Most people (yours truly included) were at best vaguely familiar with two American Catholics Pope Francis singled out in his address to Congress earlier today (the other two Americans he mentioned are familiar to us all -- Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr.). Here's Charles P. Pierce introducing us to the other two: Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton:
But it was the other two names, Day and Thomas Merton, whom the pope used as an example of the prayerful life and the wish for peace, that got heads turning. Merton was a monk whose writings were the bulwark of liberal Catholicism from the 1950's until his accidental death in 1968, and Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker movement, was a genuine radical, an avatar of progressive Catholicism for decades. Day was a devout pacifist and a ferocious advocate for social justice, who once took on the inexcusable Francis Cardinal Spellman of New York when Spellman used seminarians as strike-breakers against the archdiocese's grave-diggers.
Commendable and very revealing choices.(How radical was she? William F. Buckley, whose Catholicism stopped at the Council of Trent, once derided her as slovenly, dangerous, and not a Catholic. Dorothy Day is now a candidate for sainthood. WFB is, ah, not.)