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Conservative Catholic Hierarchy Taps American Anarchist for Sainthood

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  • Dan Clore
    News & Views for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 2, 2012
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:


      Hallelujah! The Conservative Catholic Hierarchy Taps an American
      Anarchist for Sainthood
      by Michael Kazin
      November 29, 2012 | 1:30 pm

      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

      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.


      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

      Dan Clore

      New book: _Weird Words: A Lovecraftian Lexicon_:
      My collected fiction: _The Unspeakable and Others_
      Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      Skipper: Professor, will you tell these people who is
      in charge on this island?
      Professor: Why, no one.
      Skipper: No one?
      Thurston Howell III: No one? Good heavens, this is anarchy!
      -- _Gilligan's Island_, episode #6, "President Gilligan"
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