Counting Down the 20th Century's Top Catholics

The end of the century has a lot of people reflecting on the best and worst aspects of the past 100 years. The Daily Catholic Internet information service has surveyed its readers to come up with a list of the top 100 Catholics of the 20th century.

The Daily Catholic is counting down the list, starting with the person voted 100, until the person at the top of the list is revealed in December. A new name is revealed every weekday until then, along with a detailed biography of the person and his or her accomplishments.

From Vista, Calif., Daily Catholic editor Michael Cain spoke recently with Register Radio News correspondent Jay Dunlap about the personalities reflected in the “top 100.”

Jay Dunlap: Tell us a little bit about the list. What kind of people were chosen?

Michael Cain: Because of the nature of the list being Catholic, there's going to be a predominance of the religious, from the popes, cardinals and bishops to priests that are quite popular as well as a few nuns and lay leaders. But there a few surprises in there. Some people may say, “I didn't even know that person was a Catholic.” And in doing the research, which is very time consuming, we're finding out some tremendous graces that these people possessed.

You don't want to divulge the whole list right now because you're revealing it gradually up until the month of December.

Correct. We began July 23 with the countdown of the top 100 with each day, Monday through Friday, revealing the next person on the list. So far, eight have been revealed. The 100th person was the bishop of Pittsburgh, Bishop Donald Wuerl, then Blessed Pierre Giorgio Frassati, who is considered the “man of the beatitudes” and was beatified by Pope John Paul II. And then Father John Corapi from the S.O.L.T. [Servants of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity] ministry, who is considered a modern-day St. Augustine. And the next one was Evelyn Waugh, the famous British novelist and satirist. And a surprise to many was the 96th selection which was Dolores Hope, the better half, if you will, of Bob Hope.

Are there many on the list who come from the world of celebrity and entertainment?

We have actually in checking the list probably eight or nine celebrity entertainers.

Tell me a little about the criteria that went into putting this list together. First of all, who voted on the list, and then how did you determine who was eligible?

Over almost three months we made it available to our readers, where they could e-mail in their choice of the top 100 Catholics. And we received over 23,000 votes, 23,455 to be exact, which was a massive job taking the e-mails in and then compiling the names. This was over a four-month period. We had 728 candidates who were nominated. And that was pared down to the 100 top vote-getters. So it wasn't a poll as such where we put up the people and they had to vote for those people. They could submit whoever they wanted and we had quite a range of people.

And you exercised some editorial judgment as well over the list?

We did in respect to, first of all, anyone who was not in union with the Church, not in good standing with the Church. We took the editorial license to remove those from the list. None of those received very many votes so there really wasn't very much of a conflict.

The other criteria: many, many of the modern visionaries were nominated, but we took the liberty to eliminate them for the following reasons. First of all to avoid any controversy, because the only visionaries that are eligible for the list are those approved by the Church in this century which would be the Fatima visionaries. Others have been approved in various stages, but not in the full final stage as Fatima visionaries are. In fact, Francisco and Jacinta are up for beatification.

That eliminated quite a few. The other thing about visionaries is the fact that they are receiving private revelations and it's the message that's important, not the messenger. They're merely the vehicle to disseminate these messages, and their role is to say yes to God. And most of them really don't want the limelight. In addition, we also received quite a few from some of the modern visionaries who are in conflict with Rome and the teachings of the Church in their messages. They have misled many and also are in disobedience with their bishops. So we definitely eliminated them.

What is your ultimate hope for this list? We're a society that seems preoccupied with lists, who's No. 1, rankings of different kinds. Do you see this as an evangelization tool?

Definitely. First of all, you know, as in any promotional aspect, you get caught up in the millennium promotion. After a lot of prayer and thinking about it because we have the vehicle where we're reaching so many people — we've reached over 4 and a half million since we went online — that this would be an excellent vehicle to give to the world what the Catholics have contributed to in this century, and who they are. The Church has been a powerful force throughout the ages but especially in this century.

Do you think most people could predict who's No. 1 on the list?

I think they could. That person is very, very deserving. There are some who might not agree but those are in the minority.

Where can people find you online?

We are at

The List

The top 100 Catholics list, as revealed so far, according to Daily Catholic readers.

80. Dana, singer (“We Are One Body”)

81. Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Vatican official

82. Thomas Merton, author

83. J.R.R. Tolkien, novelist

84. Father Edward Flanagan, Boy's Town founder

85. Dr. Rosalie Turton, pilgrimage organizer

86. Danny Thomas, actor

87. Bl. Cyprian Michael Tansi, artist

88. Dr. Tom Dooley, missionary doctor

89. Thomas A. Nelson, founder of Tan Books

90. Bing Crosby, actor and singer

91. Cardinal Roger Mahony

92. Graham Greene, author

93. Alan Keyes, presidential candidate

94. Pat O'Brien, actor

95. Father George Rutler, writer and lecturer

96. Dolores Hope, philanthropist

97. Evelyn Waugh, author

98. Father John A. Corapi, S.O.L.T., preacher, religious

99. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati youth leader

100. Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh