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.
In 1883, William Graham Sumner published an essay titled “The Forgotten Man” (originally titled “On the Case of a Certain Man Who Is Never Thought Of” – not quite as catchy) which is as relevant today as it was when it was written. The essay is a great exposition of the laissez-faire understanding and approach to social problems and articulates what I believe many on the libertarian right and within the Tea Party believe today. From a Catholic point of view, there is much I find agreeable within it, though there are certain tangents, unnecessary to the main argument, that I would take issue with.
In The Birth Control Controversy; The Mocking of Conservative Religious Women By Militant Secularists Will Soon Backfire
We have all seen the supposed polls indicating that 99% of Catholic women use birth control. However, has anyone ever bothered to look at who conducted the poll? It was the Guttmacher Institute; the driving force behind abortion and other leftist social movements. Finally someone in the Mainstream Media (The Washington Post) has weeks after the fact realized the untruthful nature behind this canard. This is just one of many red herrings thrown at religious conservatives to discredit and mock them. It seems some in mainstream media are making it their mission to ask former Pennsylvania Senator and Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum every question imaginable with regard to birth control. Whatever happens to Santorum in the primary race, it does seem as if the Hand of Providence is helping bring up the topic of birth control and the faithful alternative of Natural Family Planning.
While there is some dispute between Catholics and some Evangelicals on birth control; there are signs that many Evangelicals are seeing what Catholics and some Orthodox Jews have long believed about birth control. In my previous book and forthcoming book; The Tide Continues To Turn Toward Catholicism, I cite quotes from Chuck Colson and R Albert Mohler, two towering figures in the Evangelical world. They have genuine affection for Pope Paul VI’s 1968 prophetic encyclical Humanae Vitae which cemented the Catholic view on birth control in the modern birth control pill era. If you want to really rile up a militant secularist you might mention that it wasn’t until 1930 that the first religious group (the Anglican Church) even approved of birth control. The Progressive Teddy Roosevelt said the idea of birth control was “ridiculous” and even liberal hero Dr Sigmund Freud said the whole concept was “narcissistic.”
Dorothy Day (1897-1980) the late women’s rights activist, who used birth control back before any religious group approved of it, spoke out forcefully against abortion and birth control once she converted to Catholicism later in life. She told men and women that in using birth control they were becoming engaged in a culture that was disconnecting them from God’s plans, along with not using their bodies in accordance with the Holy Spirit. Though her women’s rights and libertarian economic views remained, she became a social conservative, who lashed out at Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood, something you aren’t likely to hear or read in the mainstream media.
Families that adhere to the clinically proven facts of Natural Family Planning are treated as if they are some sort of religious nuts. Militant secularists in the corridors of power (Legislative and Fourth Estate) have even thrown out their favorite term “sexually repressed.” Now this term is so widely repeated in our popular culture, perhaps we should examine where it came from. Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979) of the infamous Marxist “Frankfurt School” came up with the term. Marcuse left pre-World War II Germany and taught at Columbia. Marcuse believed in free love and surmised that the more narcissistic society was with regard to sexual relations, the better the world would become. Before his death, he claimed his prized student was 1960s militant radical Angela Davis. Marcuse was way out in left field in his day and yet the militant secularists in our pop culture have made him seem as mainstream as Dr. Phil. When societies turn away from religion they embrace the crazies like Marcuse; sadly something has to fill the vacuum and it is usually the ideas which come from the half baked among us that do so. Continue reading
I am a pretty big fan of the Catholic Worker movement and Dorothy Day. I see strengths in both liberal and conservative tendencies, and find both indications in my reading of the official documents and speeches/letters of our Catholic Hierarchy on political matters.
The following article is one that was published in the Houston Catholic Worker Newspaper back in 2008. The author, Dawn McCarty is a frequent writer and volunteer at the Worker House in Houston. She seems to combine the head and heart in her approach to the issue of illegal Mexican immigration into the U.S. I offer her analysis for your commentary:
On the heels of the Catholic Health Association’s endorsement of Obamacare comes another precedent-setting decision affecting Catholic hospitals and other institutions.
The Illinois Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a Catholic hospital in downstate Urbana is not entitled to exemption from local property taxes because, among other things, it failed to devote enough of its resources to charity care of patients:
Provena Covenant Medical Center, one of six hospitals in the Provena Health system, had fought for six years to regain the tax exemption stripped from it in 2003 by a local tax board. Since then the hospital has been paying more than $1 million per year in local property taxes. The case was being watched by Catholic hospitals around the nation because of its precedent setting potential, and the Catholic Health Association intervened in the case.