Is Dorothy Day's Laetare Medal in Jeopardy?

Catholic Worker Priest Harrassed by Faculty

by Mark Zwick

Mark Zwick and his wife Louise are editors of the Houston Catholic Worker, which is the publication of the Casa Juan Diego House of Hospitality in Houston. A caption next to this editorial notes that this year is the 25th anniversary of Notre Dame's conferral of the Laetare Medal on Dorothy Day.

If the faculty senate of the University of Notre Dame voted today, it would vote against Dorothy Day and her theology. It is hoped that they won't posthumously invalidate her medal.

Catholic Workers are highly incensed that liberal theologians have the gall to call into question one of America's greatest women and attempt to marginalize her thought because it demands such commitment to Jesus, to the Body of Christ and to the poor. Theologians who present themselves as the epitome of tolerance are apparently totally intolerant when it comes to Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement. Are these bourgeois theologians who object to a Catholic theology of actually living the Gospel?

Recently, through the leadership of Fr. Richard McBrien of the theology department, the senate attempted to reject Father Michael J. Baxter, a prominent Catholic Worker theologian, currently a teacher at Notre Dame. Fr. Baxter is a Holy Cross Father, as is the president of the university, Fr. Edward Malloy. Part of the problem is the title of Fr. Baxter's course, "A Faith to Die For," which may disturb some theologians who know how to arrange compromises to avoid martyrdom.

Fr. Baxter is not only a Catholic Worker theologian, but also started a Catholic Worker house of hospitality in Phoenix.

Ironically, it is the president of Notre Dame, Fr. Edward Malloy, who hired Fr. Baxter. Fr. Malloy is a long-time fan of Dorothy Day. When the son of the editors of the Houston Catholic Worker was a student at Notre Dame, Fr. Malloy insisted that Joachim give a talk on Dorothy Day and the Houston Catholic Worker in his class.

Hopefully, this conflict will bring Notre Dame to a more profound theology and more profound theologians and avoid the disaster that occurred at most religious schools like Harvard, Yale, Princeton and others. These schools have not only abandoned religious truths, but many of their professors are at the forefront of undermining religion. There is truly a danger that Notre Dame may become the Harvard of the West.

Notre Dame, of all places, should have a chair of Catholic Worker theology. Funds to establish this chair may be sent to Fr. Malloy or the Houston Catholic Worker.