Dorothy Day, precarity, and the universal call to holiness

What ignited the fire of Day’s conversion was the realization that a utopian vision devoid of a truly supernatural eschatological horizon is a monstrous and grotesque parody that will bring a great degradation of human dignity in its wake.

Dorothy Day (Image: Ignatius Press)

Eugene McCarraher, in his new book The Enchantments of Mammon, makes the claim that the modern world, far from being a highly secularized and profane world devoid of spiritual “enchantments,” is in fact a world defined by the enchantment of pecuniary interests. Ours is indeed a post-Christian culture, but it is not, for all that, a culture devoid of a notion of the good, and somewhere along the way we simply replaced the God of Jesus Christ with the gods of Mammon and Moloch, with capitalism as our religion.

Furthermore, and to his credit, McCarraher’s text is not just another boilerplate Jeremiad against money as such, but rather a trenchant critique of the grave distortions and malformations of our culture caused by the near complete structuring of our society around the fetishization of wealth creation. It governs everything we do and is the source of our greatest misery, whether we realize it or not. Because there is no such thing as a “lesser god.” There are only simulacrums of the One God and what they bring are lies and illusions. Seen in this light, as McCarraher notes, it is not so much that we now have no more mystical enchantments, but rather that we have really, really bad ones.

I am confident that Dorothy Day would agree with this assessment and it is a big reason why she was a champion of voluntary poverty and of living a life of material simplicity characterized by what she called “precarity”. What she sought was a social revolution that would overturn the shiny-thing gods of what Tawney called “The acquisitive society.” But what ignited the fire of her conversion was the realization that a utopian vision devoid of a truly supernatural eschatological horizon is, in reality, a monstrous and grotesque parody that will bring a great degradation of human dignity in its wake.

But she also came to the conclusion that this supernatural eschatological vision has to have a strongly “realized” element and not just be a promissory note for a future glory. Therefore, the proper stance of the believer must be one of openness to the divine initiative in the here and now. In other words, the believer must inculcate a spiritual disposition that is the opposite of the spirit of acquisition, which is precisely why she thought modern capitalism was a rival god that brings death to the soul. The receptive and contemplative stance thus proper to the believer cannot happen so long as our treasure is still in worldly wealth. Thus do we all need a simplicity of life that eschews as far as is possible a life in pursuit of material security.

This is what she meant by “precarity”. It is indeed close to the word “precarious” but do not be fooled by this into thinking that she is advocating some kind of “risk taking” for the sake of a Pelagian adrenaline rush. This is not “living on the edge” Bohemianism. Rather, it is her term to designate the fact that all Christians are called to holiness and that this entails giving up our false, worldly securities in favor of embracing the often unsettling and decentering Divine call.

This is why Dorothy was deeply attracted to Benedictine spirituality and became herself a Benedictine oblate. She loved the deep prayer life of the monastic world and insisted, repeatedly, that her movement’s essence could not be understood outside of the context of the Catholic faith and its deep inner life of holiness. The Benedictine emphasis on simplicity, prayer, work, and hospitality seemed to her to be the very embodiment of the revolution she thought so necessary for us all. In other words, her devotion to the Benedictine way of life was not a romanticization of the “heroic monks” who pray for the world so that we don’t have to. Nor did she view them as “professional holy men and women” who had access to a form of spirituality that the rest of us can only dream of.

Her commitment to the Benedictine path was instead a commitment to a revolution in the laity who for too long have been allowed to wallow in the mud of worldly mediocrity on the pretense that such evangelical perfection is not their calling. As I have noted elsewhere, Dorothy Day’s deep insight in this regard is that if we are all indeed called to holiness, then this necessarily entails a reexamination of the uses to which the traditional distinction between the “way of the counsels” and the “way of the commandments” has been put. Poverty, chastity, and obedience cannot be so easily cordoned off from the Divine moral commandments since the former inform the latter and breathe fire into their equations. This is surely, among other things, what Jesus was making clear in the Sermon on the Mount. Unlike Moses, who came down from the mountain to give the people the decalogue, Jesus brings the people up the mountain with him in order to announce the in-breaking of a new regime of grace that calls them all to a higher place.

The “universal call to holiness” had, of course, always been a part of the Church’s tradition, as Vatican II reaffirmed. But as so often happens in the spiritual life of the Church the path of bourgeois compromise has a way of gradually blunting the force of this call. Indeed, even in the monasteries themselves, grown fat with power and wealth, the counsels were not always adhered to with any rigor. Which is why we now have “discalced this” and “discalced that” as well as a host of other orders that needed to develop branches of “the strict observance” because the original radicality of the founder’s charism had long since melted away in the fondue pot of “practicality”.

And so it goes, with the call to holiness degenerating into a game-preserve for the few lonely wackos willing to sit on the Stylite of the Gospel. These were the dangerous fools who needed to be domesticated through canonization and holy card portraits with the requisite novenas attached. Which is why Dorothy Day once said she did not want to be called a saint since she did not want to be dismissed so easily. (Please note: I am not saying, nor was she, that canonizations, holy cards, and novenas are bad. What she was rejecting was the domestication of holiness in saccharine forms of piety.)

What drew Dorothy to develop further her notion of precarity as the necessary prerequisite for living the life of the counsels was the realization that living in the modern world presents us with the constant temptation to the idolatry of comfort and security. An idolatry that Berdyaev called “the culture of well-being”. Dorothy’s writings focus extensively on the multifarious ways in which we rationalize away the call to holiness in a thousand paper-cuts of caveats and Rube Goldberg-like, casuistical dodges. Therefore, she viewed the translation of Benedictine spirituality into the register of the laity as a matter of urgent concern which was in no way secondary to her other pursuits in service to the poor.

Indeed, she viewed her own voluntary poverty as the necessary prerequisite to live that other aspect of Benedictine spirituality that was so central to her vision: greeting all strangers you meet as if they were Christ in a spirit of hospitality. It is only in a life of true material simplicity that this can happen with consistency since a life lived for Mammon has an internal spiritual logic that almost always necessitates entanglement in a web of social relations which require an appeasement with Moloch and Mammon. And make no mistake, in order to maintain the ordo of Mammon one needs the even darker ordo of Moloch. Which is why Dorothy Day also opposed modern war-making as at root an act of jealous acquisition, a view very similar to that of René Girard, who asserted that violence is the result mimetic rivalry. In such an ordo there is no possibility of seeing Christ in the stranger. In fact, in such an ordo, everyone is not only a stranger, but an enemy.

The key, therefore, to understanding Dorothy’s insistence on the universal call to live the evangelical counsels, even by the laity, is in her insistence that we not overthink the issue at hand and blunt the force of Jesus’s words in the Sermon on the Mount. When it comes to wealth and material comfort what Jesus is saying is that in order to be fit for the Kingdom you have to place God in first place. You have to have a singleness of vision and purpose. You must be without guile or subterfuge, saying “yes” when you mean “yes” and “no” when you mean “no.” You must put your hand to the plow and not look back, wistfully, at what you are “missing out on” by focusing intently on the demands of his Kingdom. Your heart, as Jesus points out, follows your treasure, whatever that worldly treasure might be. And unless that treasure is the Kingdom you are guilty of an idolatry of some sort and in varying degrees of severity. The essence of all sin is just such idolatrous counterfeiting of the good with some drab and hideous imposters, all of which promise us happiness if we will but reject the tears of the saints in favor of the laughter of the sinners.

But this is to speak in generalities, whereas Jesus was quite specific in his denunciation of wealth in particular. Why? Dorothy Day held that it is because he understood that the marriage of wealth and power is a particularly virulent opiate that infiltrates our soul with a spiritual dopamine rush that few can resist. As Jesus noted, it is possible for the camel to pass through the eye of the needle—but only with God’s help. But the path whereby such divine help can be accessed is the narrow path to the narrow gate and few there are that take it. And this is why Dorothy was adamant that her path of prayer, material simplicity, and hospitality to the stranger can only happen, for the vast majority of people, if one lives the life of precarity—in other words, a life lived in the spirit of Abraham who divested himself of all of the world’s pseudo-securities in order to remain open to the promptings of God.

Finally, what is truly difficult about this path of precarity is that when one adopts it, as in Ignatian spirituality, a proper spirit of indifference to outcomes is created, and then one discovers, in a renewed clarity of soul, shockingly, that what God asks of us often seems absurd. “Taking up one’s cross” as a cipher for “death to the old self” is not strong enough, nor sufficient, to describe the agonistic anomie created by the absurdity of the Divine call. All true death is terrorizing. And blathering on and on about “dying to self” while staying strictly in the zone of comfort is actually no death at all and may in fact may be an illusory conceit masking my complete lack of any death at all to the old self.

Thus, Dorothy Day’s deep insight, her lasting and most important spiritual legacy beyond all of the various “issues” for which she was famous, is precisely this notion of precarity as an acid that dissolves the illusion of false securities in and through a true and real death to the false self of acquisition. Only in and through such a death can we bear to live in God’s “absurd” Kingdom.


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About Larry Chapp 4 Articles
Dr. Larry Chapp is a retired professor of theology. He taught for twenty years at DeSales University near Allentown, Pennsylvania. He now owns and manages, with his wife, the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Farm in Harveys Lake, Pennsylvania.

26 Comments

    • Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day… Widespread popularity of these two Catholic proves spiritual superficiality of the so-called American Church.

    • I don’t think she was a communist, or a socialist. I actually think she was a giant pain in the butt to those committed communists and socialists who tried in vain to enlist her into their “cause”.

      But both of us are just expressing our opinion. God knows the truth. Here’s another opinion of mine – most (not all) people who write off Dorothy Day as a “communist” or some other type of kook are just REALLY uncomfortable with the call to radical poverty, chastity, and obedience. St Francis had the same effect on people.

      Anyway, that’s just my opinion. Peace and all good!

      • Love this response. Absolutely true! Dorothy was a pain in the buttocks and that’s what we still need to bring about “a revolution of the heart.”

        • Day’s “revolution of the heart” – as you call it – is close to quietism. But Christianity is not about sentiment of that type.

          I wonder how many people actually believe that world exists outside subject, has been created, redeemed, and so on.

      • I believe Dorothy coined the term “Holy Mother State” as a rebuke of the government taking upon itself the care of the poor, the widows, the orphans, and the aliens – care that was formerly and rightly the duty of Christians. She was no less critical of the Church for handing over those reins. A firm believer in subsidiarity to balance the Common Good, thanks to Peter Maurin and her introduction to Rerum Novarum and the rest of the Church’s social justice teachings. Doesn’t sound like a communist to me.

  1. Thank you, Dr. Chapp, for this essay. The penultimate paragraph is chilling to read. The danger of anesthetizing oneself from the demands of conversion is real. (I also liked the paragraph about defanging the Stylites.)

  2. All right, look. Obviously, money-grubbing is a problem.
    It’s a problem in the modern world, as it was during the gilded age, the romantic period, the baroque era, the renaissance, the middle ages, the dark ages, and, yes, during all of the periods of antiquity.

    And, while Dorothy Day was a wonderful, selfless person who dedicated her life to helping the poor, her diagnosis of the ills facing the modern world is not just misguided, it is dangerous.

    Here is Mr. Chapp’s summary of the philosophy put forth in the book, which, he says, he believes Dorothy would have agreed with.

    “…McCarraher’s text is not just another boilerplate Jeremiad against money as such, but rather a trenchant critique of the grave distortions and malformations of our culture caused by the near complete structuring of our society around the fetishization of wealth creation. It governs everything we do and is the source of our greatest misery, whether we realize it or not.”

    There’s a big problem with this assessment. The “grave distortions and malformations” we decry are not caused by our culture. They are not caused by ‘the system.’ If they were, then we wouldn’t see them in every culture and every system that has ever existed in human history.

    The unfortunate fact is, the problem of greed is not due to a flaw in our economics, but rather a flaw in ourselves.

    In fact, capitalism is not a ‘system’ at all. It is just another word for freedom. It gives individuals the right to configure their lives around whatever goals or desires they wish.

    Capitalism gave Jeff Bezos the opportunity to to rise out of the extreme poverty of his childhood to inconceivable wealth by giving hundreds of millions of people something they find valuable.

    Capitalism doesn’t *force* Jeff Bezos to do that; he was free to have stayed in bed all day if he’d have preferred. Nor does capitalism prevent him from using his unparalleled wealth to help others. He’s free to be as philanthropic as he wishes.

    If there’s something wrong with Jeff Bezos’ path, it’s due to flaws in Jeff Bezos. Capitalism doesn’t fetter Jeff Bezos in any way. In fact it allows him to make all his own choices.

    Now, all the critiques of the “near complete structuring of our society around the fetishization of wealth creation” have this in common. They would seek to limit Jeff Bezos’ choices. They would force him to forfeit his wealth, prevent him from offering his valuable services to people, and/or confiscate the money that others have willingly paid to his company.

    Obviously, this would necessarily involve some form of force. In other words, totalitarianism.

    It’s worth noting that Jesus himself faced greed, selfishness and the “fetishization of wealth creation” when he addressed the rich young man. And it’s perhaps instructive to observe that Jesus didn’t rail against the way society was structured.

    He gave the man a choice. It’s the same choice He gives each one of us. Because Jesus knows better than anyone that virtue and redemption cannot come at the point of a spear or the muzzle of a gun.

    As it is, the choice of what to do with our lives is ours, thanks to the capitalistic non-system we are privileged to live in. We each decide whether to do what Jesus calls us to do, what we know is right, or to follow our own flawed natures that steer us toward avarice and self-absorption.

    We are free to make that decision for ourselves rather than having some bureaucrats in Washington or Moscow or Beijing making it for us.

    Chapp declaims further about the aims of the good but misguided Dorothy: “What she sought was a social revolution that would overturn the shiny-thing gods of… ‘the acquisitive society.’”

    Dorothy’s mistake was in letting humanity off the hook — and she was always a kind person, anxious to think the best of everyone.

    But she was wrong. The shiny-thing gods that are the problem aren’t in “the acquisitive society.” They’re not in “the capitalistic system” or in the “structure” of our society.

    They’re in our own warped, flawed, failed selves.

    What’s most amazing isn’t the Jeff Bezos’ of the world. It’s the good and holy people who through this grace of God place the call of Jesus before the temptations their flawed natures are steering them toward.

    Under a totalitarian system, those good and holy people would be robbed of the choice to live selfless, virtuous lives.

    • Just to mention that Jeff Bezos’s step father came to the US from Castro’s Cuba without a penny and no English. I expect he taught Jeff a few things about appreciating capitalism.

    • “In fact, capitalism is not a ‘system’ at all. It is just another word for freedom. It gives individuals the right to configure their lives around whatever goals or desires they wish.”

      It would be more precise to speak about capitalism – coupling to seeds of productivity built into created world (biblical “created as good”) and to speak about culture built upon this capitalism, typically anti-capitalistic (like Day’s), yet not ashamed to be dollar-financed.

      But overall, really a nice comment!

    • “All right, look. Obviously, money-grubbing is a problem.”

      It depends by what is meant by money-grubbing. Are you saying that a person shouldn’t be paid enough, so that he can support himself and any dependents? I suspect that you would agree that firing a contributing employee, so that profits can be maximized would be an example of money-grubbing. Perhaps failing to hire someone at a sufficiently high enough wage (even if it is possible) would be an another example of money-grubbing?

      The fact is that outside of stealing which CAN be morally justified in extreme circumstances, people need money to obtain the necessities of life. They may not need A LOT of money, but there is a certain minimum. However, the problem is that this is almost completely unrecognized. The “invisible hand” supposedly guarantees that society as a whole will largely benefit if everyone is selfish.

      It is difficult to see how this could be the case. When companies can fire an employee for any or no reason (moral or not) and then either bad mouth about the hapless and possibly wronged person behind his back, so that no one wants to hire the same person, or companies can use invidiously discriminatory (and of course hidden) criteria (“He’s not fast enough for me;””He doesn’t have the kind of personality I’m looking for;” “He’s too old” etc.) to reject a candidate, then this can cause major problems.

      Think about these questions: Do criminals have a right to life? Doesn’t that include the right to a means of preserving his life (e.g. money)? How does a person typically morally gain this money?

      “The unfortunate fact is, the problem of greed is not due to a flaw in our economics, but rather a flaw in ourselves.”

      Yes, this is certainly true. However, my comment above must be taken into account. While profits need not be maximized, one does have to – at least – break even (unless there are cash reserves). The problem is the kinds of immoral actions that are taken and encouraged in pursuit of profit maximization or just breaking even. The biggest problem is that unjust “law” is almost completely silent on this matter. Wrongful employment dismissal law doesn’t exist anywhere in the USA except for Montana.

      “In fact, capitalism is not a ‘system’ at all. It is just another word for freedom. It gives individuals the right to configure their lives around whatever goals or desires they wish.”

      Capitalism isn’t another word for freedom. We know, according to morality, that people don’t have rights to wrong others. Sin is slavery because it is practical irrationality and human beings are rational animals. You are basically saying that capitalism means a person can do whatever he wants to with his property. However, this is obviously not true. One can’t bribe others, or use a weapon to murder anyone.

      “Capitalism doesn’t *force* Jeff Bezos to do that; he was free to have stayed in bed all day if he’d have preferred. Nor does capitalism prevent him from using his unparalleled wealth to help others. He’s free to be as philanthropic as he wishes.”

      Jeff Bezos couldn’t have stayed in bed, not working, because unless someone was supporting him he would have STARVED. Suicide, of course, is wrong.

      “Now, all the critiques of the “near complete structuring of our society around the fetishization of wealth creation” have this in common. They would seek to limit Jeff Bezos’ choices. They would force him to forfeit his wealth, prevent him from offering his valuable services to people, and/or confiscate the money that others have willingly paid to his company.”

      The purpose of law is to limit choices. The critiques wouldn’t force him to give up or take his wealth, but they would ensure that he didn’t make so much more money than his employees to the extent that they couldn’t be paid sufficiently to support themselves. The goal would not be profit maximization, but rather producer support, company solvency, and just treatment of customers.

      “Obviously, this would necessarily involve some form of force. In other words, totalitarianism.”

      So now all law enforcement is “totalitarian?”

      “Because Jesus knows better than anyone that virtue and redemption cannot come at the point of a spear or the muzzle of a gun.”

      Jesus wasn’t a pacifist, and he recognized that the government did have authority over him.

      “We each decide whether to do what Jesus calls us to do, what we know is right, or to follow our own flawed natures that steer us toward avarice and self-absorption.”

      It is true that people can abuse their free will, but that doesn’t make it moral. Since no man is an island, it is the responsibility of government to ensure that one person’s avarice doesn’t significantly negatively affect other people.

      “Under a totalitarian system, those good and holy people would be robbed of the choice to live selfless, virtuous lives.”

      How could this be true? Virtue is a matter of the will and the will is naturally free. Any holy person in a really totalitarian system would probably be killed in short order. He would protest and be murdered for it, unless he managed to inspire a following and mount a successful revolution.

      • “The “invisible hand” supposedly guarantees that society as a whole will largely benefit if everyone is selfish.”

        This is simply a lie. For example, if everyone is selfish – how can be contracting parties bind to fulfill the promises specified in their contracts? And yet, where do you expect less selfishness and better law enforcement, in areas governed by “invisible hand” or in some bureaucracy or, even worse, in People Republic of XY?

  3. Well said, Brineyman.

    I think you nailed what capitalism really is and–for me–you’ve clearly articulated some of the reasons why I’ve always disliked Dorothy Day’s ideas. At least in the article, the writer says that she wants a ‘revolution’. She wants people to shun the capitalist system and embrace voluntary poverty and ‘precarity.’ You rightly point out that the problem isn’t ‘Capitalism’–it’s us–fallen human beings. The Church’s understanding of society–at least as it is expressed in the Catechism–doesn’t come across to me as utopian. Dorothy Day’s ideas do.

    Years ago, during the Iraq War, I remember being at Mass. During the homily the priest spoke about how Jesus was a pacifist and therefore, of course, we as Catholics must oppose the war (I’m not making a case for or against that war). I remember looking around, realizing that many of the men in the congregation were either in the military or were veterans, and I thought ‘They must think this religion thing is just for children.’ There was nothing in the sermon about what the Church teaches about the just war or self-defense or what one should do who is responsible for the safety of others. Only ‘war is bad’ and ‘Catholics are pacifists.’

    That’s what I get from Dorothy Day and her proponents. No realization that ‘capitalism’–or freedom–is the only way to bring people out of abject poverty;
    no admission that it is the only way to provide health care to people without it. No, Capitalism is bad, stuff is bad (sounds rather Gnostic) and we all must live simply. Even Benedictines live in the real world. They must work land and fix buildings in order to provide for themselves and their guests and that means owning and using the things of this world (of course we must put God first). I don’t see how Dorothy Day-ism deals adequately with life in this world as it really is, filled with fallen (but redeemable) human beings who must work, provide for their families and by God’s grace seek to ‘do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with their God.’

  4. Day’s “holiness” did not stop her from ridiculing a (probably) gay man for having soft hands instead of the callused hands of a workingman. Saw this with my own eyes. Apparently not the first time Day did this, from what I understand. She may have become “spiritual”, but she still thought like a Marxist.

  5. Catholic World Report seems to be enamored of Dorothy Day and it is sickening. Despite her conversion to Catholicism, Dorothy Day remained a communist or communist sympathizer for her entire life. More than just a pacifist, she supported a communist government in Spain that was responsible for the murder of many priests and sisters. Later on, she admired Fidel Castro and Ho Chi Minh. The promotion of her cause for sainthood is a great scandal and must be stopped.

    • I agree. It is appalling to see these hagiographic treatments of Day, who supported Castro despite his murderous oppression of poets, priests and political rivals. It is well-documented that she knew of and excused this violence. Day was the first of our “seamless garment” perverters of the Gospel. This article belongs in a Marxist publication like Maryknoll. Not in CWR.

  6. Dorothy Day’s Mentor was Peter Maurin. It was his deep Catholic faith and understanding of a way of life that consisted of Benedictine, distributism, and subsidiarity that had a major influence on her.. she was much to the left and admitted that when it came to social concerns she said she was to the left, and when it came to sacraments and devotions she was to the right. so she admitted that she had that tendency but she was still Catholic that’s the key still Catholic and as long as she could worship with all Catholics then she belongs in our family just as Thomas Merton, Dan Berrigan. They had a gift that was needed at that time there was injustices and unjust laws and they needed to speak out and bring the Catholic mind to another level and then it was up to the traditionalist or the right side to balance it out but I don’t know if that has ever been done.
    everyone has went into their own little world thinking they are right and wrong, and until we learn how to unite we’re always going to have problems and Division and the reign of the Antichrist will come sooner. Today we have traditional groups all over claiming to know the truth and condemning one another calling schismatic, anti-Semitic, and every other name when the basic fact is without Archbishop Lefebvre there would have been no tridentine Mass. We have the father Feeney group up in Massachusetts and New Hampshire refusing to communicate and Unite with one another father Feeney suffers and the teachings that he thought about salvation, Eucharist, and baptism are ignored. So we have left and right traditional and non-traditional Catholic people that should all be able to worship together without condemning or fighting with one another I hope to see all of them someday in heaven.

    • “Today we have traditional groups all over claiming to know the truth and condemning one another calling schismatic, anti-Semitic … We have the father Feeney group up in Massachusetts and New Hampshire …”

      But these people has zero influence, no cause for sainthood, no papal Congress speeches, only excommunications… You cannot compare Merton & Day & Berrigans and Leonard Feeney.

  7. David Bentley Hart is a Notre Dame professor of Christian church history. He has written some very provocative articles about Christianity and socialism. He argues that the first Christians in the book of Acts were living communalistically.

    he also claims that capitalism is directly antithetical to the Gospel message. (in my view capitalism is a system in which people serve money, while socialism is a system in which money serves people. It’s not hard to imagine which one Jesus would favor.)

    He once wrote to me in an email that American Christianity has virtually nothing to do with the genuine teachings of Jesus:

    https://www.plough.com/en/topics/faith/discipleship/what-lies-beyond-capitalism
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/04/opinion/sunday/christianity-communism.html
    https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/three-cheers-socialism
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/27/opinion/sunday/socialism.html

    https://ndias.nd.edu/fellows/hart-david-bentley/
    https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/reviews/shall-saved-universal-christian-universalism-david-bentley-hart/?amp
    https://www.amazon.com/David-Bentley-Hart/e/B001JRTRC0%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Bentley_Hart

    • David Bentley Hart is the person who wrote a book claiming that there is no eternal damnation, that everyone will be saved, that the Church (and all Christianity) is wrong and cruel to say that there is eternal damnation. You linked to a review of that book by a left-wing organization masquerading as Christian.

      Try this instead: https://catholicherald.co.uk/david-bentley-harts-attack-on-christian-tradition-fails-to-convince/

      “He once wrote to me in an email that American Christianity has virtually nothing to do with the genuine teachings of Jesus”

      As determined by him? Nice that he’s appointed himself the ultimate arbiter.

  8. Dorothy Day is one of those people that is possible to speak of the good she might have done (rather less than her proponents claim) without approbation of the person as a whole. That judgement is best left to the Almighty. Her most significant errors in judgement lie in her desire to treat a problem but ignoring the means on many occasions. Treating poverty in Cuba with the disease of the Castro brothers is one such example. It is probably best to simply consign her to her place in history that she earned and continue to move on in an ever better direction.

    • I once met a Cuban woman in a Catholic Church in North Carolina. She was visiting from the Miami area. After Mass I asked her if she was aware of the fact that prior to Castro Havana was considered the gambling drug and prostitution center of the Western hemisphere and that the Castros cleaned it all up. She looked at me with horror and said “So what, we had good jobs and lots of money.”

      So long as Catholics have that kind of Machiavellian attitude, expect more Castro Brothers.

      • “prior to Castro Havana was considered the gambling drug and prostitution center of the Western hemisphere and that the Castros cleaned it all up.”

        I have no idea if that’s true, but even if it is, the “cure” is worse than the disease.

  9. I first came across Dorothy Day’s writing in the reflections in the Magnificat. Her thoughts were not at all what I expected in that I’d always heard she was a communist. They were good. Not Pope Benedict good, but good nonetheless. Certainly not what I’d expect out of a communist. Out of curiosity, I ended up reading The Long Loneliness and then Loaves and Fishes. Both were spiritually fruitful, probably in large part, because they were on the opposite end of my perspective.
    I’m not sure if we should reduce the entirety of a person down to their political beliefs and assume they have nothing beneficial to say about anything because of their erroneous ideology. Dorothy Day was a broken woman who finally found healing in Christ’s church and spent her life trying to live the gospel the best she was equipped. She believed voluntary poverty was the way to go, but she also believed, as it says in the name, that this lifestyle should be voluntary. She had a lot of wisdom when it came to finding Christ in the poor, the down-trodden and in suffering.
    Ven. Archbishop Fulton Sheen often said, imagine if the West had the fervor of the communists and applied it to living the Gospel. I think Dorothy Day was trying to do that, however imperfectly.

    • Donna,
      As a daily reader of the Magnificat, I, too, have enjoyed the occasional daily reflection on the theme of the Gospel for the day by Dorothy Day. What you say, is well said.

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