If you want to be a saint, it pays to be from the ruling class

Another gem from G.E.M. de Ste. Croix. In his discussion of the viability of Marx’s approach to class, he mentions as an aside the chances of becoming an individual saint in the Roman Catholic Church. Of the thousands of saints, only 5 per cent have come from the lower classes which have constituted over 80 per cent of European populations (Class Struggle, p. 27).


3 thoughts on “If you want to be a saint, it pays to be from the ruling class

  1. Of course, but one should see a bit further than a simplistic “the rich always get the best positions”.

    For instance, we could also say the the very vast majority of the great communist figures came from well-off bourgeois backgrounds. That would be Marx, Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro, Che, Mao, etc, you name them. Nearly all of them, maybe barring 5%.
    For the saints of the Church, this was mainly because of the principle of primogeniture. As the eldest sons got it all, the other sons of noble families didn’t have another choice than the church. As they were educated, they naturally tended to enter scholarly debates, preach to masses and get themselves famous. Meanwhile, the peasants, who could not read or write, had to work the land to survive, which doesn’t leave much time for contemplation.
    As for the communist leaders, its simply makes sense that, in the same way, they had a better education and more time for debate and planning than the masses they sought to help and educate.

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