Dorothy Day and the American Right

The Way of Love

The title "Dorothy Day and the American Right" promises a merciful brevity, along the lines of "Commandments We Have Kept" by the Kennedy Brothers. After all, the founder of the Catholic Worker movement and editor of its newspaper lived among the poor, refused to participate in air-raid drills, and preferred Cesar Chavez to Bebe Rebozo.

But there is more to the "right" than a dollar bill stretching from the DuPonts to Ronald Reagan, just as the "left" is something greater than the bureau-building and bomb-dropping of Roosevelts and Kennedys. Maybe, just maybe, Dorothy Day had a home, if partially furnished and seldom occupied, on the American right.

The Catholic reactionary John Lukacs, after attending the lavish 25th anniversary bash for National Review in December 1980, held in the Plaza Hotel, hellward of the Catholic Worker House on Mott Street, wrote:

During the introduction of the celebrities a shower of applause greeted Henry Kissinger. I was sufficiently irritated to ejaculate a fairly loud Boo! . . . A day or so before that evening Dorothy Day had died. She was the founder and saintly heroine of the Catholic Worker movement. During that glamorous evening I thought: who was a truer conservative, Dorothy Day or Henry Kissinger? Surely it was Dorothy Day, whose respect for what was old and valid, whose dedication to the plain decencies and...

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