The Catechism Explained by Fr. Spirago

Update: We are currently sold out of the Spirago Catechism in Paperback, and we do not have an estimate as to when it will be back in. The wait time could be very long due to the book’s size. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Spirago Catechism - paperback
Spirago Catechism - paperback

For the Kindle, click here.

At long last, the Catechism explained by Fr. Spirago is back in print. This edition is not a facsimile, but a full reprint with increased font size, and very minor updates to antiquated English. Some of the numbering has been redrafted to avoid confusion, and we

We already have so many catechisms, what do we need of another? We indeed have in abundance, catechisms and religious manuals which appeal only to the intellect; books that do not aim at the warmth of expression and the fervent, persuasive eloquence which appeal to the heart, the force and vivifying power which affect the will through the influence of the Holy Spirit.

This Catechism aims at cultivating all the three powers of the soul: the intellect, the emotions, and the will. It does not therefore content itself with mere definitions. The idea in it is not to teach men to philosophize about religion, but to make them good Christians who will delight in their faith. Consequently questions of scholastic theology, doctrines debated among theologians, are either omitted altogether or merely receive a passing mention.

In this catechism, Fr. Spirago has endeavored to divest religious teaching of the appearance of learning, and to present it in a popular and simple form. Technical terms, in which almost all religious manuals abound, even those intended for children, are carefully eliminated from his pages since, while useful and necessary for seminarians and theologians, they are out of place in a book intended for the laity. Popular manuals of religion ought to be couched in plain and simple language, like that used by Our Lord and the apostles, easy to understand. What we need is something that will touch the heart and influence the will, not merely cram the mind with knowledge.

“The Catechism Explained by Spirago embodies the Catechism of the Council of Trent, yet contains fuller discussions for each point in the language that was developed by the Church, saints and theologians throughout time. Rather than being locked into a specific age or decade, this catechism is an explication of the faith in an almost timeless manner. It is a catechism that any subsequent generation could read and learn the essence of the Catholic faith.”

-Fr. Chad Ripperger, PhD

On the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by St. Robert Bellarmine

On the Sacrifice of the Mass
On the Sacrifice of the Mass

Hardcover $40

Kindle available here!

St. Robert Bellarmine was one of the best known of the Counter-Reformation theologians by both friend and foe. His apologetic writings were the most widely read treatises on theological subjects during the 17th century, and they also brought numerous conversions to the Catholic faith.
Now for the first time, St. Robert’s amazing treatises are available to you in English! In this treatise on the Sacrifice of the Mass, St. Robert divides his work into two topics: That the Mass is a Sacrifice, and secondly, the nature of that Sacrifice, namely that the Mass is propitiatory, beneficial to others, and that the ceremonies of the Mass are ancient and pleasing to God.
St. Robert takes the fight to the Protestants on their own ground, defending the Mass from Scripture and how the Church Fathers understood it. Then he argues from the consensus of Greek and Latin Fathers and the whole history of the Church to defend the Mass as a sacrifice instituted by Christ Himself.

“St. Robert Bellarmine, in this section of the De Controversiis, provides the reader with an unparalleled defense of the Catholic theology of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Many of the objections raised and refuted by St. Robert are still applicable today amidst the various theological speculations of our times. Steeped in the tradition of the Church, this text addresses many aspects of the theology of the Mass in a depth not seen in writings of modern authors. The timeliness of the book is evident in our current historical context as many priests and faithful are taking a fresh look at the ancient rite of Mass.”
—Fr. Chad Ripperger, SMD

“For five years in Chablais, I preached with no books other than the Bible, and the Great Bellarmine.”
—St. Francis de Sales

Sample Chapter:


Not everything in Mass must necessarily be said in a loud voice

The next question is not much different from the previous one, namely on the manner of voice. Our adversaries impugn the Latin Church because it bids many things in Mass to be said in a quiet voice, which was addressed in the Council of Trent, sess. 22 canon 9. There, from the beginning it must be observed that the question is not, “Whether it is licit per se to celebrate the whole Mass in a quiet voice”, for we are not unaware that the manner of voice does not pertain to the substance of the sacrifice, and these things can be changed according to the judgment of the Church. Thus, the whole question is placed in this: “Whether the custom of the Latin Church of pronouncing certain things in a quiet voice is opposed to the institution of Christ, and hence, is bad and necessarily must be corrected.”

Chemnitz (Exam. 2 part., pg. 890), contends that it is against the institution of Christ that some things in Mass are read in a quiet voice; but the Council defined otherwise. Moreover, these reasons show that the teaching of the Council is very true. Firstly, it is profitable for the reverence of such a mystery that not everything be said in a loud voice. As St. Basil rightly teaches (de Spiritu Sancto, cap. 27), it confers much in regard to the dignity and preserves the reverence of the mysteries that men are not accustomed to hear the same thing very often, or rather, that it not be offered to common ears. What kind of mysteries are they that are announced to everyone’s ears?

Secondly, we have the example of the ancient liturgies, both Greek and Latin. The liturgies of Basil and Chrysostom, which even Chemnitz notes, prescribe certain things to be said in silence and to be concluded in a loud voice. We also preserve the same thing when we conclude quiet prayers, by raising the voice at the words: Per omnia saecula saeculorum. Chemnitz’s response is that this is interpreted as if those liturgies prescribed certain things to be pronounced in a moderate voice, so that they may be heard by all, and then are concluded with shouting and song; but this does not have any validity. For in the Liturgy of Chrysostom, where we read: “The priest prays secretly,” the Greek word μυσικῶς does not mean in a moderate voice, but in a whisper; nor are the mysteries said which are made public with a moderate voice, but which are altogether hidden. And besides, in that liturgy the priest is advised to recite those prayers in secret while the Deacon sings the Litany in a loud voice, or while the cantors sing other things. Hence, the people cannot attend to those things which the priest says, and so they are truly and properly secret.

In regard to the Latin liturgy we have the testimony of Innocent I (Epist. 1 ad Episcopum Eugubinum, cap. 1) where, being asked about the time in which the pax should be given in the mystery of the Mass, he clearly shows that particular part of the Mass is secret; nor does he dare to recount the type of things that are recited before the pax is given. But if the whole people were accustomed to hear everything, certainly nothing would be secret, nothing hidden and they could easily be committed to writing which was commonly known to all.

Thirdly, we have examples of the sacrifices of the Old Law. For (that I might omit the fact that a great many things in the sacrifice were prayed in mind without any words), in Leviticus 16:17, the sacrifice of incense is solemnly described, and the priest alone is commanded to enter within the veil and offer sacrifice, and pray for himself, the people and all others waiting outside, and not only could they not hear the priest, but they could not even see him. We read that Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, offered sacrifice in such a rite in Luke 1:10.

Fourthly, Christ himself in the sacrifice of the cross, which was the exemplar of all sacrifices, carried out the oblation in silence, and he did not speak for the space of three hours to those standing about listening, except for seven very brief sentences, as many sentences as there also are which are pronounced in a loud voice in the Canon of our liturgy.

But let us see what Chemnitz asserts in favor of his own opinion.

1) Firstly, he objects that the institution of Christ, that he commanded to be done in his memory in his Supper, is not through silence, but, as Paul explains, through announcement. And the argument could be confirmed from the example of Christ himself, who pronounced the words of consecration in a loud voice so that everyone who was present could hear.

I respond: The memory and announcement of Christ should not be done in words as much as in reality; for so Augustine writes (Contra Faustum 20, 18), when he says: “This sacrifice is also commemorated by Christians, in the sacred offering and participation of the body and blood of Christ.” Nor can what Paul commanded be fulfilled in another manner, that everyone should announce the death of the Lord. What kind of disorder would take place if all the people in the Church should announce the Lord’s death with words?

What pertains to the example of Christ, it must be known that Christ did not only pronounce the words to consecrate, but also to teach the Apostles the rite of consecrating; this is why it was fitting for him to speak in this way, so that he would be heard by the Apostles. The bishops today preserve this when they ordain priests amidst the solemnities of Masses; for they so pronounce the words of consecration so that all these new priests can hear. There is another purpose for those who celebrate Mass for the people.

2) The second objection: Christ did not institute the sacraments in such a way that the action would be visible and public, so the word, which is a special part of the sacraments, should be hidden and buried.

I respond: The notion of a sacrament is one thing, and the notion of a sacrifice another; at the present we are arguing properly on the sacrifice. Moreover, the sacrifice does not consist in words, but in the oblation of a thing, words, however, are required in the sacrifice of the Mass, not to be themselves the sacrifice, or part of the sacrifice, but only to show the presence of the victim to us. By the words of consecration, as we showed above, it comes about that the Body of Christ is truly present on the altar; this is why the sacrifice will truly be outward and sensible, even if the words, whereby it comes about, cannot be heard. Add, that in the sacraments, to the essence of which the words chiefly pertain, it is not necessary that the words are perceived by those who receive the sacraments, provided they are perceived by those who minister them; otherwise baptism conferred upon infants, the insane, and the deaf would be invalid, which not even Chemnitz would admit. Consequently, we respond to the argument that Christ did not establish the words so they would be hidden and buried, that he also did not establish them in such a way that they must be pronounced to be heard by all who are present. Rather, he only established them to be really applied, and after him it was left to the liberty of the Church to constitute a manner of recitation. Not only do Catholics teach this, but even Chemnitz the teacher and Luther the prophet, in his book On the Formula of the Mass, where he permits the freedom to pronounce the words of the Supper in a loud or quiet voice.

3) The third objection: The Apostle (1 Cor. 14) clearly distinguishes these two things: To speak in Church on those things which pertain to the public ministry, and to speak privately to himself and to God.

I respond: For St. Paul, to speak in Church is to exhort and instruct the Church; to speak within oneself and to God is to pray, or praise God, as he says in verse 19: “But in the Church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may instruct others also; … (v. 28) But if there be no interpreter, let him hold his peace in the Church, and speak to himself and to God.” Therefore, he distinguishes a sermon from prayer. Moreover, neither pertain properly to the sacrifice; for a sacrifice is not something to say, but to do; or if it is to speak in some manner, it is not to speak in the Church, or to the Church, but to God. When a man offers sacrifice to God, he acts for God, not for men, although he acts publicly and not privately. This is because he does not act on his own behalf, but on behalf of the universal Church.

4) The fourth objection: In the ancient Church, after those who could not be present at the mysteries were dismissed, the prayers were pronounced out loud, the thanksgivings and even the words of consecration themselves. Cardinal Bessarion (de verbis Coenae) hands down this very thing on the word of consecration, and the same is clear from the response “Amen” which was made to the words of consecration in the ancient rite. For Dionysius of Alexandria (cited b Eusebius, Histor. 7, 9) calls it to mind, as well as Augustine (ad Orosium, quaest. 49). It is likewise clear from Chrysostom (Homily 18 in 2 Cor.) where we read that the prayers and thanksgivings in the celebration of the Eucharist were common to the people with the priest. Lastly, the same is gathered from the Novella of Justinian, constitution 123, where the priests are severely commanded to say what they recite in the celebration of the oblation in a loud voice so that the people could hear it.

I respond: We do not deny that the words of consecration in the Eastern Church are customarily recited out loud, since it is quite certain from the liturgy of Chrysostom. Nor do we condemn this; for we do not contend that these words must necessarily be recited in a quiet voice, rather, that the Church is free to establish the rite, and hence neither the rite of the Greeks nor of the Latins can be condemned, nor should they. But although the words of consecration are uttered in a loud voice among the Greeks, nevertheless, certain others are pronounced in a quiet voice and clearly in secret, as we clearly showed from the same liturgy of Chrysostom. As a result, there is no need to respond to the testimony of Bessarion and Dionysius of Alexandria.

To the citation of Augustine, I respond: That book is not of Augustine, as the scholars affirm, nor does it bear on the matter. That author does not speak about the consecration, but the dispensation of the sacrament; for he only says that those who receive the blood of the Lord customarily say “Amen”, while the priest says, “The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ambrose also calls this rite to mind (De Sacramentis, 4, 5).

To the citation of Chrysostom, I respond: Chrysostom chiefly meant that the people should not be idle in Church, but should pray for those things for which the priest also prays. The fact is, that can be done even if both the priest and the people pray in silence. Indeed, Cyprian writes (On the Lord’s Prayer) that during the time of the sacrifice Anna the mother of Samuel should be imitated, who prayed in such a way that her lips moved, but hardly a word was heard (1 Kings 1:13), and she was a type of the Church, while she prayed in silence. Also, in our liturgy, it is said to the people: Orate fratres when the prayer is made in secret. Add, that Chrysostom does not say all prayers are common to the people and the priest; this is why even if he spoke on the communion of the same prayers, still our adversaries would gain nothing. For the liturgy of Chrysostom clearly distinguishes what must be said by all, and what must be said by the priest alone, and in secret.

In regard to the Novella of Justinian, the response could be made that in the first place, it does not pertain to the emperor to impose laws on the rite of sacrifice, hence he did not greatly report on what he had ratified. But we also answer that this law is not opposed to our teaching. It only commands that what is customarily said out loud in the Eastern Churches should be said in a loud voice. There were some, as is gathered from the Novella itself, who pronounced what was customarily said in a loud voice quietly, so in that way they might hide their ignorance; they are rightly rebuked both because they acted against the custom of the Church and because they did it because they were ignorant of reading.

5) The last objection: The Popes affirm this is not an ancient usage. Honorius and Belet write that formerly the words of consecration were customarily said in a loud voice, but later it was commanded to be said silently and for this reason: When those words were heard by all, many laity also remembered them. Then it happened that certain shepherds pronounced the words over bread and wine. Immediately the bread and wine were turned into body and blood; and those shepherds, being struck down by God, died. From this history it is gathered that the use of reciting the words of consecration in silence are not ancient, and is born of superstitious opinion, as if those words were magical.

I respond: The miracle which is recalled in this argument truly happened, but different and in a more ancient time than Chemnitz relates. For St. Sophronius writes in his Prato Spirituali, cap. 196, that this miracle happened in his time, but he lived before the time of the Seventh Council, as well as John Damascene. For this book is cited by the fathers of the Seventh Council, in the fourth action, and by Damascene (in Orat. De cultu imaginum, 3). Hence, this miracle happened more or less nine hundred years ago, and it is also recalled by Alcuin (de Divinis Officiis, cap. de celebration Missae), and he lived eight hundred years ago. Moreover, that miracle did not turn bread into flesh, nor kill the shepherds, as Chemnitz gathers from some obscure and more recent authors, rather, when the fire was sent from heaven, the bread, wine and stone upon which these were placed were gone, and the shepherds were astounded to the point that they could hardly speak for a long time. Sophronius does not write that this is the reason why those words should not be said but secretly, although if it were the reason, I do not see what could be objected against it. Certainly, that use is very ancient, even if it did not begin earlier than after that miracle were divinely shown to the world.

The Mariology of Cardinal Newman



The Mariology of Cardinal Newman is a study of Blessed John Henry Newman’s journey from a cautious intellectual acceptance of limited Marian doctrines while an Anglican to his full acceptance and development of Marian doctrine as a Catholic. Newman was a master of the English language and possessed a fine intellectual mind, but at the same time, because of his deep humility, he could enter into true devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Rev. Friedel draws from all of Newman’s work to provide a truly masterful treatise establishing not only Newman’s views to doctrine, but Newman as a devout client of our Blessed Lady. He divides the first part of the book into two periods: Newman’s life as an Anglican and his developing attitude toward Mary; then his views when he became a Catholic and how this developed in his devotional life. Then, in the second part, the author examines the specific doctrine’s of Mary which Newman treated on.

From the Author’s preface:

“The following study is an attempt to analyze the principles and factors which gave the orientation to his attitude concerning the Blessed Virgin Mary during his Anglican and Catholic days. This represents the First Part. The Second is occupied with a synthesis of his doctrine.”

From the Foreword:

His  beliefs regarding Mary as the Mother of God (Theotokos) were firmly in place at the time of his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine: completed in 1845, right before he was received (therefore, entirely written while he was an Anglican). Four years later, he elaborated upon the dogma:

[T]he Mother of God has ever been the bulwark of our Lord’s divinity. And it is that which heretics have ever opposed, for it is the great witness that the doctrine of God being man is true.… The truth is, the doctrine of our Lady keeps us from a dreaming, unreal way. If no mother, no history, how did He come here, etc? He is from heaven. It startles us and makes us think what we say when we say Christ is God; not merely like God, inhabited by, sent by God, but really God; so really, that she is the mother of God because His mother. (Sermon Notes of John Henry Cardinal Newman: 1849-1878, “Maternity of Mary,” 14 October 1849)

New! On Canonizations by St. Robert Bellarmine

Now available!

On the Canonization and Veneration of the Saints
By St. Robert Bellarmine

Hardcover $35

In our continuing work to translate St. Robert Bellarmine’s Opera Omnia, we are pleased to announce the coming publication of On the Canonization of the Saints, which is book 1 of On the Church Triumphant. Later in the year we plan on releasing the other books, which are on Relics, Images and Churches.

In this work, Bellarmine meets the attack of Protestantism against Catholic teaching on the saints, firstly on their own ground with sound Scriptural Exegesis, backed up by the witness of the Greek and Latin Church.

The great counter-reformation doctor begins the work with a treatise on whether the souls of the saints receive a particular judgment and go to heaven or await for the end of time suspended as it were in some hidden place; then what canonization is, who does it and what is its authority; then lastly, whether the saints may be venerated and invoked.

NB: If you’ve donated to the Bellarmine project, you can expect to receive this on ebook or in hardcover depending on your donation.

Mariology, in 3 volumes

We are pleased to announce our republication of Mariology, edited by Fr. Juniper Carol, OFM. This was published in three volumes and constituted one of the very finest works of Marian theology prior to the Second Vatican Council, begun during the Marian Year in 1954.

Volume I deals with the history and sources of Mariology. The unique competence of Fr. Carol, first president of the Mariological Society, as well as the extensive theological background of the contributors guarantee the order and soundness of the selected essays … This volume can be a good refresher-course for the priest-theologian and a newly opened mine of information for the layman. The introductory volume offers treatises on: Mary in the documents of the Magisterium; Mary in the Old Testament; Mary in the New Testament; Mary in Eastern and Western Patristic Thought; Mary in the Liturgy; and many more subjects, heavily footnoted and wonderfully presented.

Order Mariology vol. 1 today! $25. If you pre-ordered it is being processed right now.

Volume II as a whole maintains the scholarly character of the first volume, delving into Mariology as such. Namely, the principal doctrines in the theology of Mary. This considers the key doctrines of the Immaculate Conception, Perpetual Virginity, Assumption, Mediation, etc. With essays from 13 scholars of international repute, volume II explains in scientific detail the heart of Mariology, its nature in preserving authentic teaching about the person of Jesus Christ, and the sources deep within the tradition from the Fathers, the Scholastics, Baroque theology and contemporary understanding enlightened by the Magisterium. Order Mariology vol 2 Today! $30 

Volume III treats the world-wide phenomenon of devotion to Mary from its beginnings to the present day. Specifically, the subject is considered by: feasts, days, months dedicated to our Lady; in prayers, especially the Rosary; in the Scapular, De Montfort, Immaculate Heart, and other prominent devotions; in the religious orders, congregations, confraternities, associations, sodalities dedicated to her; in the societies, centers, libraries, publications, congresses devoted to the study of her prerogatives. Order Mariology vol 3 Today! $25 

This work is an indispensable reference that has been out of reach for too long. Mediatrix Press has taken the time to completely and accurately reproduce the text, as well as to restore the original order of the essays intended by Fr. Carol. Below we have the table of contents for the original volumes to give the sense of the breath of subjects covered in the work.

Pre-order the entire set!

 When you purchase the entire set you can save $10! If you ordered the set in December or early January, volume 1 was shipped to you, and volumes 2 and 3 will ship soon. If you order the set now, you can get the set discount

$80 $75!

***Hardcover Update***

We have finally got our hardcover proof and pricing.

Volume 1 will be $40, volume 2 $50 and volume 3 $40.
So, our set discount will save you $10!

Mariology 3 volume set pre-publication sale!
$130 $120!

New! Moral Theology of St. Alphonsus, Volume II! (with sample chapter)

Moral Theology Vol. II
Moral Theology Vol. II

Moral Theology Vol. II Hardcover
Moral Theology Vol. II Hardcover





















Mediatrix Press is pleased to announce the release of Volume 2 of St. Alphonsus Liguori’s Moral Theology, which will cover the Precepts of the Decalogue, 1-6. In this monumental treatment, St. Alphonsus examines specific questions on various aspects of the Commandments and cites nearly all the moral writers up to his time, examining nearly every question and issue that might come to the mind. This excellent treatment is an magnificent resource for Confessors, to aid them in reverently hearing confessions. While some are of the opinion that treatments such as Alphonsus’ exist to provide loopholes for people to get out of sin, rather, it is to help the penitent correctly identify and avoid.

St. Alphonsus’ Moral Theology steers the course between rigor and laxity to lead the way to Christ’s mercy. In dealing with the first Commandment, St. Alphonsus deals with sins such as apostasy, idolatry and superstition; then in the second he takes up sins of blasphemy, violation of oaths, etc.; in the third he takes up all the considerations involved in the precept to attend Mass on Sundays and Feast days.
In the fourth commandment, obedience in general; in the fifth, murder and all its species, including questions on abortion, the death penalty and just war; in the 6th adultery, rape and lust.

If you can, in your charity, please review the main project page for the Moral Theology translation project here and donate.

***Sample Chapter***

157.—III. The penitent, being asked by the confessor about a sin already confessed, does not need to mention it by understanding in addition, “that which he has not confessed.” (Cardenas diss. 19, n. 48, Salm. tr. 17 c. 2 punct. 8 § 3 n. 118, Sanchez, lib. 3 cap. 6 n. 14; Sporer de 2. praec. cap. 1 n. 105). But this must be understood as unless the confessor would justly ask to know the state of the penitent, from number 58 of the propositions condemned by Innocent XI.
158.—IV. A needy man can respond to a judge about goods hidden for his subsistence that he has nothing (Salm. ibid. § n. 140). Equally, an heir who, without discovery hides goods, if he is not held to make satisfaction to creditors from them, he may respond to a judge that he has hidden nothing, understanding in addition “from the goods which he would be held to make satisfaction”. (Salm. loc. cit. and Roncaglia, c. 4, reg. 2 in praxi.
159.—V. Someone that takes out a loan, but later satisfies it, can deny he has taken up a loan, understanding in addition: “such that he ought to pay.” (Salm. cit. n. 140, and Sporer de 2. praec. c. 1 n. 122, with Suarez, Navarre, Azor, Laymann, Cov. and others). So equally, if anyone were coerced to matrimony, they can assert to the judge even with an oath that they did not contract it, viz. freely, as is just. (Toletus, lib. 4 c. 21; Laymann, c. 14 n. 8; Navarre, in c. Humanae aures, caus. 22 q. 5; Sporer loc. cit.). Sporer says the same thing about someone who entered into an invalid betrothal. Equally, one who promised matrimony, but then would not be held to it, can deny the promise, viz. that he was held by it, as the Salamancans say (ibid.). Someone is not held to a duty can respond that he does nothing viz. from which he owes a duty. (Cardenas n. 77, Salm. ibid.; Sporer loc. cit. n. 121 with Ledesma). One who comes from a place falsely thought to be infected by plague can deny he came from it, viz. a pestilential one, because this is the mind of the guards. (Salm. ibid. n. 141; Lessius, c. 42 n. 47, Sanchez Dec. l. 3 cap. 6 n. 35; Sporer loc. cit. n. 140, with Toletus, Navarre, Suarez, Henriquez, Rodriguez, etc.). Nay more, Toletus and Lessius admit this as well as many others cited by Sporer, even if he quickly passed through an infected place, provided it were certain he did not contract the plague, because it could be understood he did not come so that danger would not be feared from him; but I do not altogether acquiesce to this. The Salamancans (n. 141) admit this, with Busembaum, because if someone were forcefully obliged by a thief to promise money with an oath, he could understand in addition: “I will give, if I owe you without an oath”; because they say that promise from circumstances can admit such an ambiguity. Equally a wife, for whom it is certain the marriage is null, can promise with an oath to the judge or confessor, who would not otherwise wish to absolve her, that she will cohabitate with her husband, even if she does not intend, understanding from that licit cohabitation. (Salm. loc. cit.).
160.—VI. Someone asked by a judge whether he spoke with a guilty man can deny it, understanding he did not speak so as to cooperate with him. A canon lawyer, obligated to a secret, can swear he manifested nothing, if he manifested none of those things which he is held to conceal sub gravi. The Salamancans agree (ibid. n. 142) who assert that all these are obvious to all authors. Equally Lessius, c. 52 n. 48, with Alex, Bart. etc. One who is going to be chosen for an office, being asked whether he had some impediment can deny it if it is really not such a thing that would impede him in the exercise of office.
Equally, if anyone were summoned and asked whether the food is good, which really is insipid, he can respond it is good, viz. for mortification. (Cardenas, diss. 19 n. 74). So also Cardenas (n. 76) and la Croix (lib. 3 p. 1 n. 302) say ceremonies can licitly be advanced, “I kiss my hand,” etc. “I offer myself as a servant,” etc. because from common use they are received as material words advanced only for honor. It is also licit to conceal the truth with cause, e.g. if someone asked you for money, you can respond: “Would that I had it!” or “I would be glad to have some”, etc. (Cardenas, diss. 19 n. 53).
161.—Quaeritur 1: Could a creditor assert from an instrument with an oath that nothing was paid to him, if really a part has been paid but he had a credit from another person, which he could not prove? It is answered that he can, provided he did not swear the quantity due to him by that instrument, lest it be inferred he suffered loss from other previous creditors. Salm. tr. 17, cap. 2 punct. 8 § 6 n. 143, with Sanchez, Palaus, Leander, etc.
162.—Quaeritur 2: Could an adulteress deny the adultery with a man, understanding that will reveal him otherwise? She can equivocally assert she did not break a marriage which truly persists. And if she had sacramentally confessed the adultery, she can respond: “I am innocent of this crime,” because by confession it has been taken away. So thinks Cardenas, diss. 19 n. 54, who still adverts that she could not affirm it with an oath, because probability of the fact suffices to assert something, but to swear an oath certitude is required. But the response is made that moral certitude would suffice to swear an oath, as we said above in dubium 3, n. 148, with the Salamancans (tr. 17 c. 2 punct. 5 § 1 n. 42), Lessius, Sanchez, Suarez, Palaus and the common opinion. Such moral certitude of the remission of the sin can indeed be held when someone morally disposed receives the sacrament of penance.
But in regard to the question, the Salamancans (ibid. punct. 8 § 6 n. 144) with de Soto say a woman cannot deny the adultery because it would be a pure mental reservation. Still, Cardenas (n. 60) admits that in danger of death it is permitted to use a metaphor which is common in scripture where adultery is taken for idolatry, as in Ezechiel 23:37: “Because they committed adultery … and fornicated with idols.” Nay more, if the crime is truly secret, according to the probable opinion of the authors a woman can deny it with an oath and say: “I did not commit it”; in the same mode in which a guilty man can say to a judge that does not legitimately ask him, “I did not commit the crime,” by understanding he did not commit to the extent he is held to manifest it. (Busembaum, below, and Lessius, Trull, ibid. and Sanchez, lib. 3 dec. c. 2 n. 42, with de Soto, Sayre and Arag., as Tamburinus holds ex comm. c. 4 § 3 n. 1 and 2, as well as Viva q. 7, art 4 n. 2).
163.—Quaeritur 3: Could someone requested to make a loan swear that he did not have any money when he really has some, by understanding that he has no money to furnish a loan? The Salamancans (loc. cit. n. 145, with de Soto, Henriquez) deny this. The reason is because that reservation cannot be perceived from the circumstances. But this must be understood, if the truth can in no way be perceived; for if it could be thrown out there from some circumstance, namely of poverty or neediness of the lender, one could rightly understand “I have nothing superfluous that I could lend”. So think Roncaglia (de 2 praec. c. 4 reg. 2 in praxi), Viva (q. 7 a. 4 n. 2) with Sanchez, Bonacina, Sylvius, etc. Cardenas (diss. 19 n. 48) with Suarez and de Lugo, who so teaches: “One that has one loaf necessary for himself truly responds that he has nothing for one that asks for bread to be loaned to him, because he has nothing which he could loan which is the only thing the other man asks.” (de poenit. disp. 23, sess. 4 n. 74). And Cardenas says the same thing (n. 73) on money that is sought, if it is necessary to the owner.
164.—Quaeritur 4: Could merchants swear their merchandise costs more than others, by combining the reckoning with other merchandise? Some affirm this, but the Salamancans (dict. n. 145) rightly deny it. Still, Croix, with Gobat. says that it is probable he can when they do not understand such things about the price of the thing, but compute it in expenses for taxes, for the storehouse, etc. (Croix l. 3 p. 1 n. 301).
165.—Quaeritur 5: Could a servant at his master’s command deny he is at home? Cardenas (diss. 19 n. 75) admits that he can fasten a stone to his foot and answer “he is not here,” because it is not a mental reservation; but I do not assent to this unless the other man could by no means notice it. I would rather more concede he could say “he is not here,” viz. not here at the door, or at the window, or (as the Continuator of Tournely says, de relig. part. 2 cap. 3 art. 5, in fine): “he is not here,” insofar as he can be seen. Cardenas says likewise, that he can respond, “he has left the house,” by understanding in the past; for we are not held, as he says above with Lessius, to respond to the mind of the one asking the question if a just cause is present. It would be otherwise if he were asked, did the Lord go out this morning, as Croix says (lib. 3 p. 1 n. 284). So even Cardenas says (n. 72) about a nobleman who is in bed, the servant can respond that he is outside, viz. he is not to be seen, as it is usually understood from the common manner of speech.
166.—Quaeritur 6: Could those that are going to take up a doctoral degree swear with an equivocation the requisite condition that is not true, viz. to have freed himself up for that science for so many years, etc., if they were equally suitable as other doctors? See Tamburinus, Dec. lib. 3, cap. 2, who affirms it and says then there is a just cause for so swearing, lest they be rejected who are worthy. But whatever about this, it seems to me more probable that those who are going to get their doctorates at Naples, who by the usual custom write in their own hand on taking up their registrations: “Dico con giuramento essere il primo anno institutista, etc., when it is really not so. The reason is because that verb “giuro” or “dico con giuramento,” as we said above (dub. 1 n. 136) with Salm. (tr. 17 c. 2 punct. 3 n. 24), Bonacina, Sanchez, Suarez, is not of itself an oath, unless questioning would precede about an oath; but this questioning at Naples is either altogether not done or is not done from a true oath, but only on that written material which seems from the common use not to take up a true oath.


On Purgatory by St. Robert Bellarmine

On Purgatory: The Members of the Church suffering
On Purgatory: The Members of the Church suffering

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In the De Controversiis, St. Robert Bellarmine defends the doctrines and teaching of the Church against all comers, starting from Scripture, the Church Fathers and also reason. His work was widely read and commented on by both Catholics and Protestants and quickly became one of the standard texts in Catholic theology for centuries.
In On Purgatory, Bellarmine defends what is one of the more difficult doctrines to understand in his characteristic style beginning with Scripture and the Fathers, stopping at every step of the way to answer the objections of all the major Protestants of his day, not only Luther and Calvin, but also those less known to us such as Brenz and Peter Martyr.
Dividing his work into two books, Bellarmine shows that there is such a place as Purgatory by copious exegesis on Old and New Testament passages, and the clear consensus of the Church Fathers who witness the fact that prayer was made for the dead in the early Church.
Then, in book 2, he examines questions about the specifics of Purgatory, what souls there suffer, where it is located, how the faithful can assist the souls of Purgatory, and other questions.
This treatise, translated into English for the first time, is the best and most in depth treatise on this subject available, and is just as relevant today as when it was first penned.

Sample Chapter

Book II, ch. 9, How long will Purgatory Endure?

NOW on the time, in which Purgatory will remain, there are two extreme errors. The first error is that of Origen, who extended the times of Purgatory beyond the day of the resurrection, so that he has in homily 14 in Luke: “I think that even after the resurrection from the dead we need the sacrament to wash and cleanse us, for no man can rise again with filth.” Nevertheless, this error has been explored, for St. Augustine (lib. 21 de civitate Dei, cap. 16) says: “We suppose that there will be no Purgatorial punishments except before that last and tremendous judgment.” And the reason is, because the Lord says that in the judgment there will be only two ranks of men, one of the blessed, the other of the damned (Matth. 25).
But someone will say: The soul alone did not sin, but once with the body, therefore it should be purged then with the body, hence, after the resurrection men will be purged. I respond: if that would conclude the argument, it would also prove that the soul cannot be separated to be punished in hell, nor enjoy the delights of heaven, which is against the Gospel, “I am tortured in this flame” (Luke 16:24), and “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Therefore, I say the soul is duly punished even by itself, because it is the subject and efficient cause of sin; for there are certain human acts which cannot be done except from the whole composite, nor received except in the whole composite, such as all those which are done by organic potencies, e.g. to speak, see, hear, etc., and such things, after the dissolution of the composite, are no longer found. And if indeed such were a sin, it would clearly conclude the argument. But it is not so, for sin is an act of free will, and therefore properly said to come into being by the will alone and found formally in the will alone. Consequently, after the dissolution of man, the whole sin is only found in the will, and by that fact, in the soul, but not in dead flesh; moreover, it ought to be punished or purged in that place where it is found.

Add also, that the flesh is punished in its mode; for as the separated soul is punished with the penalty of loss, because it lacks the vision of God, and the punishment of sense, because it is tortured in fire, so the flesh is punished by the fire of loss, because it lacks life and the punishment of sense, although improperly, because it rots little by little and is reduced to ash; nevertheless, the first answer is better, for even the bodies of the saints that do not need purgation suffer this.

The second error is of Luther, who on the contrary makes Purgatory too short. He would have it that anyone who dies in faith has the remainder of his sins purged by the sorrow of death, and so there is no further Purgatory than death itself. This error can be easily refuted. By the remaining sins, either the fomes are understood, or bad habits that were contracted, or the undergoing of temporal punishments and venial sins. These alone, and all others can remain in a man that has been justified, which pertain to sin and hence can be said to be the remainder of one’s sins. First, the fomes is certainly abolished in death, because then sensuality is extinguished, but we do not constitute Purgatory due to the fomes, otherwise even baptized infants that die would need to suffer the punishments of Purgatory, since Baptism does not wash away the fomes. But Augustine, in the cited passage of City of God, teaches precisely that children of this sort do not suffer any purgatorial punishments. Now in regard to bad habits, those which exist in the will are not necessarily extinguished by death, seeing that they are in the powers that are not bound to an organ. Nevertheless, on account of habits of this sort we constitute Purgatory since otherwise it would follow that adults who are baptized after they have contracted bad habits, and immediately die, or certainly are killed for Christ, could not be saved except by Purgatory because neither Baptism nor Martyrdom dissolves habits of this kind. We see the baptized still have these same wicked inclinations which they had before, and it is necessary for them to abolish habits of this sort little by little with contrary acts.

Therefore, it is believable that all these habits are abolished by the first contrary act of the separated soul, which it elicits immediately from the separation. For, even if this habit, contracted in one act, cannot be destroyed by many acts nevertheless, there it will be able to be because that act will be much more forceful, seeing that then the soul will be more powerful in regard to spiritual acts and it will not have the contrary fomites and resistance as it has here.

Thus, it remains to speak of suffering punishment and venial sin, which can properly be called the remainder of sin, which is the reason why Purgatory exists. Moreover, it is certain that sometimes these remnants are purged in death, and at other times it is certain they are not, whereas, at other times there is a doubt as to whether this happened and it is very probable that it was partly purged and partly not.

I will prove these individually. For the first, a violent death received for Christ, which is called martyrdom, without a doubt cleanses all remnants of this sort. Cyprian clearly says that all sins are cleansed in passion (lib. 4 epist. 2); that he is not speaking about mortal sins is obvious because in the same place he says that without charity martyrdom is of no benefit whatsoever. St. Paul taught this before Cyprian in 1 Cor. 13. Therefore, the Church never prays for martyrs, because, as St. Augustine says on the words of the Apostle: “It is an injury to pray for a martyr, to whose prayers we ought to be commended.”

I prove the second: Those who die against their will or without the use of reason, such as the insane, those who die in their sleep and those who die instantly cannot be purged by that death in any mode; for either death itself absolutely purges, or by reason of some voluntary concomitant act itself. Not the former because death is, according to what it is, natural, at least after the sin of our first parents. This is why it is common to both the good and the bad, nay more to men and beasts; but by natural things which necessarily must come about we do not merit or lose merit, nor can we dissolve debts contracted voluntarily, so if death purges, it happens by reason of a voluntary concomitant act. But we are speaking in this place about those men who die without any act of this sort. Besides, we often see the best men suffer a very hard death, and those that are not good suffer a very light one. But if in death the remnants of sin should be purged, then necessarily the contrary ought to happen.

I prove the third: There are many who bear death with equanimity, whose patience without a doubt helps to make satisfaction, but whether those sufferings are equivalent to the debts contracted from sin, nobody can know for certain.

Apart from these errors there was an opinion of Domingo de Soto that no one in Purgatory remains beyond ten years (4 Sent. dist. 19 quaest. 3, art. 2). His reasoning is that if here on earth we can be freed from all punishments in a short time by certain punishments, why not more quickly in Purgatory since those punishments are infinitely more serious punishments and more intense than the former? Besides, here punishments are extended because they cannot be very intense or they would destroy the subject; but after this life they can be as intense as possible, because the subject is incorruptible. Thus, it is believable that God purges those souls gasping for glory in the shortest time by the most intense punishments. But these reasons do not conclude the matter.

To the first it can be said that here is the time of mercy and there is the time of justice.
To the second I say, God can compensate extension with intension, but he refuses; otherwise it would follow that souls do not remain in Purgatory for one hour, because God can, by increasing the intensity, redirect the punishments of ten years to one hour.

Besides, his opinion is opposed to approved visions of the Saints. Bede writes that the punishments of Purgatory were shown to a certain man, and it was said to him that souls which abide in Purgatory are all going to be saved on the day of judgment, although some will be assisted with prayers and almsgiving of the living, and above all the sacrifice of the altar, so that they will be freed even before the day of judgment (lib. 5 hist. cap. 13). There, he clearly shows some men that already died will remain in Purgatory even to the day of judgment. We can advance many similar visions from Dennis the Carthusian and others.

The custom of the Church is also opposed to this opinion, which celebrates an anniversary Mass for the dead, even if it is certain they died a hundred or two-hundred years ago. Certainly the Church would not do that if she believed that souls are not punished beyond ten years. Consequently, the matter is still uncertain and cannot be defined without temerity.

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


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 ὁμούσιον must be received, and in Ephesus the word  Θεοτόκον.
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.

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

Defence of the Priesthood - Fisher
Defence of the Priesthood - Fisher

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

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:

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).

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