What would Dorothy Day think?
Soon after legendary folk singer Loudon Wainwright III finished performing for cheering protesters in Zuccotti Park yesterday afternoon, telling them that the Occupy Wall Street encampment reminded him of the 1968 “Summer of Love,” a Catholic Worker band called the Filthy Rotten System showed up.
Bud Courtney, who plays banjo in the group, said its decidedly unholy name came from the late Dorothy Day, who started the Christian-anarchist Catholic Worker Movement 78 years ago with Peter Maurin during the Great Depression. She is now being considered for sainthood by the Catholic Church.
“Dorothy observed that all of our problems come from our acceptance of the filthy rotten system,” said Mr. Courtney, 61, a former actor who served on aChristian Peacemaker Team in Iraq last year and now lives at one of two Catholic Worker hospitality houses in the East Village. With the help of several bandmates as well as protesters who sang along, he belted out Woody Guthrie’s classic, “My Land is Your Land.”
Longtime Yippie activist Aron Kay, who has been visiting the Occupy Wall Street encampment daily since it sprouted up on Sept. 17, said he was aware of Catholic Worker’s history in the East Village, where its volunteers regularly provide free food, clothing and shelter (what Ms. Day would have called “acts of mercy”) for people in need. The movement now claims about 213 independent communities in the U.S. and abroad. St. Joseph’s House of Hospitality on East First Street and Maryhouse on East Third Street subsist solely on donations and are run by unpaid Catholic Worker volunteers committed to voluntary poverty.
“People may not know their name here,” said Mr. Kay, 61, leaning on a cane. “But as far as I’m concerned, this [protest] is following in the tradition of the Catholic Worker – take care of the homeless; take care of the disadvantaged and the unemployed, the students, all people who are victims of the same entity: Wall Street.”
Brian Hines, 46, a Catholic Worker supporter who plays guitar for the Filthy Rotten System, said he agreed that Occupy Wall Street protesters and their diverse causes seem to embody many of The Catholic Worker movement’s values. “Dorothy thought the poor gave the rich an opportunity to do good,” he said, adding that Ms. Day would not have wanted a government intervention. “She would never say ‘New York City: Help the poor.’ But she did understand that the system was the problem.”