The numbers are inevitably disputed — whether it was “tens of thousands” as reported in the back pages of such liberal media as reported it at all, or towards one million as reported by observers — at least there were enough Christians in Rome to pack the Circus Maximus, and similar venues across Italy. They came out Saturday for that country’s “Family Day,” as previously the Christians came out — a million or two — from across France, to express their opposition to a government measure to “redefine marriage.” These latest oppose the “Cirinnà” legislation now going before the Italian Senate.

Italy, as Ireland and several other once overwhelmingly Catholic countries in Europe, lags slightly behind the fore-edge of the post-sexual revolution. I write “post-” because in more progressive countries — Canada for instance — the very fact that there are two sexes, and all that follows from it, is now being “revised” in positive law. The “liberal” media, in Italy as everywhere, are scandalized by backwardness — by any slowness in this overturning of the laws of God and Man and Nature. By rote, they attribute the delays to “the lingering influence of the Roman Catholic Church” (a phrase noticed in New York Times, Le Monde, La Repubblica, &c).

Only one Italian bishop turned up, from what I can see: Genoa’s Angelo Bagnasco, God bless him. The current pope ignored the event entirely, did not mention it in his daily homily, and made plain he had better things to do. He had earlier cut a meeting with Bagnasco after being told that this Benedict-appointed president of the Italian Episcopal Conference would in fact attend the rally. Italy has hundreds of bishops; that only one could be seen on such a day speaks many volumes of silence and disgrace. So again, God bless Bagnasco — brave Christian and true Catholic who, like my beloved Cardinal Burke, and others, would rather be punished than sell out. (Are such men the “lingering influence” the reporters were talking about?)

Yet as in the third century, humble clergy were there to identify with the old Faith. The crowd, from what I can see through pictures, included many simple parish priests, and religious in their habits. They still stand loyally with the sheep when the princes of their Church disappear. God bless and keep each in his or her station, who has made vows, “till death.”

Like the huge pro-life marches, in Washington and around the world, the rally in Italy was outwardly joyous — a “family event.” I am impressed because, even in the bitter experience of betrayal, these gathered Christians do not contort their faces, do not wave obscene placards, or utter such bile as we are used to hearing from their opponents. They celebrate the great and holy cause they represent.

In 2007, such demonstrations succeeded in halting a previous Italian government attempt to desecrate the institution of marriage. We will see what happens now. It is to the credit of Italy that she has held out a little longer than other countries; but optimism would be naïve.

The crowds are naïve. I find them invigorating. Even in the face of “political reality” they hope their enemies can be converted and transformed. And even within countries that have returned to the vilest forms of paganism (child sacrifice!) there are still millions — millions upon millions of Europeans and Americans — who have not given up. They are the “lingering influence.”

Let us be naïve, with them. Let us in the worst moments remember, that so long as this world shall continue, all trends are reversible.