Dorothy Day: Anarcho-Capitalist, Perhaps

A Facebook friend brought my attention to the tug of war taking place over the legacy of Dorothy Day in recent months between pro and anti-capitalists. The Catholic Worker has criticized both the NY Times and Fr. Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute on Day-related matters. Liberals can’t claim her, so it is said, because she was anti-abortion and loyal to Church teaching, obviously never having gone the way of radical disobedient feminism. But conservatives and libertarians can’t claim her either because she rejected capitalism.

Or did she? As best I can tell, she neither practiced it or preached it as a way of life. And yet she did say the following:

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…

Of course, Pope Pius XI said that, when such a crisis came about, in unemployment, fire, flood, earthquake, etc., the state had to enter in and help.

But we in our generation have more and more come to consider the state as bountiful Uncle Sam.

If you don’t believe in “force and compulsion”, you believe – by logical necessity – that capitalism is at least permissible. At least capitalism as Fr. Sirico, Ron Paul and Murray Rothbard would define it, which is nothing more than private property + free exchange of goods and services. No capitalist along these lines, moreover, could or likely would raise any objection to voluntary collectivist projects such as workers cooperatives or agricultural communes. Voluntary Distributism, which Day supported in her writings, is capitalism.

At any rate it is evident that Day’s conception of “social justice” had little if anything to do with the modern conception on both the Catholic and secular left. If she rejected a “bountiful Uncle Sam”, what would she say about Uncle Barry? The practice of taxation and redistribution rests upon “force and compulsion”, which doesn’t magically become something else because the man with the gun to your head is wearing a badge.

I’m probably not as radical as Day, since I believe in minimal taxation for a minimalist state. I also think that she and her comrades did not fully understand the extent to which free-market capitalism would and actually did raise the standard of living for the poor. Many people fail to see this, however, for a simple reason: capitalism has spread so much wealth (peacefully and voluntarily) that the relatively few pockets of society that have failed to benefit from it are all the more distinctive. They take on the appearance of a crisis only because so much of the rest of society has attained a dignified standard of living, an unacceptable anomaly in our midst.

Even so, it is clear that Day wouldn’t have advocated the idea of shaking down “the rich” in order to address the problem. And this isn’t really where the Obama-money flows anyway. It has never really been about the poor, except perhaps to make sure that they stay pacified. It has been about the aggrandizement of the state – the padding of government salaries and department budgets, the purchase of demographic voting blocs, social engineering, and of course, the war machine. If anything is unmistakable about Day, she opposed the state in all of these endeavors. And since, unlike a lot of left-anarchists I have known, she was unambiguous in her rejection of the use of force and compulsion to obtain “social justice”, I don’t think it can be said that she opposed capitalism either.

Throw in her pacifism and pro-life position, and look at her photos as an older woman in a certain light, and she almost looks like this guy. I don’t go as far as she does with pacifism or anarchism, but she’s an inspiration to me all the same.

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  1. Thanks for writing this, Bonchamps. I have a growing interest in Ms. Day and her cause for canonization. When I was younger and heard mention of her, I think I dismissed her as some “peace and justice” hippy, but that just shows the limitations that impeded my understanding of comprehensive Catholicism at the time.

    I do think she was as equally derisive of capitalism as she was of government-enforced socialism. I just read Merton’s “Seven-Storey Mountain,” and his ideas seem very similar. Day talks about “creating a new society within the shell of the old one.” Her ideas seem to be very communitarian and compatible with distributism.

    http://www.catholicworker.org/dorothyday/daytext.cfm?TextID=175

    That is to say, there should be equity and moderation in society, but it is not the government’s role to enforce such things. It must come from the community. This also is probably what CS Lewis meant when he said in Mere Christianity that the ideal Christian community would probably be “more socialist” than we are now, not meaning that the government would redistribute wealth, but that people (or rather, civic, religious, and social institutions) would moderate themselves. This is what Deneen means when he says that liberty is “the cultivated ability to engage in self-governance.” That is, the community recognizes that their is one telos for humanity and that the virtues required to move individuals and the community toward that telos must be inculcated and grown, virtues that necessarily moderate and temper self-interest. I think this is supportive of MacIntyre’s assertion that a community where human flourishing can occur to the highest degree possible must be founded on “moral consensus,” as opposed to legally enshrined pluralism, which I would argue is the case in America. (For what it’s worth, I don’t think the Founders planned this to happen…it was probably inconceivable back in 1780 when basically everyone was a Christian of some stripe…still, I think they knew better than they built).

    I also hesitate to support so absolutely the idea that capitalism has uplifted humanity. Capitalism is responsible for incredible things, like longevity, increased literacy rates, prosperity, etc. But focusing on these metrics is in many ways the same mistake the “bring about the Kingdom of Heaven on earth” crowd in favor of government redistribution of wealth are wont to make. Human flourishing is about far more than material advancements. I would argue that it’s about more souls getting to Heaven. Can we say with certainty that capitalism has contributed positively to this end?

    Finally, I think that analyzing Day (and Merton and Chesterton, etc) in the context of the American political spectrum is too confining. She was neither a “conservative” nor a “liberal,” because she more or less rejected the philosophical underpinnings that America was built upon.

    http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Item/1860/dorothy_day_a_saint_to_transcend_partisan_politics.aspx#.USE4caU3uSo

    Have you (or has anyone else) read Orestes Brownson?

  2. “It has never really been about the poor, except perhaps to make sure that they stay pacified. It has been about the aggrandizement of the state – the padding of government salaries and department budgets, the purchase of demographic voting blocs, social engineering, and of course, the war machine.”

    you seem to think anything that “expands the state” is automatically bad/sinister. obviously plenty of people have criticized the stimulus but generally even critics haven’t ascribed these basely cynical motives to it. i don’t see any reason to think Obama doesn’t legitimately believe in what he’s doing, whatever we may think of it. the fact that his version of trying to jump-start the economy involves government expansion is a consequence, sure, but that doesn’t make it the point, as though he would’ve acted the exact same if the economy’d been humming along in 2009.

    as far as “war machine” we’re winding down in Afghanistan, so unless some drone strikes on al Qaeda operatives makes us a nefarious Empire i dunno what this means

  3. As to Day, I think JL has it more right than Bonchamps. I’m not sure I would agree his description of Sirico’s capitalism as merely “nothing more than private property + free exchange of goods and services.” He is much further from Day than that (and for that matter, from JPII and Benedict XVI.)

    Day was more akin to Chesterton who said something to the effect that capitalism is to private property what a harem is to the sacrament of marriage.

    There is a tendency to equate respecting the right to economic initiative – which Day, Sirico, and Paul support(ed) – with support of the free market and then with capitalism. I’ve never read anything to support the claim that Day went that far. In fact, her writings appear to reject that conclusion.

  4. Re: “jump-starting the economy”: The recovery began in June 2009 (most economists say) and yet, three-and-a-half years later the Fed persists in printing $900 billion a year and keeping real interest rates negative, and the US gov still is spending $1.3 trillion more than it receives in taxes.

    Zero Hedge quotes Mort Zuckerman, “Jobs! President Obama has set a record. In his speech to Congress on Tuesday, he uttered the word ‘jobs’ more than in any of his previous four State of the Union addresses. His 45 mentions were more than double the references to any of the other policy ambitions encapsulated in his speech by such words as health, education, immigration, guns, deficit, debt, energy, climate, economy, Afghanistan, wage, spend or tax (the runner-up). If only the president’s record on unemployment were as good. After four years America remains in a jobs depression as great as the Great Depression.”

    Worse, the prices of food and fuel have skyrocketed. So, Obama wants to give a couple hundred billions to boondoggles like Solyndra.

    None of it (unprecedented amounts of fiscal and monetary stimulus) is working (Obama’s is the weakest post-war recovery: compared to Reagan and all the others) because everything Obama does is ideological not economical. Obamacare will take over health; will further retard economic growth; and worsen care for all of us. Legalizing 11 to 35 million will quicken the bankruptcies of medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. Dodd-Frank did not correct the causes of the banking crisis but, at best, papered over them, at worst, expanded them.

    Obama is not about econmic growth and development. He is about changing society and enriching his Wall Street backers.

    And, capitalism may not be uplifting (look to Jesus) of society, but it is the only economic system, along with freedom, that maximizes a nation’s and a people’s wealth. It’s not as if the alternatives have not been tested and found wanting, causing not only poverty (misallocation of resources by central planning and/or command economies), but mass misery in all aspects of human life.

    In my travels, I have shopped at a “Giant Food” store which states in its signage that it is “100% employee-owned.” That sounds good to me.

    Obama and his gang are either idiots or they are out to ruin America. I will not judge.

  5. “And, capitalism may not be uplifting (look to Jesus) of society, but it is the only economic system, along with freedom, that maximizes a nation’s and a people’s wealth. It’s not as if the alternatives have not been tested and found wanting, causing not only poverty (misallocation of resources by central planning and/or command economies), but mass misery in all aspects of human life.”

    I’m going to alter the original quote, but i don’t think GK would mind:

    “Distributism has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”

    I think capitalism is a system, and a system that can work (provided it’s grounded in a pervasive ethical system which is not merely “voluntarily” adhered to, an impossibility in America). That doesn’t mean that other approaches don’t exist or shouldn’t be explored.

  6. T. Shaw:

    i wasn’t commenting on how well said policies have worked. i just don’t share the cynicism that Obama is expanding government for purposely malignant purposes. attributing mala fides (and talking about “enriching Wall Street buddies” as though that’s the ultimate aim here) might be a nice way to avoid engaging separate views but it is lazy.

  7. JL,

    “I do think she was as equally derisive of capitalism as she was of government-enforced socialism.”

    I haven’t seen it. But then, I haven’t read every word she ever wrote. I’ve browsed her writings at the Catholic Worker archive.

    “Her ideas seem to be very communitarian and compatible with distributism.”

    As far as I know, she identified as a Distributist. But her brand of Distributism is entirely compatible with free-market capitalism.

    “That is, the community recognizes that their is one telos for humanity and that the virtues required to move individuals and the community toward that telos must be inculcated and grown, virtues that necessarily moderate and temper self-interest.”

    Self-interest, properly understood, benefits the community. Selfishness benefits neither the selfish individual or the community. As for a community telos, that only exists in the Church. Unfortunately the two are no longer one. The community wanted a divorce.

    ” I think this is supportive of MacIntyre’s assertion that a community where human flourishing can occur to the highest degree possible must be founded on “moral consensus,” as opposed to legally enshrined pluralism, which I would argue is the case in America.”

    Yes, I’ve heard of him and his assertion. It may be true but it is also irrelevant. It’s not like we have a choice between these two things. Legally enshrined pluralism was and remains the only political alternative to non-stop sectarian warfare. You can’t just create a moral consensus. It grows organically out of a culture. Christianity fought for its place in society amidst a kind of pluralism as well in the Roman Empire.

    “(For what it’s worth, I don’t think the Founders planned this to happen…it was probably inconceivable back in 1780 when basically everyone was a Christian of some stripe…still, I think they knew better than they built).”

    The founders did want a pluralistic society. They basically embraced subsidiarity, as far as I can tell – moral instruction was the responsibility of parents and religious authorities at the local level. It certainly wasn’t the job of the government to create or enforce a “moral consensus.” I don’t know if MacIntyre thinks that it is, but some people I have seen quoting this view of his seem to think so. I think Obama thinks so too.

    “I also hesitate to support so absolutely the idea that capitalism has uplifted humanity.”

    It has materially. That really is indisputable. I didn’t say anything about other aspects of humanity, though. Technology is mostly morally neutral, to be used by human beings for good or evil. It also amplifies both the good and evil we are capable of.

    “I would argue that it’s about more souls getting to Heaven. Can we say with certainty that capitalism has contributed positively to this end?”

    I don’t think it has been a net positive or negative. Capitalism has enabled a lot of filth to be spread. It has also enabled the word of God to reach billions. Roman roads were responsible for the spread of the Gospel in the ancient world. Fiber-optic cables fulfill a similar role today.

    “Finally, I think that analyzing Day (and Merton and Chesterton, etc) in the context of the American political spectrum is too confining.”

    I don’t think I did or would. I do feel obligated to use the words that are in common circulation though, so people understand where I am coming from. Hopefully from there it becomes clear that I’m not talking about Rush Limbaugh vs. Chris Matthews.

  8. JDP,

    “you seem to think anything that “expands the state” is automatically bad/sinister.”

    Guilty as charged. The state is an engine of compulsion and violence. I do believe a minimal state is necessary. But with Jefferson, I want to see it shackled by the chains of the Constitution. I want to see it limited to its necessary and legitimate functions. I do think that many evils are involved when the state expands beyond that, especially as it must put guns to our heads and confiscate our labor in order to do so.

    “obviously plenty of people have criticized the stimulus but generally even critics haven’t ascribed these basely cynical motives to it.”

    Ah. Well, let me be clear. I don’t ascribe these motives to this particular stimulus. I think those are the motives of all governments at all times. Is that cynical enough for you?

    If you follow the link I provide, though, you’ll see that it really has nothing to do with speculation about motives. Billions of taxpayer dollars have been invested in economic failures and have subsidized the free-time of unproductive workers. This is a massive injustice on top of being clear evidence of the complete and total incompetence of Obama and his cronies.

    I wasn’t a Mitt Romney fan, but I voted for him largely because of his private sector experience, precisely so this sort of criminal stupidity would be minimized. He at least might have been dependable when it came to investing taxpayer money. If it is going to be taken and spent regardless of what I do, I’d at least like it spent wisely.

    “i don’t see any reason to think Obama doesn’t legitimately believe in what he’s doing, whatever we may think of it. ”

    I think he legitimately believes in expanding the power of the state, that government employees deserve more money, that government agencies deserve bigger budgets, that social engineering is morally justifiable, and that his military policies are as well. No argument from me there.

    “as far as “war machine” we’re winding down in Afghanistan, so unless some drone strikes on al Qaeda operatives makes us a nefarious Empire i dunno what this means”

    I’m not even going to discuss imperialism with someone who seems to think that it is the equivalent of military occupation. You dunno much about it.

  9. ctd,

    “I’m not sure I would agree his description of Sirico’s capitalism as merely “nothing more than private property + free exchange of goods and services.” He is much further from Day than that (and for that matter, from JPII and Benedict XVI.)”

    How would you describe it then?

    I’d like to know exactly what he believes that Day would find repugnant. Maybe some quotations to support it.

    “Day was more akin to Chesterton who said something to the effect that capitalism is to private property what a harem is to the sacrament of marriage.”

    You know, this is the second time here someone has said something like “Day’s views were like so-and-so’s views and so-and-so didn’t like capitalism.” Even the descriptions of her articles on the Catholic Worker website try to make her more hostile to capitalism than I ever actually read in her own words.

    As for Chesterton, I’m sorry, but you can’t dismiss everything with a clever quip. We wouldn’t even be aware of his writings if it weren’t for the communications infrastructure built up through saving and investment over the last century and a half. Is that like a “harem” too?

    “There is a tendency to equate respecting the right to economic initiative – which Day, Sirico, and Paul support(ed) – with support of the free market and then with capitalism. I’ve never read anything to support the claim that Day went that far. In fact, her writings appear to reject that conclusion.”

    I don’t see it as “going far.” What does “right to economic initiative” mean? How is this substantially different with the right to own private property and exchange the products of your labor with others without government interference?

    Show me some of the writings. I’ve been looking myself, and I haven’t seen any evidence of this. I’ve seen some statements that might be construed that way, but I haven’t seen anything to the effect of “capitalism is evil and should be rejected.” But like I said, I’ve only really started reading.

  10. JL,

    “I think capitalism is a system, and a system that can work (provided it’s grounded in a pervasive ethical system which is not merely “voluntarily” adhered to, an impossibility in America). That doesn’t mean that other approaches don’t exist or shouldn’t be explored.”

    Why “voluntary” in scare quotes? What is it you want to force people to do? I’m not trying to be sarcastic here, I really want to know – if not “voluntary”, then what and why?

    As for other approaches, capitalism has room for a very wide spectrum. The only prohibition is on force and fraud. Don’t use violence and don’t steal, and you can try any approach you like.

  11. Hi Bonchamps,

    “I haven’t seen it. But then, I haven’t read every word she ever wrote. I’ve browsed her writings at the Catholic Worker archive.”

    I’m no expert on Ms. Day, but it’s out there. Her constant mis-representation as a Communist is largely in response to her critique of capitalism.

    “As far as I know, she identified as a Distributist. But her brand of Distributism is entirely compatible with free-market capitalism.”

    But what about distributism’s central claim that wealth-producing capital and property should be as widely distributed as possible (of course, not necessarily by government mechanizing)? Dorothy Day hated welfare and capitalism because she believed the poor should learn to be self-sufficient, neither beholden to the state nor corporations.

    “Self-interest, properly understood, benefits the community. Selfishness benefits neither the selfish individual or the community.”

    Do you have a good definitional distinction between the two? Were Goldman-Sachs execs not acting in their self-interest when they engaged in dubious lending practices and then bet against the market? They made off quite nicely. I expect the counter is that if the market had been allowed to operate successfully, they would have been punished accordingly.

    “As for a community telos, that only exists in the Church. Unfortunately the two are no longer one. The community wanted a divorce.”

    I’m optimistic that it can exist in intentional communities (recently spent a week at the Abbey of Gethsemani) and someday perhaps in some sort of confessional state.

    Yes, I’ve heard of him and his assertion. It may be true but it is also irrelevant. It’s not like we have a choice between these two things. Legally enshrined pluralism was and remains the only political alternative to non-stop sectarian warfare. You can’t just create a moral consensus. It grows organically out of a culture. Christianity fought for its place in society amidst a kind of pluralism as well in the Roman Empire.

    I would highly recommend reading After Virtue. His argument is serious and not easy to dismiss. Well, I think we do have a choice, but as you point out, one seems associated with the high possibility of sectarian strife. The other, though, is not convincingly better in my opinion. MacIntyre holds up the Greek polis as his model. The limitations are there, but his entire argument is that this type of society is where virtues flourish and humans fulfill their telos. I like to think we could have something like that without the sexism and racism and slavery of Aristotle’s day. Who knows, maybe it’s a pipe dream.

    “The founders did want a pluralistic society. They basically embraced subsidiarity, as far as I can tell – moral instruction was the responsibility of parents and religious authorities at the local level. It certainly wasn’t the job of the government to create or enforce a “moral consensus.” I don’t know if MacIntyre thinks that it is, but some people I have seen quoting this view of his seem to think so. I think Obama thinks so too.”

    I don’t think the founders thought it would be as pluralistic to the extent it is today. They all recognized the need for authentic religion and morality to moderate, as Adams put it, “avarice, ambition, lust, and licentiousness.” As Tocqueville predicted, society is now dominated by formless spiritualities that bend and move to adapt to peoples’ own base wants and desires. It’s not that America is unreligious, it’s that the religions people adhere to are their own personal concoctions, moral therapeutic deism or heresies posing as orthodoxy. Bad Religion by Douthat is an excellent examination of this phenomenon.

    “It has materially. That really is indisputable. I didn’t say anything about other aspects of humanity, though. Technology is mostly morally neutral, to be used by human beings for good or evil. It also amplifies both the good and evil we are capable of.”

    I agree that this is indisputable, but I wonder what the correlation is between material well-being and spiritual well-being.

    “I don’t think it has been a net positive or negative. Capitalism has enabled a lot of filth to be spread. It has also enabled the word of God to reach billions. Roman roads were responsible for the spread of the Gospel in the ancient world. Fiber-optic cables fulfill a similar role today.”

    True, true. I guess it’s easy to romanticize the past and hate the present. And vice versa.

    You and I are both Ron Paul fans, but perhaps for slightly different reasons. I am no libertarian, but I recognize that with someone like Paul as president, we have a real chance of returning to authentic federalism (or at least as good as we’ve ever had), where states can be allowed to operate as mini-republics and the type of religiously oriented communities we saw in the colonial days would be realistic. Plausibly. What do you think of that theory?

  12. I’m not sure I’ll find the time to find all the quotes from Day or Sirico, but I think that the basic problem here is that everyone is working with different definitions. Day, like her mentor Maurin, criticized a system where ownership and operation was controlled by those with capital rather than the workers. To them, that was capitalism. Sirico, and it appears like you as well, equate capitalism with economic liberty and the free market.

    The other problem is that too much talk is about the results of these systems rather than the philosophical and theological bases for supporting, opposing, or criticizing them. Libertarians like Paul, and I would submit that Sirico does this as well, start by putting the freedom of the individual contra government as the fundamental principle. Day would never have done that. She put the person, in the context of community, first, and she criticized both government and corporations for failing to respect that.

  13. “Why “voluntary” in scare quotes? What is it you want to force people to do? I’m not trying to be sarcastic here, I really want to know – if not “voluntary”, then what and why?”

    My thoughts can be found here: http://abovethespectrum.com/2013/02/15/the-merits-and-limitations-of-conscious-capitalism/

    In a nutshell, if the ethical foundation that everyone from Smith to Adams to Strauss to Tocqeville recognized as necessary to the vitality of capitalism is completely voluntary, people will simply escape it in a liberal society where their right to will always be favored. Eventually, you’ll get to where we are today, where organized religion is pushed out of public life and into the private realm. It’s only capable of doing anything so long as people consent to it, and, as we can see, fewer and fewer people are. Their is no ethical foundation for capitalism to stand upon.

    Have you read much of Patrick Deneen?

  14. “I’ve seen some statements that might be construed that way, but I haven’t seen anything to the effect of “capitalism is evil and should be rejected.””

    I don’t think any of us are saying that she said or would have said such a thing. What we are questioning is the jump in saying that her rejection of force and compulsion by government means she accepted capitalism.

    If you haven’t done so, take a look at the publications of the Houston Catholic Worker (http://cjd.org/). They are probably the organization most remains true to Day’s actual views. And yes, there are some articles comparing Sirico with Day.

  15. JL,

    “But what about distributism’s central claim that wealth-producing capital and property should be as widely distributed as possible (of course, not necessarily by government mechanizing)?”

    What about it? If it isn’t done by force, then capitalism has no objection. Distribute away. Recombine in any way. I don’t see how any of it conflicts with capitalism.

    “Dorothy Day hated welfare and capitalism because she believed the poor should learn to be self-sufficient, neither beholden to the state nor corporations.”

    How does one become and remain self-sufficient? By working, producing, and exchanging, and also, if one has the willingness and ability, saving and investing. Private property + free exchange. Capitalism.

    No one is beholden to a corporation. We’re talking about voluntary employment, not enslavement or handouts. You provide a service – your labor. In exchange, you get an agreed-upon wage. If this arrangement proves unsatisfactory, it can be terminated at any time. And if alternatives are lacking, that’s where Day and others step in. Create the alternatives. Create the kind of businesses you think should exist. No one in the free market opposes it. But you have to be able to provide people with things that they want.

    That’s what self-sufficiency really consists of, you see. It consists of being able to contribute something useful to society, something that others in society will be willing to exchange for. That’s what capitalism is. That’s all it ever was. Something for nothing – that is social democracy, Keyensianism, Obamunism.

    “Do you have a good definitional distinction between the two?”

    I think so. Self-interest seeking one’s own good, but not at the expense of others, and often in cooperation with them. There may also be competition for scarce resources, but this is actually reduced and minimized by capitalism, not inflated by it. We no longer have tribe wars every month for water and food because we are able to produce enough to feed almost everyone consistently – thanks to technology, innovation, capitalism. THAT was dangerous competition. Two companies slugging it out seems rather tame and acceptable by comparison.

    When you save and invest, you create wealth for others as well. Jobs are created for workers; products are created for consumers; if you do your part well, the jobs become more plentiful and valuable, and the products become cheaper. Everyone wins.

    “Were Goldman-Sachs execs not acting in their self-interest when they engaged in dubious lending practices and then bet against the market? They made off quite nicely.”

    Did they? I read reports that they started carrying handguns to the office every day because of the massive volume of threats they were receiving. They know too that if the system were to malfunction tomorrow, they and their families would be the first to be brutally massacred by an enraged populace, or, if they are lucky, arrested by a provisional government and given a quick execution for their crimes. I don’t think they sleep too soundly.

    There is also the matter of what will happen to their souls when they die. Evil, especially of that magnitude, is never in anyone’s self-interest if we – as you rightly suggest – look beyond the material and the physical.

    ” I expect the counter is that if the market had been allowed to operate successfully, they would have been punished accordingly.”

    There’s that too. But really in a free market they wouldn’t have been able to do any of this. They wouldn’t have had access to cheap and easy credit in the quantities they became accustom to. They would have been bound by a tighter money supply along with everyone else. So there would likely have been nothing to punish.

    Likewise, they’re only still around because of the bailouts. It seems rather insane to me to blame the free market when the government is guaranteeing bailouts to the tune of hundreds of billions – and in fact, if you look at some reports following the secret money – trillions!

    Free markets create incentives to save and invest, to be prudent with one’s wealth and resources. It is government intervention that creates incentives to the sort of horrific recklessness that has characterized the financial class (distinct, in my mind from the industrial class) in recent years. This should be clear. But so many people have the opposite assumption – they think the abuse of freedom led to this mess, and that more rules would have prevented it. It is completely wrong, but it kinda sounds right to people who are completely ignorant of the facts.

    “Well, I think we do have a choice, but as you point out, one seems associated with the high possibility of sectarian strife. The other, though, is not convincingly better in my opinion.”

    How many people, and again I ask in all seriousness, are you willing to kill for a “moral consensus” to emerge? That’s what sectarian strife entails.

    Christianity did not require a moral consensus to reach a critical mass; it established a moral consensus once it had reached a critical mass on its own merits. But there are many, many reasons why I believe that this will not repeat itself. Eschatological reasons, if you want to really get down to it.

    I like what the old Joseph Ratzinger said, before he started talking about global financial regulations and the like as B16. We will never defeat evil, but we can minimize it and keep it at bay until God intervenes decisively and finally.

    “MacIntyre holds up the Greek polis as his model. ”

    I like the Greek polis. I like today’s city-states, i.e. Hong Kong. But we would have a plurality of polities. I’m all for local fascism, as long as I can leave.

    ” It’s not that America is unreligious, it’s that the religions people adhere to are their own personal concoctions, moral therapeutic deism or heresies posing as orthodoxy. ”

    This is true, and deplorable. But I don’t know what can be done about it, other than witnessing for the true faith. Or acknowledging that there is a true faith. Or acknowledging that truth exists. We have to start there, really. That’s how far we are from a moral consensus, and one of the reasons I don’t ever see it happening.

    “I agree that this is indisputable, but I wonder what the correlation is between material well-being and spiritual well-being.”

    I’d say it is obvious that one needs both. There is a minimum beneath which no person should fall materially. But there is no maximum for spiritual well-being. God is infinite. We can never have enough.

    “What do you think of that theory?”

    I like it. If we just respected the 10th amendment and maybe allowed some of the states to split up into smaller states, we could get there (but that would cause all kinds of messy electoral problems, so I dunno).

    We still have Rand. Sigh.

  16. ctd,

    “Day, like her mentor Maurin, criticized a system where ownership and operation was controlled by those with capital rather than the workers. To them, that was capitalism. Sirico, and it appears like you as well, equate capitalism with economic liberty and the free market.”

    It isn’t quite so simple. I mentioned private property as well, which capital usually is. But what else is capital? It is usually savings. So unless there is something immoral about accumulation through saving and then investing the savings, there can’t be anything immoral about capitalism as such. Capitalists take enormous risks with their investments. This merits nothing?

    More importantly, though, absolutely nothing prevents “the workers” from saving and investing but their own will. Most workers don’t want the responsibilities or, more importantly, the risks of business ownership and management. If they did, we would see more workers cooperatives. It isn’t like there is a law against them, or as if evil capitalists are conspiring against them. But some workers evidently do want the responsibility, and so we do have some cooperatives and other forms of employee participation in profits. There are also plenty of organizations out there that spread information about these kinds of arrangements.

    So a whole distributist economy is there waiting to be carved out of our “individualist” economy if and when a critical mass of people decide they want it.

    “The other problem is that too much talk is about the results of these systems rather than the philosophical and theological bases for supporting, opposing, or criticizing them.”

    Not when you’re talking to Austrians. For Rothbard and Paul, capitalism is an ethical system. It is based on the non-aggression principle. It is what naturally results when basic individual and natural rights are respected by society and the state.

    “Libertarians like Paul, and I would submit that Sirico does this as well, start by putting the freedom of the individual contra government as the fundamental principle.”

    The freedom of the individual from aggression, period, of which government aggression is a particular and widespread type.

    “Day would never have done that. She put the person, in the context of community, first, and she criticized both government and corporations for failing to respect that.”

    Corporations could respect it more, I have to agree. But corporations are mostly reactive. That’s another thing leftists often fail to comprehend. They exist to meet a demand. Whatever they’re supplying is what they’ve discerned as the popular demand. You can say this is immoral, but really it is the purpose, the function, of a business. The immorality lies elsewhere, i.e. with the demanders.

    I can understand being a critic of American corporate culture. But it is just factually wrong to set it up as an active opponent of distributism/whatever else you want to promote. That would be my main point. The way things are isn’t the “fault” of the corporations.

  17. “I like what the old Joseph Ratzinger said, before he started talking about global financial regulations and the like as B16.”

    But Catholics are not free to merely disregard Catholic social doctrine, which is what Caritas in Veritate is, just because they don’t like it.

    “How does one become and remain self-sufficient? By working, producing, and exchanging, and also, if one has the willingness and ability, saving and investing. Private property + free exchange. Capitalism.”

    As noted before, many would question this definition of capitalism, but besides that you seem to assume that a free exchange is just. Check the Catechism. “Agreement between the parties is not sufficient to justify morally the amount to be received in wages.” (2434). That chapter also makes clear that the state has an obligation to interfere in that agreement if necessary because it has an obligation to prevent theft and ensure justice.

  18. ctd,

    “But Catholics are not free to merely disregard Catholic social doctrine, which is what Caritas in Veritate is, just because they don’t like it.”

    I’m not disregarding it. If it says what I think it says, though, I will criticize it. With plenty of regard.

    “As noted before, many would question this definition of capitalism, but besides that you seem to assume that a free exchange is just.”

    Not every conceivable free exchange is just. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the use of force is required or justifiable to obtain a just outcome.

    “Agreement between the parties is not sufficient to justify morally the amount to be received in wages.” (2434).”

    I know exactly what this is based upon. Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum. And the good news is that what he said is also quite compatible with the typical operation of capitalism. Employers have to pay workers enough to live. With regards to support of family, which was the other provision of Leo’s, we have a stickier problem. This is not because of capitalism as such, however – most employers were able and willing to pay family wages and many still are. What problems we have encountered in this area have to do with the pervasive influence of radical feminism and the massive flood of women into the workplace. The assumption on the part of many employers now is that both the husband and the wife work. There is less of a reason, then, for them to pay out family wages. This isn’t something you can blame on the market. This situation resulted from a cultural revolution.

    We also have the issue of global competition, of course. But there the costs of a protectionist regime have to be weighed against the benefits of globalized production and trade.

    Finally, and most importantly, it is a critical and serious error to measure economic justice in terms of WAGES alone. It is worth asking whether or not there are other means by which the basic human needs of the worker can be met. Why, for instance, isn’t inflation as thoroughly addressed by ANY pope? Inflation arguably inflicts far more harm than low wages on people of poor and average means. If inflation were seriously addressed, the material situation of the vast majority of the workers could and would improve without any change in the dollar amount received in wages. The same dollars would be able to purchase more. So why the silence on this alternative?

    It is because one economic paradigm, and not another, has influenced the Papacy. It is because one economic paradigm, and not another, swept Europe by storm. This can happen in areas not related to faith and morals – the Papacy can become influenced by frankly bad ideas.

    “That chapter also makes clear that the state has an obligation to interfere in that agreement if necessary because it has an obligation to prevent theft and ensure justice.”

    The state doesn’t have a magic calculator that can determine the market value of someone’s labor. Justice would be ensured if the state stopped printing trillions of dollars and destroying the value of the dollars held by ordinary people. But no one talks about this.

  19. I also have to add that there are many things that you can do to arbitrarily increase wages that would harm all workers and consumers in the long run. When seriously considering the common good, how can one just call for wage increases and ignore all potential negative consequences?

    Is the common good ever served by just blindly promoting a single policy?

  20. I wasn’t arguing for responding to injustices by wages alone or anything like that. I was just pointing out one instance in thousands of pages of social doctrine where the Church clearly states (1) that economic freedom between individuals is not itself sufficient and (2) it is entirely proper for the state to intervene in economic matters. Those two principles do not mean that the Church has rejected capitalism, but they do indicate that it rejects the notion that ownership of property and free exchange are sufficient for the protection and fostering of the life and dignity of the human person.

    I am troubled by your claim that the Church’s social doctrine has been shaped by a particular economic paradigm and the area itself is not a matter of faith and morals. There wasn’t much serious debate on the matter before John Paul II, but he nevertheless made it very clear that this was not the case. The Church’s social doctrine, including those related to economics, is an integral part of the Church’s teaching and part of the magisterium. It is not just the opinions of various pope’s responding only to particular issues relevant only to their time and experience.

  21. “I’m not even going to discuss imperialism with someone who seems to think that it is the equivalent of military occupation. You dunno much about it.”

    well that’s what it is. or is that too technical? i’m not a fan of conflating liberalism with socialism either for that matter.

    by your metric the only way the U.S. can be non-”imperial” is if it stops caring about the outcome of certain conflicts/does not kill terrorist associates who are a direct threat, for fear of blowback. that’s rigging the argument.

  22. Ctd,

    “I was just pointing out one instance in thousands of pages of social doctrine where the Church clearly states (1) that economic freedom between individuals is not itself sufficient and (2) it is entirely proper for the state to intervene in economic matters. ”

    And this is the problem with deductive reasoning. You can start with principles that sound fine in theory and lead to disaster in practice.

    It isn’t possible to separate means from ends either, because these principles are all proposed with ends in mind. WHY is it ok for the state to intervene in economic matters, according to the recent social teachings? For some supposed benefit, for the common good, etc. And yet the facts demonstrate that state intervention in the economy almost always causes more problems than it solves and ends up perpetuating injustices instead of eliminating them. So if you have a principle that doesn’t accomplish what its stated purpose is, this is a problem.

    Leo XIII, who initiated modern CST, was much more restrained in his approach than his successors. He was much more clear about the purpose and the limitations of the state. An almost laissez-faire model could be derived from Rerum Novarum.

    ” Those two principles do not mean that the Church has rejected capitalism, but they do indicate that it rejects the notion that ownership of property and free exchange are sufficient for the protection and fostering of the life and dignity of the human person.”

    There are two different ideas here.

    I don’t believe that ownership + exchange = sufficient for the dignity of humanity, etc. I believe they are necessary. Necessary is not = to sufficient.

    The reality is that much of what the Church has proposed for the MATERIAL well-being of humanity in the 20th and 21st centuries has been rooted in flawed economic theories. This is distinct from spiritual well-being, though frankly, as a traditionalist I would point to quite a few problems there as well.

    “I am troubled by your claim that the Church’s social doctrine has been shaped by a particular economic paradigm and the area itself is not a matter of faith and morals. ”

    Well, it has, and it isn’t. It doesn’t trouble me though. Research how Papal encyclicals come together. Rerum Novarum, for instance, was written under the influence of philosophers and economists who were themselves influenced by Lockean liberalism. Quadragesimo Anno was written when fascist corporatism was at the zenith of its respectability. They are, consequently, two different encyclicals.

    Finally, when you advance policies that you claim will have certain effects, and they don’t have those effects – as is demonstrable in the case of Pius XI and Paul VI, just off the top of my head – we are clearly not dealing with infallibility. We’re dealing with an area in which it is possible for error to creep in, and it has.

  23. JDP,

    Y’all either type fast or what.

    Good job: take a phrase and disregard the facts/truth of the comment.

    I don’t believe that Obama thinks he’s doing evil or a sin.

    I think Obama believes he’s doing “good” destroying the evil, unjust free market system.

    Similarly, Lenin thought he was doing good for Russia by killing hundreds of thousands of uncooperative peasants.

    Or else, Obama and his gang simply are morons.

    Get it, Bub?

  24. do you really think Obama wants to destroy the free market, or is he someone who believes in a large social safety existing with capitalism, a la certain European countries?

    i realize some people think making this distinction is going soft on someone, but i think it’s important. it’s not like the latter situation can’t be argued against.

  25. Pingback: 150,000+ Show Up in Support of Pope Benedict XVI

  26. Catholic social teaching would appear to assign a greater rôle to the public authorities than either you or Dorothy Day allow:

    As Pope Paul VI said in Populorum Progressio:

    “33. Individual initiative alone and the interplay of competition will not ensure satisfactory development. We cannot proceed to increase the wealth and power of the rich while we entrench the needy in their poverty and add to the woes of the oppressed. Organized programs are necessary for “directing, stimulating, coordinating, supplying and integrating” [John XXIII, Encyc.letter Mater et Magistra: AAS 53 (1961), 414] the work of individuals and intermediary organizations.

    It is for the public authorities to establish and lay down the desired goals, the plans to be followed, and the methods to be used in fulfilling them; and it is also their task to stimulate the efforts of those involved in this common activity. But they must also see to it that private initiative and intermediary organizations are involved in this work. In this way they will avoid total collectivization and the dangers of a planned economy which might threaten human liberty and obstruct the exercise of man’s basic human rights.”

  27. MPS,

    How many times are you going to post the same quote?

    “Individual initiative alone and the interplay of competition will not ensure satisfactory development.”

    I don’t even know what this means. What is development and why is it important? I’m sure there’s a definition in there, but you haven’t provided it.

    “We cannot proceed to increase the wealth and power of the rich while we entrench the needy in their poverty and add to the woes of the oppressed.”

    That isn’t what individual initiative and competition do. This argument is factually false. Competition increases everyone’s wealth. It doesn’t add to anyone’s woes except for the businessmen who lose in the competition, a class of people I’d hardly classify as “oppressed.”

    If a pope said that 1 + 1 = 3, I’d tell him he was wrong, with all due respect. I’ll say the same in this case as well. Paul VI and Pius XI were both completely wrong about the cause and effect relationship between competition and the wealth of the masses. The Papacy does not guarantee that they have to be right about it, nor does Church teaching insist that we submit to demonstrably false statements about empirical reality.

  28. i Really Think That Obama’s Intent Is To Destroy america.

    Keynes (I am not a Keynesian) said something to the effect: future historians/economists will wonder in amazement that such a dull and illogical “regime” as (marxian) socialism could have exercised such influence (and caused such damage) over so many. Keynes also saw that economic “social justice” could morph to class envy/hate.

    And, the Pope is infallible in matters of Faith and Morals, not in matters of fiscal (taxes and expenditures); monetary (bank reserve requirements, interest rates, money supply) policy; nor price, income, and employment theory.

    Generally, I don’t put any stock in CSJT. It’s used by evil people to promote evil. its cousin, socialism, plays on people’s envy and wrath (the seven deadly sins), as does Obama with his constant divisive, eliminationist rhetoric of “us” vs. “them”, e.g., 4,000,000 NRA members are mass murderers, and tax the rich.

    It borders on tragic that the geniuses that dreamt up CSJT didn’t see that it could become the ally of, and aid and abet, evil, e.g., 47 million abortions. I know that was not the intent. It’s just how it plays out.

  29. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church:

    “The Church’s social doctrine “belongs to the field, not of ideology, but of theology and particularly of moral theology”. It cannot be defined according to socio-economic parameters. It is not an ideological or pragmatic system intended to define and generate economic, political and social relationships, but is a category unto itself.” (No. 72)

    “This doctrine has its own profound unity, which flows from Faith in a whole and complete salvation, from Hope in a fullness of justice, and from Love which makes all mankind truly brothers and sisters in Christ: it is the expression of God’s love for the world, which he so loved “that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3:16). (No. 3)”

    Caritas in Veritate:

    “In this sense, clarity is not served by certain abstract subdivisions of the Church’s social doctrine, which apply categories to Papal social teaching that are extraneous to it. It is not a case of two typologies of social doctrine . . . differing from one another: on the contrary, there is a single teaching, consistent and at the same time ever new. It is one thing to draw attention to the particular characteristics of one Encyclical or another, of the teaching of one Pope or another, but quite another to lose sight of the coherence of the overall doctrinal corpus. (No. 12)”

  30. Capitalism and individual freedom is obviously the only solution that has worked in raising a nations standard of living. This along with a limited government that supports distributism combined with a people that demands subsidiarity and seeks after God is what really works and is sustainable. This is no longer the case in the USA and we are now declining. Obama’s initiatives with new and massive debt spending, unprecedented in our history, are sealing our fate. With nostalgia we refer to the generation that fought in WW-II as the greatest generation. What followed should be called the worst generation. The ignorance and willingness to hand over freedom for another government program is appalling.

  31. To take two examples for Populorum Progressio, where “”Individual initiative alone and the interplay of competition will not ensure satisfactory development.”:

    “22. Now if the earth truly was created to provide man with the necessities of life and the tools for his own progress, it follows that every man has the right to glean what he needs from the earth. The recent Council reiterated this truth: “God intended the earth and everything in it for the use of all human beings and peoples. Thus, under the leadership of justice and in the company of charity, created goods should flow fairly to all.” ) [Church in the World of Today, no. 69: AAS 58 (1966), 1090 [cf. TPS XI, 306].]

    All other rights, whatever they may be, including the rights of property and free trade, are to be subordinated to this principle. They should in no way hinder it; in fact, they should actively facilitate its implementation. Redirecting these rights back to their original purpose must be regarded as an important and urgent social duty.”

    And

    “24. If certain landed estates impede the general prosperity because they are extensive, unused or poorly used, or because they bring hardship to peoples or are detrimental to the interests of the country, the common good sometimes demands their expropriation.”

    I would suggest hat only the public authorities can judge when “the rights of property and free trade, are to be subordinated” or landed estates (and, presumably other kinds of property) are to be expropriated.

  32. Contrary to what is held by the anti-property anti-market left, in the absence of the state, the natural tendency is toward equality of opportunity. While there will continue to be a wide disparity of wealth – due to the fact that humans are not equal by nature (some are more ambitious and intelligent than others), the super rich will no longer have politicians from whom they can purchase or legislate immunity. The misguided left – including those who claim to be “anarchists” – are comfortable with the intrusive state because of their hatred of property.

  33. The main problem with trying to discuss Dorothy Day is that there is very little objective knowledge about her, as most of what is believed comes from the pen of her most ardent supporters who happen to share one or more of her political positions. The only independent in-depth study of Day and the Catholic Worker is my book, ‘The Catholic Worker (1930-1988): a Critical Analysis’ (2010) which is based on documentary evidence from archival and other authentic sources. The research contained in the book shows that Day espoused a Socialist agenda for economic and social reform which she tried to disguise under the term “Christian Communism” so as to make it acceptable in the Catholic Church.
    Day was imbued with Marxist ideology, which was the basis for her rejection of Capitalism.

    As for the question of ownership, family rights, subsidiarity, distributism etc., it can be easily shown that Day’s position on each of them does not accord with Catholic principles. In her newspaper, ‘The Catholic Worker’ (CW) which she editied for almost 50 years, she favored many varieties of Socialism merging the ideals of Marxist, anarchist, utopian and religious groups which advocate the application of Communist policies in social life. Here are some examples of the Socialist solutions which she recommended in addition to her own Catholic Worker communes:
    • the Koinonia community based on “the firm foundation of non-ownership” (CW May 1957)
    • collectivized farming and living arrangements e.g. in China, the USSR and Cuba (CW February 1965), in Tanzania (CW December 1970), among the Hutterites (CW July-August 1969) or on a farming commune in California. (CW January 1972)
    • the 19th-century North American pioneering settlements (CW April 1956) which were based on communal ownership of property
    • the Israeli Kibbutz system, essentially a Socialist society based on, egalitarianism, non-ownership and communal child rearing (CW March 1968)

    We can deduce that Day’s idea of Distributism which did not defend the right to private property was simply a form of Socialism in disguise. It is simply an illusion to imagine that communal ownership of property and the means of production could be achieved without state enforcement – in other words a totalitarian state.

  34. Here is a question for your favorite theologian: “Can God create a degree so useless that even He could not get a real job?”

    Theologians and vatican bureaucracy, or whoever writes econocyclicals, know as much about economic growth and development as they do about fornication. With apologiies to General Patton.

    Wherever they tried that stuff, people went broke. The contemporary US experience is that it increases the ranks of the poor and, even worse, aids and abets evil: abortion, class envy and mass wrath.

  35. Yesterday a commenter told me:

    “attributing mala fides (and talking about “enriching Wall Street buddies” as though that’s the ultimate aim here) might be a nice way to avoid engaging separate views but it is lazy.”

    I am lazy, but that’s okay: it’s the truth:

    Joel Kotkin quoted at Instapundit, “To many presidential idolaters, this era will be known as the Age of Obama. But, in reality, we live in what may best be called the Age of Bernanke. Essentially, Obamaism increasingly serves as a front for the big-money interests who benefit from the Federal Reserve’s largesse and interest rate policies; progressive rhetoric serves as the beard for royalist results.”

    “Many of the biggest losers in the Bernanke era are key Democratic constituencies, such as minorities and the young, who have seen their opportunities dim under the Bernanke regime. The cruelest cuts have been to the poor, whose numbers have surged by more than 2.6 million under a president who has promised relentlessly to reduce poverty.

    “Things, of course, have not [been] too great for the middle-age and middle-class – more of them now supporting both aging parents and underemployed children. Median income in America is down 8 percent from 2007, and dropping. Things, in reality, are not getting better for anyone but the most affluent.

    “A particular loser has been small business. As we enter the sixth year since the onset of the Great Recession, and nearly four years after the ‘recovery’ officially began, small business remains in a largely defensive mode. Critically, start-up rates are well below those than following previous downturns in 1976 and 1983. The number of startup jobs per 1000 – a key source of job growth in the past – over the past four years is down a full 30 percent from the Bush and Clinton eras. New firms – those five years or younger – now account for less than 8 percent of all companies, down from 12 percent to 13 percent in the early 1980s, another period following a deep recession.”

  36. Well, now we’re getting somewhere.

    First, to MPS, then to Dr. Byrne.

    MPS,

    Pope Leo also quoted the same principle about “the Earth belonging to all”, but it is clear that he did so in the same manner as Locke, for he goes on to justify the appropriation of a portion of it through individual labor.

    Goods flow fairly to all when free competition enables the most efficient production and distribution of goods. This, again, is a testable, verifiable statement.

    “All other rights, whatever they may be, including the rights of property and free trade, are to be subordinated to this principle. ”

    On the contrary, this principle – of the fair flow of goods – can’t even work unless the rights of property and free trade are considered fundamental and respected as such. It is the fair flow of goods and services that depends upon private property and free trade (capitalism).

    You see? We want the same things. We want as many people as possible to get the things they need as efficiently as possible. This is what pure, unfettered capitalism delivers. It is what Keyensianism, social democracy, communism, fascism and Obamunism (a strange sort of neo-fascism if you ask me) obstruct.

    “I would suggest hat only the public authorities can judge when “the rights of property and free trade, are to be subordinated” or landed estates (and, presumably other kinds of property) are to be expropriated.”

    If “the public authorities” expropriate lawful and legitimate landowners, they are aggressors. They are violating the principles articulated by Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum. So, I will resist, with my life if necessary, any attempt by your or your fellow statists to expropriate lawful property owners, and I will do so with a clean conscience as a Catholic.

  37. Dr. Byrne,

    Thanks for your post. I have a lot to say about it, so I hope you stick around and reply.

    “The main problem with trying to discuss Dorothy Day is that there is very little objective knowledge about her, as most of what is believed comes from the pen of her most ardent supporters who happen to share one or more of her political positions.”

    I agree with you on this point. This is what I have found as well. However, there is a massive online archive of her writings at the Catholic Worker website, so it seems that this kind of ignorance is no longer excusable. I spent some time browsing it myself before writing this post.

    On the very general point about Day espousing a socialist agenda:

    I have to say that by MY understanding of the words “capitalism” and “socialism”, she could not be credibly called a socialist. Socialism ultimately relies upon widespread coercion. Day explicitly rejected “the idea of force and compulsion” to achieve any kind of social or economic justice.

    Voluntary collectivism, on the other hand, is more or less what the early Christians practiced. I don’t see how one can morally object to it.

    As for the examples you cite:

    I looked up the Feb. 1965 interview you cited. It’s pretty bad, to be sure. You’re absolutely right – she mentions collective communist farming in passing and then later on specifically praises Cuba and is rather blase about Castro’s confiscation of Church property. Its pretty appalling stuff, really. But.

    Even the best of political thinkers can have a lapse in consistency. Doesn’t it seem strange to you that someone would oppose Social Security on the grounds that it relied upon force and then praise a violent revolution that expropriated people by force?

    It tells me that we don’t really have a consistent thinker here. I think the reality is that she wanted an outcome, a certain kind of society, and was sympathetic to whomever she believed had obtained it or was on the way to obtaining it. If I had the opportunity, I would point out the massive inconsistency in rejecting “force and compulsion” when it comes to something relatively mild like Social Security while remaining ethically uncritical of something like the Cuban Revolution.

    I would hope that she would see that social justice is meaningless without justice due to individuals, justice which is denied through totalitarian collectivism.

    Finally,

    “It is simply an illusion to imagine that communal ownership of property and the means of production could be achieved without state enforcement – in other words a totalitarian state.”

    Not really. Ever hear of the Mondragon? Workers cooperatives do exist. All kinds of cooperatives exist, in fact, from agricultural and industrial to commercial and financial. Whatever people decide is in their best interests will ultimately work.

    Will EVERYONE be a part of them? No. THAT could only be obtained by a totalitarian state.

  38. P.S. – I read your article on Distributism for TIA. I agree with much if not all of it. I was dismayed when the Distributists I knew reacted with such horror to my suggestion that Distributism was a form of capitalism. It shocked me because they constantly talk about the Mondragon as an example of Distributism. And yet the Mondragon was not established by force, it is privately owned, and it competes in the open market.

    I don’t know where the ignorance ends and the malice begins with these people. The two basic ideas of Distributism and capitalism are not at odds. What’s at odds are how most of the Distributists would implement Distributism and capitalism.

  39. I’ve read Dr. Byrne’s book and studied Dorothy Day’s work in some detail–I have most of the books by her, even The 11th Virgin, and most of those about her–but Dr. Byrne’s book was a real eye-opener, and answered many questions.

    I had been a fan of Dorothy Day, but was always somewhat curious why she never really came out strong against Communism after her Catholic conversion, especially as this was during a period when Communism was corrupting many people.

    After reading Dr. Byrne’s book, I understood why.

  40. Bonchamps

    The Cuban episode is one of too many to write her off as merely having “a lapse in consistency”. She was much too intelligent for that, and her lapses all seemed to fall along the same general line.

    Really, anyone who wishes to have a full picture of Dorothy Day, and American Catholics should as she is on her way to canonization, needs to read Dr. Byrne’s book.

  41. Wow. Things have certainly gotten interesting in here.

    I really only want to respond to this:

    “The only independent in-depth study of Day and the Catholic Worker is my book, ‘The Catholic Worker (1930-1988): a Critical Analysis’ (2010) which is based on documentary evidence from archival and other authentic sources.”

    I don’t. This seems unlikely. Not saying it isn’t true. But just highly unlikely that there is only one “independent in-depth study of Day and the Catholic Worker.”

  42. JL Liedl et al,

    I met Dorothy Day when I was an undergraduate, wet behind the ears, in the mid-1960s. I felt a certain unease, especially after witnessing the lax morality at the Tivoli Catholic Worker (CW) farm, which I naively–and erroneously–thought Day did not know about. Many years later, after an arduous search on the Internet, I found Carol Byrne’s book, which helped me to see that my unease was realistic.

    It may seem unlikely, but Byrne’s “The Catholic Worker Movement (1930-1988): A Critical Analysis” is still the only book I have been able to find that is an “independent in-depth study of Day and the Catholic Worker.” Day has been rightly called “the mother of the Catholic left.”

    Jim Forest, author of three biographies of Day–all without footnotes–was a CW editor as well as a founder of the CW spinoff, the Catholic Peace Fellowship. He left the Catholic Church for the Orthodox but continues to advocate for Day’s “sanctity” as he heads the Orthodox Peace Fellowship and resides in the Netherlands.

    Daniel Ellsberg’s son Robert spent 5 years at the CW, from 1970-1975, under Day’s tutelage. Robert Ellsberg is now the Publisher of Maryknoll’s Orbis Books as well as the editor of Day’s Selected Writings (“By LIttle and by Little”), Selected Letters (“All Is Grace”), and her published Diaries (“The Duty of Delight”), in addition to being on the Steering Committee for the Guild for Dorothy Day.

    Patrick Jordan is a former CW and now a member of Day’s Guild’s Executive Committee. While he was Editor of “Commonweal,” Jordan edited a volume of Day’s writings from the magazine.

    James H. Martin, SJ, is an editor of “America” and an advocate for Day. In “America,”he endorses her “Duty of Delight” as “one of the most powerful works of Christian spirituality I have ever read.” On the back cover of her Selected Letters, he enthuses: “Read these remarkable letters and come to know a saint.” So much for waiting for the decision of the Church!

    Similarly, Robert Coles, prominent Harvard psychiatrist, advisor and friend to Ethel Kennedy, and author of two books about Day and the CW was–who’d a thunk it–a CW volunteer in the 1950s when he was attending medical school at Columbia; and as a professor he sent his students to the CW and also visited the CW with them.

    Tom Cornell, also a co-founder of the Catholic Peace Fellowship, a draft-card burner in the 1960s with Day providing public encouragement, and head of the Marlboro, NY CW farm today, does his bit too on behalf of Day in interviews–with no mention of his being on the Executive Committee of Day”s Guild.

    Earlier academic authors Nancy L. Roberts and Mel Piehl did studies of the CW that endorsed many of Day’s beliefs. Professor William D. Miller, who wrote the 1982 biography “Dorothy Day,” became Day’s friend and does not provide notes in his work. Rosalie Riegle Troester (now Rosalie G. Riegle post-divorce) is a college professor emerita who has also–surprise–been involved with the CW since the 1960s and is the editor/compiler of two volumes of “oral history” on the CW.

    Paul Elie’s “The LIfe You Save May Be Your Own” deals with Dorothy Day’s influence as a Catholic writer and actually analyzes what she wrote–which may be why his work is not listed as a resource at the CW website. However, Elie does not question Day’s “significance,” and declares that her “influence … has spread far and wide” and notes uncritically that “Day is being considered for canonization as a saint in Rome.”

    FYI, Dr. Byrne’s complete Supplementary Notes for “The Catholic Worker Movement 1933-1980: A Critical Analysis” are available at the blog “Dorothy Day Another Way” and are well worth reading.

  43. Min, David, Dr. B,

    Thanks for all the information. You’ve certainly given us all some pause for consideration. However, I still can’t shake the feeling that this seems like the internet combox version of an infomercial!

  44. Yes, I plan on withholding judgment until I’ve had a chance to acquire more information. Not that I doubt the truthfulness or reliability of anyone who has posted here, of course.

    I don’t have a problem with advocacy of voluntary collectivism. I do have a big problem with apologia for violent communist revolutions.

  45. Hilaire Belloc often gave France as an example of distributism, pointing out that some ten million landless peasants were turned into heritable proprietors, largely through the transfer of state and municipal property to private individuals – the royal domain, the common lands, the village lands, the forest lands. the lendowments of dissolved corporations, like the guilds, colleges, hospitals, as well as the confiscated estates of emigrants and malignants – the very reverse of socialism or communism.

  46. Bonchamps, it might seem logical to believe that “unlike a lot of left-anarchists I have known, she was unambiguous in her rejection of the use of force and compulsion to obtain ‘social justice’, I don’t think it can be said that she opposed capitalism either.”

    However, this view is contradicted by Day’s writings. The aim of the Catholic Worker according to Day and Peter Maurin is “to make a society in which it is easier for people to be good” by working “to make the rich poor and the poor holy”; Maurin’s favorite mottoes included “Work, not wages” and “Fire the bosses!” (Day, “The Long Loneliness,” 1952, 2006 reprint, pp. 195, 226-227). Throughout her life Day opposed capitalism, and favored the “social advances” of such governments as Castro’s Cuba, Red China, and Ho Chi Minh–which eliminated the advantages of the wealthy–as Carol Byrne documents.

    Here are some relevant quotes, with sources, so that readers can confirm Day wrote them:

    “Let us be honest and confess that it is the social order which we wish to change.” (“C.W. States Stand on Strikes,” Catholic Worker [CW], July 1936)

    “The bourgeois, the material[ist], fights for abstractions like freedom, democracy, because he has the material things of this life (which he is most fearful of being deprived of).” ( “The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day,” 2011, p. 83)

    “Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system.” (from a public speech; “Women on War,” Daniela Gioseffi, ed., 1988, pp. 103, 371)

    “When people are standing up for our present rotten system, they are being worse than Communists, it seems to me.” (“Duty of Delight,” p. 98)

    “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.” (“On Pilgrimage,” CW, September 1956)

    The CW in Day’s time participated in demonstrations opposing Wall Street in the 1970s, and has supported and participated in the “Occupy Wall Street” movement of the present. As for Day’s opposition to force, she frequently stated she could not “condone” it, but she was able to overlook it when it was used by Communists and achieved “social reforms” (e.g., see CW articles on Cuba, 1962). She also wrote approvingly about the virtues of her old Communist friends Mike Gold, Anna Louise Strong, Rayna Prohme, and Communist Party Chair Elizabeth Gurley Flynn for her CW readers. No wonder President Obama declared her one of “the great social reformers” at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2012.

    In the “Long Loneliness” Day declares, “There is so much more to the Catholic Worker Movement than labor and capital. It is people who are important, not the masses” (p. 221). Here are three samples of Day’s view of “people”:

    [1] “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)

    [2] The head of Bethlehem Steel Corporation, Charles Schwab “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)….”He that sheddeth blood, and he that defraudeth the labourer of his hire, are brothers” (Ecclus. 34:24-27). (From Union Square to Rome, 1938; 2006 reprint, p. 137).

    [3] “Marx . . . Lenin . . . Mao Tse-Tung. . . . 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)

    JL, please read Day’s writings and see if your judgment changes. When I did this, my initial reaction was shock and disbelief at the difference between Day’s “popular” image and what her writings reveal.

  47. She also says in the same article ((“The Incompatibility of Love and Violence,” CW, May 1951)

    “Peter Maurin was constantly restating our position, and finding authorities from all faiths, and races, all authorities. He used to embarrass us sometimes by dragging in Marshal Pétain and Fr. Coughlin and citing something good they had said, even when we were combating the point of view they were representing. Just as we shock people by quoting Marx, Lenin, Mao-Tse-Tung, or Ramakrishna to restate the case for our common humanity, the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God.”

    I can admire the patriotism and courage of Charlotte Corday, without endorsing assassination as a political weapon; I can admire the public spirit and integrity of Robespierre, without approving of the Terror.

  48. Min,

    Let’s take a look at some of these quotations.

    “Let us be honest and confess that it is the social order which we wish to change.”

    There is nothing wrong with this, provided it is attempted peacefully. This isn’t a strike against her in my view. There are many aspects of our society that I too would wish to change, and I would imagine, all sincere Christians would want to change.

    “The bourgeois, the material[ist], fights for abstractions like freedom, democracy, because he has the material things of this life (which he is most fearful of being deprived of).”

    There is some truth here. It is true that those of the middle class, because they are materially secure, have more time and wherewithal to contemplate and defend higher values. The parenthetical addition is uncharitable but hardly subversive. I’d like to see the context of the quote.

    “Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system.”

    Which system? This is too vague. There is a lot of filth and rot to rightfully and justly oppose.

    “When people are standing up for our present rotten system, they are being worse than Communists, it seems to me.”

    Again, I need the context.

    ““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.”

    Well, here I would point to the perennial and ceaseless semantic dispute that libertarians and socialists have. What she and many on the left think is capitalism, is really corporatism/plutocracy, a system that is impossible without government. Libertarians are opposed to this also.

    To really know what she thought, I would have to present “capitalism” to her without using the word to discover her opinion on it.

    Re. the “Long Loneliness” quotes:

    1 – yes, I know. “Papa Marx”, from what I have read, cheated on his wife with his housekeeper and treated their bastard offspring like a piece of garbage. Maybe Day didn’t know. I didn’t know as young admirer of Marx. Also, it looks as if she might be saying, “lets try to find the good in Marx.” And I believe there was some good there. I don’t think anyone is purely evil, like a cartoon super villain. I’ve actually read Marx – a great deal of Marx. I see the putrid evil and I see a humanism that could have been Christianized.

    Praising Lenin, though, is a different matter. If there was good in him, I never read it. Day asks rhetorically if it is blasphemy to say that Lenin “went about doing good” as if he were Christ. Um, yes. Yes it is. It’s really unjustifiable, especially when considering the persecution of the Church and his ceaseless hatred of Christianity. This is some pretty wildly ignorant and stupid stuff, no argument from me here.

    2 – Maybe Schwab did defraud his workers. How should I know? If he did Day was right to condemn him.

    3 – again, profound stupidity. To assert that someone could be motivated by “love of brother” who uses these methods is really astounding.

    But what precisely am I to conclude from all of this?

    If you want me to agree that Day should not be made a saint, well, I agree. To praise these mass murderers and oppressors of the Church demonstrates a spiritual and moral blindness that is not worthy of the Church’s highest honor.

    As for her political views, well, again – if she rejected force, and was uncompromising on this principle, then I would have considered her a natural ally. I might so bold as to say that she might have been persuaded to a vision of social justice that is far more respectful of individual rights, since this follows logically from a rejection of violence as a political method.

  49. Michael PS, your quotation shows how both Maurin and Day would lie down with dogs–regardless of fleas–if it furthered their own objectives. Despite her claim of using Communists for their “shock” value, Day often writes with admiration of Lenin, Marx and company, and serves as an apologist for their economic views and moral uprightness.

    It is difficult to accept that one “can admire the public spirit and integrity of Robespierre, without approving of the Terror.” Warren H. Carroll in “1917: Red Flags, White Mantle” recounts how Lenin admired Robespierre and asked, “Who will be my Fouquier de Tinville?” The latter was Robespierre’s overseer of guillotine executions. Vivid descriptions of the Reign of Terror are given in Gertrud von Le Fort’s “Song at the Scaffold” and a more recent book published by the Institute for Carmelite Studies–H. Bush’s “To Quell the Terror: The Mystery of the Vocation of the Sixteen Carmelites of Compiegne Guillotined July 17, 1794.” Navis Pictures has produced “The War of the Vendee,” which imaginatively depicts Robespierre sitting at his desk and writing orders of execution which “Death” with his hood and sickle hovers in the shadows behind. That’s who Robespierre became–all “public spirit and integrity” gone.

  50. I also think society would be more ‘socialistic’ from the ground up if it were comprised of far more Christians. One problem we have today is that many people don’t wish to contribute to others through generosity, which gives government an excuse to spread wealth through higher taxes.

  51. Jon,

    It could be the other way around. It could be that because people are already taxed to support the welfare state, they feel their charitable obligations have been met. It could be that if there were no welfare state, there would be more private charity. And in fact there was.

    Our society is wealthy enough that private charity could suffice for those truly in need.

  52. Bonchamps:

    It could be you’re right. It could also be that we’re not the kind of people we once were. Look at the way people do business these days. No generosity. No compassion. Very greedy. If not taxed, we might not give at all.

  53. The Church relied on compulsion, rather than charitable giving for a very long time.

    In an assembly of the Estates in 778-779, Charlemagne, as King of the Franks, issued an ordinance, “Concerning tithes, it is ordained that every man give his tithe, and that they be dispensed according to the bishop’s commandment.” A Capitular of 800 made the payment of tithes universal within the fiscal domain of the whole Frankish kingdom.

    From this time onwards, therefore, we may say the civil law superseded any merely spiritual admonitions as to the payment of tithes. Their payment was no longer a religious duty alone; it was a legal obligation, enforceable by the laws of the civil head of Christendom.

    Such obligatory payment became universal throughout the West.

    In France, the dime was abolished in 1789, 1,010 years after Charlemagne’s ordinance made its payment compulsory. The Concordat of 1801 provided direct government funding, in lieu of the Church’s former fiscal rights, a system that, for rather curious historical reasons, survives in Alsace-Moselle.

  54. The kind of society that Day was advocating had nothing to do with voluntary giving or freely chosen living arrangements. The message that Day distilled from her Socialist mentors went further than this. There is a lot of evidence in my book which shows that Day had a grim fascination for a Communist way of life that could only be imposed by force and central control. To set the world to rights, “commune-ism” was a model she thought should be the norm for society. She stated that “in this country too the final solution will be the commune” (CW, March 1959), but the political and economic ramifications of this hardly bear serious reflection.

    In Socialist countries, the fact that this sort of regime had to be imposed by State control operated by a one-party dictator casts serious doubts on Day’s alleged belief in voluntary social reform. The fact that Communism has been proved historically to turn into a totalitarian State and has invariably resulted in millions of deaths and widespread suffering for those who were subjected to them, is a matter of serious consideration for anyone contemplating adopting Day’s theories as a blueprint for social reform.

    But the main point about all of these communes that Day promoted as models for Christian living is that the principles on which they were founded – common ownership, egalitarianism, communal childcare, rejection of the State – are not Catholic principles and are antagonistic to the Catholic way of life for lay people in society.

  55. Dr Carol Byrne

    The Slavonic Mir or Commune is of immemorial antiquity. Such communes, as forms both of economic production and local government were predominant in Imperial Russia until 1861 and existed throughout the Slav lands, as far west a Bohemia. The 19th century jurist, Sir Herbert Maine draws interesting comparisons between these and the village communities of Northern India

    In Britain, the commune seems to have been an English thing. It was in the south and west of the country, where the English settlement was most intensive, that we find people living together in villages and farming strips in the common fields. Move North and the pattern was one of isolated homesteads and ownership in severalty.

    In Northern and Western France, there is every reason to believe the Manor was simply superimposed on such communes, during the Barbarian Invasions. There was a great deal of village property in France, right down to the Revolution.

    So far from being imposed by central government, they seem to have thrived in its absence.

    The Church never seems to have expressed the least disapproval of these arrangements.

  56. Dr. Byrne,

    Perhaps you’re right. I’ll get your book and give it a thorough read. Perhaps I will review it here as well.

    For once, and who knows if it will happen again, I have to agree with MPS. The Church has sanctioned collectivism in the past. But voluntary collectivism. It has never, to my knowledge, justified the expropriation of lawful and legitimate property owners until the vague phraseology of the post Vatican II encyclicals suggested it.

  57. Dr. Byrne,
    It seems to me that the following two assertions can be rendered compatable:

    1. Day advocated for a voluntary communal system
    2. Day’s vision of a communal system is not achievable without force.

    The can be rendered compatable assuming Day did not agree with the second assertion, which of course is a matter of opinion, though an opinion I happen to agree with. Is it possible that Day simply had an ambitious (we would say naive) understanding of what might be achievable voluntarily?

  58. It is inconceivable that Day had a naïve view of voluntary social change. To begin with, she was no ingénue. She often stated that the rich would not voluntarily give up their possessions. She was well read in Marxist authors who advocated violent revolution. She must have been aware that the Popes had repeatedly condemned Communism not only for its materialism but also because of its focus on class struggle and violence. In spite of this she supported Socialist dictators and also many individuals working for the American Communist Party in the pay of the Soviet Union.

    In CW March 1959 she talked about the possibility of a “bloody revolution” to bring about the change she desired in the political scene i.e. the establishment of communes to replace the social order of capitalism.

    In May 1970, Day expressed support for the young people who were “committing themselves to violent revolution” as “the only way” to combat the American government and what she denounced as its imperialism, Capitalism and exploitation. This was precisely the attitude imbued into the young Americans who had been coached in Marxist-Leninist techniques at the feet of Castro. Thus she effectively made herself once again a propagandist for a Marxist revolution.

    Day also supported named priests who had been expelled from the Maryknoll Order for their involvement in armed violence in Guatemala. (CW June 1970)

    Day fully supported Angela Davis (CW February 1971) of the Black Panthers who, when she was in the California State Prison in 1972, talked about the inevitability of violent revolution.

  59. A word of caution to Bonchamps and MPS: it’s all very well to talk about individuals coming together in voluntary groups, but the Church cannot condone communes that subordinate the family (the basic unit of society) to a larger community which would trump parental rights and responsibilities.

    This is exemplified in the Kibbutzim, the Hutterite communes, the Brethren, the CW etc., where the family is no more than a subsidiary member of a greater social unit which holds authority in all matters of work, education and economic matters. Such collectivist concepts of the family have always been opposed by the Catholic Church because they endanger human liberty by leaving the family open to the incursions of the “all-encroaching State”. Therefore, Day’s attempts to submerge the family in the collective community is not only irresponsible but also a cynical attempt to reorder society so that it is Socialism – not mothers and fathers – which would play an executive role and have the upper hand in bringing up children.

  60. Dr. Bryne, to lump the Hutterites and the Brethren together with secular communes like the Kibbutzim is to ignore vital distinctions. Significant differences exist in the aims of these various groups and their views on the family are quite divergent.

  61. Not only is marxian socialism a “dull and illogical” economic theory (see J. M. Keynes), it is unadulterated evil.

    Marxian socialism relies on poor people’s (proletariat) envy and wrath to organize and radicalize them not to education, training and economic growth/development (virtue), but to violence and destruction (sin) of upper classes and to take what they need/want.

  62. Dr Carol Byrne

    Many of the traditional forms of commune that I mentioned earlier were, in fact, family groups – communities of common descent, or were believed to be so by their members. Certainly the Slavonic Mir, the Septs of the Scottish Highlands were of this type. It is probably true wherever we find the headship of the community is hereditary, as representing the elder line of the family.

    As recently as 2006, the Pécresse Commission on the Family in France could say, “in this country, the model has long been the peasant family, structured around a patriarch and expanding from hearth to hearth. Children were raised within an expanded group and not by two parents.”

  63. I would be very sceptical of government-sponsored commissions that issue statements on the family at a time when marriage and the family itself are under attack as an institution. Valerie Pecresse’s report contains recommendations that would undermine Christian family values because it pushes for increased childcare provision for as a “right” to enable and encourage women to return to work faster after childbirth.

    Whatever communal arrangements may have existed in various places, the fact remains that parental authority – especially the headship of the father – was always considered by the Church as a foundation stone of the social order. It was considered as one of the indispensable elements of a Christian society that reflects God’s authority.

    Especially from the time of Rousseau and later the rise of Socialism, there was a tendency to see the individual, not the family, as the basic element of society. It is this tendency that is displayed in the Catholic Worker and explains Day’s readiness to leave her daughter to the care of the community while she devoted her time and energy to revolutionary activism.

  64. “Whatever communal arrangements may have existed in various places, the fact remains that parental authority – especially the headship of the father – was always considered by the Church as a foundation stone of the social order.”

    Which is pretty much what the Pécresse Commission was describing as the traditional family – “the model has long been…”

    Bonchamps

    The kind of traditional communes may not have an established history in America, but they are both ancient and enduring in the Indo-European civilisation from which much of its culture derives.

    One could suggest that bonds of kinship and a measure of co-ownership, such as exists in all peasant communities, provides the only kind of solidarity that can provide an alternative to government by mere force. The connexion between “kindness” and “kinship” is more than mere etymology.

  65. I think that most people would conclude from MPS’s interpretation of the Pécresse report that the two-parent family is not important for the upbringing of children and that communal childrearing is an adequate alternative. (That would have pleased Dorothy Day!)

    But this has never been the Christian tradition, including in extended families which live by Christian principles. The Church teaches that God has given the responsibility of raising children to the parents; it’s not primarily the responsibility of other relatives, schools, youth leaders or friends. If any village leader, municipal mayor or national sovereign took away that inalienable right, his actions could not be considered to be in line with Catholic teaching.

    We have the example of the Holy Family in Nazareth where Christ as a child lived with and was subject to His Mother and St Joseph. That is the divinely approved model of the Christian family.

  66. MPS and Bonchamps,
    In the traditional family, a mother takes care of her children, and grandma or other relatives may help. Dad is out working to provide for and to protect his family–a challenge with affirmative action and feminism now enshrined. Mom is not forced to go to work and abandon her children to the vagaries of day care; she feeds the hungry and clothes the naked every day she cares for her small children. Pope John Paul II, when stating that women’s work opportunities have increased, said that women’s right to be at-home mothers should be recognized as primary.

    As Dr. Byrne notes, Day frequently left her daughter with relatives or CW co-workers such as Mary and Steven Johnson, of whom Day wrote: ” The Johnsons so often took care of Tamar when she was a little girl that they think of her children somewhat as their grand children” (CW, September 1954). I suspect that while Day was living on weekends with Forster Batterham and their infant daughter, he supported her and their child. Thus, Day’s article “Having a Baby” was written in spring 1926 and not published in the Communist “Daily Worker” until June 1928, after Day’s breakup with Forster. Once Day became a single parent, she put Tamar in day care and then in boarding school in Staten Island. Day records in “The Long Loneliness” how a jealous member of the CW would destroy Tamar’s collections and engage in other acts of spite and jealousy.

    A minority of people may be able to live in peace in voluntary communities—although the more I read Dorothy Day’s diaries the more it is clear that was not the case at the Catholic Worker. Let’s recall the model of the Holy Family–it was not the Holy Commune.

    Day complained in “The Duty of Delight” when a promising couple in the CW marry that they are “lost” to the movement. She praised Ammon Hennacy publicly for his fasting and war tax resistance. She wrote of his “hurt” when his wife left him and took their two daughters. While Ammon was doing such jobs as digging ditches to avoid having tax withheld from his pay check, his first wife and daughters were left to live on oatmeal, as his second wife, Joan Thomas, records in “The Years of Grief and Laughter: A ‘Biography’ of Ammon Hennacy.”

    Day repeatedly criticized the wealthy Church in the US for not allowing the land in seminaries and retreats and religious houses to be cultivated to feed the poor. She declared “Cardinal Mindszenty and Archbishop Stepinac are lying in jail suffering at the hands of the masses” (CW, April 1949) because of such economic inequities; and she crowed over the loss of the papal states:

    “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)

    As Dr. Byrne points out, Day did not shy away from “violence” when it advanced her political and economic aims. In a letter to Ammon Hennacy, Day declared publicly: ” ‘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). This is how Day wrote of a saint and a murderous tyrant as equals: “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.” (CW, January 1970)

  67. “And all they that believed, were together, and had all things common. Their possessions and goods they sold, and divided them to all, according as every one had need.” — Acts 2:44-45

    There is clearly a Scriptural precedent for communal living. Whatever else we say about it, that much is clear. As for communISM, that is a different matter altogether. But the distinction is relevant.

  68. Thank you, Bonchamps, for your scriptural quote. I thought of that, too, which was why I felt a distinction needed to be made between the Christian communities and the secular ones. In Christian communities, normally, family is honoured even as allegience to the group is maintained. I think of the Amish, some Mennonites, the Brethren and Hutterite communities which Dr. Byrne mentioned, among others. Some communities have sought to abolish family ties, such as the Shakers, etc, but many others haven’t. Another thing worth mentioning is that the definition of the family changes across culture. In some cases it’s very extended to where the mother and father may not feature as prominently. We’ve come to think of the family in nuclear terms or in terms of the extended family that includes grandparents and perhaps a couple of other relatives, but with parents playing a very central role.

  69. The New Testament accounts, however, do not support the idea that the first Christians lived in a community based solely on common ownership. St Luke, the author of the Acts, nowhere advocates that they should renounce private property.

    It is a common misconception among the proponents of the “Social Gospel” that the first Christians eschewed private property or were pooling all their resources and redistributing their wealth from a common kitty. To begin with, from both a legal and a moral standpoint, they had ownership of their goods and could dispose of them as they saw fit. No one was forced to turn their property over to the community as a requirement of being a Christian. We read in Acts 12:12 that the mother of John Mark, for instance, still had a house of her own in Jerusalem where the faithful assembled to pray and where St Peter called, after his delivery from prison by the ministry of an angel. It was evidently an important centre for the local Church and large enough to be a common meeting-place for the disciples there.

    The case of Ananias (Acts 5:3-4) is often cited as proof that the early Christians were obliged to hand over their property and/or money to the Apostles. But this is a misunderstanding of the biblical passage. It was not for holding back the money for the land and refusing to share it with the brethren that Ananias was rebuked by Peter, but for the deception he perpetrated in his relationship with God. Peter clearly acknowledges Ananias’s right to have kept his land privately, or to have kept all or part of the money made from selling the land. Ananias’s sin was his pretence to be giving the full price, thus appearing to be more virtuous and self-sacrificing than he really was.

    While it is true that they sold their land so that the proceeds could be shared among those of their brethren in need, we have to keep in mind that the early Christians were living in unusual conditions – first as a persecuted minority then as victims of a famine in Jerusalem which required St Paul to take up a collection from Christians in Asia Minor. (Acts 11:30) St Thomas Aquinas pointed out that this was a temporary arrangement to suit emergency conditions (the first Christians being convinced that Jerusalem would be destroyed within their lifetime) and lacked the stability on which to build a future society:

    therefore we do not read of the Apostles instituting this mode of living when they passed to the nations among whom the Church was to take root and endure.

    St Thomas did not interpret the situation as an example of “Christian Communism” or hold it up as a pattern for future generations.

    From the beginning of the CWM, Day tried to make a convincing case for “Christian Communism” in modern-day America based on the “Social Gospel” theory:

    “THE CATHOLIC WORKER is for Christian communism, as practised in Catholic monasteries and by the early Christians.” (CW December 1936)

    “We believe in the communal aspect of property as stressed by the early Christians”, she wrote in the November 1949 issue of CW, and later outlined her aim:

    “to build up Houses of Hospitality and farming communes and be weaned away from the wage system by a restoration of the communal principles of Christianity as applied to the laity and to families.” (CW October 1950)

    But there was no activity recognizable as Socialized communal living in the modern sense of the word, Christian or otherwise, practised among the members of the early Church.

  70. Dr. Byrne, I believe you are correct. The early church was not communal, though they certainly shared a lot more in that particular instance in Acts than at most other times and places. Christian communities that practice communalism–and it’s never total–are usually of the Anabaptist variety. They’re somewhat communal because they’re separatist and quite a bit of ownership actually exists. I would argue that the situation in Acts provides the church with a precedent for a communal approach at times of need. That’s probably all we can take away from that.

  71. Dr. B,

    ” St Luke, the author of the Acts, nowhere advocates that they should renounce private property.”

    Nor would I claim that this actually was advocated. Not calling for a renunciation of private property is obviously not the equivalent of renouncing communal property either.

    “No one was forced to turn their property over to the community as a requirement of being a Christian.”

    Of course not. But they were certainly free to do so if they so desired.

    “St Thomas Aquinas pointed out that this was a temporary arrangement to suit emergency conditions (the first Christians being convinced that Jerusalem would be destroyed within their lifetime) and lacked the stability on which to build a future society:”

    It may be so. You don’t have to convince me that private property is superior to communal property. But I’m willing to let people discover their errors on their own. I have no desire to force people to be private property owners, only to respect the individual right to private property possessed by all of us.

    So, I must say, Day’s advocacy of voluntary communism is not an issue for me. I would call it imprudent, but not intrinsically evil.

    Her praise for communist dictatorships is what bothers me the most. It is inconsistent with her clear rejection of coercive wealth redistribution in the United States.

  72. MPS,

    “The kind of traditional communes may not have an established history in America, but they are both ancient and enduring in the Indo-European civilisation from which much of its culture derives.”

    Maybe so, but without a traditional practice of it, you are talking about imposing an alien ideology on a people. This will not have good results.

    Individual ownership of property and economic competition create wealth and prosperity for all, moreso than any other arrangement in human history. They serve the common good more greatly than communalism in any form does. However, they also bring a lot of risks and instabilities as well. No system devised by man is perfect.

  73. I find Day exceptionally naive. What really caught my attention was her statement that Mao Zhe Tung was motivated by love. I wanted to laugh. I often wonder whether social activists like Day believe in the doctrine of original sin. I seriously question their assessment of the human condition.

  74. “Mao Zhe Tung was motivated by love.” That is not comedic. It’s symptomatic of error in proponents of social justice stuff.

    Try this on a liberal: “Hitler was motivated by love.” The leftist I (sadly) know don’t excoriate Hitlerism because of the Holocaust, but because it almost killed Bolshevism.

  75. T. Shaw, no one has difficulty seeing Hitler was monstrous. Stalin is considered a mere screw-up! Yes, part of it was that Hitler was a fascist and consequently anti-communist. Ironically, both ideologies resulted in states that were total.

  76. Hitler is hated by the left mostly because he wasn’t an egalitarian. It has nothing to do with the body count.

    Apparently if you kill tens of millions people in the pursuit of egalitarian ideals, you get a pass.

  77. Yes, Hitler killed fewer people than Stalin yet is disliked far more. I suppose egalitarians see fascism as rather aristocratic. And then there was that awful business about the races.

  78. Jon and Bonchamps, Day sometimes may appear naive in her writings, but they also reveal her shrewdness. My point in sandwiching her condemnation of Charles Schwab, US industrialist and philanthropist, between her remarks on Marx, Lenin, et al is that she applied a double standard to capitalists and Communists.

    For example, in her self-labeled role as a “professional agitator” (CW, January 1970), she opposed Social Security as “an acceptance of the Idea of force and compulsion” by the federal government. She believed in-and hoped for–a revolution in the US. She “hoped” the US revolution would not be bloody. The “filthy rotten system” Day opposed was “capitalism,” and she would not say anything good about it–valid distinctions about the free market, etc, were not recognized by her. Social Security bolstered the US at a time when it was teetering on the brink of disaster–delaying Day’s wished-for revolution and undermining her efforts to further it. How disappointed she must have been by the New Deal’s rescue of the US economy!

    While she claimed to love her country, her writing reveals estrangement instead. On the personal level, she does not describe her daughter’s father as an American, but as “of English descent” and writes that he and Tamar shared the traits of the English. In fact, Forster Batterham–the man in question–”was no Englishman, merely of English descent, and had [been born] and had grown up in North Carolina and gone to Georgia Tech,” as Paul Elie notes in “The Life You Save May Be Your Own” (2003, p. 45).

    On a public level, she did not favor the New Deal, but a different kind of “new social order”: “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.” (CW, December 1968). As usual, she bolsters Communist doctrines with cross-references to Christian Scripture.

    The following letter she published in the CW seems anything but naive:

    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,” CW, April 1956)

  79. Did she acknowledge a full distinction between the Christian order, the Kingdom of God, and the various economic and political arrangements worked out in the city of man? From your quotes, it seems she believed in the Hegelian sense of the spirit working through history.

  80. Jon: Did she acknowledge a full distinction between the Christian order, the Kingdom of God, and the various economic and political arrangements worked out in the city of man?
    Good question. Day tried to convince people that Christianity and Communism were the same. She believed that Christ was a Revolutionary whose message of salvation consisted in liberation from oppression and social inequalities caused by political and social structures which must therefore be overthrown. So in the name of the Gospel she set out to rid society of “imperialism” of all kinds.

    To justify her stance, Day quoted Marx’s famous adage about each working according to his ability and receiving according to his need and equated it with St Paul’s exhortation to the more wealthy Christians (2 Cor : 8) to “supply the needs” of their less fortunate brethren. This proves beyond all possible doubt that Day believed Marx was saying essentially the same thing as St Paul. (If that were the case, there would have been no need for all the papal condemnations of Communism.) No two situations could have been more diverse: St Paul was taking up a collection for famine relief in Jerusalem whereas Communist leaders created famines through their application of Marx’s theories.

    Both Day and arx wanted to achieve the same objectives – a workers’ united revolution to overthrow Capitalism as the only means to achieve “Social Justice”.

    Far from being formed in the sprit of traditional Catholicism, Day was very much the product of the “Social Gospel” movement which preached that Communism is the authentic social legacy of the early Christian era. The notion that the theories of Marx and Lenin found their origin in the New Testament is also implied in Day’s advocacy of “Christian Communism”.

  81. Thank you, Dr. Byrne, for the explanation. Yes, I got the impression she imbibed ‘baptized’ political theory. That it was through the Social Gospel is believable since this was circulating at the lay level throughout the first half of the twentieth cenutry. I didn’t know the extent of it within Roman Catholicism, nor whether it found acceptance among church leaders there. I know a few Protestant denominations were heavily influenced by it, with the leaders taking the initiative. It sounds like it was confined to the laity within Roman Catholicism.

  82. Thank you, Bonchamps. I remember that now. I’ve read in a few places that the Jesuit order has had quite a bit to do with its propogation. It seems a writer by the name of Malachi Martin wrote extensively about their political teachings in Latin America.

  83. An earlier version of the Social Gospel movement in Catholicism was Marc Sangier’s Le Sillon [the furrow], which flourished in France from 1894 to 1910. Its aim was to reconcile the French labour movement with Christianity. Despite its republicanism, it was initially supported by Pope Pius X and the French episcopate, only to be condemned by the pope in 1910 in « Notre Charge Apostolique » which accused the Sillonists of accepting a doctrine of popular sovereignty, rather than the Catholic teaching that authority descends from God down to the authorized leaders and from there to the people.

    Sangier accepted the condemnation, dissolved Le Sillon and went on to found the “ Ligue de la jeune république » [Yoing Republic League]. This was heavily influenced by the Personalism of Emmanuel Mounier, a favourite author of Peter Maurin, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement in 1933. Here one can trace a direct influence from Mounier, to Sangier, to Maurin, to Dorothy Day.

    Mounier had been deeply influenced by the Catholic philosopher, Maurice Blondel and the poet and essayist, Charles Péguy. In turn, his “Personalist Manifesto” had a profound influence on Jacques Maritain, the Orthodox theologian, Nicholas Berdyaev and Cardinal Jean Danielou, SJ. Cardinal Henri de Lubac SJ belonged to the same intellectual milieu, as did Cardinal Yves Congar OP.

    A later exponent of the Personalist philosophy was Pope John Paul II, notably in his 1960 book, “Love and Responsibility.” An echo can be found, in Gaudium et Spes, “”man….cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.”

  84. It is interesting to note the direct link between the Sillon and the Catholic Worker via Mounier. The Sillon was condemned for evading ecclesiastical authority and giving primacy to politics over Catholic doctrine. Autonomy from hierarchical authority was still the position of Dorothy Day throughout her life as a Catholic. It was also true of Peter Maurin who had been a member of the Sillon but left in 1908 when rumours of its condemnation began to circulate. However, as my book documents, he took his Sillonists principles with him and continued to practise them in the Catholic Worker.

    A curious paradox arises when we consider how eager Catholic Worker supporters are to acknowledge the movement’s roots in Mounier’s Personalist revolution and Maurin’s role in bringing it to the United States. They strenuously deny that Maurin was a Marxist, but a more damning indictment of his Marxist thinking could not be imagined. Mounier admitted that Personalism derived from humanist Socialism and from organizations of the Catholic Left such as the Sillon. Mounier also revealed that his brand of Personalism had “a great deal to learn from Marxism.” Certainly, an examination of his writings throughout his career shows that he accepted Marxist interpretations of the causes and remedies of social problems.

    According to Day, Maurin used to tell people wherever he went, “There is a man in France called Emmanuel Mounier. He wrote a book called The Personalist Manifesto. You should read that book.” (CW April 1950) But why? The reason for Maurin’s enthusiastic endorsement becomes clear when we examine the contents of the Manifesto which was first published by Mounier in 1936 in French under the title, “Manifeste au Service du Personalisme”. Maurin took steps to disseminate Mounier’s book by getting the Benedictine monks at St. John’s Abbey, Minnesota, to translate it into English and publish it in 1938 with a Foreword by Dom Virgil Michel who is widely regarded as the founder of the Liturgical Movement in the US.

    The most striking feature of the Personalist Manifesto was Mounier’s obsession with a key Marxist doctrine – total revolution of social institutions for the elimination of Capitalism. That Mounier’s brand of anti-capitalism was inspired by Marx is clear from his explanation that Personalism was in his estimation a means “for the attainment of Socialism…through movements of peasants and workers organized with the more enlightened portions of the bourgeoisie.” Let us be clear on this issue: Personalism, in Mounier’s eyes, meant revolutionary anti-capitalism. For Mounier, the enemy was Capitalism which in turn became identified with America. He was a man with a mission, and saw himself as the instrument of history through which Capitalism would be wiped out root and branch, lest new growth should be generated from the “bases of the system”. This is the first and most obvious point about the Manifesto that prompted Maurin to disseminate it as widely as possible.

    It is illuminating to find that in the Personalist Manifesto Mounier provided a comprehensive statement of his political theory of Personalism (which he equated with virtue) while advocating the use of coercion in its defence. He was in favour of using violence, if necessary, to destroy the capitalist system:

    if, when the new forms are sufficiently mature to replace those of the diseased order, it becomes evident that the change can be brought about only by violence, as will be probable, then there can be no valid reason for refusing to use violence. (p. 283)

    But whom did he have principally in mind to spearhead his anti-capitalist revolution? Two categories of society are singled out. First, the young people to whom he dedicated the Personalist Manifesto who would “read it as a call to creative activity”, and secondly the Communists and their fellow travellers whom he considered to be “the only ones…with sufficient force…to put an end to the despotic reign of money.” The reference to the nature of money was, of course, a Marxist gibe, for it was central to Marx’s thesis that the capitalists were the despotic ruling class which should be abolished. There could hardly be a clearer rallying call to class warfare.

    However, it was the despotic reign of Personalism that Mounier wished to advance. This is clear from the April 1934 issue of Esprit in which he published his own essay, ‘De la Propriété’ (On Property). In his essay he envisaged a social system in which Capitalism would be abolished and each individual would be allowed what Mounier termed the “nécessaire vital”, that is to say enough means to cover their pre-assessed needs for family and public life and for cultural pursuits. But this is a recipe for totalitarianism. When all the wealth is controlled by one entity (albeit for the high ideal of “the people”) and allocated on the basis of pre-determined “needs”, a dictatorship is set up. Mounier’s idea of freedom was that coercion should be employed to force citizens to choose rightly; only by obeying the dictates of the new regime could they be said to be “acting freely”. There is an analogy between Mounier’s Personalism and Maurin’s “Green Revolution” insofar as people would find it “easier to be good”, but only because they would have no choice. Applied to the whole of society (which was the objective in mind), both Mounier’s Personalism and Maurin’s “Green Revolution” would result in nothing less than State Socialism.

  85. What was central to the otherwise disparate French Catholic left was the rejection of the Neo-Thomists’ theory of Natural Law, based on Suarez’s interpretation, or rather, travesty of St Thomas. They had talked of a “natural order,” governed by Natural Law, consisting of truths accessible to unaided human reason, as something that can be kept separate from the supernatural truths revealed in the Gospel. This “two-tier” account of nature and grace saw the addition of “grace” was something super-added to a human nature that was already complete and sufficient in itself and apart from any intrinsic human need

    In the memorable exchange in 1910, in Blondel’s publication, L’Annales de philosophie chrétienne, between Descoqs, the Jesuit defender of Charle Maurras and his Action Française and the Oratorian Lucien Laberthonnière, Descoqs, a follower of Suarez’s interpretation of St Thomas had allowed the political sphere a wide degree of autonomy and he was prepared to detach “political society” from “religious society.” Laberthonnière had retaliated by accusing Descoqs of being influenced by “a false theological notion of some state of pure nature and therefore imagined the state could be self-sufficient in the sense that it could be properly independent of any specifically Christian sense of justice.”

    Thus, Maurice Blondel, insisted that we must never forget “that one cannot think or act anywhere as if we do not all have a supernatural destiny. Because, since it concerns the human being such as he is, in concreto, in his living and total reality, not in a simple state of hypothetical nature, nothing is truly complete (boucle), even in the sheerly natural order”

    Jacques Maritain, too, declared that “the knowledge of human actions and of the good conduct of the human State in particular can exist as an integral science, as a complete body of doctrine, only if related to the ultimate end of the human being . . . the rule of conduct governing individual and social life cannot therefore leave the supernatural order out of account”

    Finally, Cardinal Henri de Lubac spent his whole life combating the notion that the natural and the supernatural have utterly separate ends in and of themselves.

  86. “What was central to the otherwise disparate French Catholic left was the rejection of the Neo-Thomists’ theory of Natural Law, based on Suarez’s interpretation, or rather, travesty of St Thomas. ”

    Why is it a “travesty”? For some demonstrable objective reason, or because it serves as a clear rebuke to the designs of statist control-freaks?

    I couldn’t care less what a bunch of European modernists thought about politics.

  87. Dr. B,

    “Day tried to convince people that Christianity and Communism were the same. She believed that Christ was a Revolutionary whose message of salvation consisted in liberation from oppression and social inequalities caused by political and social structures which must therefore be overthrown. So in the name of the Gospel she set out to rid society of “imperialism” of all kinds.”

    Did she actually say this? Because I know this is what liberation theologists teach, but I wasn’t aware she taught it. She has always been presented as a somewhat orthodox believer who assented to the basic dogmas of the faith, opposed abortion and other violations of the natural law, etc.

  88. Why is it a travesty? For the “demonstrable objective reason” that it is not faithful to the teaching of St Thomas, but is based on a maxim, nowhere found in his works that “the end of nature must be proportionate to nature.”

    But St Thomas says, “the beatitude of any rational creature whatsoever consists in seeing God by his essence” [In IV Sent, d. 49, q. 2, a. 7:] and that “one has not attained to one’s last end until the natural desire is at rest. Therefore the knowledge of any intelligible object is not enough for man’s happiness, which is his last end, unless he know God also, which knowledge terminates his natural desire, as his last end. Therefore this very knowledge of God is man’s last end.” {SCG III, c. 50.]

    This is also the teaching of St Augustine, when he says, in the first line of the Confessions, “You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

    In order to maintain their maxim, the Neo-Thomists therefore had to argue that St Thomas, and St Augustine, too, were referring to nature elevated by grace, although this is nowhere in the text. Hence their talk about “natura pura” and a natural end of man, natural beatitude and the rest of it. This is the “pure nature” that Laberthonnière called a “false theological notion.”

    In fact, St Thomas actually rejects their notion that natural desire cannot extend beyond natural capacity, when he says, ““The nature that can attain perfect good, although it needs help from without in order to attain it, is of more noble condition than a nature which cannot attain perfect good, but attains some imperfect good, although it need no help from without in order to attain it.” [ST I-II, q. 5, a. 5 ad 2] and he quotes Aristotle as saying “that which we are able to do through friends we can in a certain way do on our own.”

  89. I should have added the clincher from St Thomas ““even though by his nature man is inclined to his ultimate end, he cannot reach it by nature but only by grace, and this owing to the loftiness of that end.[In Boethius de Trinitate, q. 6, a. 4 ad 5.]

  90. Day was convinced that her work was “a continuation of the mission of Christ the Worker” (CW September 1946), thus implying that the revolutionary activities she engaged in would have been espoused by Christ. But then she also advocated social and political change in line with Marxist theories, that is, a class struggle to free the workers from the “oppression” of the rich and powerful –capitalists, employers, private landowners, the “ruling class” and wealthy clergy. Her model of a Christ-like revolution was none other than the Marxist-inspired violence of Fidel Castro:

    “When I was in Cuba in September 1962, I witnessed what a Franciscan priest, Hervé Chaigne, has called an “exemplary” revolution. I felt that it was an example to us in zeal, in idealism and in self-sacrifice and that unless we began to approach in our profession of Christianity some of this zeal of the Communists, we weren’t going to get anywhere.” (CW April 1968)

    By what contorted reasoning did she justify this anti-clerical revolution which led to the persecution of many Catholics, both religious and lay? Simply by applying her own personal interpretation of Scripture and coming to the conclusion that Christ would have been as Marxist and anti-capitalist as she was:

    “The justification for a Christ who urges militant action is the story in the New Testament of how he drove the money changers out of the temple. Over and over again, when I am speaking in colleges and universities, this incident is brought up. There are many strong denunciations of the oppressor, the hypocrites, the whited sepulchers the lawyers, of all those who put heavy burdens on men’s shoulders and do nothing to share them or lighten them.” (CW May 1970)

    There are a good many instances like this scattered through Day’s writings where she implies that Christ the Worker, like Karl Marx, was opposed to capitalism and the division of labour and would have taken measures to rid society of them. These can be found particularly in her treatment of Liberation Theology priests fighting in Guatemala and also in her treatment of the Worker Priest movement. She had no hesitation in drawing her readers’ attention to David Dellinger’s book, More Power than we know, (CW July-August 1975) in which he describes Christ as, among other blasphemous things, a “political revolutionary.”

  91. Jon, you can say that again! In one of my chapters I provide an overall view of Day’s spirituality which reveals that there was nothing either specifically or necessarily Catholic about her beliefs. The basic problem was Day’s belief in the “primacy of conscience” which gave rise to her propensity for interpreting certain passages of the Bible in an attempt to justify her own personal opinions and initiatives. She used Catholicism, or at least her understanding of it, as a weapon of ideological reaction in her struggle against all established systems such as ecclesiastical hierarchy, the State and capitalist businesses and to enlist support in the political struggle against the “bourgeoisie”.

    It has been remarked that Catholic truth did not figure high on her agenda:

    when Dorothy Day became a Catholic in 1927, she was not attracted by the church’s orthodoxy, but by the fact that it was the religion of the masses. (Dan McKanan, The Catholic Worker after Dorothy Day: Practising the Works of Mercy in a New Generation, Liturgical Press, 2008, p. 182)

    In fact she promoted a confused form of religious humanism, a blend of different religious faiths and secular ideologies.

    Examples of Day’s unorthodox beliefs abound. Here are a few examples. She had a false conception of the Mystical Body of Christ believing, against the explicit teaching of Pope Pius XII in ‘Mystici Corporis’, that all mankind were members. She was so confused about the “Mystical Body” that she went so far as to present Gandhi, a Hindu, as the epitome of Christianity.

    Another egregious departure from Catholic teaching was Day’s concept of the “divinized poor”, a notion drawn from Liberation Theology. Also in line with Liberation Theology was Day’s belief that anyone working and especially living with the poor encounters the divine and achieves salvation. It is illuminating to consider that well before Liberation Theology surfaced as an organized movement in the 1960s, Day was already preaching that salvation comes through the Works of Mercy alone (even if these are performed by communists) and that the poor are identified with Christ to the point of actually becoming Christ.

    One other example of Day’s unorthodoxy among many is her belief in women priests. Testimony to this was given by Fr Richard McSorley, a priest from Washington DC who had befriended Day from the early days of the CW. In Rosalie Riegle Troester’s Voices from the Catholic Worker, pp. 523-4, (a series of interviews containing memories of people who had been closely associated with Day), Fr McSorley stated that he went to see Day in the company of another priest and a nun about a year before she died, and added:

    “She had been on record as saying that she wasn’t in favour of women priests. But this time she said, ‘I don’t think it will go on [the same way] forever. We will have women priests. Probably the first step will be married priests. And then when women are closer to the altar by being associated with priests, married to them, then the culture will be ready for women priests.’”

    Let us not forget that this is the woman who is being pushed for canonization by Cardinal Dolan and the US Bishops.

  92. “Examples of Day’s unorthodox beliefs abound. Here are a few examples. She had a false conception of the Mystical Body of Christ believing, against the explicit teaching of Pope Pius XII in ‘Mystici Corporis’, that all mankind were members. She was so confused about the “Mystical Body” that she went so far as to present Gandhi, a Hindu, as the epitome of Christianity.”

    Yikes. So she was a universal salvationist too. It just gets worse and worse. I had no idea.

  93. “And from all of this, you mystically derive the need for a parental welfare state? I don’t see it”

    No, I do not. To take one historical example, the Revolution did not establish a system of public relief. No, It turned ten million landless peasants into heritable proprietors, independent and self-sufficient. As De Tocqueville said in his speech of 12 September 1848 to the National Assembly, “Not only did it consecrate private property, it universalized it. It saw that a still greater number of citizens participated in it.”

    He added, “The Old Regime, in fact, held that wisdom lay only in the State and that the citizens were weak and feeble beings who must forever be guided by the hand, for fear they harm themselves. It held that it was necessary to obstruct, thwart, restrain individual freedom, that to secure an abundance of material goods it was imperative to regiment industry and impede free competition. The Old Regime believed, on this point, exactly as the socialists of today do. It was the French Revolution which denied this… If it had been but to create such a system, the Revolution was a horrible waste. A perfected Old Regime would have served adequately.”

    No, it was Hilaire Belloc who pointed out that the principles of distributism and the principles of 1789 are one and the same.

  94. “No, it was Hilaire Belloc who pointed out that the principles of distributism and the principles of 1789 are one and the same.”

    As always with “Old Thunder”, when history and one of his pet theories collided, so much the worse for history.

  95. Jon and Bonchamps,

    If you want it straight from the horse’s mouth, here is what Day said:
    “We think of all men as our brothers then, as members of the Mystical Body of Christ.” (CW January 1936)

    Later, with reference to people of all religions, Christian and non-Christian, she reinforced this with another whopper: “we are all temples of the Holy Ghost”. (CW April 1952)
    It is no coincidence that Peter Maurin and other Catholic Workers believed this too, for the novel idea of the Mystical Body as embracing all mankind had been implanted in the CWM in the 1930s by visiting Benedictines such as Frs Virgil Michel and Benedict Bradley.

    But there was more to the theory than mere “brotherhood”. The sting in the tail was that Fr Michel gave the doctrine of the Mystical Body a distinctly political focus, and Day, who followed closely in his footsteps, echoed his sentiments when she wrote:

    “We believe that all people are brothers and sisters in the Fatherhood of God. This teaching, the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ, involves today the issue of unions (where people call each other brothers and sisters); it involves the racial question; it involves cooperatives, credit unions, crafts; it involves Houses of Hospitality and Farming Communes. It is with all these means that we can live as though we believed indeed that we are all members one of another, knowing that when “the health of one member suffers, the health of the whole body is lowered.” (CW February 1940)

    The last sentence is supposed to refer to St Paul’s metaphor of the Church as the Body of Christ, but Day was more interested in the slogan of the Industrial Workers of the World (of which she was once a member) which states that “an injury to one is an injury to all.” Politics before religion was the name of the game.

  96. Matthew 25 presents the Last Judgment.

    Secular humanists (subverting the Faith and politicizing the Gospels) take “Whatsover you do for the least of my brothers . . . :” and run amok.

    In Matthew 12:46-48; Mark 3:31-33, and Luke 8:19-21, Our Lord tells us exactly who are His brothers: “whoever does what My Father in Heaven wants him to do . . .”

    Kumbaya!

    The Gospels teach us we are judged not by how much we are loved but by how we love. And, we are judged by how much we do for others; and how much we give to others; and by having forgiven all injuries (it’s in the Pater Noster and it’s one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy).

  97. “it was Hilaire Belloc who pointed out that the principles of distributism and the principles of 1789 are one and the same.” In that case, that’s an admission that distributism cannot be approved by the Catholic Church. Successive Popes have condemned the principles of the French Revolution and by the same token they must condemn distributism.

    I know that’s not the conclusion Belloc meant us to draw, but he was an admirer of Robespierre and he tried to justify the Terror on the spurious grounds that it was a “just and honest” action to prevent anarchy. But that was the anarchy that the revolutionaries themselves created by destroying the previous order and sending to the guillotine the clergy, the nobility, and all Catholics who were opposed to their ideas.

    But let us not get too diverted from the original point of this debate which is about Dorothy Day.

  98. I agree with T. Shaw that secular humanists (and I would include many Catholic Leftists in this category) run amok with Matthew 25 by interpreting it in too literal and narrow a sense. Dorothy Day took this view: “In the 25th chapter of St. Matthew there is a description of those who are the saved. It is those who feed the hungry, shelter the harborless, visit the prisoner, bury the dead, and perform the works of mercy.” (CW September 1954)

    We must put Day’s “Works of Mercy” into a Catholic perspective. The corporal works of mercy may not interfere with the duty of state of the person doing them. In Day’s case, she clearly neglected to give her daughter the home and personal care that duty demanded she provide. Instead, she set aside her maternal duties to be “free” for the social work that she considered more important than God’s will for her. Such actions are directly opposed to Catholic order, and clearly show that Day’s intention was not to fulfill the will of God, but her own.

    Let us look at what St Augustine had to say on this issue.

    “they suppose that Christ will discriminate between those on the right hand and those on the left, and will send the one party into His kingdom, the other into eternal punishment, on the sole ground of their attention to or neglect of works of charity.

    The reason, therefore, of our predicting that He will impute to those on His right hand the alms-deeds they have done, and charge those on His left with omitting the same, is that He may thus show the efficacy of charity for the deletion of past sins, not for impunity in their perpetual commission. And such persons, indeed, as decline to abandon their evil habits of life for a better course cannot be said to do charitable deeds. For this is the purport of the saying, “Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.” He shows them that they do not perform charitable actions even when they think they are doing so. (St Augustine The City of God, Chapter 27—’Against the Belief of Those Who Think that the Sins Which Have Been Accompanied with Almsgiving Will Do Them No Harm’.)

  99. Lumen Gentium, II.13, when it says, “All men are called to be part of this catholic unity of the people of God which in promoting universal peace presages it. And there belong to or are related to it in various ways, the Catholic faithful, all who believe in Christ, and indeed the whole of mankind, for all men are called by the grace of God to salvation,” would appear to allow for an extended meaning of the Mystical Body, a theme explored by De Lubac in his “The Church: Paradox and Mystery.”

  100. But Lumen Gentium, like Gaudium et Spes, is full of vague language which has no precise meaning, such as the expression “People of God” which is meant to include “all who believe” (in what?) and all who supposedly work for peace. There is no support for this in traditional Catholic teaching.
    For a precise and intelligible meaning of the doctrine of the Mystical Body, we have the teaching of previous Popes. Drawing on St Paul’s metaphor of the Christian community united in one faith, the Pope identified the Mystical Body of Christ with the Catholic Church and made it clear that “only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith.” (Mystici Corporis (On the Mystical Body of Christ), 1943 # 22). Day seemed not to have been aware that the Pope was referring exclusively to the Catholic Church, and that he had made it unmistakably clear that “those who are divided in faith or government cannot be living in the unity of such a Body, nor can they be living the life of its one Divine Spirit.” (Mystici Corporis, # 22)

    Had Day really been as loyal to the papal encyclicals as her supporters claim, she would have taken seriously Pope Pius XI’s statement that it is “foolish and out of place to say that the Mystical Body is made up of members which are disunited and scattered abroad,” and his teaching, taken from St Paul, that “whosoever therefore is not united with the body is no member of it, neither is he in communion with Christ its head.” (Mortalium Animos # 10)

  101. I particularly appreciate the reference to Mortalium Animos, one of the strongest statements against false ecumenism of the 20th century. I don’t believe in a ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ and you will find me on the side of Pius X, Pius XI and many before them who fought against – rather than succumbing to – the spirit of modernism and universalism.

  102. Bravo and well said, Bonchamps. Trying to prove the “hermeneutic of continuity” is like trying to square the circle. Best not to bother. More and more people are realizing the wisdom of keeping to traditional doctrine and are prepared to speak out about it.

  103. Bonchamps, T. Shaw, Dr. Byrne,

    May I add just a few more relevant quotes from Dorothy Day?

    “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)

    “[I]t seems to me that anything that threatens money or property, anything that aims at a more equitable distribution of this world’s goods, has always been called communism. I like the word myself; it makes me think of the communism of the religious orders. In fact, the success and prosperity of religious orders shows how beneficial communism could be if it were practiced for all, rather than for only those professed religious who give up family, marriage and personal belongings to devote themselves to the problems of poverty.” (“Red Roses for Her,” CW, November 1964; By Little and By Little, 1983, p. 145)

    “He said that salvation is through the poor, when he told us, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.’ ” (“Hospices Needed,” CW, July-August 1949)

    “[My Communist associates] helped me to find God in His poor, in His abandoned ones, as I had not found Him in Christian churches. I firmly believe that our salvation depends on the poor.” (“Beyond Politics,” CW, November 1949)

    “God did not forgive the sin of ignorance, as Father Paul Hanley Furfey pointed out once, calling [on] the 25th chapter of St. Matthew.
    Lord, when did we see you burned with napalm? Inasmuch as ye did it to one of these my littlest ones you did it unto me.
    My only comfort sometimes is that saying of Our Lord’s: ‘God wills that all men be saved.’ ‘Ask and ye shall receive.’ May His will be done.” (“On Pilgrimage,” CW, June 1966)

    “Father Paul Hanley Furfey once said to us in a conference that it is obvious from the 25th chapter of St. Matthew that God does not forgive ignorance. ‘When did we see you naked and not cover you, a stranger and never made you welcome? And the Lord will answer, ‘I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.’ ” (“On Pilgrimage, CW, September 1967)

    “My understanding of the teaching of the Church is that we must follow our conscience, even an erroneous conscience.” (“On Pilgrimage,” CW, May 1973)

    “We had our communion procession and even the altar facing the people, as far back as 1937–summer. Fr. Joseph Woods, O.S.B. came to spend his vacation with us. . . . I myself got into trouble over that move, because the activists who were working on the farm that summer, when asked by Father Joseph to help rearrange the farm chapel for the Mass, passed the buck by saying ‘Let’s wait till Miss Day gets back,’ whereupon he informed them it was his business, and he informed me on my return from the city that I must be a tyrant indeed if they had to await my permission before they could assist at rearranging the altar. He was not very observant, living at the Catholic Worker where the motto was, ‘Love God and do as you will.’ St. Augustine said that.” (“On Pilgrimage,” CW, March 1966)

    “I am a member of an unincorporated association of the Catholic Worker, made up of a very active group of young people who so ardently esteem the ideas of Peter Maurin that right now they are adding a few of his Easy Essays at the end of our evening recitation of Vespers in the basement of our New York house of hospitality.” (“On Pilgrimage,” CW, May 1973)

  104. “God did not forgive the sin of ignorance, as Father Paul Hanley Furfey pointed out once, calling [on] the 25th chapter of St. Matthew…”

    If this is taken to mean that sins of ignorance are sins nonetheless, she is merely echoing St Paul, who calls himself “the chief of sinners,” for a sin which he committed “ignorantly, and with zeal” St Augustine, too, says in the Retractations, “’Those who sin through ignorance, though they sin without meaning to sin, commit the deed only because they will commit it. And, therefore, even this sin of ignorance cannot be committed except by the will of him who commits it, though by a will which incites him to the action merely, and not to the sin; and yet the action itself is nevertheless sinful, for it is enough to constitute it such that he has done what he was bound not to do.”

    “My understanding of the teaching of the Church is that we must follow our conscience, even an erroneous conscience.”

    Cardinal Newman says in his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, “I have already quoted the words which Cardinal Gousset has adduced from the Fourth Lateran ; that ” He who acts against his conscience loses his soul.” This dictum is brought out with singular fullness and force in the moral treatises of theologians. The celebrated school, known as the Salmanticenses, or Carmelites of Salamanca, lays down the broad proposition, that conscience is ever to be obeyed whether it tells truly or erroneously, and that, whether the error is the fault of the person thus erring or not.* They say that this opinion is certain, and refer, as agreeing with them, to St. Thomas, St. Bonaventura, Caietan, Vasquez, Durandus, Navarrus, Corduba, Layman, Escobar, and fourteen others. Two of them even say this opinion is de fide. Of course, if he is culpable in being in error, which he would have escaped, had he been more in earnest, for that error he is answerable to God, but still he must act according to that error, while he is in it, because he in full sincerity thinks the error to be truth. “

    So, in these two cases, she would appear to be in good company

  105. MPS, you miss the point made by several others–including Dr. Byrne, Bonchamps, and T. Shaw–that Day uses Matthew 25 as a cudgel against those who do not share her belief that salvation lies in performing the corporal works of mercy–regardless of belief in Christ. Similarly, Day defends following an erroneous conscience–without stating that people have an obligation to form their consciences correctly–as even one of your sources notes.

    When it suits Day, she berates her readers for not following the Pope and the teachings of the Church. Meanwhile, she reserved to herself the right to pick and choose what she would follow.

    t
    Barack Obama’s mentor the Communist Frank Marshall Davis also bent Scripture to his own aims, as in the following statement quoted by Paul Kengor in his book “Dupes” (2010):

    “In “Challenge to the Church,” published on September 29, 1949, he quoted extensively from a letter by “Benjamin D. Shaw, noted New York churchman.”
    He was so impressed with Shaw’s letter that he wrote, “I wish every minister, every churchman, every Christian could read the entire statement.” In one section that Davis cited, Shaw imagined Judgment Day, where anti-Communist Christians would be called to account for their attacks on Christ-loving Communists: “On your Judgment Day, when the Lord will ask you for an account of your stewardship, will you have to say, ‘Lord, they were a pack of wolves’? If God will then ask you, ‘My son, did you do all you could to humanize these wolves, to Christianize them, to teach them My Way?’ will your answer be, ‘Lord, I was too busy Redbaiting’?”

  106. Min

    “Day defends following an erroneous conscience–without stating that people have an obligation to form their consciences correctly–as even one of your sources notes.”

    But did she not do precisely that in saying that ““God did not forgive the sin of ignorance…”?

  107. MPS, No, she did not point out that we must strive to correctly inform our consciences. To state (or more accurately, to quote someone else stating) that God does not forgive “ignorance” in relation to the works of the war and the works of mercy–causes close to her heart–is not the same as stating that we must follow an informed conscience. Indeed, she frequently and stridently castigated those whose views “on social issues” did not agree with hers.

  108. Min

    But the doctrine of the Church is not that “we must follow an informed conscience” ; the doctrine of the Church is that “conscience is ever to be obeyed whether it tells truly or erroneously, and that, whether the error is the fault of the person thus erring or not”

  109. MPS, When I point out our responsibility to inform our consciences to avoid–not embrace–error, you first assert that Day has made that point by quoting “God does not forgive ignorance.” After I clarify that Day’s quotation does not indicate that people have a responsibility to inform their consciences, you now backtrack and support Day’s error by quoting the statement of the “Carmelites of Salamanca” and calling their theological formulation “the doctrine of the Church.” I don’t think so.

    Your own quotation from Father of the Church St. Augustine states that “even this sin of ignorance cannot be committed except by the will of him who commits it … and yet the action itself is nevertheless sinful, for it is enough to constitute it such that he has done what he was bound not to do.”

    The distinction between vincible and invincible ignorance is crucial. The Angelic Doctor, St Thomas Aquinas, explains that vincible ignorance does not excuse a person from sin. He observes that

    “An erring conscience does bind, so that a person would sin by refusing to follow it–and this is true even when the error is voluntary and vincible [St. Thomas Aquinas, S.T. I-II, Q. 19, Art. 5]. But an erring conscience does not excuse (except in case of invincible ignorance), so that a person would also sin by deciding to follow it when the person really ought to know better [ibid., Art. 6]. A person who sincerely believed it was right to do the wrong thing, but only because of vincible ignorance, would sin in either event. The only way out of this self-imposed dilemma is to relinquish the error and do what is objectively right [ibid.]. ”

    As the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1783, states: “Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.”

    Day deliberately ignored the Church’s teaching on many issues that did not conform to her political opinions, and she interpreted the Scriptures to suit her own preconceived ideas. Such an ill-informed conscience does not bind or compel her to act in accordance with it because her ignorance was self-chosen and voluntary. As Dr. Carol Byrne aptly states in “The Catholic Worker Movement (1933-1980): A Critical Analysis,” Day sat like a spider, weaving a tangled web of confused ideas intertwined in such a way as to tie the Catholic faith to the ideology of [her own] partisan movement” (p. 294). No wonder Day was the champion of the erroneous conscience.

  110. Min

    I find your reasoning difficult to follow.

    You cite St Thomas, who says, “An erring conscience does bind, so that a person would sin by refusing to follow it–and this is true even when the error is voluntary and vincible.” That is precisely my point.

    You then say, “Such an ill-informed conscience does not bind or compel her to act in accordance with it because her ignorance was self-chosen and voluntary,” which is the reverse of what St Thomas says.

    Which is it?

  111. MPS, I find your misunderstanding difficult to credit.

    There is no contradiction with the teaching of St Thomas in my reasoning. There is sin in doing wrong by following a conscience that is erroneous due to vincible ignorance. Thus, St. Thomas declares: “A person who sincerely believed it was right to do the wrong thing, but only because of vincible ignorance, would sin in either event. The only way out of this self-imposed dilemma is to relinquish the error and do what is objectively right.” My statement “Such an ill-informed conscience does not bind or compel her to act in accordance with it because her ignorance was self-chosen and voluntary” is a paraphrase of St. Thomas’s statement, NOT the reverse of what he says.

    St. Thomas was referring to those who genuinely believe that wrong actions are right. Day, on the other hand, wove a tangled web of mistruths about the faith in order to justify herself. As Dr. Byrne documents in her 2010 book, there is ample evidence to show that Day’s actions and beliefs were dictated by her adherence to the ideology of Marxism, so that she deliberately ignored Church teaching and discipline when it suited her purpose. She was therefore not bound to follow that sort of “conscience,” if we can call it that.

    For example, Day gave support to and appeared on a public platform with Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, her old Communist friend in 1957. (Four years later Gurley Flynn became Chair of the Communist Party USA.) Day’s fellow Socialist and Catholic Worker Michael Harrington stated:

    “Dorothy came to me and said, ‘Michael, why did I do it?’… I read the papal text … and came up with some theory. But Dorothy really didn’t care. She didn’t have a theoretical mind. Dorothy did it because this was a radical friend from the past who was being persecuted. Dorothy reacted as a human being.” (Michael Harrington, in R. R. Troester, ed., “Voices from the Catholic Worker,” 1993, p. 76)

    Harrington shows that Day’s action was not a judgment in conformity with the Church’s teaching against Catholics giving support to Communists, but a decision she made in defiance of the “papal text”–Pope Pius XII’s 1949 ban issued under pain of excommunication.

  112. I have been following (though not reading every word) of this dialogue about Dorothy Day and various ideological and social systems. If I may be permitted, I would like to point out a couple of examples of where ideology and reality do not coincide.

    First, all the discussion so far has stressed the Marxist/Communist goal of the abolition of private property and its replacement by “communal property.” However, our current President (a disciple of both Alinsky and Day) and indeed the entire Leftist movement in the United States has not at any time during my lifetime advocated anything other than the consolidation of all resources as state property (one might as well say, “the private property of the state”). Certainly the current administration is not, so far as I know, taking any steps to abolish property or to create communes. Instead more and more centralization of power in the hands of the federal government in Washington is taking place.

    I must confess to confusion here. In theory, Marxism advocates abolition of property and the state whereas in practice it makes the State the sole legal owner of productive property. So which is it? If Day is right and Marxism consists of abolition of the State and the institution of communes, then there is no Left in the United States. Even the Communist Party USA supports Obama’s centralizing and statist actions (including the confiscation of all private firearms, which would make “violent revolution” impossible). Where is the anarchism in any of this? Where is the commune? The abolition of “property?” I don’t see it. If this is Marxism, then Day and co. were not Marxists. If, however, what Day and Co. advocate was Marxism, then the extreme statism and centralization which the current administration is implementing is not Marxism. I am neither an intellectual nor an economist and I do not make these observations to argue with anyone, but simply to ask for help in how to interpret all this.

    As all of you probably know, there is a sector of the American Right that is descended the Populists of the late 19th century which actually teaches that the entire Left is merely a “front” for the old American establishment (the Rockefellers, Morgans, Carnegies, Fords, etc.) and that its goal consists of nothing other than the centralization of all productive property in the hands of the US government–the ultimate “capitalist monopoly.” And indeed one must ask why a wealthy class that had the government in its pocket would oppose such a state monopoly, since in a state controlled by them they would be the de-facto owners.

    This means that it is often the American Right that is anti-state (and indeed, often anarchist). The so-called “Old Right” in America considered the United States government as a much greater threat than the Communist party or any radical organization, and this position has experienced a renaissance since the end of the Cold War. The same Right that formerly defended the military draft as an all-American answer to the threat of Communism now (as did the Old Right during World War II) opposes both the draft and even the military. I can certainly see the Old Right (and certain sectors of the contemporary Right) being horrified by, for example, the alleged suggestion by J. Edgar Hoover that habeas corpus be suspended in the event of war or national emergency (they certainly cut Abraham Lincoln no slack).

    While there is definitely a difference between the American (largely low-church Protestant) Right and the Catholic Right of Europe, the two do sometimes converge in their denunciations of “the money power,” “finance capitalism,” “plutocracy,” etc. One strain of Rightist philosophy would nationalize the entire financial sector and run it like the post office–I believe this is held in common by distrubutists, social credit advocates, and even Coughlinites.

    For that matter, I am puzzled by the fact that Dorothy Day is regarded as a hero while Father Charles Coughlin is considered a villain when they were both on the “Left.” Coughlin advocated nationalization of vital industries, minimum wage legislation, and minimum wage legislation as well as legislation to curb “individualism.” Perhaps the difference in the two is that Coughlin was a “statist” Leftist while Day was an “anarchist” and “communalist” Leftist. All I can say is that if Marxism is defined as some on the Right define it (a plot of the wealthy to enhance state control), then Coughlin was more of a Marxist than Day appears to have ever been.

    This is the heart of my confusion. On the one hand, the Left is said to be an anti-authoritarian, grassroots movement of “the masses” against their rulers. On the other hand, in practice, it behaves like an elitist, statist movement of the highest segments of society and a few intellectuals to subject the “masses” to the totalitarian rule of the state. And whereas in Russia and China there was a revolution first which destroyed the old government, apparently in America the government of 1789 is considered quite competent to be the totalitarian ruling authority (hence the Leftist opposition to private firearms ownership and “anti-government rhetoric”).

    I said at the outset I had two points to make, and here is the second one: according to the Left (and some on the Right) the Establishment/elite/ruling class/nobility/whatever encourage “mysticism” as a way to dupe and exploit “the common people,” who are held to be by nature a sort of coterie of anti-mystical materialists and freethinkers (a whole group of Voltaires). This is something that is directly contradictory to all my experience. All my life I have observed that the common “masses” are by nature religious while the elite/ruling class/what-have-you ridicules religion at every turn and exalts modernity and scientism–with the curious exception of the religions of the “indigenous peoples,” who apparently have always known what Darwin had to “rediscover” for Europeans. If the Left really, truly does enlist “the grassroots masses,” then why isn’t the Left more explicitly religious and “mystical?” It seems that either their enlistment of common people is a total sham, or that common people once enlisted magically transform into modernist materialists. The political behavior of American Blacks (traditionally Fundamentalist Protestant by belief but ultra-radical in their leadership and their politics) is an example that has always puzzled me.

    As I said, I am asking these questions because I do not know the answer to them. Can anyone provide any light?

  113. AWT,

    Thanks for the comment. As for your questions…

    “In theory, Marxism advocates abolition of property and the state whereas in practice it makes the State the sole legal owner of productive property. So which is it?”

    Marxist theory posits two stages of communism. The first Marx called the “lower stage”, socialism, the stage that immediately follows the proletarian revolution. During this time the means of production are consolidated by the proletarian “state”, the political apparatus that is used to eliminate the vestiges of bourgeois society and any holdouts who resist. Marx believed that the final stage, true communism, required a degree of technological advancement that would take time to build up, so the “workers state” guards all of the gains of the revolution until such time as “true communism” is achieved. Then, having outlived its purpose, the worker’s state fades away.

    Saul Alinsky descends from one of the many theoretical splits in Marxism. I believe he was a disciple of Antonio Gramsci. Grasmci believed, contrary to Lenin, that a proletarian revolution as envisioned by Marx would not occur in the West. He was the first to advocate the alternative course of the “culture war” – to capture institutions such as the media, the schools, even the churches (especially the churches) and steer society towards socialism in this way.

    I don’t think Obama is a Marxist, by the way. I believe he sympathizes with Marxism culturally, but I think as a matter of policy he is basically a fascist. He does not propose to confiscate all private property and concentrate it in the hands of the state. Instead he collaborates with Wall Street and major international financial institutions to push forward his social agenda.

    “If Day is right and Marxism consists of abolition of the State and the institution of communes, then there is no Left in the United States. Even the Communist Party USA supports Obama’s centralizing and statist actions (including the confiscation of all private firearms, which would make “violent revolution” impossible).”

    Oh, there’s a “left.” The Trotskyites and Maoists and perhaps some other tendencies, who all reject the CPUSA precisely because it is squarely in the Obama camp.

    I don’t think Day was a Marxist either. She was all over the place. She rejected the state here, she looked upon it favorably there. She said things that no serious Marxist would ever say and looked favorably upon Marxist goals. She is what Trotskyists would call a “fellow traveler”, sympathetic to Marxism but really alien to the struggle for proletarian power and therefore, ultimately, an enemy.

    “For that matter, I am puzzled by the fact that Dorothy Day is regarded as a hero while Father Charles Coughlin is considered a villain when they were both on the “Left.”

    I don’t consider Coughlin a villain myself.

    But the simple answer is that Day was, more or less, an egalitarian, while Coughlin had less than polite things to say about the Jews. It is the same basic reason that Stalin obtains a free pass in leftist history (his Trotskyist opponents notwithstanding) while Hitler is the embodiment of all evil. The powers that be value egalitarianism and hate anything that smacks of a hierarchical order. So communism = good, fascism = bad, for this reason alone. Obama has masterfully pursued a fascist agenda while appearing to be a radical egalitarian.

    “This is something that is directly contradictory to all my experience.”

    Of course it is. It is because what you describe as the left’s view is how they view history until THEY seized power in the Gramscian/Alinskian fashion.

  114. AWT, Protestant fundamentalism doesn’t necessarily go with conservative politics. We’ve grown used to seeing those two elements together since the 70′s with mainstream Evangelicalism (which by the way was largely a caucasian movement). But Protestant fundamentalists have shifted their political allegience depending on the times and the agendas. Trace fundamentalism to its inception and the proto-fundamentalists going back the late 1800′s. Various causes and political alliances have existed throughout the fundamentalist history.