Opera Omnia of St. Robert Bellarmine vol. 2: On the Church

De Controversiis Volume 2 On the Church
De Controversiis Volume 2 On the Church
Contains On Councils, On the Church Militant and On the Marks of the Church
$29.00

The first volume on the Church is finally here! We have at last completed the first volume of Bellarmine’s treatise on the Church to accompany the one volume on the Roman Pontiff.
This volume contains Bellarmine’s treatise on Councils, on the Church Militant and on the Marks of the Church. These books constitute a marvelous treatise in Ecclesiology which lays down the principles made use of by all subsequent theologians. The first book is on the nature of Councils, which traces the history of Councils, who calls them, etc. The second book deals with the Authority of Councils, and treats that one essential question of whether a Council is above a Pope. In book three, Bellarmine takes up the question of who constitutes the Church Militant, whether the Church is visible, and whether evil members are still members? Lastly, he takes up the Marks of the Church, expanding the four marks of the Creed into 15 marks discernible in the Church throughout her history which prove the Catholic Church is true and the churches of the Protestants are false.
This tour de force is absolutely necessary for a proper understanding of Catholic ecclesiology. We have attached a sample chapter!

Sample Chapter:

Book 2 ch. 12: Whether the authority of a Council is greater than Scripture

WE spoke on the authority of Councils considered absolutely, now we must speak on the same by a comparison to other principles of faith, i.e. the written word of God (and for traditions the reasoning is the same), and the Pope. The heretics of this time everywhere cry out that we subject Scripture to Councils. Calvin, in the Institutes, book 4, cap. 9 §14, says: “To subject the oracle of God in this manner to the censure of men that it would be ratified because it pleases men is an unworthy blasphemy which is commemorated.” Similar things are discovered everywhere in the writings of the others. Moreover, this is not our blasphemy, but is their strawman. For Catholics do not subject the Sacred Scripture to Councils, but places it before them; nor is there any controversy on this point. But if some Catholics sometimes say scripture depends upon the Church, or a Council, they do not understand this in regard to its authority, or according to what it is, but in regard to the explanation and in regard to us.
Therefore, it must be observed that there is a manifold distinction between Sacred Scripture and the decrees of Councils, from which it is understood that Scripture is put before Councils. 1) Scripture is the true word of God, immediately revealed, and in a certain measure at God’s dictation according to what we read in 2 Peter 1:21 “Inspired by the Holy Spirit the holy men of God spoke,” and in 2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is divinely inspired.” Nevertheless, it is not so understood to mean that all the sacred writers had new revelations and wrote things of which they were ignorant beforehand. It is certain that the Evangelists, Matthew and John, wrote those things which they saw while Mark and Luke wrote those things which they heard, as Luke himself declares at the beginning of his gospel: “Just as they handed it down to us who saw from the beginning.” (Luke 1:2).
Therefore, the Sacred Writers are said to have had immediate revelation, and wrote the words of God himself, because either some new and previously unknown things were revealed by God, according to that in Psalm 50 (51):8, “You have made known to me the uncertain and hidden matters of your wisdom”; God immediately inspired and moved the writers to write the things which they saw or heard and directed them so that they would not err in some matter. Just like an epistle may truly said to be of a prince and dictated by the prince, even if he that transcribed the dictation already knew what he was going to write, so it is said to be and really is the immediate word of God which was written by the Evangelists at God’s inspiration and direction, even if they wrote the things which they saw or heard. But Councils do not have, nor write immediate revelations, or the words of God, rather they only declare what indeed the word of God is, written or handed down, and how it ought to be understood; besides, they deduce conclusions from it by reasoning. Consequently, when Councils define what are the canonical and divine books, they do not cause them to be of infallible truth, but only declare that they are such.
So even the Council of Trent, in session 13, c. 1, when it defines that those words: “This is my body” must be understood properly, not figuratively, it did not publish but declared the word of God. And when the Council of Nicaea defined that Christ is homoousion (consubstantial) with the Father, it drew the conclusion from the Scriptures in which it is precisely contained that there is one God, and the Father is God, as well as the Son, from which it necessarily follows that the Father and the Son are of the same substance and divinity. Likewise, in the sixth Council, when it defines that Christ had two wills, divine and human, it drew the conclusion from Scripture in which it is contained that Christ is perfect God and perfect man.
The second distinction arises from this first, and is that the sacred writers ought not labor much in in producing these books; for it was enough if they would labor by writing or dictating if they were giving prophecies; or to the chief point by recalling to memory what they had seen or heard, and thought the words which they should write, if they were writing histories or epistles or something similar. But the Fathers in Councils ought to seek the matter itself, i.e. to investigate conclusions by disputation, reading and reflection. For that reason, we read in Acts 15 in the first Council that there was a great deal of questioning. Ruffinus witnesses about the Council of Nicaea in book 10, cap. 5, hist. Ecclesiasticae, in regards to Acts 15 the fathers of the Council say: “It has been seen by the Holy Spirit and us,” i.e. the Holy Spirit assists our industry and diligence. But the sacred writers only attribute the things which they write to God and this is why the prophets so often repeat: “Thus speaks the Lord.”
The third is that in the Scripture there is no error whether it is treated on faith or on morals, and whether some general thing is affirmed, even common to the whole Church, or some particular thing pertaining to one man. But it is both certain and of the faith that without the grace of the Holy Spirit no man is saved, and Peter, Paul, Stephan and certain others truly had the Holy Spirit and were saved, seeing that the same Scripture witnesses that both are most true, but Councils can err in particular judgments.
The fourth is that in Scripture not only teachings, but even each and every word pertains to faith. We believe no word in Scripture is in vain or not correctly placed, but in Councils the greater part of the acts does not pertain to faith. For disputations that are prefaced, or reasons which are added, or the things that are advanced to explain and illustrate matters are not de fide, rather only the bare decrees and not even all of these, but only those which are proposed as de fide. Sometimes Councils define something not as a decree but as probable, such as when the Council of Vienne decreed that it must be held as more probable that grace and the virtues are infused into infants at Baptism, as it is contained in Clem. uni. de Summa Trinitate et fide Catholica. But when a decree is proposed as de fide, it is easily discerned from the words of the Council because they usually say they explain the Catholic faith or they must be held as heretics who think the contrary; or what is most common, they say anathema and exclude anyone from the Church that thinks the contrary. But when they say none of these, the matter is not certain de fide.
Next, in the very decrees on faith, not the words but only the sense pertains to faith. It is not heretical to say that in canons of Councils some word is superfluous or not correctly placed, except perhaps the decree were formed from the word itself, such as when in the Council of Nicaea they decreed the word o`moou,sion must be received, and in Ephesus the word Qeoto,kon.
The fifth is, that Scripture does not need the approval of the Pope to be authentic, but only that its authority would be known; but Councils, even legitimate and general ones, are not ratified until they are confirmed by the Pope, as we showed in a previous question.
But certain men object. Gratian, in d. 19, can. In canonicis, affirms the decretal epistles of Popes ought to be numbered among the canonical Scriptures, and in d. 20, can. Decretales, says the canons of Councils are of the same authority with the decretal epistles, therefore even the canons of Councils are numbered among the canonical Scriptures; consequently the Scriptures are not placed before Councils. Besides, St. Gregory says that he venerates the first four Councils as the four books of the Gospels (lib. 1 epist. 24).
I respond twofold to Gratian.
Firstly, he was deceived from a corrupted codex which he held to be of St. Augustine, for he attributed that canon to Augustine (lib. 2 doct. Christiana, cap. 8); but the true and corrected codices of St. Augustine do not have what Gratian relates but differ by far. Augustine does not say that the epistles that the Apostolic See usually gives or receives are canonical Scripture, as Gratian read, but a judgment on holy writings that pertain to the Churches and chiefly to those which are Apostolic Sees or merit to receive epistles, such as are Rome, in which Peter sat and to which Paul wrote; Ephesus, in which John sat and to which the same Paul wrote, and certain others.
I say secondly, with this error posited, Gratian did not mean to say that decrees of the Popes are properly sacred and canonical Scriptures like the Gospels or the Psalms, but that they are holy writings so as to distinguish them from profane writings, and canonical so as to distinguish them from the sacred writings of the Fathers, which are not rules nor have the authority to oblige. Although the canons of Popes and Councils are distinguished and placed after the divine Scripture, nevertheless they may and must be called sacred writings as well as canonical, just as the seventh Council, in act. 3, calls decrees of Councils divinely inspired constitutions. Nay more, Innocent, cap Cum Marthae extra de celebratione Missarum, calls the teaching of St. Augustine a sacred writing: “He does a martyr an injury that prays for him,” serm. 17, from the words of the Apostle. Moreover, that Gratian felt the decrees of Councils must not be equated with the divine scriptures properly so called, is clear from 36 caussa, quaest. 2 can. Placuit, where he placed the opinion of Jerome, because it was fortified with the testimony of divine Scripture, ahead of a decree of a Council.
I respond to that of Gregory: it sounds like a similitude, not equating, as that of Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect just as your heavenly father is perfect.” Or if it would sound like equating, it will need to be said that Gregory does not compare the Councils with the Gospels in all things, but only in the same certitude whereby it is spoken of in the Scriptures as well as in the decrees of Councils. Since both are of infallible truth, they can be said to be equally certain; but just as Councils are not of a greater authority than the Scripture, it remains that we explain at least whether the authority of an ecumenical Council were greater than that of the Supreme Pontiff.

St. John Fisher, Reformer, Humanist Martyr: Sample Chapter

The following is from St. John Fisher: Reformer, Humanist, Martyr by E.E. Reynolds, the only complete biography of St. John Fisher currently in print! View a glimpse of the excellent historical work that makes this book a must have! If you like what you see here don’t forget to order at the links below!

 

CHAPTER VIII
THE BISHOP IN HIS DIOCESE—I

CAMBRIDGE affairs were only part of the business that occupied John Fisher’s days and thoughts. He was summoned to the Parliaments and Convocations of 1510, 1512 and 1515. Nothing is recorded of the part he played on those occasions. We get glimpses of him at great functions; thus on 15th November 1515 he was crosier to Archbishop Warham at Westminster Abbey when Wolsey received the Cardinal’s hat, “in so solemn wise,” wrote George Cavendish, “as I have not seen the like unless it had been at the coronation of a mighty prince or king.” In the following year, the Bishop of Rochester christened the son of Mary, the king’s sister, who was now Duchess of Suffolk after having been Queen of France.
Pope Leo X urged the princes of Europe to war against the Turks who were threatening to carry their power north of the Danube. He proposed in 1518 to send Cardinal Campeggio as his legate to England to advance this intention. Henry and Wolsey objected that it was contrary to English practice to receive a cardinal legate; this difficulty could be overcome, however, if Wolsey were granted the same powers as Campeggio. So on 17th May Wolsey became cardinal a latere, an exceptional appointment that he skillfully made permanent. Campeggio was kept waiting at Calais until further, and more profitable, concessions were granted to Wolsey. John Fisher was one of the prelates who received Campeggio at Canterbury on 23rd July 1518, and, no doubt, joined the cardinal’s train as far as Rochester.
Shortly afterwards, Wolsey called a synod of the clergy; in this way he demonstrated that his new powers were greater than those of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The early biographer of John Fisher gives an account of this synod which needs to be read with the caution that it does not report speeches verbatim, but as historical reconstructions. The words he puts into the mouth of John Fisher no doubt expressed the bishop’s real opinions though it may be questioned if he would have used some of the phrases given to him.

This council was called by my lord Cardinal rather to notify to the world his great authority and to be seen sitting in his pontifical seat, than for any great good that he meant to do, which this learned and wise prelate [Fisher] perceived quickly. Wherefore having now good occasion to speak against such enormities as he saw daily rising among the spirituality, and much the rather for that his words were among the clergy alone, without any commixture of the laity, which at that time began to hearken any speaking against the clergy. He there reproved very discreetly the ambition and incontinency of the clergy, utterly condemning their vanity in wearing of costly apparel, whereby he declared the goods of the Church to be sinfully wasted and scandal to be raised among the people seeing the tithes and other oblations given by the devotion of them and their ancestors to a good purpose so inordinately spent in indecent and superfluous raiment, delicate fare and other worldly vanity.
Which matter he debated so largely and framed his words after such sort that the Cardinal perceived himself to be touched to the very quick. For he affirmed this kind of disorder to proceed through the example of the head and thereupon reproved his pomp, putting him in mind that it stood better with the modesty of such a high pastor as he was, to eschew all worldly vanity, specially in this perilous time, and by humility to make himself conformable and like to the image of God. “For in this trade of life,” said he, “neither can there be any likelihood of perpetuity with safety of conscience, neither yet any security of the clergy to continue, but such plain and imminent dangers are like to ensue as never were tasted or heard of before our days.”
“For what should we,” said he, “exhort our flocks to eschew and shun worldly ambition, when we ourselves, that be bishops do wholely set our minds to the same things we forbid in them? What example of Christ our Saviour do we imitate, who first exercised doing and after fell to teaching? If we teach according to our doing, how absurd may our doctrine be accounted? If we teach one thing and do another, our labour in teaching shall never benefit our flock half so much as our examples in doing shall hurt them. Who can willingly suffer and bear with us in whom (preaching humility, sobriety and contempt of the world) they may evidently perceive haughtiness in mind, pride in gesture, sumptuousness in apparel and damnable excess in all worldly delicates? Truly, most reverend fathers, what this vanity in temporal things worketh in you I know not; but sure I am that in myself I perceive a great impediment to devotion and so have felt a long time, for sundry times when I have settled and fully bent myself to the care of my flock committed unto me, to visit my diocese, to govern my church, and to answer the enemies of Christ, straightways hath come a messenger for one cause or another sent from higher authority by whom I have been called to business and so left of my former purpose. And thus by tossing and going this way and that ways, time hath passed and in the meanwhile nothing done but attending after triumphs, receiving ambassadors, haunting of princes’ courts and such like, whereby great expenses rise that might better be spent many other ways.”

That last passage may well have been spoken from the heart of one who regarded himself first as a bishop and to a less degree as a statesman.
The early biographer went on to lament that “few were persuaded by his counsel. . . . So that (excuses never wanting to cover sin) this holy father’s words spoken with so good a zeal were all lost and came to nothing for that time.”

As Rochester lay on the road from Canterbury to London, visitors of distinction who were travelling from or to Dover would expect to be received by the Bishop of Rochester.
The letter he received from the Council in 1514 when the sword and cap presented by Leo X to Henry VIII arrived in England, is typical of others.

. . the prior of Christ’s Church of Canterbury shall meet with the said ambassador and . . . shall conduct him to some place convenient between Sittingbourne and Rochester, where the king hath appointed that your lordship, the Master of the Rolls, and Sir Thomas Bolyn shall meet with him and so conduct him to London.

So too in 1522 when Charles V came to England, the Bishop of Rochester had to be at Canterbury with the archbishop to meet him, and, on the way to London, to entertain the emperor at Rochester during a Sunday.

The early biographer said that “if any strangers came to him, he would entertain them according to their vocations with such mirth as stood with the gravity of his person, whose talk was always rather of learning or contemplation than of worldly matters.”
John Fisher could easily have allowed affairs of state and the prestige and allurements of court life to draw him more and more away from the care of his diocese, nor would anyone have thought this surprising; he was peculiar in that he never allowed secular matters to overwhelm his primary duty to the Church as a bishop. William Rastell recorded the opinion of a young contemporary.

He was in holiness, learning and diligence in his cure and in fulfilling his office of bishop such that of many hundred years England had not any bishop worthy to be compared unto him. And if all countries of Christendom were searched, there could not lightly among all other nations be found one that hath been in all things like unto him, so well used and fulfilled the office of bishop as he did. He was of such high perfection in holy life and strait and austere living as few were, I suppose, in all Christendom in his time, religious or other.

The diocese of Rochester, it has already been noted, was the smallest in the kingdom, but it was even smaller than a map suggests; there were thirty-four parishes belonging to Canterbury and forming the deanery of Shoreham; these therefore did not come under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rochester.
There were two episcopal palaces and several manors belonging to the bishop. In those days of horseback travel and of bad, and, in winter, sometimes impassable roads, it was necessary for the bishop to have several centres from which he could carry out his duties. This also met the problem of supplies as the produce of each manor could be used in turn. The palace of Rochester, which had been built during the previous century, was between the monastery (the present cathedral) and the river. The site today seems more removed from the Medway mud than Erasmus suggested, but the banks of the river have been built up and there may have been inlets up which the tide could wash. There are no substantial remains of the buildings.
The bishop’s London palace was by Lambeth Marsh adjoining the archbishop’s palace to the east, so it was simple for John Fisher to hurry off to show William Warham the complimentary passages in the Novum Instrumentum. From the Register we learn that John Fisher built a brick wall round the palace and repaired the buildings. It ceased to be a palace of the Bishops of Rochester in 1540; after many changes of use and occupation it was demolished in 1827.
There were manors at Hailing (between the church and the river), at Bromley, at Stone (near Dartford), and at Trottescliffe (near Wrotham), but John Fisher does not seem to have used the last two.
The Register for the period of John Fisher’s episcopate has been preserved; so too has the Act Book of his Consistory Court.
Unfortunately the records of his visitations have not survived. The first began on 15th May 1505. The early biographer gives us:

And first, because there is small hope of health in the members of that body where the head is sick, he began his visitation at his head church of Rochester, calling before him the priors and monks exhorting them to obedience, chastity and true observation of their monastical vows; and where any fault was tried, he caused it to be amended. After that he carefully visited the rest of the parish churches within his diocese in his own person; and sequestrating all such as he found unworthy to occupy that high function, he placed other fitter in their rooms; and all such as were accused of any crime, he put to their purgation, not sparing the punishment of simony and heresy with other crimes and abuses. And by the way he omitted neither preaching to the people, nor confirming of children, nor relieving of needy and indigent persons; so that by all means he observed a due comeliness in the house of God.

During the first half of his episcopate, he carried out visitations in 1508, 1511, 1514 and 1517. His archdeacon no doubt shared this important work but to what extent we cannot now determine.

From the Register we can follow the bishop’s movements about the diocese from year to year. Occasional intervals of a month or two indicate when he was away on state or university business but without giving information of what occupied him.
A survey of one year, 1513, will give a typical record of his official acts. There is much more we should like to know, but these bare facts add something to the picture.
The first entry is dated 5th March; it records an abjuration of heresy before the bishop in his chapel at Hailing. Henry Potter of West Mailing was accused of saying publicly that he would not believe in the Last Judgment “till I see it.” He promised to avoid suspect persons in the future, also books of Scripture in English, and to give information about them as soon as possible. The bishop absolved him from excommunication and ordered him as penance to walk in procession in his parish church with the faggot on his back, and to do so again in the cathedral on the following Sunday unless dispensed from this by the bishop. In addition he was to see that no harm came to those who had testified against him. Finally he was not to leave the diocese for two years, during each of which he must present himself to the bishop. Henry Potter made his cross on the record.
On 12th March, also at Hailing, the bishop ordained a deacon. He was at Rochester on 4th April when he collated one priest and admitted another to vicarages. On the same day he confirmed the election of the new abbot of Lesnes, William Ticehurst, formerly Prior of Bilsington. The bishop, vested in pontificals, received the profession of obedience of the abbot elect. There is a long account of the proceedings, including testimonies that William Ticehurst was of legitimate birth, and discreet and circumspect. On 27th June at Lambeth, the bishop admitted a cleric to a vacancy in Cobham College in conformity with the king’s wishes.
The bishop collated three priests to livings on 20th August at Bromley, and on 7th October, two others at the same place. There is then a copy of a letter from the bishop instituting Richard Clarke to the vicarage of Hailing vacant by the deprivation of John Cotton. Here the Acts of the Consistory Court explain the circumstances. On 17th September at Hailing the bishop had dealt with five cases of correction of his clergy. One of these was John Cotton who had again fallen into adultery; he said, “I would my lord had put me in prison when he commanded Joan Hubbard to prison.” The investigation took several sittings and was not concluded until 27th September.
There is also the copy of a letter dated 1st October. This is from the bishop to the Barons of the Exchequer stating what arrangements he was making to collect the four-tenths ordered by the king. The Augustinian canons of Tonbridge and of Lesnes, and the prior of Rochester were to be responsible for making the collection by stated dates. A list of nearly forty benefices follows which he described as too poor to be taxed.
This summary of one year of the Register shows the pattern of the normal diocesan business. A similar account could be given for any one of the other years of John Fisher’s long episcopate, the only noticeable variation being that in the later period he seems to have spent more time at Rochester; this may have been due to declining health.
Some particular entries may be noted from the other years for the first half of his rule. One instance of an abjuration has been given. Two earlier cases give other examples of heretical opinions before the onset of the full tide of Lutheranism.

The first is dated May 1505. John Mores (or Wener) of St. Nicholas Parish, Rochester, was accused of saying, in addition to expressing “divers doubts concerning Scripture”:

1. that Christ did not die in perfect charity on Good Friday because he did not die to redeem Lucifer as well as Adam and Eve;
2. that our Lady “is butt a sakk”, and the Son of God desired the Father to come to middle earth to take a sack upon his back.

It is impossible to make sense of the last statement. Mores made his cross to a document in which he promised to have no further dealings with heretics, nor to use any suspect books of Scripture in English, and to denounce such books and persons as soon as possible.
The abjuration was made in the Lady Chapel of the Cathedral before the bishop. Mores was freed from excommunication and had to do penance in the usual form. He was not to leave the diocese for seven years. He made his cross on the record.
Another case of heresy was brought before the bishop in 1507. This concerned a Richard Gavell of Westerham who said that:

1. the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle [sic: of Canterbury?] should not be observed;
2. it was not necessary to take holy water “of the priest’s hand”;
3. offerings and offering days were only ordained by priests and curates “by their own covetous minds and singular avayles [advantages]”; on one such day he had caused Joan Harries to withhold her offering “to the evil example of the people”.

It was further stated that:

1. he often left church and went to the alehouse rather than hear a sermon;
2. he had spoken against the priest while he was in the pulpit, saying “Now the priest standeth in the pulpit and he doth nothing but chide and travail for I look more on his deeds than of his words whatsoever he saith”;
3. he despised the authority of the Church saying that the Church’s sentence had no effect, only that of God who was not in the power of priests and bishops;
4. after being accursed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and so openly by my curate demanded now of late in the church of Westerham”, he replied, in the presence of divers persons, “Sirs, though my lord of Canterbury has accursed me, I am, I trust, not yet accursed of God, and pray, sirs, fear ye not to company or eat and drink with me for all that.”;
5. he had a bad reputation for heresy.

The usual penance of going in procession was imposed; he was not to leave the diocese for four years, and during those years, he was to present himself annually to the bishop. Richard Gavell made his mark. The penance was to be carried out at Bromley and at Rochester, but he was dispensed by the bishop from appearing in the cathedral.
The problem of heresy must be dealt with more fully later in these pages; here it may be noted that the penances imposed by the bishop were of the customary character.
Some further examples from the Register will indicate the scope of the bishop’s activities.
On 17th July 1508 in the chapel of St. Blaise at Bromley, the bishop received the profession of William Temple, “singleman”, as a hermit. He gave him the eremetical habit with his blessing. The hermit promised before God and the Saints to direct his conduct and conversation according to the rule of St. Paul the first hermit; he was to live in the hermitage built in honour of St. Catherine at Dartford. All this was written down and the hermit made his cross.
There is one example of the bishop’s desire to have a better instructed clergy. On 29th November 1508, Hugh Taylor of Foot’s Cray came before the bishop with letters of presentation from the canons of St. Mary Overy, Southwark, to that benefice. The bishop examined him but was not satisfied with his attainments. Hugh Taylor was therefore told that he must spend a year in a grammar school, and if, after that, he had made sufficient progress, he would be admitted. Meanwhile a curate would be put in charge. Hugh Taylor made good use of his twelve months and was then able to satisfy the bishop.
On 21st April 1511, the bishop received the vow of chastity of Elizabeth Fitzwaren, a widow of Beckenham. She undertook “to be chaste of my body and truly and devoutly shall keep me chaste from this time forward as long as my life lasteth after the rule of St. Paul [the hermit].”
The bishop presided at a synod of his clergy on 6th October 1518. After a Mass of the Holy Ghost had been sung, he preached a sermon; this was followed by the reading of the constitutions, provincial and legatine, against concubinage.
The Acts of the Consistory Court do not add much to out knowledge of the bishop’s work. The court was held in the churches of parishes conveniently situated for the cases to be heard. Thus in December 1511 the itinerary was West Mailing, Strood, Gravesend, Dartford, Trottescliffe and Swanscombe, dealing with over a hundred cases in all. The bishop himself rarely presided, but from time to time he was present for more serious cases; thus on 17th March 1511 at Lambeth he absolved a priest from his contumacy (the nature of which is not stated), but suspended him from saying Mass in his parish or elsewhere in the diocese.
The Register records one royal intervention in the work of the court. A letter from the king, 13th February 1520, ordered the bishop not to proceed with the action brought by William Rogers, vicar of Plumstead, for tithes against William Goldwyn, gent. The vicar had denounced Goldwyn in the church at Woolwich and declared him excommunicate in defiance of the decision of the civil courts.
The Acts of the Consistory Court and the Register do little more than tell us of the normal duties of a bishop; the unusual feature for the times was that John Fisher carried out these duties himself as far as other responsibilities would allow.
The early biographer adds life to the bare facts of these records.

Wheresoever he lay, either at Rochester or elsewhere, his order was to inquire where any poor sick folks lay near him, which, after he once knew, he would diligently visit them. And where he saw any of them likely to die, he would preach to them, teaching them the way to die, with such good persuasions, that for the most part he never departed till the sick persons were well satisfied and contented with death. Many times it was his chance to come to such poor houses as for want of chimneys were very smoky and thereby so noisome that scant any man could abide in them. Nevertheless himself would there sit by the sick patient many times the space of three or four hours together in the smoke, when none of his servants were able to abide in the house, but were fain to tarry without till his coming abroad. And in some other poor houses where stairs were wanting, he would never disdain to climb up by a ladder for such a good purpose. And when he had given them such ghostly comfort as he thought expedient for their souls, he would at his departure leave behind him his charitable alms, giving charge to his steward or other officers daily to prepare meat convenient for them (if they were poor) and send it unto them. Besides he gave at his gate to divers poor people (which were commonly no small number) a daily alms of money, to some 2d., to some 4d., some 6d., and some more after the rate of their necessity. That being done, every one of them was rewarded likewise with meat, which was daily brought to the gate. And lest any fraud, partiality, or other disorder might rise in the distribution of the same, he provided himself a place whereunto immediately after dinner he would resort and there stand to see the division with his own eyes.

To this may be added William Rastell’s testimony:

He, like a good shepherd, would not go from his flock, but continually fed them with preaching of God’s word and example of good life. He, like a good shepherd, did what he could to reform his flock both of the spirituality and temporality, when he perceived any of them to range out of the right way, either in manners or doctrine.

The first half of John Fisher’s episcopate was a period of steady work and quiet achievement. He had regulated his diocese and had gathered round him like-minded men such as Nicholas Metcalfe. He knew his small diocese as only a diligent bishop could know it. By 1520 the priests must have known him as a person and as a pastor to whom they could turn in times of difficulty. The example of his austere and devout life would be a reproach to the easy-going and an inspiration to the faithful. “All pastors and curates used him for their lantern, as one of whom they might perfectly learn when to use action and when contemplation; for in these two things did he so far excel that hard it were to find one so well practised and expert in any one of them, apart, as he was in both of them together.”
His work for his university had prospered; Christ’s College was established, and, in spite of all the obstacles, St. John’s had been well founded. His encouragement of sound learning and preaching, and of the study of Greek and Hebrew had helped to lead Cambridge out of the lethargy of the past into the more vigorous world of the new scholarship.
The second half of his episcopate was to prove more and more discordant; the rapid spread of heresy, not least in his own beloved university, and the increasing bitterness of anti-clericism, of themselves would have brought sorrow enough, but to these was to be added “the king’s great matter” and his subsequent claim” to be “the only supreme head in earth of the Church of England.”

Order today!

St. John Fisher: Reformer, Humanist, Martyr
St. John Fisher: Reformer, Humanist, Martyr
$23.00

St. John Fisher - Hardcover
St. John Fisher - Hardcover
$37.00
Cover :

St. Thomas More

St. Thomas More
St. Thomas More
$20.00
St. Thomas More Hardcover
St. Thomas More Hardcover
$40.00

St. Thomas More, by E.E. Reynolds, is a complete life of the saint based on primary source accounts, state papers and contemporary registers. Reynolds leaves no written source uncovered in drawing together for us the man who became one of the most famous men not only in England, but even in Europe, who gave his life for the rights of the Church over the tyranny of the state.

Reynolds traces More’s life and environs, as well as More’s writings and poetry, to bring out the man and the hour in which he lived. There are lengthy studies of Richard III, Utopia, and The Dialogues which More wrote against heretics. Lastly, he concludes with a penetrating legal analysis of the reasons which brought More to the Tower and to beheading.

Throughout there are many crucial and important direct quotes from letters, speeches and of course, the words of More related by early authorities in court and at his trial. Thereby we see the warm relationship between More and great scholars like Colet and Erasmus, as well as his close relationship with his daughter Margaret (Meg) and his great strides to provide her an education which she took up brilliantly. This makes More come to life as a real person, with wit and joy and above all passion, not the plaster saint of a second nocturn variety. There is a reason why More is one of the few and best known laymen to be canonized and remembered through the ages.

This will be an excellent companion to Reynold’s Life of St. John Fisher, which is also available from Mediatrix Press.

Defense of the Catholic Priesthood against Martin Luther – St. John Fisher

Defence of the Priesthood - Fisher
Defence of the Priesthood - Fisher
$17.00

To the extent that St. John Fisher is remembered at all, he is remembered as the one Bishop that refused to pinch incense to Henry VIII. Yet, he was also a holy Bishop and an expert Theologian. Those familiar with the Mediatrix Press reprint of the Life of St. John Fisher by E.E. Reynolds, will know that St. John Fisher was a model for all Bishops. Yet his theological writings, which are mostly in Latin, had not been translated at all until the 1930’s. Fr. Hallet translated the shortest but no less important of St. John Fisher’s works, his defense of the priesthood against Martin Luther.

In these pages we see that it is Fisher, not Luther, who is the true witness to the gospel, defending the Catholic priesthood by the Scriptures, the Fathers and reason, while quoting Luther directly in his refutation.

While responding to Luther, Fisher lays out several Axioms and proves them one by one in

order so that as the pages turn, it is abundantly clear that Fisher is following the Scripture completely, while Luther’s position is increasingly indefensible. It is no wonder that Fisher was the only opponent of Luther that that the latter did not and could not answer.

Given that it is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, what better work could be published, to help dispel some of the confusion engendered by those who wish to celebrate Luther in ignorance of what the great heresiarch had actually taught. Anyone seeing this will immediately see that it is Fisher who is the witness to the Gospel.

On Councils: Their Nature and Authority – Bellarmine

On Councils
On Councils
$18.00

In On Councils: Their Nature and Authority, St. Robert Bellarmine answers the attack of the early Protestant Reformers on by treating on all matters pertaining to Councils. Beginning with definitions and terms, Bellarmine explores in summary all the Councils approved in his day, as well as those only partially approved and those not approved at all. Then he examines their purpose and foundations in Scripture, the Fathers, and history. In the second book, Bellarmine examines the authority of Councils according to the same standard, proving especially that the Pope is above Councils and is the one to summon and confirm them. To prove his case he musters his considerable scholarship and answers not only the arguments of Luther and Calvin, but of each early Protestant to show that approved Councils do not contradict each other, and the Church does not put Councils above the Word of God.

Sample chapter:

Book I, CHAPTER IX
On the utility or even the necessity of celebrating Councils

Therefore, with all of this noted, we must explain in what things legitimate Councils consist, and these can be reduced to four: 1) the end; 2) efficiency; 3) matter and; 4) the form of Councils. Now let us begin with the end, which is the first of these reasons. It will be the first reason that must be briefly explained on account of which Councils are usually celebrated; then from those it will be determined whether a gathering of Councils is necessary or merely useful. Moreover, the particular reasons on account of which Councils are celebrated are usually numbered as six.
a) The first reason is a new heresy, i.e. something that had never been judged before, which is the very reason the first seven Councils were convened. The Church always so dealt with the danger of new heresies that she did not think it could be resisted otherwise than if all or certainly a great many leaders of the Churches, once their strength was joined as if it were made into a column of soldiers, would rush upon the enemies of the faith.
b) The second reason is schism among Roman Pontiffs; for a Council in the time of Pope Cornelius was celebrated for this very reason. Likewise, another in the time of Pope Damasus and again in the times of Symmachus, Innocent II and Alexander III, as well as Pisa and Constance in the times of Gregory XII and Benedict XIII, for there is no more powerful remedy than a Council as has so often been proved.
c) The third is resistance to a common enemy of the whole Church; in this manner Councils were convened by Urban II, Calixtus II, Eugene III, and other Popes, for war against the Saracens. Likewise, to depose an emperor, Gregory III celebrated Councils against Leo III the Iconoclast, as did Gregory VII against Henry IV, and Innocent IV against Frederick II.
d) The fourth reason is suspicion of heresy in the Roman Pontiff, if perhaps it might happen, or if he were an incorrigible tyrant; for then a general Council ought to be gathered either to depose the Pope if he should be found to be a heretic, or certainly to admonish him if he seemed incorrigible in morals. As it is related in the 8th Council, act. ult. can. 21, general Councils ought to impose judgment on controversies arising in regard to the Roman Pontiff—albeit not rashly. For this reason we read that the Council of Sinvessano in the case of St. Marcellinus, as well as Roman Councils in the cases of Pope Damasus, Sixtus III, and Symmachus, as well as Leo III and IV, none of whom were condemned by a Council; Marcellinus enjoined penance upon himself in the presence of the Council, and the rest purged themselves (See Platina and the volumes of Councils).
e) The fifth reason is doubt about the election of a Roman Pontiff. For if the cardinals could not or would not create a Pope, or certainly if they all died at the same time, or a true doubt should arise for another reason to whom an election of this sort would pertain, would look to a general Council to discern in regard to the election of a future Pope, although it does not seem to be realistic to expect this would ever happen.
f) The sixth reason is the general reformation of abuses and vices which crept into the Church; for even if the Pope alone can prescribe laws for the whole Church, nevertheless, it is by far more agreeable for matters to be done with the approval of a general Council when the Pope prescribes laws of this sort. Hence, we see nearly all general Councils published canons on reformation (See Juan Torquemada, lib. 3, cap. 9 &10).

The Autobiography of St. Robert Bellarmine!

The Autobiography of St. Robert Bellarmine:
Along with A Guide to Composing Sermons
Sermons on the Annunciation
Translated by Ryan Grant
With a Foreword by Fr. Philip Wolfe, FSSP

$18.00

The Autobiography of St. Robert Bellarmine
Along with: A Guide to Composing Sermons, Sermons on the Annunciation
by St. Robert Bellarmine, S.J.
Translated by Ryan Grant
Foreword by Fr. Philip Wolfe, FSSP

Kindle $7.50

We are proud to present St. Robert Bellarmine’s autobiography for the first time in English.
Bellarmine never set out to compose any writings, but always did so out of obedience. He wrote his autobiography for 2 of his brother Jesuits out of courtesy for their request to have an account of his life. Though he never intended it for any eyes but theirs, it was discovered and published in the 18th century, and became a great success. It is a brief and simple account of the life and travails of a great soul that loved Jesus Christ above all things.
It has value both as the only account of his life currently in English and to researchers who do not have command of Latin to read the original. We have added several footnotes and appendixes to help fill in information that everyone in Bellarmine’s time knew, and as such he felt no need to elaborate on, but today is not so well known. Bellarmine was in the thick of very serious historical events, such as the Sixth War of Religion in France, or his stormy relationship with the imperious Pope Sixtus V.
Nevertheless, to compensate for the shortness we have added another treat, St. Robert Bellarmine’s Guide to Composing Sermons and evidence of this in action, his Sermons on the Annunciation given in Italy. Neither of these have been translated before, and the sermons have scarcely ever been seen in Latin except by a few researchers.
These sermons explore the depths of the mysteries contained in the Annunciation made by the Archangel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin, which were preached in Italy while he was a Cardinal in Rome. These explore subjects as diverse as Greek and Hebrew etymology, Angelology, Mariology and the fulfillment of the Old Covenant in Christ. We have also added pictures of the places and people St. Robert mentions when relating his life!
During another chaotic time in the Church, St Philip Neri used to tell his directees that he didn’t care what they read, as long as the author’s name began with the letters ST. That advice is just as helpful today as it was then, and with his Bellarmine Project, Ryan Grant is making the writings of one such author, the great Doctor of the Church St Robert Bellarmine, available to the English speaking public. -Fr. Philip Wolfe, from the Foreword
Excerpts:bellarmine_autobiography_front
WHILE N. [St. Robert refers to himself with the letter “N”] was still a boy, I think of five or six years, he used to speak publicly, and, on a footstool turned upside down, clothed with a string, he began to speak on the Lord’s passion. He had no subtle and lofty genius, but was accommodated to all things that he should be equally adept to take on all disciplines. In youth, he began to love poetry, and consumed a great part of the night in reading Vergil, with whom he has such familiarity that he used no word in his poems that was not Vergilian.
The first poem he wrote was on virginity, and the capital letters rendered it, Virginitas. When he was only a youth of 16, he wrote an eclogue on the death of Cardinal De Nobili, which was recited publicly. He wrote at the same time many poems in Latin and in Italian, and especially books which he did not bring to completion because they were obstacles which were strewn before him to prevent him from entering the Society of Jesus. He not only left these books, written in Vergilian style, unfinished but he even burned them because he was ashamed to have written on such matters.
Before he left Mondovì, or Mons Regalis, a humorous incident happened to him. He was a companion of Fr. Rector to visit the Dominicans. The Prior of the Dominicans invited the Rector to drink, and when he agreed, the Prior said about N., whom he did not know: “Well, your companion, this little brother here, will be glad of a drink.
The next day, that Prior came to the college and found N. carrying out the duty of the porter at the gate, and asked him to call the preacher. N. responded that the preacher could not come, but he would faithfully relate what message his Paternity would entrust. “No,” said the Prior, “I cannot tell you what I want, but take me to the preacher, or call him to me.” “I already said,” N. replied, “The preacher will not come,” and when the Prior insisted, N. was compelled to say, “I am whom you seek, and I cannot come, because I am here.” Then the prior blushed to remember the impertinent joke of the previous day, and humbly begged forgiveness, and asked if N. would preach on Christmas, when he would publish a Papal Bull containing indulgences for almsgiving, made for the support of the general chapter of the Dominicans that was going to be held, which N. promised he would do, and did.

Christian Doctrine: The Timeless Catechism of St. Robert Bellarmine – Now available!

Christian Doctrine:
The Timeless Catechism of St. Robert Bellarmine

Translated from the Latin edition and revised according to the original Italian by
Ryan Grant
With a foreword by His Excellency
Bishop Athanasius Schneider

$20.00 (+shipping)

 

Doctrina Christiana: The Timeless Catechism of St. Robert Bellarmine
Translated by Ryan Grant
With a new Introduction by Bishop Athanasius Schneider

Kindle $9.00 (Purchase on Amazon)

Doctrina Christiana: The Timeless Catechism of St. Robert Bellarmine
(Hardcover)
St. Robert Bellarmine
Translated by Ryan Grant
With a foreword by his excellency Bishop Athanasius Schneider

ISBN: 978-1-365-42981-1
$40.00

This catechism can be considered as a valid and effective catechetical tool for the work of the evangelization, a work which has to be realized with a new missionary zeal towards those who don’t know the Catholic faith and as well towards those who know it defectively and insufficiently.

May those who will read this catechism and those who will use it in the noble and meritorious work of teaching Christian doctrine, may be equipped with the sure and sacred doctrine of the Catholic faith, in order to stand, having their loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;  and their feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;  above all, they shall take the shield of faith, wherewith they shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked (cf. Eph 6: 14-16). In this way they will be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks them the reason of their hope, with meekness and fear (cf. 1 Peter 3: 15-16).
-Bishop Athanasius Schneider
From the Foreword

For the first time, St. Robert Bellarmine’s long Catechism, written in the form of a dialogue, has been made available in the English Language.

This Catechism was composed by St. Robert Bellarmine in 1598 and received Papal approbation from several Popes, most notably Pope Clement VIII and one of the greatest theologians to ever sit on the throne of St. Peter, Pope Benedict XIV. It was translated into Latin for use throughout the Church and has run through a number of editions throughout the centuries. Being written as a dialogue, it goes beyond the rote memorization of other catechisms (including that of Baltimore) by giving a deep explanation of the teachings of the faith with comparisons and parables.

What is wholesome about this Catechism is not only the soundness of its doctrine, but the warmth that a great theologian that was accustomed to dealing with complicated matters of theology descends to lovingly explain the basic truths of faith in a manner that average laity can easily understand. It is not for nothing that St. Robert was made the Patron of all Catechists! Order today!

A preview:

bellarmine_catechism_frong

Student. Now that we have covered that, I am eager to know how the Mass is a compendium of the whole life of Christ; is it because I am so moved to devotion and attention when it happens that I am present there?

Teacher. I will say it briefly. The Introit of the Mass signifies the desire which the Holy Fathers had for the coming of Christ. The Kyrie eleison signifies the words of these Patriarchs and Prophets who sought from God the desired coming of the Messiah at such a time. The Gloria in excelsis means the Lord’s Birth. The subsequent Oratio or Collect signifies His presentation and offering in the Temple. The Epistle, customarily said at the left side of the altar (right to us) signifies the preaching of St. John the Baptist, inviting men to Christ. The Gradual, or response to the Epistle, signifies the life arising from the preaching of St. John. The Gospel, customarily read at the right side of the altar (our left), signifies the preaching of Our Lord whereby we move from the left to the right, i.e. from temporal things to eternal ones, and from sin to grace, where the lights are carried and the incense is enkindled and the Holy Gospel illumines the whole world, and it was filled with the sweet odor of Divine glory. The Creed signifies the conversion of the Holy Apostles and of the other disciples of Christ. The Secret, which immediately follows the Creed, signifies the secret plots of the Jews against Christ. The Preface, sung in a high voice, customarily ends with the Hosanna in excelsis, and it signifies the solemn entry of Christ into Jerusalem which He made on Palm Sunday. The Canon which comes after the Preface, represents the Passion of our Lord. The Elevation of the host teaches that Christ was lifted up on the Cross. The Pater noster, the prayer of Christ hanging on the cross. The fraction of the Host shows the wound that was made upon Him by the lance. The Angus Dei signifies the weeping of Mary when Christ was taken down from the cross. The Communion of the priest signifies the burial of Christ. The chant which follows with great joy shows the Lord’s Resurrection. The Ite Missa est, signifies the Ascension. The Final Blessing of the priest relates the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Last Gospel that is read at the end of Mass, signifies the preaching of the Holy Apostles when, filled with the Holy Spirit, they began to preach the Gospel through the whole world, and began the conversion of the nations.

S. I would like to know whether the honor that we show to saints and their relics and images is opposed to this Divine Commandment, because it seems that we worship all these things, seeing that we genuflect before them and pray to them just as in the presence of God?

 

T. The Church is the spouse of God and the Holy Ghost her teacher;[1] for that reason there is no danger that she would deceive or would do anything or teach that something must be done that is opposed to the Commandments of God.[2] Moreover, that I might respond to you in this particular matter, we honor and invoke the saints as friends of God who can be an assistance to us by their prayers and merits; still, we do not hold them as Gods, nor do we adore them as Gods. It is also not against this commandment that we genuflect in their presence, because that worship is not proper to God alone, but even to creatures, especially if it is offered to loftier ones, such as to the Supreme Pontiff and to kings. In fact, it is in common use in many places for religious to genuflect in the presence of their superiors; for this reason, it is no wonder if we show such worship to the saints reigning with Christ in Heaven, such as we show to certain men abiding here on earth.

 

S. Therefore, why do we say, in regard to the relics of the saints, that even though they exert no influence, nevertheless we pray and genuflect to them?

 

T. By no means do we direct prayers to relics, which we rightly know are without sense; rather, we honor them because they were the instruments of those holy souls by which they sent forth both excellent works of virtues and merits of life, and the living and glorious bodies existed in their own times, but now are a precious pledge of the love which they bear toward us even now.[3] Consequently, we pour forth prayers before the relics of the saints, praying to those very saints so that through those very sweet pledges, which we hold, we might remember to call to our minds as we show that we have called to mind the honor expended to them.

 

S. Can the same be shown about images?

 

T. It is like this: because we in no way hold the images of our Lord, of the Blessed Virgin and the saints as Gods,[4] for that reason they cannot be called idols like those of the Gentiles, for they are merely images which call to our mind Christ, the Blessed Virgin, and the saints and to the extent that they are in place of books for those who do not read, because from these many Mysteries of the Catholic Faith are learned, as well as the life and death of many saints.[5] Nor do we do them honor because the images are merely made from paper, or some metal, or however skillfully they are made, rather because they represent Christ, the Blessed Virgin or other saints. And because we know these images lack all life and sense, since they were made by human hands, we ask nothing from them. Still, while praying before them, we implore the help of those whom they depict, namely, the help of Christ, the Blessed Virgin and other Saints.

[1] Ephesians 5:23.

[2] Augustine, Contra Faustum, c. 12.

[3] Ambrose, de vid. Hieron. cont. Vigil.

[4] Council of Nicaea, 11.

[5] St. Gregory I, ep. ad Serenum.

 

On the Church Militant – Pre-order

On_the_church_militant

On the Church Militant
St. Robert Bellarmine, S.J.
200 pages
$14.99 Pre-Order

Mediatrix Press continues its publication of St. Robert Bellarmine’s De Controversiis with his work “On the Church Militant.” In this work, Bellarmine lays out the principles that will ground the discussion of the Church throughout his remaining treatises on the subject. He begins with the notion of Church, the Catholic teaching of what the Church is, then a discussion of those who are and are not in the Church, as well as whether great sinners and secret heretics might be in the Church, concluding with a discussion of whether the Church is visible and whether it could defect. Bellarmine makes use first of Scripture, then the Fathers and finally logic and reason to refute the first Protestants who lived in his time and draw together all the teachings of ancient heretics and their refutations, resulting in clearly demonstrating that the Catholic Church’s Ecclesiology has never changed.

Pre-order today, this work is expected in May 2016.

Rome and the Counter-Reformation in England

Rome and the Counter-Reformation in England
By Mgsr. Philip Hughes
With a new foreword by Charles A. Coulombe

 

ISBN-10: 069272933
ISBN-13: 978-0692729335

500 pages
$26.00

 

One can find many of Fr. Hughes works on the Reformation reprinted. Still, one that is lacking his is great study of the Reformation in England. He admits at the outset that the conclusion is already known by the reader before he picks up the book, that the counter-reformation failed in England. What the reader may not know is why.

To that purpose, Fr. Hughes begins his study with the accession of Queen Mary and the appointment of Cardinal Reginald Pole to England as Cardinal Legate. Then he begins the study of how they refashioned the Church to be so strong that the episcopacy universally resisted Elizabeth. He also explores the condition of the average cleric, layman and other things from official documents and primary source texts.

In the next phase, he examines in detail the rise of Protestantism again under Elizabeth, and the projects of St. Pius V and Gregory XIII to help Englishmen depose Elizabeth. The importance of this study is that in the English Protestant historical tradition, Pius V and Gregory, along with the Jesuits and others, are accused of plotting the murder and assassination of Elizabeth. Fr. Hughes, by examining official papers, shows why this was not true, albeit also offering criticism of the official policy in these years. What he shows is that Rome never really had an accurate story on what was going on in England, and as a result committed many blunders in the period when the counter-reformation might have succeeded.

Following the scene to the eventual failure, Fr. Hughes also answers the pivotal questions: Were the English martyrs really traitors to the crown, as official history maintains? Were Cardinal Allen, the founder of Douay College, or Fr. Persons of the Jesuits, active tools of Spanish policy in England? Or did they rather believe the Spaniards would help the Catholic cause? Did St. Pius V try to assassinate Elizabeth?

In all this Fr. Hughes uses primary sources, letters, and reason to paint for us the picture of the counter-reformation’s failures. If one wants to know what Catholic action and life were like in England during the Marian Restoration and the Elizabethan imposition of Protestantism, this is the work. To top it off, Fr. Hughes adds information that is simply not available in print, such as what happened to Catholics in England under the reigns of the first Stewarts, James I and Charles I, and the breakup of Counter-Reformation unity over Episcopal oversight and other issues that fractured Catholic life in England until the restoration of the Hierarchy in the 19th century.

On the Roman Pontiff by St. Robert Bellarmine

On the Roman Pontiff (De Romano Pontifice)
Vol. 1, books I-II by St. Robert Bellarmine, S.J.
Translated by Ryan Grant
ISBN-13: 978-0692453643
$22.00

De Controversiis: On the Roman Pontiff, Vol. 2
By St. Robert Bellarmine, S. J.
Translated by Ryan Grant
349 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0692678756
ISBN-10: 0692678751

$25.00

 

 

On the Roman Pontiff, in five books
St. Robert Bellarmine, S.J.
Translated by Ryan Grant
683 pages
ISBN 0692705708

$35.00

 

For the first time, St. Robert Bellarmine’s treatise on the Papacy is available in English. In volume one, 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?

Volume 2 takes up the remaining sections of Bellarmine’s great defense of the Papacy. There, he refutes the arguments of the early Protestants on three major points:

 

  • 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 the second volume we see again 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 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 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 also available in one volume!

1 2