Summer 2012, 42:4, pages 330-352
“The Odds and Ends of Things”: Dorothy Day’s 1930s Catholic Worker Columns and the Prudent Translation of Catholic Social Teachings
Abstract: This essay argues that Dorothy Day’s 1930s Catholic Worker columns prudently translated Catholic social teachings in order to articulate a vision for radical Catholic social reform. Day’s columns interpreted dogmatic Church texts in response to public outcries for social change during a period of economic and social collapse, specifically the doctrinal principles of human dignity, hospitality to laborers, and Catholic action. As a translator, Day balanced arguments for the relevance of traditional religious values with circumstances requiring innovative solutions. She used prudence in order to carve out a ‘‘middle way’’ between the two extremes of dogmatic fidelity to the views of established Church leaders and pandering to revolutionary sentiments that urged the working class to eschew traditional religion. Day’s case illustrates an important relationship between translation and prudence—how prudent translation enables rhetors to craft innovations from within traditional belief systems in order to rework cultural norms and advance social change.