This essay focuses on Francesco Vito (1902–1968), one of the most important Italian economists and a contributor to an extensive, thorough debate in Catholic social thinking, a debate at times accompanied and followed by exacting and solid experience in the real world, in an effort to turn into action the mediation between the Gospel and history proposed by Catholic social thinking. Economists made that effort under the influence of what could be regarded as the last stage of a tradition that was already present in the culture of economic matters and behavior and had previously been expressed as the preoccupation of Catholic intellectuals and politicians with the novelty of “modern” phenomena. It was a continuation but, of course, a renewed one.
This essay—mainly dealing with Vito; Giuseppe Toniolo (1845–1918), one of Vito's key mentors; and Luigi L. Pasinetti (b. 1930), one of Vito's most important students—emphasizes the basic difference that Vito conceives between faith and religion, on the one hand, and between the importance of the documents of the authoritative official social Magisterium of the Catholic Church, on the other—which cannot be disregarded or underestimated—and the historical relevance of the debates and the intellectual and factual work preceding and following those debates. This cross-analysis, which takes into account both sides of the question, that is, both the solid faith of people who see themselves as belonging to the cultural framework of Catholic moral teaching and their secular nature as people engaged in temporal affairs who order these according to the plan of God and live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life—in our case, economists by profession—is a challenging subject for a historian of economic thought.