Q. Are you in general optimistic or pessimistic about the future of reform in the church?
A. The kind of controversy going on in the church today is certainly resulting in "clarification of thought," to use a cliché which Peter Maurin, founder of the Catholic Worker, did not hesitate to use as emphasizing the necessity for this clear thinking to precede any program of action. "Wisdom is more active than all active things," Wisdom 7:24. Authority and freedom, man and the state, war and peace on the home front as well as abroad, these are the great issues today and include the problems of poverty, population explosion and race relations. My concern is that the controversies be carried on without violence. To me, non-violence is the all-important problem or virtue, to be nourished and cultivated. "Language can as validly be used to repel thrusts or to assert dominance as can fists and guns," Stan Windass writes in a recent PAX bulletin from England. "Judge not that ye be not judged," is the title of the excerpt and it is part of his pamphlet or booklet, A Blow for Peace, one of a Where We Stand Series, published by Darton, Longmans and Todd in England. The ideas in this have dominated my thinking for the past six months. One has to begin by doing violence to one's self to grow in love and understanding of our enemies, and sometimes the worst of these enemies have been of our own household, as Jesus said they would. I'm thinking of the Vietnam war and the bishops, but it applies daily to those close to you in work or parish or community. But "the anger of man worketh not the righteousness of God," St. James wrote two thousand years ago. It certainly helps in keeping the joyous spirit which comes with love. How can I have anything else but hope and confidence, reading the prophets on these ember days, those prophets which Father John McKenzie has helped me to understand? "Do not be sad, for the joy of the Lord is our strength."
Let me thank Commonweal for printing those occasional papers, God, Jesus and Holy Spirit. They formed the basis for our third Sunday discussions at the Catholic Worker farm last winter. I like to recall St. Teresa's remark, "I am so grateful a creature that I can be bought with a sardine." (I've lost track of where I've read it.) And certainly we at the Catholic Worker are grateful too. Commonweal's George Shuster sent Peter Maurin to me in 1932, and Ed Skillin and countless others on the staff have supported us in many ways and with all kinds of help, nourishing and warming us mentally and physically. So I'm glad to have the opportunity to say thank you.
And oh yes, why worry about empty schools, seminars and even rectories? Maybe the Lord is giving us a little reminder that there has been too much building going on, and that it is time to use some of these buildings for the poor, for families. Out in Milwaukee evicted families were moving into empty army barracks. I've heard of Sacred Heart nuns' using an empty novitiate for a day care center for the children of the poor, and Redemptorist sisters' making room for aged senile patients put out of a mental hospital during a recent strike. The State interferes, of course, but perhaps it is time the sisters were taught holy disobedience as a loving and non-violent way to combat bureaucracy.
The problem of the Papal States was cleared up over the last 100 years (after a fashion), and certainly the financial problems of too much money and too many investments will also be taken care of, one way or another. "This corruption must put on incorruption," as St. Paul wrote, and while the outer body is falling apart, the inner is being renewed! Shocking and stimulating thoughts for us all.
[For more of Dorothy Day's writings from Commonweal, see our full collection.]