope John Paul II (CCC pg xiv)

        • OSCAR, why would you defend your error by accusing me of something that does not exist in my post. Just read the post and take it for what it says. But, in order to do this, you have to read it, not as a sound bite, but as … well, look at the words, their meanings, the grammar … “read”, OSCAR, “read”. If you came up with that interpretation in a college course, you’d be sent back to do your analysis over and do it right the second time.

          • OSCAR, I think your error is mistaking the word in your quote, “exposition”, for Jesus Himself.

    • Yes, it was in 1968 and was condemned under Bishop Helmsing.
      And the NC REPORTER continues to be heretical and scandalous and uses the name “Catholic”.
      I have recentlly sent an email to Bishop Finn of Diocese of Kansas City – St Joseph. Asking that this be revisited under the new Code of Canon Law of 1983. I also mentioned that the Bishop work with Canon Lawyer, Cardinal Raymond Burke.
      Bishop Finn needs to make very public that the NC Reporter is not “Catholic”. And every faithful Catholic blogger and web site and newspaper needs to carry Bishop Finn’s statement.

      • Everyone, please write to Bishop Finn so a new very PUBLIC condemnation can be made of the NC Reporter,
        and they will no longer be able to confuse and cause scandal.

        The NC Reporter is headquartered in the Bishop’s Diocese.
        In addition don’t forget to copy the US Papal Nuncio and the Vatican.

      • Kenneth M. Fisher says:

        As I understand it, ALL of the bishops receive free copies of the NC Reporter. Hmmm could that be a great part of our problems?

        God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
        Kenneth M. Fisher

        • No. The bishops are the problem, not the newspaper. They are grown up and can make up their own minds. Too bad they all don’t make them up according to the will of God, though. I receive in the mail, periodic solicitations from ACLU, addressed to a former tenant here (who committed suicide); I simply toss these into the trash … it’s their postage money, not mine I hope.

          • Which reminds me to buy a squirt gun and keep it filled with Holy Water, and then spray all the nefarious mail delivered here.

  7. Docility: the virtue of being open to God’s paternal correction. Knowing we are wrong, sinful and sorrowful, wanting to know objective Truth, willing, finally, praise God, to accept the Truth and let it change us utterly. “O God, remember not the sins of my youth.” Servant of God, pray for us and help our prayers. May the Lord who is among us, come within us and indwell. Ave Maria.

    • The word, “docility”, needs a careful framework; otherwise, it can easily be misinterpreted in a very negative manner.

  8. I do not know anything about Dorothy Day or her work. I do know that I am not impressed with the work being done these days in the name of the Catholic Worker organization located in the Oakland Diocese. Perhaps, in Dorothy’s day, excuse the pun, the title Socialist Worker was already taken?

    • St. Francis wasn’t pleased with the Franciscans either.

      For that matter, I doubt if you are impressed with many Jesuits. Does that affect your opinion of St. Ignatius?

    • Camille, what about the Catholic Worker in Houston? I have not come across anything negative about that group. From what I read, they do a great work helping poor people.

  9. Who else but God inspired Dorothy Day to feed poor people? Did she ever attribute the greater glory to anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ?

  10. DisturbedMary says:

    My problem with Day is “why now?” Will she be the Church’s communist saint? (Spellman may have been against using the word “Catholic” but I think “worker” was worse. Who but “communists” call themselves “workers?) And will the Church liberals and progressives whose eyes mist over when talking about her, will they have more cache to press the social justice issues like universal healthcare. Oh wait, they already got that one. Maybe wealth re-distribution in the name of DD! I do hope that Dorothy Day won heaven. But right now, give me Bishop Sheen as a model of holiness.

    • Who call themselves “workers”? hmmm….toughie. Does this ring a bell?

      When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

    • If Dorothy Day were a Communist, then the facts would be solid. There are no such facts, only rumors. All you have to do is look at the works she did and who she gave the glory to.

  11. I talked some years ago with a traditionalist Catholic priest who knew Dorothy Day when he was a teenager. He stated that even though Cardinal Spellman made what sounded like criticisms and maybe even chastisements towards Day and her followers with statements that made it to the public, he secretly would at the same time be supporting her and her cause financially because he knew she was doing such Christ-like work.

    • Interesting point, my inference of that and of humanity gives me the impression that even though cardinals are often worshiped as idols, they do not necessarily worship themselves.

  12. I think the whole idea of Day being suggested for canonization is a bit too premature……..although investigation is ongoing, it would seem the Church’s “devil’s advocate” is a bit wanting (in my observation), in this day and age.

  13. OneoftheSheep says:

    Yes, I have prayed with Dorothy Day at her Catholic Worker Farm. I was just a child, probably no older than 8 or 9 when I met Dorothy Day. We all gathered around in a circle outside, held hands and prayed together. That might have been my first charismatic prayer moment. We need people like Dorothy Day today who will provide for the poor in our midst. The Great Depression was hard on our country and she stood out as someone who was part of the solution not part of the problem. She renounced much in her embrace of the Catholic Faith. She modeled her life after the Beatitudes. She studied our faith and then applied it to her life. So many men and women came to her Catholic Worker farms and houses to receive food, clothing, shelter, and angelic love. I believe that we are about to embark on similarly difficult times and that Dorothy Day is going to be looked at as a model where charity comes from people and the church rather than from a cold, bureaucratic government. She is a model for helping the neglected: the alcoholics that no one else would help. She gave men dignity. I, for one, salute this unsung saint.

  14. an average Catholic says:

    Maybe the why now is because she is so desperately needed now. She shows how someone can come to God. IS that not what gets told to women (especially non Catholic) and why we have prayer lines around the abortion clinics? How many of us go and work in the soup lines to feed people? Come on folks no one on this earth is a saint. She is an example to show people it can happen, you can change and God is there for you.

    • Actually many saints are on earth today, as always. “Saint” means set aside for God. Catholicism teaches that many achieve Heaven, and they do this while on earth. Not to disparage Purgatory, but that is in fact the doorstep of Heaven. Perhaps common parlance “saint” refers to great saints. Even so, there are some no doubt. I wonder about modern day USA and its dearth of great saints … could it be a bureaucratic snafu, being the case that “America” is unlike Europe, and the Church has yet to “get it” about we, the people? Give the aristocratic bureaucrats over in Europe a few more centuries, and maybe they’ll finally have their geschtalt moment … or would they prefer an ephiphanical moment? Mostly so far they probably are bogged down in their arrogantisimo moments preventing them from seeing the goodness that saved their mortal skins twice in the Twentieth Century.

    • In the USA today we have food stamps, medicaid for the poor, housing assistance, free school breakfast and lunch programs for the poor children, workers compensation for those injured on the job, a couple of years of unemployment insurance, etc., etc., etc.
      And there are numerous private charities such as St. Vincent de Paul and Salvation Army that help with utilities, clothing.

      Although it is costly to live, where are all those starving in the USA?
      If you know of anyone that hungry, you should help them, and your Parish should adopt them – in the spirit of subsidiarity.

      The USA today, is not the USA of Dorothy Day’s time. All this assistance to the poor was not available in the time of Our Lord either.

      It has gotten to the point in the USA where the federal governement is providing fancy texting cell phones and paying those bills as well.
      Life is so good for those who know how to “work the system”, that we are creating a society of lazy persons who think they are “owed” rather than “earn” a living.

      • All political questions that do not alter the fact that the Church calls for governmental actions to assist the poor.

        As for “then” and “now”, Dorothy Day is not ancient history. I can remember 1980 (the year of her death) quite clearly. All the programs and charities you mention existed then.

      • Great point, OSCAR!!! Let me add that because of all this govt aid, then it is up to the Church workers to provide the spiritual aid which the govt is not capable of doing. Thus the social worker nuns and clergy should move over for the govt and take up the Cross and instruct (themselves first) and then the poor as well as the rich and all the rest of us.

      • Abeca Christian says:


      • That’s true, Oscar…and you & I are paying for those stupid phones with an excise charge on our phone bills. It’s beyond belief, frankly. What bishops and everyone else should be worrying about are the POOR IN SPIRIT. I’m finding way too many Catholics really do not believe Jesus when He told His disciples to go into the world and share the good news. These ‘Catholics’ think they’re imposing their beliefs on others and that they should respect other relligions and beliefs. It’s far, far more important to feed the hungry spiritually, than focus on food etc. Jesus said that so many times! I think Dorothy Day was a materialist. I have a bio on her, and I had to stop reading it as I just got too upset. There are too many lonelly people who just need someone to tell them they care about them, or need a visit, or a little errand run. It’s just way too easy to dole out money and feel you’ve done your part…or to just say a prayer. Mother Theresa Knew this about this country…all the loneliness and despair. I’ll have to stop now, cause this always makes me want to bring up the need for women to sacrifice their oh-so-important careers and their little feminist sensibilities on behalf of their children. Unless a family faces starvation or evitction, a woman should stay home until her children are all in at least first grade. Period. No ifs, ands or buts. You can directly trace the problems of this country to when women left their families and entered the workplace but no one wants to believe that so I’ll save my breath.

  15. for those who seem against DOROTHY DAY’s possible canonization, i would not waste much time using any problems she may have had with CARDINAL SPELLMAN as ammo against her.

    we all know the numerous scandals surrounding CARDINAL SPELLMAN, who is not up for canonization now, nor, most probably ever will be.

    if you are not aware of CARDINAL SPELLMAN’s legacy, a quick google search with his name and the word ‘scandal’ will bring you to to speed in about 2.5 seconds…

    • Mark from PA says:

      Well, Max, you are correct. Cardinal Spellman is not up for canonization and most probably never will be. It seems that he was not the holiest of men.

    • Quite a reference library on gay prelates, max. The laity needs to stop following the gay clerics if they want to gain Heaven.

  16. Maybe Dorothy Day was one of those “Damn the torpedoes and full steam ahead” souls who found a way to feed starving people and give the glory to Jesus Christ. How many souls has she saved? Without a miracle, how would anyone be able to discern her spiritual state? Maybe her conversion was a miracle? St Mary Magdalene found Jesus in a flower garden; Dorothy Day found Jesus in a food garden. Hasn’t it been saints who’ve found a holy need and filled it first, before anyone did? If there were any proof that she went back to a pagan life after her conversion, wouldn’t it have come out by now? But so far there appears to be zero proof that she did not live a holy life.

    • As to Day’s political associations: Perhaps she found a way to disentangle her work, God’s work, from the govt, from both the capitalist govt and the socialist govt. She seems to have received her food from private charitable donors and fed people according to their need. Not that she played both ends of the fiddle, but rather kept out both ideologies from claiming the glory. She found a way to stand off a bit from temptations such as these groups ever ply us with. But then who knows what absurdity and lack of trust the Church bureaucrats exhibit as they try to wheedle facts from their various and sundry account sources. If everyone involved with Dorothy Day were forthright, then it would take very little time at all to thoroughly investigate her cause. It would already have been done. But most of the people who work on such stuff spend all their days in little office games and charades … pathetically running around like mice in mazes trying to get to the gold … that seems why it takes so long to discover all the data on these candidates. Too bad the Church functionaries don’t act according to faith instead of office intrigues.

  17. Abeca Christian says:

    For now, I approach this topic with caution and will only move forward as the Holy Ghost lead me…I will not think twice about this topic…there is no need to…

  18. Abeca Christian says:

    Some people are quick to romanticize and over emphasize on a person who is not yet been claimed a saint.

    • ABECA, you are so right.

      this is why i am suspicious of these rock star priests and such who make a big name for themselves…only to be exposed later for being rotten when it comes to money, sex, child abuse, etc.

      we’ve seen TONS of these stories in the last few years…a good warning not to idolize people who grab a microphone, get on t.v., and create a fan club for themselves!

  19. It’s not a problem to disagree with a bishop, but it is to openly defy and disobey a bishop. There’s a difference, and we all need to be aware of it.

    I agree that to canonize Dorothy Day would be a mistake, but I have not seen all the evidence.

  20. Anton L. Seidl says:

    One should wait at least a century before even thinking about canonizing one of us mere mortals. The cries and banners of Santo Subito following the funeral of Pope John Paul II were truly disgraceful, demonstrations of youthful exuberance in the grip of the enthusiasm all the ancients warned us against. God is eternal.

  21. To Brian S., Skai, Abeca Christian, OSCAR, Oneofthesheep, and all,

    Dorothy Day seemed to know practically everyone, and she has a strong following among distributionists, such as Dr. David Schindler, and has the goodwill and support of many people who admit that they know little about her, except for her works of mercy to the poor. But Day herself said, “Neither of the Johnsons thought of our work as charity, in its bad sense, but as a work of justice. In other words we were a revolutionary headquarters rather than a Bowery mission, as most newspapers like to picture us.” (Catholic Worker” (CW), January 1970); she also declared, “How rich we are, we who profess voluntary poverty as a foundation for our work as agitators” (CW, July/August 1977). Using her “revolutionary” voice, she had declared when she was a Catholic for almost 30 years: “We need to change the system. We need to overthrow, not the government, as the authorities are always accusing the Communists ‘of conspiring to teach [us] to do,’ but this rotten, decadent, putrid industrial capitalist system which breeds such suffering in the whited sepulcher of New York” (CW, September 1956) .

    Throughout her long life, Day remained friends and supported prominent US Communists Anna Louise Strong, a journalist and propagandist buried with full honors in Peking, where she was a friend of Mao Tse Tung; Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (one of the three founders of the Communist Party USA and later its Chair); and Mike Gold, “literary enforcer” and author of the proletariat novel “Jews Without Money,” which ends with the exclamation “O workers’ Revolution….You are the true Messiah…. O Revolution, that forced me to think, to struggle and to live. O great Beginning!”

    Day recommended this book to her readers in the CW several times. Day stated in 1970 that “I firmly believe that our salvation depends on the poor.” (Silly me, I persist in believing our salvation depends on Jesus Christ.) Day and Maurin proclaimed the objective of the CW is “to make the rich poor, and the poor holy.” Day stated, “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.” She believed in class warfare and the withering away of the state. Although she called herself a pacifist and a loyal Catholic, she visited Cuba in 1962, months after Pope John XXIII excommunicated Castro; and she then wrote glowing articles in the CW about the “social advances” and “freedom to practice” religion that she observed after his bloody revolution–her “evidence” was in great disagreement with more objective reports.

    St. Peter asked, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” In contrast, Day sought to graft the Communist principles she had embraced in her youth onto the teachings of the Catholic Church. She called herself “an ex-Communist” in 1949, months after Pius XII’s speaking out against Communists.She believed that revolution would come, and she “hoped” it would not be violent.

    When push came to shove, her social and political convictions came first. For example, she defended those who disrupted a Sunday Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral to protest the Vietnam War, something her fellow writer and correspondent Thomas Merton refused to do. She and her fellows prolonged Compline by ending the office with “Easy Essays” by Peter Maurin. She enabled sexual immorality at the various Catholic Worker farms, even though there were chapels on the premises. As a visitor to the Tivoli Farm, I can testify to the disorder there. After she converted, she continued to live in Greenwich Village or the Lower East Side and did not sever her friendships with “radicals” (her name for Socialists and Communists) there.

    Why do the bishops in the US want to canonize her? Well, a few do and they are vocal and powerful, the primary one being the Archbishop of New York and President of the USCCB Timothy Cardinal Dolan. Brian S., Cardinal Dolan and his supporters have been so zealous in obtaining “government support for the poor” that they have unwittingly ushered in the Obamacare that is now being used to force Catholics and other believers in the sanctity of life to violate their consciences.

    Cardinal Dolan also judged poorly when he invited and sat down at the Al Smith Dinner with rabidly pro-abortion and anti-Catholic President Obama, something neither of Dolan’s two immediate predecessors would have done. Let’s also remember that Obama declared Dorothy Day “one of the great social reformers” of the US at the National Prayer Breakfast in April 2012.

    Cardinal Dolan has publicly praised Day’s “prophetic disobedience” and considers her a role model because of her early promiscuity and abortion–or abortions. But Day never took participated in a pro-life event, such as the March for Life or picketing or praying at an abortion clinic. And some in the current CW movement claim abortion can be “appropriate.” Thus, one message that has been conveyed by presenting Day as a “model” is that abortion is okay because Dorothy had one.

    There are also problems because Day did not require that “Catholic” Workers be Catholic. A prime example is Ammon Hennacy, who became a Catholic because Dorothy was one and then left the Church (but not the CW) when he got married outside it to a young woman who Day had urged to meet him. Karl Meyer, who lost the faith when he was imprisoned for evading war taxes, is another example and is still a CW today.

    People really should read Carol Byrne’s excellent book “The Catholic Worker Movement (1933–1980): A Critical Analysis,” published in 2010. Dr, Bryne documents many of the facts in this post. In addition, her “Complete Supplementary Notes” are available at the blog “Dorothy Day Another Way.”

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