I’ve been studying this issue for some time and have reached the conclusion that Dorothy Day had so conflated Communism and Catholicism in her own mind that she saw them as one and the same; which is the only explanation I can find for her lifetime support of Communist governments and ideology, co-existing with devout practice of her Catholic faith.
Another clear mark, in my opinion, of her lifetime adherence to Communism was that she never denounced it or its evils to protect others from becoming ensnared, which is what most people, yours truly included, do once they see a past way of life clearly for the wrong path it was.
The seminal book which cleared up the confusion I had about Dorothy Day, who I once admired, was that by Dr. Carol Byrne, The Catholic Worker Movement, 1933-1980: A Critical Analysis, which, considering Day has been put forward for sainthood, needs to become part of the informational process examining her qualifications for the highest honor of sanctity the Church can express.
The Catholic Media Coalition wrote an excellent review in December.
“On November 13, American bishops unanimously backed the advancement of the cause of Dorothy Day through the process leading to sainthood. Day, an American social worker and anti-war activist, died in 1980. She was first proposed for canonization by the late Cardinal John O’Connor of New York. Her case is now in “Servant of God” status, awaiting further developments.
“For her charity work, Day is popular with many Catholics, especially clergy, some of whom find her iconic. In 1933, together with fellow social activist Peter Maurin, she founded the Catholic Worker Movement which is perhaps best known for its 201 U.S. communities that feature soup kitchens and various other ministries to the poor and disadvantaged.
“But while she has the unanimous support of the bishops, Day is a controversial figure among many rank and file Catholics who do not consider her an acceptable role model. For them, she exemplifies the archetypal “liberal Catholic” or “social justice Catholic.” These terms refer to individuals who are often disposed to try to change the Church in various ways and who are strongly animated and influenced by left-leaning political ideology. Many such Catholics became emboldened following Vatican II and made chimerical interpretations of its documents.
“Chief among the objections to Day’s nomination for sainthood is the belief that she embraced the doctrines of Marxism and made them the framework of her social activism. Carol Byrne, a British researcher, has investigated Day’s life extensively and has chronicled her activities and writings, along with those of Peter Maurin, in The Catholic Worker Movement, 1933-1980: A Critical Analysis (AuthorHouse UK Ltd.) While Day’s defenders insist that she fully disavowed Marxism after her conversion to Catholicism, Byrne’s research leads her to conclude otherwise. Byrne contends that Day continued to espouse Marxist ideals after her conversion, blending them with her Catholic beliefs, and that she affiliated with individuals and organizations of similar persuasion. Tragically, in the years that followed, communism spread globally, taking over massive chunks of the world and decimating human freedom. Courageous opposition to it was badly needed.
“Day’s supporters argue that her empathy with communists’ ideas was simply borne of a mutual concern for the poor and how best to help them. However, the great irony of communism is that it is not about helping the poor—it is about amassing power and equalizing and neutralizing individuals in order to make them serfs of a Godless state. Joseph Stalin’s “Great Purge” left no doubt about the level of compassion that exists in communism.
“Communists seize control through force and also through deceit. During the 20th century, many intellectuals and critics of America’s capitalist system and market economy became “fellow travelers” when they were naively seduced by communist propaganda disseminated by the Soviet Union, Cuba and other Marxist states.
“Despite the writings of numerous popes on the evils of socialism and its incompatibility with Christianity, its threats have been severely downplayed if not all but forgotten by the western world. Yet it remains the system of choice for those who, driven by a fanatical obsession with forced human equality, seek control over the lives of men. In the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe, the great socialist experiment was temporarily defeated and discredited in the late 1980s, principally through the efforts of Pope John Paul II and U.S. President Ronald Reagan. But this primary tool of evil has not disappeared; it has merely gone dormant, simmering on the back burner, awaiting the day when human weakness and naiveté will again permit it to rise and flourish.”