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Saints preserve us

By Owen Paine on Thursday June 12, 2008 01:25 PM

75 years ago just about now, the lady pictured here published her first issue of a prole-oriented tabloid, whose internet incarnation notes

"On May 1, 1933, in the depths of the Great Depression, The Catholic Worker newspaper made its debut with a first issue of twenty-five hundred copies. Dorothy Day and a few others hawked the paper in Union Square for a penny a copy...."

"Dorothy traded in the 'solidarity of the international working class' for the Mystical Body of Christ. But from her close association in her formative years with the old radicals, Dorothy picked up a sophisticated political sense. She was not a political analyst, but her instinct seldom led her astray. There were few to match her! And she kept the social passion of her early years and asked, 'Where is the Catholic leadership in the struggle for peace and justice?' She would become their mother.

Of all the radicals, Dorothy liked the anarchists best because they were self-disciplined and orderly and they didn't spend all their time arguing the minutiae of Marxism but went out and did things, 'direct action,' it's called. She joined the Socialist Party but found the meetings boring and drifted away. She described herself as a Communist, not in the sense of being a card-carrying party member, but in the common parlance of the Thirties, in the sense that she worked for a Communist Party front organization, even after her conversion as she looked for other employment in order to support her daughter Tamar [with the permission of her new spiritual director]...."

She's presently soaring toward sainthood somewhere above Staten Island, despite a bad Holy Office rap sheet:

In the post World War II years, during the Red Scare and the McCarthy period, my spiritual advisors told me to stay away from Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker. Dorothy was on the "lunatic fringe" of the Church and the Catholic Worker was tinged with Jansenism. Dorothy was a material heretic, if not a formal one. She'll get you into trouble, they said.
Jansenism! Yikes! Calvinist cancer within the fold! The hazard ahead for all Mary- and Jesus-struck lace curtain Irish maidens -- apparently even former free-lovin' Red bohemians.

Comments (7)

Michael Hureaux:

What is Jansenism?


A 17th-century trend, centered in France though originating in Holland, that combined all the worst features of Protestantism and counter-Reformation Catholicism. People (especially ex-Catholic Irish people) often say that Irish Catholicism, as contrasted with Mediterranean Catholicism, is Jansenist in its gloomy rigid hysterical sex-o-phobia -- what people often call "Puritanism", though this is not quite fair to the Puritans.

Since American Catholicism *is* Irish Catholicism, at least out to three decimal places (and except in the Southwest), it seems quite funny that some American Catholic confessor would characterize Dorothy Day as Jansenist. What was he thinking of? Or was he a Jesuit, and 'Jansenist' was just a vague catchall term in his vocabulary of abuse?


MJS, where do you pick up on this stuff? Are you sure you're not underestimating the Italian-American community?


Hey, StO, I live in New York, and I'm not senile enough to have forgotten Rudy Giuliani -- or Alfonse D'Amato, if it comes to that. So I certainly don't underestimate the Ital-Amer community.

But if yer talkin' about the Cat'lick chaaarch -- just look at the surnames of the American cardinals you can think of.

As for 'where' -- Ireland, actually. Long story.


I got time? I guess I thought you were talking about the community and not the doctrine.


I guess I was talking more about the "official" church and specifically the hierarchy. Though there's plenty of Irish-Catholic "Jansenism" (as my Irish friends would put it) among the faithful too. But yeah, a lot less among the Italians and Latinos.

Son of Uncle Sam:

'Our Lady of Succour' by the master of the johnson nativity pretty much says it all OP.

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