Thursday, March 4, 2010

Revisited: Dorothy Day, Apostle of Non-violence, Targeted: The Catholic Worker and the FBI

J. Edgar Hoover had no doubts about Dorothy Day. Even before World War II he insisted that she be placed in custodial detention (jail) in the event of a national emergency.

That order was never carried out. We can only conjecture that FBI officers who were frequently Irish Catholics and even ex-seminarians could not bring themselves to arrest someone opposed to war because she was a daily communicant.

One can imagine the confusion of the FBI agents as they listened to Dorothy and Peter speak of being pacifists because of their Catholicism--or not being able to resist giving contributions for the poor who came to the Catholic Worker. Arthur Sheehan's book documents conversations such as these at the New York Worker.

Dorothy had the protection of Cardinal Spellman, who never opposed or condemned her. He knew better than to condemn a saint.

The impact of Dorothy Day on Catholic pacifism was made clear to the authors as teenagers after World War II when they met Jim Clark, a former captain of the New York fire department, who had become a pacifist due to the influence of Dorothy Day.

When the authors visited Martha Miller at the New York Worker decades later, they were pleasantly surprised to find Fr. Jim Clark there celebrating the weekly Mass. ---Mark and Louise Zwick

The Works of Mercy Versus the Works of War

Jim Forest: Each of the sentences that Christ uses in Matthew 25to describe ways in which the saved, knowingly or unknowingly, responded mercifully to him describes actions which are the polar opposite of what combatants are required to do in war.

The text then becomes: I was hungry and you destroyed my fields, I was thirsty and you bombed the water works, I was naked and you burned the flesh from my body, I was homeless and you bombed my city, etc. But in the end we still have: What you did to the least person, you did to me.

In various ways, this was a point Dorothy Day -- whose life centered on "the works of mercy" -- made countless times.---Jim Forest