Saturday, December 4, 2010

Dorothy Day

This week was commemorated the thirtieth anniversary of the death of perhaps the greatest advocate for an authentically Catholic view of that much-maligned phrase, social justice, in the 20th century. When we hear of social justice, we often think of progressive-inspired Social Gospel types, or of crypto-Marxist liberation theologians. The Catholic Worker is emphatically not any of these, to wit:

Dorothy explained why perhaps other Catholics would not understand the Catholic Workers when they criticized capitalism and recommended distributism, even reporting them to the Bishop: "We were not taking the position of the great mass of Catholics, who were quite content with the present in this world. They were quite willing to give to the poor, but they did not feel called upon to work for the things of this life for others which they themselves esteemed so lightly. Our insistence on worker-ownership, on the right of private property, on the need to de-proletarize the worker, all points which had been emphasized by the Popes in their social encyclicals, made many Catholics think we were Communists in disguise, wolves in sheep's clothing."

Dorothy continued, "The Vatican paper warned us recently of regarding Americanism or Communism as the only two alternatives. It is hard to see why our criticism of capitalism should have aroused such protest" (William Miller, Dorothy Day: a Biography, Harper and Row, 1982, p. 428).

Dorothy quoted Joseph T. Nolan from Orate Fratres on the support of Popes in their encyclicals for the CW position: "Too long has idle talk made out of Distributism as something medieval and myopic, as if four modern popes were somehow talking nonsense when they said: the law should favor widespread ownership (Leo XIII); land is the most natural form of property (Leo XIII and Pius XII); wages should enable a man to purchase land (Leo XIII and Pius XI); the family is most perfect when rooted in its own holding (Pius XII); agriculture is the first and most important of all the arts and the tiller of the soil still represents the natural order of things willed by God (Pius XII) (Catholic Worker, July-Aug. 1948). More

Hat tip to Joshua Snyder at The Western Confucian.

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