Monday, February 27, 2006

Dorothy Day and the Pros & Cons of Canonization

This was the presentation at this month's First Friday meeting of the St. Thomas More Society of Wisconsin. It helps to keep in mind that the Catholic Worker movement is not being being considered for canonization. As for Dorothy Day, she apparently didn't spend much effort on being likeable, but likeability isn't a criteria for canonization.

The quote "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." was here attributed to Day. It's usually attributed to Dom Helder Camara, Archbishop of Recife, Brazil. But I've heard it attributed to other Latin American bishops, and my former pastor claimed a version of it. Given that it's what "they" say to the self-pitying cleric, I doubt if Day used it, or that anyone ever said it to Archbishop Camara, either.

The cause of her canonization does stir up controversy about the Catholic Worker movement, with some strange alignments. Paul Likoudis, news editor for The Wanderer, was convinced Day is a saint by reading a book about her by Mark and Louise Zwick (see his review in GodSpy). The Zwicks run the Houston Catholic Worker house and publish the Houston Catholic Worker. Likoudis came across the Zwicks

as a result of probing the increasingly acrimonious battle in the Catholic "blogosphere" between critics and defenders of influential Catholic "neo-cons," such as philosopher Michael Novak, Fr. Richard Neuhaus, economist Fr. Robert Sirico, Deal Hudson of Crisis magazine, among others ...

Christopher Blosser fired one shot in that battle in this post, in which he notes, among other things, the Zwicks' use of paraphrase rather than direct quotation in trying to make their case against Novak or Neuhaus.

We have the Zwicks and Likoudis on one side and Neuhaus, Novak and Blosser on the other. Next stir in the controversy over the appointment of Fr. Michael Baxter, C.S.C., a Catholic Worker theologian, to the theology faculty at Notre Dame. The Zwicks defended this move in the face of criticism from Father Richard McBrien ... and George Weigel.

So now we have the Zwicks and Likoudis on one side and Neuhaus, Novak, Weigel, Blosser, with McBrien covering the left flank, on the other.

Which side was Archbishop Rembert Weakland on? What follows is from from his 2000 address to the St. Thomas More Society of Wisconsin.

There has been a return to integralism among American Catholics. Integralism means that American society is so bad and so corrupt from capitalism and democracy, etc. with no ethic, that in response we're going to form our own sub-culture. If I oppose publicly the Ave Maria Law School it’s because I see this as a return to integralism and not healthy.

Ave Maria would be, more or less, Weakland versus Fessio. No surprise there.
The difficulty with integralism is that it leads to sects, sectarianism, in the worst sense of the word. It leads to isolationism and parochialism,and you can only live so long that way. The only person I know in the States now who preaches integralism is Father Michael Baxter at Notre Dame. Michael Baxter comes out of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Movement and he sees the role of Catholics as staying away from the public square. He doesn't want the Church to make statements about anything of this sort. It's a radical Catholicism,a prophetic Catholicism that believes we’re called to be "over against" that world. His students come out with that thinking.

I notice that, like the Zwicks, he doesn't quote the person he's criticising.

That puts the Zwicks and Likoudis on one side and Neuhaus, Novak, Weigel, Blosser, with McBrien and Weakland, on the other. Weakland once wrote to Likoudis

... I believe you come as close to being a truly evil person as I expect to meet in my lifetime.

so the lines are drawn.

Oh, yeah, canonization; a couple miracles and she's in.


Blogger TS said...

Weigel and McBrien on the same side of something?!? Now that is surreal.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Karen Marie said...

I'm of two minds about canonizing Venerable Dorothy and Ven. Catherine Doherty. Both definitely saints in heaven, both quite worthy of being asked for prayers and having babies and chapels named for them. However, if they are canonized, it will give cover and ammo to those who claim that the Works of Mercy are only for extraordinary holy saints, and not the basic calling of us all. If they are canonised, it will make them too easy to ignore.

karen marie

11:06 AM  
Blogger Dad29 said...

Unlike Karen Marie, I have not been given a certified list of Heaven's inhabitants...

That said, ALL of the characters you listed in your enjoyable essay are folks who have a good thing to say, some more often than others.

Abp. Weakland is certainly correct when he indirectly advocates political input from committed (and preferably orthodox) Catholics. He doesn't mention 'orthodox,' does he?

There. I've said something nice about Abp. W.


5:50 PM  

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