On the Roman Pontiff by St. Robert Bellarmine
For the first time, St. Robert Bellarmine’s treatise on the Papacy is available in English. In this phenomenal work, St. Robert Bellarmine lays down the foundation of the Papacy by demonstrating that:
- Monarchy is the best of all governments;
- That Christ established a Papal Monarchy (by an exegetical commentary of Matthew XVI and John XXI);
- That Peter succeeded in this monarchy;
- Proving this by early Popes, Councils, the Fathers and Law;
- What would happen were the Pope a heretic?
- That the Roman Pontiff is not Antichrist
- That the Pope is infallible in definitions on faith and morals as well as authoritative in Ecclesiastical laws
- That the Pope, while he is not the lord of the world, nevertheless has indirect temporal jurisdiction in civil affairs when it is for the sake of the faith.
In this one volume edition we see Bellarmine’s splendid argumentation, based first of all in Holy Scripture, strengthened by the consensus of the Church Fathers and buttressed by arguments from later Theologians and reason.
In book 1, Bellarmine takes up whether Monarchy is the best system of government following the Aristotelian tradition because it follows that God would give the best system of government to the Church; then he proves Christ established an ecclesiastical monarchy and that He gave it to Peter. Lastly, he defends this scripturally against both Protestant and Greek Orthodox arguments.
In book 2, St. Robert proves St. Peter had successors, by proving Peter actually went to Rome, died there, and established successors there and that men have always succeeded Peter with his authority to rule the Church. He defends against Protestant arguments drawn from history such as on the 6th Council of Carthage and St. Gregory the Great’s rejection of “Universal” Bishop. Lastly, he takes up the question of what might happen were the Pope to become a heretic, where he defends the position that the Pope could never become a heretic, and in fine that the titles the Pope has been given prove that the Bishops of Rome succeed Peter in the Ecclesiastical Monarchy.
In book 3, Bellarmine shows the many contradictions and faulty reasoning used by the first Protestants in arguing that the Pope is Antichrist while also giving exposition to the authentic understanding of the passages of Scripture that speak of Antichrist. After covering presenting the testimony of Scripture and the Fathers on the signs that must precede Antichrist, Bellarmine shows how none of this agrees with the Roman Pontiff. [Note, the standalone volume Antichrist that we recently published is an abridgement of this book.] He also refutes the fable of “Pope Joan”.
In book 4, Bellarmine argues why the Pope is infallible when he defines on faith and morals and proceeds to defend Popes whom Protestants and others argued had erred while defining matters of faith. He continues to a discussion of law, and why it is not contrary to the Gospel for the Pope (or a Bishop over his diocese), to make laws that bind the faithful, refuting the teaching of John Calvin.
In book 5, Bellarmine takes up the question of the Popes power in civil affairs. Protestants had argued that the Pope tyrannously usurped the rights of sovereigns and that they meant to rule the world directly in civil affairs, while some canonists overly attached to a more medieval view were of a similar persuasion. He then proceeds to demonstrate that the Pope’s temporal is indirect, that he can intervene for the sake of the faith when excommunicating sovereigns. The protestants argued that a Bishop could not also be a temporal prince. This point is interesting in light of the fact that many, perhaps even most Catholics today hold to a position similar to the Protestant view Bellarmine refutes in this book.
It is worth noting the historical fact that the fifth book, the smallest of the entire work, actually got Bellarmine temporarily placed on the index of Forbidden books! Pope Sixtus V was a former canonist, and his friends were all canonists, and they became angry that Bellarmine argued the Pope was not Lord of the whole world. After effectively lobbying the Pope to override the decision of the Holy Office that Bellarmine’s teaching was perfectly orthodox (one member refused to tell the Pope the Fathers and saints held the same position lest the Pope put them on the index also!), Sixtus V placed St. Robert Bellarmine (as well as Francis Victoria, another holy and learned man for the same thing) on the Index of Forbidden books of 1590 until book 5 ch. 2 would be revised. The Pope died two weeks later and the next Pope, Urban VII, removed the saint from the odd company with which he had been placed.
Now is your chance to own what is not only a great treatise on theology that is foundational to today’s arguments in apologetics, but also a piece of history!