Cardinal Timothy Dolan is promoting Dorothy Day for beautification, which would bring her a step closer to being named a saint by the Catholic Church. A New York Times article sees the irony in the fact that conservative Dolan has become a champion for Day, one of the founders of the Catholic Worker and an outspoken liberal.
At the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, under Dolan’s recommendation, they voted unanimously to move forward with the canonization of Day despite the fact that she had an abortion and even flirted with joining the Communist Party.
Dolan said “I am convinced she is a saint for our time.”
He added that she exemplified “what’s best in Catholic life, that ability we have to be ‘both-and’ not ‘either-or.’ ”
Ironically Day herself once said “Don’t trivialize me by trying to make me a saint.”
Of Scotch-Irish descent on her father’s side, Day was a social activist who protested war, supported labor strikes and lived in poverty while working with those marginalized in society.
During the early 1900s Day wrote on women’s rights, free love, and birth control.
Dolan does seem a most unusual champion for her cause especially as he is currently doing battle with President Barack Obama’s administration over Obamacare and the inclusion of birth control in employer provided health insurance.
However the New York Times reports that Dolan has taken up her cause with “striking zeal”.
Dolan spoke at the anniversary of her death, distributed prayer cards and bought approximately 100 copies of her biography to give as Christmas gifts to New York officials last year, including the Mayor.
She was born in 1897 to a non-practicing Protestant family. She dropped out of the University of Illinois and moved to New York to work as a journalist, in the leftist, bohemian world of downtown Manhattan.
In 1927 she converted to Catholicism after the birth of her daughter Tamar. She said there were many reasons for her spiritual awakening including that it was the religion of so many of the people whose cause she fought for as a socialist, her home of Chicago and her Catholic roommates.
Day devoted her life to pacifism and service to the poor. She felt they were at the root of Catholicism.
Despite her deep devotion and service to the Church not one bishop attended her funeral in 1980 according to her biographer Robert Ellsberg.
Dolan is not the only conservative Catholic to recently embrace Day. She was committed to social justice and loyal to church teachings.
John L. Allen Jr., senior correspondent for The National Catholic Reporter said “For quite a while, the church at the grassroots in the United States has been fairly badly splintered to a kind of peace-and-justice crowd on the left and pro-life crowd on the right.
“And Day is one of those few figures who has traction in both those groups.”
Day believed all states were inherently totalitarian and today’s bishops see echoes of their fight with the Obama administration over health care in this.
Cardinal Francis E. George, archbishop of Chicago said “As we struggle at this opportune moment to try to show how we are losing our freedoms in the name of individual rights, Dorothy Day is a very good woman to have on our side.”
However many believe that while it’s natural for Dolan to promote her, as she was a resident in the New York diocese and his predecessor proposed her canonization, his motives are political. Some Catholics believe that Dolan is choosing to promote Day now as many liberal Catholics believe the Church cares more about women’s reproductive issues than the poor.
William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League, a conservative anti-defamation organization told the Times “It is an opportunity for him to demonstrate that conservative Catholics are not uncaring, without accepting liberal principles in how you service the poor.”
However Dolan will have a long hard road before Day is made a saint by the Vatican. The Vatican must determine first that two miracles occurred as a result of prayers to her since her death. Secondly there must be organized and continuous support for sainthood.
Even Dolan who has supported her canonization expressed his concerns to do with her “Sexual immorality, religious searching, pregnancy out of wedlock and an abortion.”
However her said after her conversion to Catholicism she became an icon “for everything right about the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life.”