St. Robert Bellermine
Doctor of the Church

May 13 [New] September 17 [Traditional]

 Born at Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy, on October 4, he joined the Jesuits, despite his father's opposition, in 1560. He studied at Florence and Mondovi and then at Padua and Louvain and was ordained at Ghent in 1570. He was appointed a professor at Louvain, the first Jesuit to become a professor at Louvain, lectured on Thomas Aquinas' Summa, counteracted Baius' teaching, and gained a reputation for his learning and brilliant preaching. He studied Scripture and the Church Fathers and learned Hebrew for his studies. In 1576, he was recalled to Rome, where he occupied the chair of controversial theology at the newly founded Roman College for eleven years. It was during this period that he prepared his monumental Disputationes de controversiis Christianae Fidei adversus hujus temporis Haereticos, a study of the Catholic faith to refute the Protestant Centuries of Magdeburg. He was sent on an unsuccessful mission to Paris in 1589, enduring the eight-month siege of Paris by Henry of Navarre. In 1592, he was the leader in preparing the Clementine revised version of the Vulgate for which he wrote an Introduction, was named rector of the Roman College in 1592, and in 1594 became provincial of the Naples province of the Jesuits. He became Pope Clement VIII's theologian in 1597, prepared two catechisms that were still in use in modern times, and in 1599 was created a cardinal by Clement. He was appointed archbishop of Capua in 1602 but was recalled to Rome three years later by the newly elected Pope Paul V. Bellarmine soon became the most effective spokesman and apologist of the Church in the later years of the Counter Reformation, noted, in his opposition to the Protestants, for his reasoning and rational argumentation rather than for rhetoric and dogmatic assertions. He was the great champion of the papacy, brilliantly defending the interdict placed on Venice against Fra Paoli Sarpi. Bellarmine overwhelmed King James I of England, who had written two books defending his theory of supremacy in the controversy that developed when Archpriest Blackwell took an Oath of Allegiance to the King that denied papal jurisdiction in temporal matters. Bellarmine incurred further royal opposition with his De potestate papae, denying the Divine right of kings, which was publicly burned by the Paris parlement. However, he alienated Pope Sixtus V when he declared Popes had only indirect jurisdiction over secular rulers; Sixtus threatened to put the first volume of Disputationes de controversiis
on the Index but died before doing so.

Bellarmine's position became basic Catholic teaching on the subject. He retired to St. Andrew's novitiate in Rome the last days of his life and died there on September 17. He was canonized in 1930 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1931.



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