"Are we prepared to promote conditions in which the living contact with God can be reestablished? For our lives today have become godless to the point of complete vacuity. God is no longer with us in the conscious sense of the word. He is denied, ignored, excluded from every claim to have a part in our daily life." - Alfred Delp, S.J.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

“Of all hostilities,” Dorothy Day once wrote, “one of the saddest is the war between clergy and laity.”

I've been thinking of Dorothy Day the past few days.

The Cardinal Dolan scandal is the reason why.

Over the years, Dorothy Day had her troubles with the hierarchy - especially Cardinal Spellman and Cardinal McIntyre.  The quote I use for the headline is from an article by Michael Garvey.  It is a short article addressing the perennial conflict between clergy and laity.  The conflict is nothing new.

"There is no room for righteous wrath today.” - Dorothy Day

A good many saints have gone through such conflicts.  Once when the local Bishop placed his diocese under interdict, St. Catherine of Genoa simply went to a neighboring diocese for daily Mass and Communion.  Like Dorothy Day, she could be quite outspoken as well.

Dorothy Day, like the other great Catherine - St. Catherine of Siena - though she may have 'opposed' positions taken by her 'sweet vicar of Christ', nonetheless did so discreetly and respectfully.  In fact, Dorothy Day never resisted her 'sweet Cardinal, the vicar of Christ' to his face, much less did she publicly and directly criticize or condemn him.

Dorothy Day always acted and spoke respectfully of her Cardinal.  In fact she went out of her way to find things she admired in him.  I especially like this anecdote from The Catholic Worker site:
I arrived at the Worker shortly after Cardinal Spellman had sent McIntyre down to read the riot act. What was apparently bugging Spellman was that the paper was called the Catholic Worker. What he was angling for, and didn't get, was for [Dorothy] to drop the word "Catholic." He believed [the name] was an attempt to indicate that this was a Catholic position, and he didn't want anybody else speaking for the church. This was the famous occasion when McIntyre said to her, "What would you do if the cardinal told you to shut down the Catholic Worker?" 
She said, "If our dear, sweet cardinal, who is the vicar of Christ in New York City, told me to shut down the Catholic Worker, I would close it down immediately." She was dead serious. That's what drove me crazy. Dorothy really did go around referring to Spellman as "our dear, sweet cardinal" and "the vicar of Christ." - Michael Harrington
We do not know of what spirit we are.

I think Dorothy Day may be a good example for for us these days when tempted to anger and discouragement over recent issues within the Church.  In fact, Monsignor Pope's action in removing his original post reminded me of Dorothy when he said, "I am a son of the Church".  Dorothy said the same thing: "I am a daughter of the Church".  The proof is in their obedience and love for the Church and their superiors.  As St John of the Cross said:  "To lose always and let everyone else win is a trait of valiant souls..."

Michael Garvey closes his article with a thought that resonated with me today:
But those of us, like me, who don’t mind finding fault with the leaders of church, state and opinion, ought to remember that the need to be right can become idolatrous, that the savor of high dudgeon can become every bit as poisonous as any heresy arousing it, and that, well, we do not know of what spirit we are. - Michael Garvey


  1. Thank you for this this. You and I are on opposite sides of the issue, but I totally agree that no matter how you feel about the issue, respect for the hierarchy of the Church is essential. Today at Mass Father reminded us bishops are direct descendants of the apostles, and we should always be in prayer for them, that they are under tremendous pressure and stress. And although Father didn't say this, we should recognizee that Cardinal Dolan - who is considered the "top" bishop in America just because of his position in NYC - is under even more pressure. So isntead of constant ad hominen attacks, maybe people could be a little kinder, saying I don't understand and I don't agree with him, but no matter what happens, the Holy Spirit is still in charge.

    1. Thank you for your words of wisdom. I always have something to learn from you, CiB.

      May Dorothy Day intercede for us all.

  2. Love the Dorothy Day inclusion - she inspires me daily.

  3. CinB - You are welcome. Your posts also reminded me of Dorothy Day's fidelity. Thank you for your beautiful witness and fraternal correction!

  4. Terry, you find the best stuff!


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