The first saintly economist?

ROME — Giuseppe Toniolo, a renowned late 19th and early 20th century lay Italian economist and political theorist, was beatified on Sunday in Rome’s Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the final step before a formal declaration of sainthood. Among other claims to fame, Toniolo is now the first economist ever beatified by the Catholic church.

Of course many of the early Church fathers, some of whom have become saints, also can be considered to have been economists.  In any case, here is the story, and this piece sets him in the context of the German economists of the late 19th century.

For the pointer I thank Patrick Molloy.  Here is my earlier blog post, Who are the Catholic Economists?


>>many of the early Church fathers, can be considered to have been economists.
Care to link elaborate/link?

And Judas too.

Weird that both in this post and the linked to one plus all the comments, nobody has mentioned two very important ones. The most important is St. Thomas Aquinas, who made Aristotelian philosophy acceptable to the Roman Catholic Church and channeled the ideas of Aristotle on economics into scholastic thinking on the subject. He was more important than the cited Plato, btw, as an economist. Needless to say, St. Thomas Aquinas is a saint and not just a beato, although more than just an economist for sure.

The other missing figure is Frederic Ozanam, who was not specifically an economist, but was certainly a political economist and one very influential in later Church thinking. This mid-19th century Frenchman is arguably the founder of the stream of thought that would become corporatism, which was arguably in principle originally a doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, codified in the late 19th century, if not under that name. The largely unknown Ozanam was beatified about a decade ago when the previous Pope was in charge, with a huge photo of him plastered on Notre Dame for the occasion. There is a small square named for him containing l'Eglise de Saint Stanislaus on Montparnasse Avenue.

Of course many of the early Church fathers, some of whom have become saints, also can be considered to have been economists.

It's funny, with the science vs. religion debate in the West, a lot of people don't realize what we call science today is by and large a Christian invention that arose out of the Protestant ethic (which in its suspicion of authority lent itself to positivism), growing out of natural philosophy and the first empiricists like Bacon, who advanced the world beyond the Aristotelian model. Other cultures were generally content to snuff out any ideas that were inconvenient to state/religion without the fuss of debate.

Protestants everywhere from Puritan England to Lutheran Hungrary were quite content to snuff out inconvenient ideas. Scandinavia turned Protestant via the state, and prior to Westphalia Protestant states felt quite entitled to expel Catholics from their territory. For a quite a well after, too.

Some people develop a narrative (in this case, north European=Protestant=good, south European=Catholic=bad), and just blithely assume any facts necessary to support that narrative.

Tolerance of religious affiliation is not the same as tolerance of scientific inquiry. They also didn't have gay marriage, but that has little to do with whether they were more philosophically compatible with positivism than other cultures extant at the time.

So Galileo and Pasteur were Protestants? That is quite a revelation! What other strange beliefs do you hold? Alchemy? Snake handling? Inquiring minds want to know.

Galileo was also tried by the Inquisition, found "vehemently suspect of heresy", forced to recant, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. Pasteur lived in the mid-1800s, when modern science was already well established.

Anyways, I did not say science was the sole province of Protestants, I said it arose out of the Protestant ethic.

Sounds like a tautilogical argument to me. Science arose out of a system that did not foster some of its most important minds. Of course!

I don't think you're quite following -- the Church's treatment of Galileo is exactly the problem I was referring to. The unique attribute of Protestantism that led to the scientific revolution was not persecuting their scientific leaders.

I mean, you can go back as far as the Catoptrica, Claudia Ptolemy, etc., but neither Islam, the Romans, nor the Greeks had the scientific revolution that swept Europe. There were many reasons for this, among them philosophic compatibility with positivism (Islam and Catholicism both lacked this to much greater degrees) and the effect of the doctrine of the Universal Priesthood of Believers on printing technology (Protestants declared all men had a right and duty to read Bibles).

Without the 1517 Reformation the Church, Galileo's work and the rest might have lain dormant for centuries, or even been burnt as heresy along with their author.

"founder of the stream of thought that would become corporatism": is that the one adopted by Mussolini?


Yes. But the Church had been pushing state-private nationalist combos that would supposedly also "overcome" the class struggle officially since the late 1800s.

Regarding Ozanam, he was a curiously contradictory fellow, arguably both conservative and liberal. While he would end up a Professor of Literature at the Sorbonne, he wrote a book denouncing Saint-Simonism in 1831 and founded the St. Vincent de Paul Society in 1833 (what he got beatified for in 1997). He simultaneously supported conservative Catholic theology such as ultramontanism, but also during the 1848 revolution (which he participated in) "Catholic democracy." It is Catholic scholars who identify him as the father of corporatism, although in his original version this was to be applied at more local levels.

St. Augustine nice summed up time preference -- "Lord, make me chaste, but not yet."

One could say that the first saint to be involved in the financial world was St. Paul, the tax collector.

You're thinking of Matthew.

Is there a formal process whereby saints are declared to be economists?

Seems a bit like Mormons and Anne Frank, to be, well, frank.

For the record, as near as I can tell, the first use of the term "corporatism" was in the papal encyclical Rerum Novarum by Pope Leon XIII, issued in 1891, which was the Church's official response to the industrial revolution and the various political and economic movements, particularly socialism and anarchism, that were unleashed by it. Ozanam was a crucial influence on those who wrote that document.

Comments for this post are closed