In his historic address to the US Congress, Pope Francis boldly invoked four Americans whose witness often conflicted with popular politics. Along with Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Merton, and Martin Luther King, Jr., the Holy Father lifted up Dorothy Day as an icon of justice in a society plagued by material and spiritual poverty. He lauded a social activism and passion for justice that was inspired “by the Gospel, her faith and the example of the saints.”
Since Francis’s speech to Congress, Day has become an object of our broken and incoherent political rhetoric. Some insist on isolating her rare comments against abortion, while jettisoning her incisive 40-year-long critique of America’s “military-industrial-agricultural-complex” and of the academy’s cooperation with these state powers. Others suggest that because her opposition to abortion was deeply personal, it was therefore politically agnostic.
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