Thursday, 24 February 2011

London Catholic Worker Movement - who they?

'Catholic' and 'Worker' are two words not normally found in the same sentence, largely because the latter word was hijacked by the Socialist Movement a long time ago and, ever since, anything with Worker in the title is normally a deep shade of red in origin.
I unexpectedly surfed in on the London Catholic Worker website and, immediately, sniffed an oxymoron hiding away. There was not much about the site that appeared to be Catholic and, I suspect, none of them are workers, in my sense of the word anyway.
In case you think I am guilty of misjudging them, here is their own entree...

We are a community of the international radical Christian ‘Catholic Worker’ movement. The Catholic Worker is Catholic, ecumenical, pacifist, communitarian and anarchist in the spirit of gentle personalism. The London Catholic Worker was brought together by the action of the Jubilee Ploughshares in 2000. Those who came together had long sensed the need for a Catholic Worker community of hospitality and resistance in the world’s second imperial city. Our work is now made up by two houses of hospitality, a community café and a drop-in soup kitchen, and continue to focus our resistance on the ‘war on terror’, British nuclear weapons and the arms trade. We hope and pray others will be inspired and want to be part of our vision and our work.

Mmm, already I feel a wave of deja vu rolling over me at the use of tired old words and phrases....the "war on terror" meaning, Britain's fight against terrorists in far flung places such as Afghanistan and Iraq, except that, in their context they mean that the British and Americans are the terrorists.....and what does "We are a community of the international radical Christian Worker Movement mean? Has anyone from LCWM stopped to analyse such gobblydegook? radical Christian ‘Catholic Worker’ movement. The Catholic Worker is Catholic, ecumenical, pacifist, communitarian and anarchist in the spirit of gentle personalism" actually mean?

So, being a workers movement and being Catholic one might reasonably expect an image or prayer of even a mention of St Joseph - patron of all workers. Of course, there is nothing about St Joseph on the site. In fact, other than a rather dated symbol of the risen Christ on the top right hand corner, there is nothing of religious imagery to be seen.
And in terms of what they actually do, it is all rhetoric about saving Julian 'Wikileaks' Assange and his young friend Bradley Manning. Lots of demos and protests against war and injustice, but not a sign of a rosary group to save unborn children.
Special emphasis given to getting the alliance troops out of Afghanistan but not a word about the horrors of the Taliban or how they abuse and denigrate women.

I find it quite hard to believe that such simple minded souls exist in our society today. Are they just plain naive or plain gullible. Is there some more sinister anarchical element at work? Has the organisation been infiltrated by extremists? How many of them are card carrying Catholics?
One thing is certain, they are definitely in need of our prayers.


  1. Dear Richard, I am part of the Catholic Worker Movement in London. From reading your blog I guess you wouldn't think much of me but still your post sounds as if it would like a reply. I'm not sure what you mean by 'work' but members of the London Catholic Worker are engaged in running two houses of hospitality, a cafe, a night shelter and a soup kitchen which all take a of of hard work. To unpack the 'international radical Christian Catholic Worker' bit: the movement is international with houses in America, Mexico, Europe etc. The movement is radical Christian: for this I would direct you to writers such as Ched Myers, Daniel Berrigan, Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day herself as well as their work. Catholic Worker was the name of the newspaper that Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin started in New York in the 1930s.

    As for me I am Catholic and I am currently in paid employment although who knows what may happen

    By the way one of us is a priest who doesn't wear special clothes because he is too busy sorting out the plumbing, cycling across London to say mass at different parishes etc. A soutane would really get in the way don't you think?

  2. Henrietta - you have not stated anything that was not inherently contained in my post. Plenty of organisations work for the good of the poor, it is just that I expect Catholic ones to have an aura of the faith about them. I do not think that demonstrating against our troops is a decent or even Christian way to carry on. If you are anti war we have a democratic process for you to express your beliefs. However, once the Government commits the country to a war it is the duty of all of us to support the troops and to pray for a rapid peace.
    Priests are obliged by Canon Law to wear the black and white. Catholic priests do not wear soutanes in public in this country, just a black suit and dog collar.

  3. Having found myself alongside the Catholic Workers on more than one occasion supporting the same cause, I can honestly say that there is nothing in their organisation but for a willingness to do good.

    Stating they should make their cause known through democratic process is nothing short of a joke. As I am sure you are aware this country's "democratic processes" have been proven time and again to be a complete farce when it comes to making objections heard.

    I personally find their form of peaceful resistance and compassion to be not only commendable, but desirable for the community as a whole. The people within this group are both selfless and indiscriminate in their humanitarian efforts and they carry their efforts out in a way which neither endangers lives or disrupts the community.

    It seems to me that without knowing anything about the group or what they do you have decided to spout an ill-thought article attacking their origins and trying to label them as a communist organisation. They are socialist in the sense that they wish to give aid to everyone and in the sense that they are not selfish with the means they have, what they have they share with all. Further than that, there is no grounds to attach any sort of communist or "red" propagandic label to the group.

    I can also vouch that your presumption to attack their work ethic is based solely in your personal prejudices and not based on any kind of fact. In addition to the above mentioned houses of hospitality, members of the Catholic Workers have also opened a dance school which also acts as a multi-cultural community centre bringing a vibrant mix together in their local community.

    In short, Richard Collins, your prejudices are deluded and your unfounded bias disgusting. Reading this article gave me the same sense of the ridiculous as reading Roald Dahl's BFG. Both pieces of work, yours and Roald Dahl's, are the same approximate distance from the truth.

    P.S. For your information, as you seem the type to make incorrect assumptions: I am an atheist and have strong objections to any religious institution. I am not a member of Catholic Workers.

  4. Magnonymous - thank you for your comment, I agree with all you say......they just need to remove the word 'Catholic' from their title.

    1. Richard,

      They're more Catholic than you could ever dream of being.


    2. Bravo to you, Richard, for having the courage to speak the truth!