Catholic Culture Podcasts
Catholic Culture Podcasts

More Italians named venerable. Again.

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Mar 04, 2016

In our story on the latest progress of candidates toward beatification and canonization, we find that out of eight new “venerables”—lo and behold—no fewer than seven are Italians. Thinking back over the various times when I’ve actually run the numbers on nationality, I seem to recall that this sort of disproportion is, shall we say, not infrequent.

This is not just sour grapes. One can look at the high incidence of Italians from several points of view:

  1. The strong ecclesiastical presence in Italy, especially with the Pope and the Vatican right there may encourage dedication to the Church’s mission among Italians.
  2. The strong, geographically-induced Italian presence in the Roman Curia may lead to a disproportionate interest in honoring holy Italians.
  3. The proximity of Italian ecclesiastical leaders to the Vatican, and their relatively greater familiarity with how the Vatican works, may enable Italians to pursue the canonization of their own with greater efficiency and effectiveness.

Holiness is not political, but canonization is intensely so, in the sense that very few people move along that path without a well-organized push for their cause. For exmaple, the proponents of the causes of priests and religious are likely to be more knowledgeable, better able to rally support, and more organized in pursuing the cause. Just as religious communities form a natural and well-connected constituency for the canonization of their founders, so too perhaps—in a lesser sense—Italians are well-placed to both value and pursue the raising of their fellows to the altars.

It is not exactly “annoying”, this preponderance of Italian candidates. And it is not as if these Italians are undeserving. But the question does arise. It is doubtless widely believed that St. Peter himself was in some sense an Italian. And I must admit that, if the Pope reigned in the District of Columbia, an independent ecclesiastical enclave in the midst of the United States, I would probably be more mindful of my Catholicism—and my friends more attuned to what strings to pull after my death!

Only God knows why all these Italians keep cropping up, and in the end I have made my peace with it. (Really.) But the important thing to remember is that while the whole process of canonization tells us something important about those selected, it tells us absolutely nothing about those who are not. There are many more souls in heaven—that is, many more saints—than are officially declared holy by the Church. Even those of us arrogant enough to think in English have a fighting chance!

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: loumiamo - Apr. 30, 2016 9:21 AM ET USA

    Reminds of the turtle mugged by 2 snails. To the turtle it all happened so fast. Suppose u can't teach old turtles new tricks, or if u can, u can't make them do them quickly. And then one wonders if the lack of alacrity is God given or just plain stubbornness.

  • Posted by: garedawg - Mar. 05, 2016 10:07 AM ET USA

    It would be nice to see more laypeople, too!

  • Posted by: 1Jn416 - Mar. 04, 2016 5:15 PM ET USA

    Jeff, I live closer to Washington than you so perhaps I feel it more. I know that being in the very strong Diocese of Arlington, and living so close to "American Rome," and all the Catholic institutions centered around the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, helps strengthen my faith a great deal. Indeed, it is why I am unwilling to leave the area even though a less hectic region has its appeal.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Mar. 04, 2016 12:41 PM ET USA

    It seems to me that each country could develop an office staffed by a mixture of volunteers and administrators, reaching into each diocese for candidates for canonization, as a help. If I knew what to document and how, I cannot thing of anything more satisfying than to develop dossiers on American Catholics who "made it big."