Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Dorothy Day's anarcho-Catholicism: The way of love

"Dorothy Day - a radical pacifist who had been a member of the I.W.W., met Leon Trotsky, had an abortion, and raised a daughter as a divorced single mother - may be the next American canonized a saint in the Catholic Church.

Born in Brooklyn in 1897, she became a Greenwich Village Bohemian by the late 1910s and '20s, and was active in the radical socialist politics of the day, promoting women's rights, free love, and birth control along with the rights of the workingman. After two failed common-law marriages and an abortion, the birth of her daughter Tamar Teresa and the desire to have her baptized led her to formally embrace Catholicism. She converted in 1927.

In 1933, she founded the Catholic Worker movement with the itinerant French illegal immigrant Peter Maurin, a sort of modern Holy Fool in the mode of Saint Francis of Assisi. The Catholic Worker, which still costs one cent, adopted a neutral, pacifist, and anarchist stance as the world's leaders drifted toward war in the 1930s.

By US entry into World War II, there were more than thirty Catholic Worker communities, "houses of hospitality" in cities and communal farms in the countryside. But Miss Day's uncompromising pacifism and opposition to the draft during the war cost her a lot of support as even Americans sympathetic to the work she was doing were caught up in wartime hysteria and jingoism. Subscriptions to the newspaper and support for the communities fell drastically.

By the 1960s, Miss Day was again a figure with whom to be reckoned.

Her Christian Anarchism was born out of her exposure to Wobbly anarcho-syndicalism and her reading of Peter Kropotkin, and, above all, Leo Tolstoy's non-fiction magnum opus, The Kingdom of God Is Within You. Anarchy need not mean a descent into chaos and violence, a nightmare world where the strong prey off the weak. To prevent this, institutions providing moral clarity and "mutual aid" were needed.

Dorothy Day understood the importance of the "voluntary associations" Alexis de TocquevilleGeneva Conventions or the Catholic Church. Local or global, they serve as a buffer between the individual and absolute Statist power. State Socialism and State Corporatism both destroy these by atomizing society, leaving individuals defenseless against Tyranny.(...)"

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