Will the Catholic Church canonize a left-wing activist?

Hundreds of people gathered at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York to celebrate an important moment for Catholics in the city. Cardinal Timothy Dolan delivered a homily on the life of one of their own, Dorothy Day, a New York native, writer and anarchist activist who died in 1980.

Last month’s sermon represented the end of a 20-year investigation by the Archdiocese of New York into whether Day should receive sainthood, a matter the Vatican will ultimately decide.

Many of his admirers, including his granddaughter, had hoped that Dolan would talk about his commitment to social justice for the poor and oppressed and his opposition to war and capitalism. In 1933 Day – often described as both politically radical and theologically orthodox – founded the Catholic Workers’ Movement, which remains active around the world in the form of Catholic workers’ houses, where members live free and provide services to poor.

But in his sermon, Dolan described Day’s “far from sinless life.”

“She had done quite a bit of experimentation and drifting, and she would be the first to admit her promiscuity,” continued the cardinal. “But she continued to sense a void, a search in her life. And after much prayer and study, this led in 1925 to his baptism as a Catholic.

“Don’t call me a saint,” she said in an oft-quoted quip. “I don’t want to be fired so easily”

His remarks hovered over his efforts to change policies that affected the poor and his political beliefs – adding fuel to long-standing anxiety among Catholic workers that the Catholic hierarchy could dilute or obscure its message even if it plans to do so. raise.

After mass, Martha Hennessy, Day’s granddaughter, was upset. “He reduced her to ‘she lived a life of sexual promiscuity and she dabbled in communism,'” she said. “What worse enemy could we have, saying these things about her?” Hennessy is active in the movement and has read at Mass. “We have to focus on his politics. We need to focus on his practices.

Day would be the first New Yorker made a saint since 19th-century educator Elizabeth Ann Seton in 1975.

But, Day’s supporters asked, what is the price of holiness? They wonder if Day would have even wanted the designation.

Indeed, Day often reacted negatively when people praised her as a saint.

“Don’t call me a saint,” she said in an oft-quoted quip. “I don’t want to be fired so easily.” – This article originally appeared in The New York Times

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