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Traditionalists, Dorothy Day & Dress Code

Traditionalists Supporting Day

Dear Atila,

It has always mystified me why some traditional Catholics continue to promote Dorothy Day as a paragon of orthodoxy when her liberalism in matters of the Catholic Faith was plain for all to see.

One example among many of Day’s unorthodoxy is her belief in women priests. The following testimony to this fact was given by Fr. Richard McSorley, a priest from Washington, DC, who had befriended Day from the early days of the Catholic Worker. (Let us not forget that this is the woman who is being pushed for canonization by Card. Dolan and the U.S. Bishops).

In Rosalie Riegle Troester’s Voices from the Catholic Worker, (a series of interviews containing memories of people who had been closely associated with Day) Fr. McSorley stated that he went to see Day in the company of another priest and a nun about a year before she died, and added:

“[Dorothy] said: ‘I don’t think it will go on [the same way] forever. We will have women priests. Probably the first step will be married priests. And then when women are closer to the altar by being associated with priests, married to them, then the culture will be ready for women priests.’” (pp. 523-524)

This comes as no surprise to those who are aware that Day was a long-time supporter of Fr. Robert Hovda, a key player in the American Liturgical Movement and the author of Recognizing Christ in Women Priests.

Day’s legacy lives on in the Catholic Worker. Here is a video clip of a spurious ceremony performed by an excommunicated ”woman priest” in the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House in Washington, DC. It is noteworthy that in the speech she gave on that occasion, she evoked the memory of Dorothy Day (whose photo was displayed prominently in the background) and claimed to be following Day’s aim to “transform our Church into the justice and peace vision of the Beatitudes – where men and women are called anew into the discipleship of equals – as partners and equals.”

In the light of all this, how can anyone, least of all a traditional Catholic, have any faith in the Catholic Worker Movement as a Catholic organization or in Day herself as a model of Catholic orthodoxy?

     Yours sincerely,

     Carol (Dr. Carol Byrne)


The Editor responds:

Dear Carol,

I understand your perplexity. To be a traditionalist and a supporter of Dorothy Day are contradictory terms. I can only explain the admiration for Day you describe as one of two transitory positions:
  • The person is converting to Traditionalism and still has some parts of his mind that adheres to Progressivism. He needs to clean them up to be entirely consistent with the perennial teaching of the Church.

  • The person is leaving Traditionalism, and has already lost the mentioned consistency. He entered into a process of deterioration that probably will end in a complete adhesion to Progressivism, which is tantamount to apostasy.
To these two transitory positions, I must add a third, quite stable:
  • The person is a mole, a fifth column, who was planted by the enemy as an informer on our movement and to try to weaken the position of as many people possible by spreading false ideas or models.
These are the possibilities I can see to explain how a traditionalist can be a supporter of Dorothy Day, either before or after her possible beatification and canonization.

     Best regards,


Dress Code in Churches

Dear TIA,

I have been wondering for a long time about whether it is appropriate to post a dress code in an obvious place for new attendees to a traditional Catholic church. I have been told that there is at least one traditional Catholic church where a type of button-up “lab coat” is given to those wearing immodest or inappropriate clothing. On the flip side, in the Novus Ordo, and many other Catholic churches – even traditional – no dress code is ever mentioned, and anyone wearing anything, including basically swim suit bottoms for women and all kinds of bare skin and/or cleavage, is allowed.

Some argue, “We shouldn’t say anything, and we shouldn’t post a dress code because it might turn people away. Our responsibility is to be a good example, avert our eyes, and pray for them because, obviously, their mother never taught them the right way.” I have wondered if this position reflects good Catholic thinking, particularly when we should be thinking most of what offends Our Lord and Our Lady.

While it might be the case that the church where the lab coats are brought out conducts some type of questionable or offensive (?) reaction by bringing out the “coats,” I have to admit that sometimes I sure do wish we had someone willing to bring out the coats or blankets when the little girls and their mothers who are dressed up like ladies of the night show up, causing scandal to all, especially the men who are struggling against a history of pornography and even the other little girls who are dressed appropriately.

How is it wrong to ask someone not to offend Jesus and Our Lady? Don’t we have a responsibility to instruct the ignorant? Even some universities where young women are involved in conducting student therapy with members of the public have a dress code, and yes, the “lab coat” is brought out when the young women are not appropriately dressed. The faculty has a responsibility to teach appropriate professional attire. Don’t we have the same responsibility to teach the ignorant appropriate behavior and attire in church?

If you can, please provide the position of the Catholic Church as it had been on this matter. Even if a particular church or priest doesn’t hold a traditional position, at least I’ll know what my responsibility is...

     Thank you for your ability to shine the light of truth on this topic!

     E.S., Ph.D.

TIA responds:

Dear Dr. E.S.,

Thank you for the trust you have in our opinions. It is encouraging for us to have readers like you.

A dress code is always good to maintain a minimum level of morality and decorum in the ambiences in which we pray, live, work and entertain ourselves.

Unfortunately, with the invasion of permissiveness fostered by Progressivism in the Catholic Church, today almost every casual and immoral dress is allowed in churches. This censurable habit has caused many to abandon the Novus Ordo Masses and adhere to the Traditional Movement (for an example, click here).

It is very sad, indeed, to find that some Pastors of Catholic traditional churches are lax to enforce the principles of Catholic Morals for those attending their Masses. In these churches it is not rare to see women in inappropriate apparel, like what you described, assisting at Mass and even receiving Communion without restriction.

We believe these Pastors incur a grave responsibility before God for their submissive stance and for the behavior of their parishioners. They should set aside human respect and clearly state that immorally dressed women offend God and give scandal to the faithful. Consequently, they must repent, go to Confession, and change their custom of wearing these clothes before going to Mass and Communion. If these women do not do so, they jeopardize their eternal salvation.

Not only women, should dress with dignity, but also men, even though the problem of immorality is much less present in their case. What is censurable is their casual and "comfortable" dress, which implicitly sends the message that God does not deserve to have men formally dressed to honor Him when attending Mass. If men were to give the example of dressing well in a coat and tie, their wives and children would follow their good example.

Once again, the Pastors should speak publicly against these bad customs and place in the church a dress code visible to all to enforce morality for both sexes. After this code is known, one or two mature and discrete women should be at the entrance of the church to address those women/girls who are not properly dressed. Also some of the senior men of the parish should be present at the church entrance to address men who are not formally dressed.

Practical measures to prevent immoral dress – to give them a "lab coat" or some other appropriate item – may vary according to the area and the sensibilities of the interested parties.

We recommend that you to pray for your Pastor to take this good position. You may suggest to the Pastor a dress code be adopted. You may also disseminate Catholic texts teaching the customs of the Church (see here, here, here, here, here, here and here). You should remember, however, that the final decision of imposing a dress code or not belongs to the priest, and not to the parishioners.

We hope this will give you the requested orientation.


     TIA correspondence desk


Blason de Charlemagne
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Posted July 8, 2014

The opinions expressed in this section - What People Are Commenting - do not necessarily express those of TIA

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