The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 09/24/15

Joaquin Castro, Simone Campbell, Eugene Joseph Dionne, Steve Schale, Dana Milbank, Liz Mair, Sister Helen Prejean

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That does it for us tonight, we`ll see you again
tomorrow, now it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell. Good
evening Lawrence.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, I`m so glad you told that story
about John Kerry. All of that was going through my head when I saw that
moment of the Pope shaking his hand.

MADDOW: The one handshake that he took and that he chose –

O`DONNELL: But why? –

MADDOW: Himself, yes, that`s right –

O`DONNELL: Yes, that was great –

MADDOW: Thanks Lawrence –

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks.

O`DONNELL: In his speech to Congress, the Pope honored a woman who had an
abortion and was a socialist.

And the Pope honored the politicians he was speaking to, comparing their
work to Moses, the patriarch, and law giver of the people of Israel.

And the Pope reminded everyone there in that chamber and everyone in this
country who is not native American that we are all the sons and daughters
of immigrants.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, the Pope of the Holy See!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first ever papal address before a joint meeting of

and the home of the brave.


LESTER HOLT, JOURNALIST: For a moment, a law-making body known for
partisan feuding came together.

BERGOGLIO: Do unto others as you will have them do unto you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was speaking to our common core of humanity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The issues of refugees and immigration.

BERGOGLIO: We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view
them as persons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ll see if the presidential candidates want to differ
with him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was that and yet undecided potential candidate
right there on the podium.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think Joe Biden is going to decide to run?

REPRESENTATIVES: That I don`t know, just let God`s will be done.

BERGOGLIO: The challenges facing us today call for our renewal of that
spirit of cooperation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Six days before this place could shut down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think that this message has a shelf life?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, let us – let us pray.


O`DONNELL: In a 50-minute speech to a joint session of Congress this
morning, Pope Francis wove the stories of four Americans into his theme of
building a better future for all.


BERGOGLIO: These men and women, for all their many differences and
limitations were able by hard work and self-sacrifice, some at the cost of
their lives to build a better future.

I would like then to mention four of these Americans: Abraham Lincoln,
Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.


O`DONNELL: Only two of them were Catholics, Thomas Merton was a French
immigrant to this country, an author, a poet and later in life was ordained
a priest and lived in a monastery.

And Dorothy Day was an extraordinary woman who lived an adventurous
Bohemian life before converting to Catholicism which only increased her
commitment to fighting for the rights of workers and improving the lives of
poor people.

We will tell you her story later in this program. The Pope tried to invoke
the spirit of cooperation on a hyperpartisan divided Congress.


BERGOGLIO: The challenges facing us today call for our renewal of that
spirit of cooperation which has accomplished so much good throughout the
history of the United States.


O`DONNELL: As expected, the Pope spoke of his concern for protecting the
planet against what he called an environmental deterioration without ever
using the words climate change.


BERGOGLIO: I call for a courageous and responsible effort to redirect our
steps and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental
deterioration caused by human activity.

I`m convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the
United States and this Congress have an important role to play.


O`DONNELL: The Pope stressed the sanctity of life without mentioning
abortion, but instead stressing his opposition to the death penalty.

Sister Helen Prejean, an anti-death penalty activist will join us later to
discus that point. The issue the Pope spoke of at greatest length was

And his message could not have been clearer – follow the golden rule: “Do
unto others as you would have them do unto you.”


BERGOGLIO: We the people of this continent are not fearful of foreigners
because most of us –


Because most of us were once foreigners. Our world is facing a refugee
crisis of a magnitude not seen since the second world war.

This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this
continent, thousands of persons have left to travel north in search of a
better life for themselves and for their loved ones.

In search of greater opportunity. Is it not what we want for our own
children? Let us remember the golden rule: “Do unto others as you –


Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now are Representative Joaquin Castro, Democratic
Congressman from Texas, also with us, Sister Simone Campbell, executive
director of Network and National Catholic Social Justice Lobby and author
of “Nuns on the Bus”.

And E.J. Dionne, opinion writer for “The Washington Post”, Msnbc political
analyst and genuine Catholic intellectual.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God bless you –

O`DONNELL: Joaquin Castro, I have to ask you as the only one among us in
the room – what was it like to be in the chamber today, you`ve been there
for State of the Union addresses and other addresses.

This was something special.

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: Yes, I know, it was. It was absolutely
both electrifying and very spiritual. The Pope gave a beautiful address,
and I was telling folks after his address that these have probably been the
most – two most harmonious days that we`ve had in Congress since I`ve been

I`m in my third year now, but I thought that people were very respectful.
It was only one of these addresses where I`ve seen Republicans and
Democrats stand up and applaud at the same time.

You know, as you know, in the State of the Union, usually, one side of the
chamber gets up and the other one remains seated to make a point.

Everybody, I think, received his message well, and hopefully we`ll have a
chance to reflect on it in the coming weeks and months.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Castro, was there any particular point in the
Congressional audience reaction that was surprisingly unifying?

Was there any particular line where you saw applause, where you think
perhaps if the President had said some version of that, the applause would
have been more partisan?

CASTRO: Well, I think that his point about the golden rule and doing unto
others as you would have them do unto you, and also about the value of

Both of those points, I think, were very well received by everyone. I
think folks were a little bit surprised by his statement on the death

You know, the reporters up in the – in the stands had copies, I believe of
his speech, but the members of Congress who usually get a copy of the
person`s speech who is speaking in these addresses, we didn`t have one, so
nobody was able to follow along.

And so, you know, in those two instances, that was especially unifying, but
also I think when he spoke about the death penalty, people really were
thoughtful and reflective about it.

O`DONNELL: I want to listen to something that he just said a short time
ago across the street here in Manhattan at Saint Patrick`s Cathedral about
nuns. Let`s listen to this.


BERGOGLIO (through translator): To you, religious women, sisters and
mothers of this people, I wish to say thank you.



O`DONNELL: Sister Simone Campbell, your reaction to that and also your
reaction to his speech at the joint session.

LOBBY & AUTHOR: Well, I`m really touched by his response to women of
religious – and actually it was his speech to Congress, the very last
paragraph of his speech really felt like the explanation of our lives.

As women of religious – because like Lincoln, we work for liberty, like
Dorothy Day, we work with those who are both poor and vulnerable.

Like Dr. King, we work for justice and like Thomas Merton, we have a deep
(INAUDIBLE) life. I felt like he summarized my life and I recognize myself
in his speech and the hunger for coming together and being our better
selves as a nation.

It`s been quite a day quite frankly.

O`DONNELL: I want to listen to something he said about what it means to be
a good political leader. Let`s listen to his definition of good political


BERGOGLIO: A good political leader is one who with the interest of all in
mind seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism.


O`DONNELL: E.J. Dionne, I`m going to have to memorize that one word for
word as my answer for the rest of time of what a good political leader is.

perfect description of exactly how things are done now? I mean, it was an
amazing speech. And want to pick up on something sister Simone said.

First, I want to point out in her honor, that in Newark, the loudest
applause for the Pope and it was really sustained, is when he praised the

When he praised women religious, he sort of tapped into something in the
Catholic people. But on his description, there was this emphasis on the
common good and on always pursuing it and also on the need to preserve the
dignity of every person.

And what`s really striking is, he really is trying to tell people, look,
you can do this. You have a better self. You can be your better self on

Politics is a noble profession. I mean, these guys haven`t heard that from
anyone in decades. And so, I think there was a radicalness about almost
everything he said.

And you know, amazingly, he picks two of the most radical Catholics in
American history, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton as models.

But it was radicalism that was wrapped in a spirit of you can get this
done, human beings are capable of this.

It was the most remarkable combination of radical critique and hope and
encouragement that I think I`ve ever heard from any preacher.

O`DONNELL: I want to go back to the immigration components of his speech,
because that was the largest single subject in his address to Congress.

And, you know, he obviously has advisors here in the United States who were
going over his speech word for word.

And I thought he came awfully close to actually using the phrase dreamers,
which has become politically charged in Washington when he talked about
America being the land of dreams.

Let`s listen to this.


BERGOGLIO: I am happy that America continues to be for many a land of


Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people. In
recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their
dream of building a future of freedom.


O`DONNELL: Congressman Castro, did that sound to you like he was talking
about the people we now call dreamers?

CASTRO: Yes, I did. It seem – he seemed to be alluding to them. And he
spoke in the first person about his own story, about being a descendant of

He reminded all of us in Congress and the American people that most of us
are descendents of immigrants.

And then when he spoke about refugees, he pleaded with us to see them as
people and to look at their faces and not just be overwhelmed by their

O`DONNELL: Sister Simone, I just want to get a quick last word from you on
your reaction to everything the Pope had to say today?

CAMPBELL: Well, I have to say, Lawrence, that I think the biggest message
was that piece about we can be our better selves, we can have the dreams,
but it requires us to work together for the common good where no one is
left out of our care.

And that call to be our better selves – I mean, when he says we the
people, I think he was really referencing the constitution and we the
people can do this.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Joaquin Castro and Sister Simone Campbell, thank
you both very much for joining us tonight, thank you.

Coming up, the Senate has blocked a bill to defund Planned Parenthood today
but a government shutdown could still happen next week.

And there are mixed reviews for the Democratic presidential candidates
including Joe Biden in a new poll. And suddenly, the world asked today,
who is Dorothy Day?

After the Pope mentioned her this morning, she was, as I`ve said, an
extraordinary woman who some want to make a saint. Something that Dorothy
Day herself never wanted to be.

Her story is later.


O`DONNELL: There`re a bunch of new polls and there`s good news for each
Democratic presidential candidate in one of those polls, at least,
including Joe Biden.


O`DONNELL: Vice President Joe Biden had another day in the company of the
Pope, a momentous experience for a faithful Roman Catholic like Joe Biden,
who appears to be on the verge of another momentous life decision to run
for president for the third time.

A new Quinnipiac national poll released today shows Hillary Clinton leading
the Democrats with 43 percent, Bernie Sanders at 25 percent and Joe Biden
at 18 percent.

But in the general election matchups, Joe Biden does better against the
four Republican frontrunners than Hillary Clinton does.

Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina and Jeb Bush come out ahead of Hillary Clinton in
that poll one on one while Joe Biden comes out ahead of every Republican in
the poll except Ben Carson who polls at a tie with Joe Biden.

Joining us now is Steve Schale, a Florida State Director for Barack Obama`s
2008 campaign and an adviser to Draft Biden. Also with us again, E.J.

Steve Schale, these polls have a mixed message, Hillary Clinton, a very
solid lead in national polls. We have other polls in New Hampshire showing
Bernie Sanders in a very big lead over all of the candidates there.

But it`s in that matchup, one-on-one with the Republicans that Joe Biden
will probably be pointing to it to make his case when he`s trying to
convince people to back his campaign if he gets in.

STEVE SCHALE, ADVISER TO DRAFT BIDEN: Yes, I think part of our argument
all along has been that Joe Biden matches up better than really in a
Democratic against the Republicans.

We`ve seen this over and over and over again for the last month or so.
Whether it`s – you know, against Bush or against Trump.

You know, he polls consistently three or four points better than Clinton
does and five or six better than Sanders does. So, you know, if he gets in
the race, I think it will be one of his better arguments.

O`DONNELL: E.J. Dionne, let`s look at these – on these one-on-one
matchups, Ben Carson is now the strongest Republican matched one-on-one
against any Democrat. How did that happen?

DIONNE: I will bet you a stack of Thomas Merton books that, that won`t be
true a month from now.


DIONNE: I just don`t think it`s going to happen, but I was astounded by
that. But it seems that for the moment, Ben Carson is almost like the
generic candidate in the poll.

People know – at least Republicans know just enough about him to like him.
And I assume this poll – I don`t know if this poll was done before his
recent problem on what he said about Muslims.

But I think this poll will have some effect on those Democrats who have
been very worried about Hillary Clinton`s slide over the last four months.

And I think there`s a sense among some Democrats that hey, a Joe Biden
challenge might be good if Hillary Clinton can actually beat Joe Biden in
the primaries.

That will probably prove she is strong enough to be a strong candidate
then. If she can`t beat Joe Biden in the Democratic primary, then she
might have a problem later on.

There`s one person I`m sure who disagrees with that and it`s Hillary
Clinton and she would rather prefer him not to get in. And I am still
agnostic on this, all the news suggests Biden is moving toward it.

And I think he does really believe he`s the right candidate for this
moment, but I think he`s being held back by a lot of personal feelings, you
know, particularly about his son.

But true, the news is sure heading in the direction that he`s running.

O`DONNELL: Well, yes, I think he`s in. But he –


O`DONNELL: In New Hampshire, really important primary, Joe Biden is
running well behind Hillary Clinton. Has half the support of Hillary

The problem for Hillary Clinton is Bernie Sanders running way ahead of her.
You know, Bernie Sanders now at 46 percent in New Hampshire, Hillary
Clinton at 30.

That`s basically a reversal of roles for them since June, Joe Biden at 14.
And Steve Schale, it`s – what would be – what could Joe Biden do coming
out of the gate as a candidate to change those numbers in New Hampshire?

SCHALE: Well, I tend to think they`re going to change, if he gets in the
race, just almost automatically. I mean, here`s a guy who has –


O`DONNELL: But let me – let me just stop you there, what about that
theory, a lot of people are throwing around this thing about, hey, your
number is usually higher before you get in the race.

SCHALE: Well, I mean, I`d point to somebody like Donald Trump. I mean –


SCHALE: I hate to compare Trump and Biden too much, but I think in this
case, what was he? Four or 5 percent, he was tenth guy on the stage and got
in the race and shook the whole thing up.

I mean, the fact that Joe Biden, you know, got a 100 percent name ID, he`s
got basically 80 percent, 85 percent favorable among Democrats, he`s the
best liked Democrat potentially in the race.

And I think if he gets in, it becomes a real thing for people. You`ll see
those numbers move.

O`DONNELL: And – go ahead E.J.

DIONNE: Well, yes, I think it`s hard to read the Joe Biden numbers because
on the one hand, he is not a candidate and for months, people said he
wouldn`t run.

So you could imagine that would make people less likely to name Joe Biden
in the poll even when he`s listed in it.

On the other hand, when you are not a politician, when you are not facing
the scrutiny and when the other side, when Republicans or Republican-
leaning voters don`t really view you as partisan in a way they would if you
were in the race, that kind of helps him in these polls.

And I think those two sort of operate against each other and we`ll see what
happens if he does get in. Latest Quinnipiac poll on the Republican side
shows Donald Trump in what seems to now be a plateau, 25 percent.

In this particular poll, that`s down from 28 last time, Ben Carson now
second, 17, Carly Fiorina 12, Jeb Bush at 10, Marco Rubio, 9.

And E.J., that seems to be now the cement-forming around that kind of
polling now on the Republican side.

DIONNE: Well, they cemented the top. You feel like Trump may have hit a
ceiling, but the rest of the field, I think is completely fluid.

You have Fiorina – first of all, she shows very differently in different
polls. But she is clearly having her moment the way many of the other
candidates on the Republican side had their moment in 2012.

You wonder if she can keep that. I think there`s – everything is fluid
under Trump right now.

O`DONNELL: Steve Schale, when is Joe Biden going to announce?

SCHALE: Listen, I don`t think I know any more than you do. I think as you
indicated, this is really more of a personal decision for him than a
political decision.

But you know, we`re going to keep building operations in the early states
in case he gets in.

O`DONNELL: Steve Schale and E.J. Dionne, thanks for joining us tonight.

DIONNE: Great to be with you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, eight Republicans including a presidential candidate
voted with Democrats trying to stop Republicans like Ted Cruz from shutting
down the government over funding Planned Parenthood.


O`DONNELL: Tens of thousands greeted Pope Francis in New York City today as
he made his way down Fifth Avenue to St. Patrick`s Cathedral. The Pope has
retired tonight to his residence on the upper eastside of Manhattan.

Tomorrow, Pope Francis will continue his visit to New York with an address
to the United Nations General Assembly and a multi-faith service at the
September 11 memorial. He will also meet with students at the East Harlem
Catholic School, Our Lady Queen of Angels and lead a procession through
Central Park.


O`DONNELL: He will end his day with a mass to 20,000 at Madison Square


O`DONNELL: Coming up, if the Pope had told congress everything he actually
knows about Dorothy Day today, most of them would have been shocked. That`s
coming up.


O`DONNELL: Now that the Pope has encouraged congress to find common
ground, they have less than a week to pass a funding bill in order to avoid
a government shutdown.

Today the senate blocked a temporary funding bill that would have cut
federal funds to planned parenthood.


O`DONNELL: The motion needed 60 votes to advance. The final tally was 47-
52. Eight Republicans, including Presidential candidate, Rand Paul voted
with the Democrats.


O`DONNELL: On Monday, the senate will hold another procedural vote. This
time on a clean resolution that would not defund planned parenthood. If
that passes, the senate would hold its final vote on Tuesday, leaving the
house one full day to pass a budget bill of its own before the shutdown

Leading the charge for a government shutdown is once again Presidential
candidate Ted Cruz who wrote this about Republican leadership`s promise not
to shut down the government.


O`DONNELL: “On its face, the promise sounds reasonable, except in practice
it means that Republicans never stand for anything.”

In an op-ed for “The Wall Street Journal,” Karl Rove writes “a few
Presidential hopefuls seem to want a shutdown to burnish their credentials
with primary voters but they cannot explain how they will get the votes to
pass the defunding measure or overcome a Presidential veto. Without such a
plan, this is simply self-promotion. Any Republicans who engineer a
shutdown will be unwitting allies of the abortion movement.”


O`DONNELL: Joining us now Liz Mair, Republican Strategist who has worked
for Rick Perry, Scott Walker, Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul. Also with us,
Washington post columnist Dana Milbank.

Liz Mair, You know these guys. Is Karl Rove`s argument going to carry the

LIZ MAIR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Probably, yes. I think generally my view
is that you can reliably bank on Republican leaders more or less running
things right up to the wire and then doing pretty much whatever it takes to
cave and sort of move the ball over the line in like even the last 30
minutes of the day.

I`m not sure that I wholly agree with him, though. While I think that there
probably is quite a lot of posturing going on here by Ted Cruz, and often
there is.


MAIR: I do think that there is a valid criticism here that Republicans
frequently talk a good game about cutting spending in an array of areas and
whenever push comes to shove, we basically just prove that we`re willing to
spend just a small bit less than Democrats.


MAIR: And I do think that is a problem with a lot of base voters in the
Republican party, particularly people who are of even more limited
government and libertarian mindset, much like myself and a lot of people
who are inclined to support people like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul in a
Presidential contest.

O`DONNELL: Dana Milbank, you predicted that this collection of Presidential
candidates on the senate floor was bound to create situations like this.

absolute recipe for chaos. I don`t think that while this is going to cause
headaches for Mitch McConnell and eventually for John Boehner. I agree with
Liz, I don`t think they`re actually going to be zany enough to actually
shut down the government over this.

And, you know, this is a point, they will run it to the last moment.
There`s always the risk that something goes wrong, but this is the time
when they will actually go against the conservative rank and file.


MILBANK: It`s particularly dangerous when it gets to John McCain – John
Boehner in the house because he is in a much more vulnerable position in
terms of his leadership. There`s already this sort of no-confidence vote
floating out there. But when push comes to shove, they will not allow this
to go through because they`ve learned their lesson repeatedly before
following Ted Cruz off the edge of a cliff.


O`DONNELL: Liz Mair, what was Rand Paul`s calculation today in joining the
Democrats voting with them?

MAIR: Well Rand Paul also put out a statement I believe it was after that
that made the point, that I don`t think he intends to support the measure
that they`re going to next try that will include this funding.


MAIR: And I think his criticism is probably very similar to what mine would
be. Even if you go ahead and do what we`re now contemplating doing, we`re
still adding, I think his calculation is something in the realm of $400
billion to, I believe he`s saying debt as opposed to deficit.

Now that may not sound like a phenomenal amount when we`re talking about
$18 -$19 trillion in debt, but that is still objectionable and doubling
down on the problem.


MAIR: And so I don`t think when you look at Rand Paul`s voting, it`s not
necessarily fair to say he`s voting like a Democrat, or with Democrats.


MAIR: I think he generally is voting against increased spending generally,
regardless of whether that includes planned parenthood or not. I think he
has a problem with a wide array of government spending, and probably much
like many more libertarian-inclined Republicans feels that there`s quite a
lot of spending beyond simply that going to planned parenthood that is
objectionable. And if we`re going to have a discussion about shutting the
government down, gosh we ought to get rid of the rest of it, and not just
the planned parenthood stuff.


O`DONNELL: Dana Milband, quickly before we go, a week from now, what

MILBAND: We will have punted the whole thing into December and then we get
to do the entire thing all over again, Lawrence, with exactly the same cast
of characters.

O`DONNELL: A very familiar outcome. Liz Mair, and Dana Milbank, thank you
both for joining us tonight.


O`DONNELL: Coming up, Abby Hoffman called her the first hippie. And today
the Pope called her a hero. Her story is next.




POPE FRANCIS: In these times when social concerns are so important, I
cannot fail to mention (inaudible) what Dorothy Day, who founded the
Catholic Worker Movement, her social activism, her fashion for justice and
for the cause of the oppressed were inspired by the (inaudible), her
prayers and the example of the (inaudible).


O`DONNELL: The most famous hippie of the 1960 s and `70s, the most famous
hippie in the world, Abby Hoffman said that the original hippie was Dorothy
Day, the woman the Pope honored today. And this is her story.

Dorothy day was born in Brooklyn Heights in 1897. Her parents were
Christian in name only really with no strong connection to organized


O`DONNELL: When she was a teenager, the family was living in Chicago and
Dorothy was walking down streets, past the actual tenement buildings
described in Upton Sinclair`s “The Jungle” the 1906 that brought a new
focus to the plight of America`s urban poor.

Looking back on those days, Dorothy day once said the sight of poverty was
in conflict with religion. Where were the saints to try to change the
social order, not just to minister to the slaves but to do away with

In college, Dorothy joined the socialist party. She then returned to New
York City and started writing for socialist publications and living the
bohemian life in Greenwich Village. She was arrested for the first time in
1917 with a group of women picketing the White House for the right to vote.
She kept getting arrested for civil disobedience decade after decade until
her last arrest in 1973 in California with Caesar Chavez and the United
Farm Workers.

Dorothy got pregnant during her first great love affair, but fearing that
her unfaithful man was going to leave her, she decided to have an abortion.
She married on the rebound from that relationship and soon divorced. Never


O`DONNELL: She was happily living on Staten Island in an oceanfront cottage
in a stable relationship, finally with a man who was a biologist and an
atheist when she gave birth to their daughter, Tamar.


O`DONNELL: Slowly and surely, her new baby turned Dorothy Day toward
religion. Dorothy said, no human creature could receive or contain so vast
a flood of love and joy as I often felt after the birth of my child. With
this came the need to worship, to adore. It was because, through a whole
love, both physical and spiritual, I came to know god.”

O`DONNELL: Dorothy`s increasing religious commitment became alienating to
the father of her child, and so they separated, and Dorothy became a single
mother, who tried supporting her daughter with various jobs, including
screen writing and Hollywood before she created what became the perfect
vehicle for her radical advocacy journalism. The first edition of The
Catholic Worker was published an May Day, May 1, 1933, at the height of the


DOROTHY DAY: I think it`s the ambition of everybody who`s been in
journalism to have their own paper. To start a paper but I was very dubious
about the funds. But he said in the Catholic Church, funds were never
necessary. You just needed to start. And we found it worked that way.

O`DONNELL: Dorothy day became the Catholic leader that no one could
possibly have anticipated. She was, first of all, and most importantly, a
woman. And all Catholic leaders were men. She was a single mother. She had
come late to the religion.


O`DONNELL: Being a socialist was not a particularly difficult fit among
Catholics in New York City in the 1930s, but being a pacifist was. The
Catholic church had officially adopted the just war theory, which Dorothy
Day loudly opposed. She was a pacifist when being a pacifist was beyond

On December 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked, Dorothy Day


O`DONNELL: “We must take a stand, we must renounce war as an instrument of
policy. We must affirm that there will be no more war. Never, but never
again. War must cease. There are no victories. The world can bear the
burden no longer.”


O`DONNELL: On that day in that same speech, Dorothy Day accurately
predicted the age of nuclear weapons that was almost upon us.


O`DONNELL: She said, “I will tell you within a decade, we will have weapons
capable of ending this world as we have known it.”

In 1966, New York`s Cardinal Spellman made a Christmas visit to American
troops in Vietnam where he reportedly said that the Vietnam war was “a war
for civilization.”

In the very next issue of “Catholic Worker” Dorothy Day wrote a response to
her Cardinal. She said, “the works of mercy are the opposite of the works
of war. Feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, nursing the sick,
visiting the prisoner. But we are destroying crops, setting fire to entire
villages, and to the people in them. We are not performing the works of
mercy, but the works of war.”


O`DONNELL: On August 6, 1976 when Dorothy Day was nearly 80 years old,
she made her final speech.


O`DONNELL: This time at the Catholic Eucharist congress in Philadelphia,
which was attended by Mother Teresa. Dorothy day noted that she was
speaking that day on the anniversary of the first atomic bomb being dropped
on Hiroshima.


O`DONNELL: Dorothy died four years later at the age of 84. Her grave is in
the Cemetery of the Resurrection on Staten Island, a short walk from the
ocean side cottage where her baby girl first turned her towards


O`DONNELL: Despite her repeated conflicts with Cardinal Spellman, the
current Cardinal Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan has become a
forceful advocate for saint hood for Dorothy Day. The United States
Conference of Catholic Bishops voted unanimously to move forward with her

More than once, Dorothy Day said don`t call me a saint. And her spirit
lives on in her granddaughter, Maggie Hennessey who said years ago, “you
have completely missed her believes and what she lived for if you`re trying
to put her on a pedestal. Take all your monies and energies that are being
put into her canonization and give it to the poor. That is how you would
show your respect for her.”


O`DONNELL: The Catholic Worker is still published.


O`DONNELL: And is on sale for the price of exactly 1 penny, the price set
by Dorothy Day. And that is her story.




O`DONNELL: And now a quick turn to the lighter side and back to something
we did last night, we showed you the Boston guy screaming about that fish.
I felt very sorry for the fish when I first watched it `cause it looked
like the fish was dying. A lot of you felt sorry for the fish. The full
story is the fish was perfectly healthy fish, there was no problem.

You would have learned that if you had stayed with us and watched Michael
Bergen online in the Very Last Word last night after the program, let`s
listen to what he had to say.

MICHAEL BERGEN: Well that was our intention was to try to help it but when
I had - when we had contacted the Coast Guard they had asked for us to
email them a picture of it and when I had - when I had done that, they
responded with what it was which was an actual ocean sunfish.

O`DONNELL: And so that fish wasn`t in any trouble at all?

BERGEN: Absolutely not, it swam right away.


O`DONNELL: Again, you can find that entire video of that perfectly healthy
fish and the wonderful Michael Bergen on our website.

When we come back, the Pope`s message on the death penalty.


O`DONNELL: The pope spoke about the sanctity of life without ever talking
about abortion. Instead, he concentrated on the death penalty.


POPE FRANCIS: The golden rule also reminds us of our responsibility to
protect and defend human life until the stage of its development. This
conviction has led me from the beginning of my ministry to advocate on
different levels, the global evolution of the death penalty. I am convinced
that this way is the best, since every life is sacred. Every human person
is (inaudible) with (inaudible) ability, and society can`t only benefit
from the rehabilitation of those convict of crimes.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now by phone, Sister Helen Prejean, author of “Dead
Man Walking.” In the film, Dead Man Walking, she was portrayed by Susan
Sarandon who won an Oscar for that role.

Sister Prejean thank you very much for joining us tonight. I can only
imagine, but I`m going to have to hear from you direction, what was your
reaction to hearing the Pope stress the need for what he called global
abolition of the death penalty.


swelled and I cried. I had been waiting for those words before the congress
for a long time. And the Pope put it in the context of the dignity of life
in all stages. And I was holding my breath, everybody was holding their
breath. Because of course what you usually hear from Catholics in that is
about innocent life and unborn children, but never about guilty life.

And when he said then, from the beginning of my ministry for the abolition
of the death penalty. He saw a lot of death in Argentina. He saw a lot that
happens to people when you put government in charge of deciding who can
live and die. It could not have been a happier moment for me.

I`ve been working for 30 years to educate and awaken the American public,
not so much by lecturing to them, but by telling stories, educating them,
too, about the death penalty. Because a lot of people theoretically says
well, if somebody killed my daughter, I`d want to see them dead. But when
you bring people through it, they get it. And we are beginning to see a
shift. I couldn`t be happier. I just couldn`t be happier.

O`DONNELL: The most of the Supreme Court, unfortunately, was absent from
today`s speech, including three Catholics, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas,
Samuel Elido, but of the four justices who were there, Anthony Kennedy was
won. Anthony Kennedy is Catholic, and he is the possible swing vote on the
Supreme Court in the future that could turn this. And Antonin Scalia has
predicted he said he would not be surprised if at some point in the not too
distant future, this Court rules the death penalty unconstitutional.

SISTER PREJEAN: Yes, I`m especially happy to hear that coming from Antonin
Scalia. But yes, Anthony Kennedy, I`m so glad he was there. And even if the
others had been there, I don`t know if they could have heard the Pope. You
can be present but not hear. They just seem to be so caught in their
ideology of their particular way of interpreting the constitution.

And what gets me the most, Lawrence, about the death penalty is if the
Court looked at their guidelines and looked at the ground to see how
they`re being applied, they would see there is no way that those
guidelines, the worst of the worst and all that, are being applied. It`s up
to local cultures. So when you get in the deep south, the ten states that
practice slavery, do over 75% of all the actual executions. But the
Supreme Court never looks at the ground.

But what the Pope did today was lifted us all into a noble endeavor. Our
own deepest hearts, our own deepest dreams, calling us the inclusivity
towards foreigner, towards refugees, towards just – he summoned us. It was
filled with love today. He didn`t get into partisan politics. He didn`t
argue. He simply called us to the best. And the death penalty is not a
surprise because it epitomizes all the main things the Pope has been
talking about. Only poor people are selected to die because they can`t get
good defense.


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