Robert West's Journal
Written Apr 29, 2013 10:29am by Robert West
When I started on this journey there were many moments of reflecting on both the gifts of my life and the more unknown journey ahead.
I am sharing with you today one profound influence on me; the person who opened the world to me: Charles Butterworth. Uncle Charlie was my mother’s only brother. After graduating from Harvard Law, Uncle Charlie went to work with Dorothy Day and The Catholic Worker. Founded by Peter Maurin in the 1933, The Worker was totally committed to social justice and peace and the teachings of Jesus.
I grew up in Philadelphia; at the time he was running the Catholic Worker Philly soup kitchen and mission. Uncle Charlie was always there for me. My father died when I was seven: Uncle Charlie loved me and shaped my future and gave me the gift of considering a life committed to justice, outside the mainstream.
The last gift Uncle Charlie gave me was the privilege of being at his bedside when he died, with my Mother and his loving wife Bernice.
Please read the articles below. The Charles Butterworth Collection resides at Marquette University in the Dorothy Day Collection, please check out that website www.marquette.edu/library/archives/day.shtml
by Mary Lathrop Pope
The Catholic Worker, February 1978
When I first came to the Worker in 1959 Charlie Butterworth was managing the house. His trial and conviction, described below, were six months past. His appearance and his conduct were above reproach. Most unusual for the Worker was that he always wore a dark brown suit with a vest and tie. He was tall and well-built and losing some of his hair. His face was oval-shaped with kindly brown eyes. He moved slowly and pondered his thoughts. His humor was sardonic. Charlie was self-contained and calm before the sometimes bizarre happenings at the house on Spring Street.
As I am typing this I remember an amusing incident. The office on Spring Street was separated from a large common room by a screen. One day somebody threw a cat over the screen and it landed on Charlie’s desk while he sat there. He was perfectly unruffled. He said something terribly funny which I can’t remember and went right on working.
Charlie was a convert to Catholicism. While a resident at Pendle Hill he had heard Dorothy speak, and soon after came to the Worker. Later he told her that what impressed him most in her talk was that she had said she wore clothes that were donated to the Worker for the poor, and that Worker people ate the same food as those on the soup line. Charlie always called Dorothy “Miss Day.” He went to Mass early every morning at Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Mulberry Street. He always went to the same pew in the middle of the church. I remember watching him after Communion and thinking how beautifully sincere he was. He always stayed to pray long after Mass was over.
Charlie was a lawyer, and a graduate of Harvard Law School. He spent much of his time at the Worker counseling juvenile lawbreakers. In addition to this work and to taking charge of the house on a nearly full-time basis, he used to go up to Fordham for courses in the theology department, and he especially appreciated Robert W. Gleason’s courses on grace. I remember Charlie reading Grace, one of Father Gleason’s many books, and I remember the way he would closely guard that book and how carefully he handled it.
He died in Philadelphia during the first days of Lent. He was entering his fifty-second year. May his life be a perfect sacrifice to God in this holy season and may the peace he tried to establish in this world be his abundance forever with God.
(Nothing can tell us more about Charlie Butterworth than his own words. What follows in condensed form, is Charlie’s description of his arrest and trial for refusing to turn a deserter over to the FBI. These articles appeared in the “Catholic Worker” in 1959. Eds. note.)
Lathrop, Mary Pope. “Charlie Butterworth.” The Catholic Worker[New York] February 1978: Page 2.
CW Staff Member Arrested by FBI
Butterworth, Charles. A Penny A Copy. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1968. Print.
The events preceding Butterworth’s arrest...the government learns that Charles Butterworth decided to help Don instead of the FBI. One of the agents filed a complaint against him, resulting in his ultimate decision to share that he did in fact warn Don and didn’t see him again. In the last three paragraphs, Butterworth explains why he did what he did and furthermore gives his stance on modern warfare.
April - May 1959
“Don is a deserter from the Army,” said Agent McKeon and showed me Don’s picture. He had found me alone in the office that day. “I don’t want to get into this,” I replied. “You will have to talk to Bob.” Maybe Bob was somewhere around, so I left the office to look. Going back to the kitchen, I saw Don. It all happened so quickly. “There’s a man in the office you don’t want to see.” “Who’s that?” smiled Don. “A man from the government.” There was a kind of serious pause and then Don turned, got his jacket and left.
About two weeks later agents McKeon and Stratton returned. They had learned that I had chosen to help Don instead of the FBI. It was suggest I go with them to talk to someone at the U.S. Court House, and I went voluntarily to clarify our general position. There was a wait and Agent McKeon asked with interest about my coming into the Church and all about the farm, the chapel, the crops and the animals.
The man I was to talk with didn’t want to see me, and Agent Stratton arranged a complaint against me. He mentioned that my failure to cooperate would mean that much more money would have to be spent to find Don.
The complaint reads in part: “Butterworth, the defendant herein, knowing that an offense against the United States had been committed, did unlawfully, willfully and knowingly receive, relieve, comfort and assist the offender in order to hinder and prevent his apprehension, trial, and punishment in violation of 18 USC Sec. 3.”
I was confused and felt fear that day and failed to tell them exactly what I had done. So the next day I handed in a written statement of how I’d warned Don and hadn’t seen him since. It ended with the following statement of the reason for my action.
"I believe that modern atomic war is contrary to God’s will and that God is calling many people to refuse military life. The best position a person can take is to openly refuse cooperation and accept the punishment due. It requires time and understanding to reach this position.
Meanwhile it is not my duty to help the government force a person concerning a decision on military life. Instead I would try to help a person reach his own decision and would tell him if he was in danger of forceful return to the military.”Thanks to Ammon Hennacy and Bob Steed I’m out on $1500 bail. The trial should come in late May. I am not sorry, but grateful that I acted as I did. It gives me the chance to make a concrete choice for a nonviolent society as opposed to a military one. Therefore I shall plead guilty and accept the punishment due. I shall try not to back down on my choice to live now as we shall all live when God’s peace comes.
I am so happy to share this insight into an early part of my journey. There is a photo of Uncle Charlie and Miss Day saved in "All Photos."
I hope your Spring is bright and peaceful.
Be of good cheer,
Photos from yesterday
Written Apr 15, 2013 8:48am by Robert WestGreetings,As we promised, here are photos from yesterday's blog: related to updates, Check out George W. art and my new X-Men. Nice photo of Tom Rankin toast from Full Frame. Sorry it took us a day to upload.Next Journal entry in two weeks or so, always feel free to email: email@example.comBe of good cheer,Robert
George and I - artists together
Written Apr 14, 2013 9:08am by betsy kahnGreetings,Back in the Firehouse now; great space - check out the photos of the office downstairs and my apartment upstairs soon. You will see the inside of this historic 1910 firehouse with high ceilings and bright light everywhere. History lives all around us.The Working Films office supports amazing hardworking staff: Leaders Molly, Anna, and Judith; Andy, Kristin, Cassie and team. They are taking on new projects - great new efforts, They have and continue to do incredible and important work: check out the website for news: www.workingfilms.orgI have shared my latest art - next in the X-Men series. George W. Bush is working on his own series. Both photos uploaded here soon, see if you can tell who's is who's. (Hint: I do not draw little puppies.)Working Films and some amazing colleagues hosted a celebration of our history and future together at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. I was not able to attend but heard how much fun I missed and the opportunity to see all my buddies. I especially missed the toasts. Tom Rankin's, Director of Duke Center for Documentary Studies, toast was a highlight. THANKS EVERYONE!On my side, the latest you should know: I see a terrific team from Hospice every Monday morning. They are amazing advocates for me: checking vitals and how I am doing. They assess current meds - and make adjustments if needed. These are not hard treatment meds.Related to their efforts, a NC magazine ran a good piece on the importance of the work of Hospice. My story was included in the article, so folks know that Hospice offers important advocacy for patients like me. www.edgeofthecarolinas.com/articles/begin-the-conversation-todayI have a loving and present support group - they are my care team - here for me now and in the future. David has moved in, he is an amazing masseuse, trained chef, dear friend and fun to have around. My energy is still good; some loss of language, new pressure from the tumor, not driving, and walking a bit wonkier. I do not need daily care - so David heads out some days for his good work and I get some private and quiet time. (Our biggest challenge right now are too many cookies in the house.)My other amazing care team members are here for me, I get lots of love and support from them now and have from the very beginning. Smart, fun, and close to all my issues and needs. We have weekly dinners together; hearing about everyone's week and keeping our news positive, timely and up to date for them and me. Not just about me.THANK YOU TOM W, BETSY AND JULIE, AND HILDA D.OK, its a beautiful day here; 75 high expected - bright sunshine.(Thanks to Liz, my co-editor on this post. Betsy's sign on. Photos will be uploaded soon, CB giving me some fits about these images today, watch for them shortly. Shoot.)Be of good cheer,Robert