In book 1, Bellarmine takes up whether Monarchy is the best system of government following the Aristotelian tradition because it follows that God would give the best system of government to the Church; then he proves Christ established an ecclesiastical monarchy and that He gave it to Peter. Lastly, he defends this scripturally against both Protestant and Greek Orthodox arguments.
In book 2, St. Robert proves St. Peter had successors, by proving Peter actually went to Rome, died there, and established successors there and that men have always succeeded Peter with his authority to rule the Church. He defends against Protestant arguments drawn from history such as on the 6th Council of Carthage and St. Gregory the Great’s rejection of “Universal” Bishop. Lastly, he takes up the question of what might happen were the Pope to become a heretic, where he defends the position that the Pope could never become a heretic, and in fine that the titles the Pope has been given prove that the Bishops of Rome succeed Peter in the Ecclesiastical Monarchy.
In book 3, Bellarmine shows the many contradictions and faulty reasoning used by the first Protestants in arguing that the Pope is Antichrist while also giving exposition to the authentic understanding of the passages of Scripture that speak of Antichrist. After covering presenting the testimony of Scripture and the Fathers on the signs that must precede Antichrist, Bellarmine shows how none of this agrees with the Roman Pontiff. [Note, the standalone volume Antichrist that we recently published is an abridgement of this book.] He also refutes the fable of “Pope Joan”.
In book 4, Bellarmine argues why the Pope is infallible when he defines on faith and morals and proceeds to defend Popes whom Protestants and others argued had erred while defining matters of faith. He continues to a discussion of law, and why it is not contrary to the Gospel for the Pope (or a Bishop over his diocese), to make laws that bind the faithful, refuting the teaching of John Calvin.
In book 5, Bellarmine takes up the question of the Popes power in civil affairs. Protestants had argued that the Pope tyrannously usurped the rights of sovereigns and that they meant to rule the world directly in civil affairs, while some canonists overly attached to a more medieval view were of a similar persuasion. He then proceeds to demonstrate that the Pope’s temporal is indirect, that he can intervene for the sake of the faith when excommunicating sovereigns. The protestants argued that a Bishop could not also be a temporal prince. This point is interesting in light of the fact that many, perhaps even most Catholics today hold to a position similar to the Protestant view Bellarmine refutes in this book.
It is worth noting the historical fact that the fifth book, the smallest of the entire work, actually got Bellarmine temporarily placed on the index of Forbidden books! Pope Sixtus V was a former canonist, and his friends were all canonists, and they became angry that Bellarmine argued the Pope was not Lord of the whole world. After effectively lobbying the Pope to override the decision of the Holy Office that Bellarmine’s teaching was perfectly orthodox (one member refused to tell the Pope the Fathers and saints held the same position lest the Pope put them on the index also!), Sixtus V placed St. Robert Bellarmine (as well as Francis Victoria, another holy and learned man for the same thing) on the Index of Forbidden books of 1590 until book 5 ch. 2 would be revised. The Pope died two weeks later and the next Pope, Urban VII, removed the saint from the odd company with which he had been placed.
Now is your chance to own what is not only a great treatise on theology that is foundational to today’s arguments in apologetics, but also a piece of history!
I actually really like the book. Bellarmine’s arguments for the primacy of the Roman Pontiff are (to me at least) persuasive and I am in awe of how well-read St. Bellarmine is. That being said, I there are some facets of the book that really do pull me out of it and make it hard for me to really love it. I own the hardcover version of the 2nd edition. The following are all the errors or inconsistencies that I bothered to make a note of:
pg. 39: Valentinian is put as Valentianus. Sozomen is put as Sozomenus (referred to as Sozomen on pg. 47).
pg. 45-7 Amariah is put as Amarias. Zebadiah is put as Zebadias. Footnote 21 should be 2 Chron. 26:18 and not 2 Chron. 36:18, Cordoba is put as Corduva, Valentinian is put as Valentinan. Uzziah is put as Oziah (referred to as Uzziah on pg. 45).
pg. 55: Behemoth is put as Behemot.
pg. 70: Schmalkaldic is put as Schmalkaldich
pg. 90: Schmalkaldic is put as Smalkaldic.
pg. 122: Schmalkaldic is put as Smalkaldic twice.
pp. 323-4: Basil of Gortyna is called both Gortynae and Gortyae, both times excluding his first name.
I had seen a review on Amazon pointing out some of the same issues that I had with the book and I had thought that a new edition would have fixed them. I am disappointed to see that it hasn’t.
elijahdhallberg (verified owner) –
The book was really great. I enjoyed on how it covered pretty much everything about the Papacy. I am Greek Orthodox, so it was cool to see Bellarmine address some of our arguments, against the Papacy. I bought it to see the Catholic arguments themselves for the Papacy. I also liked Bellarmines use of Patristic fathers both Latin and Greek. The book was very easy to read and understand. I also enjoyed Bellarmines occasional roasts in the book, and I thought they were very funny.
There were some occasional spelling errors, in the book, but nothing really major. The font size was also really great and easy to read. Almost all of the Patristic texts, that Bellarmines uses are real. There is only like 1 forgery, I remember which was the the synopsis of Dorotheus of Tyre. It a work that was attributed St. Dorotheus of Tyre, but is actually a later forgery.
The only problem I saw with Bellarmines argument is that, he tries to project the Renaissance Papacy into the Papacy of the first millennium. It is true that in the early Church the Pope had privileges that other bishops, did not have, but that does not translate into infallibility or total supremacy. I will concede the Pope has supremacy to an extent.
Also, I just wanted to say thanks Ryan for your hard work. I will definitely buy Bellarmines other books. I was very impressed.
elijahdhallberg (verified owner) –
I just wanted to add, that I found a few more forgeries in this book.
One was a letter supposedly from St. Ignatius of Antioch to a women named Mary at Neapolis.
This is just one example, there are some more forgeries. Most texts though, are quoted authentically and accurately.
This book on the Roman Pontiff by St. Robert Bellarmine is the best book you can buy/read to understand and defend the Papacy. St. Bellarmine explains/defends the Catholic faith in a simple way that any layman can read and understand. The translation by Ryan Grant makes it easy to read and he includes translator notes for further clarifications when needed. Please read this book!