My former economics professor David Ruccio has a guest post from my former Catholic Social Teaching professor, Todd Whitmore.
What is in part remarkable about the event is that Toniolo was not your typical saint: he was an economist, the first to be beatified. More important for the rest of us, he was not an abstract theoretician; rather, he was a political economist whose work was shaped by a vision of social solidarity. Toniolo called for a democratically ordered civil society “in which all social, legal, and economic forces cooperate proportionally to the common good,” thus “promoting the social role of everyone” and “benefiting especially the poor.” He was an early advocate of labor unions, worker cooperatives, a just wage, and a limited work week. In these days when episcopal heresy dragnets ensnare even Girl Scouts, news of Toniolo’s beatification is an unlikely candidate for front-page, above-the-fold material. For me, it is evidence that grace can operate even in pathologically distorted institutions…
Toniolo was what in present-day parlance we call a “scholar-practitioner.” He founded a union. He led Italy’s Catholic Action movement. He started a periodical that aimed to generate broad public discussion of the issues of the day. Both the publication and the discussions were called “Social Weeks.” Today, such writing is often viewed in the academy as the mere “popularizing” of scholarship, but in Toniolo’s time it was considered a critical exercise of practical reason.
I had not heard of Toniolo until today, but his life is a great example of how to think about and be active in society. Dorothy Day seems like a more recent incarnation of this type of vocation- and I’m sure there are many others (both among the faithful and otherwise). Hopefully in the not-too-distant future, Day will join the ranks of the “blessed.”
Of course, at my (Lutheran) church, she has already been named “St. Dorothy of New York.” (Click through the link for a beautiful mural.) For its part, the Catholic church has entered her in the beatification process as a “Servant of God.”