Giuseppe Toniolo: A Possible Saint of Catholic Social Doctrine?
based upon atomistic individualism and the promotion of greed, the other based upon the denial of private property and an overadulation of the State-he espoused a middle position consistent with the virtue we now call solidarity.
Toniolo was a model layman, in fact a lay activist, who practiced the faith in the world, using his considerable talents and his education to help promote the Gospel and incorporate it into modern life.
He was at the forefront of the Catholic Action movement, and insisted that Catholics be front and center in politics so as to assure that the yeast of Christ would leaven the dough of society.
His commitment to the Church and to the Magisterium was impeccable. "I desire and want, with the grace of God, to adhere to the Holy See in every argument without exception." Would that some of our self-styled "Catholic" politicians and advocates of social justice adhere to Toniolo's authentic Catholic formula!
But for all his fidelity to Magisterial teaching and the Church hierarchy, Toniolo was not a mindless mouthpiece for the clergy. Along with his rigorous obedience to the Holy See was also an active, dynamic, and engaging mind that sought to understand and implement intelligently and honestly the social doctrines of the Church in all the contingent circumstances Italy then faced.
Toniolo was also married, and his family life was exemplary. In 1878, he married Maria Schiratti, and together they had seven children, three of whom died young. He had an unconditional love for his family.
Toniolo's activities are indicative of his great contributions.
In 1870, he founded the beginnings of a Catholic university in Milan, originally called the Institute of Superior Studies. This germ of an institution eventually developed into the impressive University of the Sacred Heart in Milan. He stated that for the forty years of his life that he had devoted himself to Catholic Action, he had suffered at not seeing a Catholic University that would be the central nucleus, foundation, and sustenance of Catholic Action.
In 1889, Toniolo founded the Catholic Union for Social Studies (Unione Cattolica per gli Studi Sociali). In 1893, he founded the International Review of Social Sciences (Rivista Internazionale de Scienze Sociali). He was also the impetus behind the Catholic periodical "Social Weeks" (Settimane Sociali) which helped inform Catholics of social and economic issues.
In 1894, he penned the famous "Program of Milan," which was the operative Catholic platform against the evils of socialism and which promoted the notion of a Christian democracy.
For Toniolo, a rightly-ordered democracy was "a civil order in which all social, legal, and economic forces, within the fullness of hierarchical development, cooperate proportionally to the common good, on the basis of liberty, fraternity, and justice, with the intention of promoting the social role of everyone, and in the last instance benefiting especially the poor."
His vision of Democracy was different from the secular liberalism of today. Democracy for Toniolo, was not just mere procedure, but represented the concrete organization of civil society in the light of the Gospel, its values, and its virtues.
After his death in 1918, Toniolo was buried at the town Pieve di Soligo. But his body was not to lie unmolested for long. His sanctity would not remain quiet.
The process of Toniolo's canonization began in 1951. Twenty years later in 1971, Pope Paul VI declared Toniolo "venerable." On January 14, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI authorized the Congregation for the Cause of Saints to promulgate the decree that certified a miracle attributed to Toniolo's intercession, thereby setting the stage for Toniolo's beatification. (The miracle occurred to a young man in his 30s named Francesco Bortolini, who was cured of his serious injuries sustained as a result of an accidental fall.)
On April 29, 2012, at a ceremony presided over by Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi, at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, Toniolo was declared a beatus, the last step before his canonization.
Giuseppe Toniolo's beatification "comes at the most appropriate moment," said Bishop Domenico Sorrentino, the postulator for Toniolo's cause, when all Catholics "need to find their deepest roots in bearing witness in society."
We might close with the prayer for Giuseppi Toniolo's canonization:
We thank you for giving us
your servant Giuseppe Toniolo, an
exemplary husband and father, and a
University professor who was a wise educator of youth.
He dedicated his life
entirely to your Kingdom,
witnessing to the Gospel
as the source of salvation
for culture and society.
Allow that his example
may impel us to love you
as he loved you, and
that his intercession
may support us and help us
in our need.
Give to the Church,
which he so loved and served,
the opportunity to honor him
as saint on your altars
on account of you,
as an witness of lay holiness
to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity.
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at email@example.com.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Giuseppe Toniolo, Catholic Social Doctrine, labor, capital, solidarity, subsidiarity, Saints, canonization, finances, Andrew Greenwell
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