Bellarmin, Robert

, an Italian Jesuit, and one of the most celebrated controversial writers of his time, was born in Tuscany, 1542, and admitted amongst the Jesuits in 1560. In 1569 he was ordained priest, at Ghent, by Cornelius Jansenius, and the year following taught divinity at Louvain. After having lived seven years in the Low Countries, he returned to Italy, and in 1576 began to read lectures at Rome on points of controversy. This he did with so much applause, that Sixtus V. appointed him to accompany his legate into France, in 1590, as a person who might be of great service, in case of any dispute concerning religion. He returned to Rome about ten months after, where he had several offices conferred on him by his own society as well as by the pope, and in 1599 was created cardinal. Three years after, he had the archbishopric of Capua given him, which he resigned in 1605, when pope Paul V. desired to have him near himself. He was now employed in the affairs of the court of Rome, till 1621, when, finding himself declining in health, he left the Vatican, and retired to the house belonging to the Jesuits, where he died the 17th of Sept. 1621. It appeared on the day of his funeral that he was regarded as a saint, and | the Swiss guards belonging to the pope were obliged to be placed round his coffin, in order to keep off the crowd, which pressed to touch and kiss the body; but they could not prevent every thing he made use of from being carried away a venerable relic.

It is generally allowed that Bellarmin did great honour to his order, and that no man ever defended the church of Rome and the pope with more success. The Protestants have so far acknowledged his abilities, that during the space of forty or fifty years, there was scarce any considerable divine amongst them, who did not think it necessary to write against Bellarmin, and some of his antagonists accused him without much foundation, in their publications, a circumstance from which his party derived great advantage. Bellarmin, however, though a strenuous advocate for the Romish religion, did not agree with the doctrine of the Jesuits in some points, particularly that of predestination, nor did he approve of many expressions in the Romish litanies; and notwithstanding he allowed many passages in his writings to be altered by his superiors, yet in several particulars he followed the opinions of St. Augustin. He wrote most of his works in Latin, the principal of which is his body of controversy, consisting of four volumes in folio; the best edition that of Cologne, 1615. He there handles the questions in divinity with great method and precision, stating the objections to the doctrines of the Romish church with strength and perspicuity, and answering them in the most concise manner. Some of the Roman Catholics have been of opinion, that their religion has been hurt by his controversial writings, the arguments of the heretics not being confuted with that superiority and triumph, which, they imagined, the goodness of the cause merited. Father Theophilus Raynaud acknowledges some persons to have been of opinion, that Bellarmin’s writings ought to be suppressed, because the Protestants might make an ill use of them, by taking what they found in them for their purpose, and the Catholics might be deluded by not understanding the answers to the objections. Hence it was that our countryman, sir Edward Sandys, not being able to meet with Bellarmin’s works in any bookseller’s shop in Italy, concluded that they were prohibited, lest they should spread the opinions which the author confutes. Besides his body of controversy, he wrote also several other books. He has left us a “Commentary on the | Psalms;” “A biography of Ecclesiastical Writers;” “A discourse on Indulgences, and the Worship of Images;” Two treatises in answer to a work of James I. of England; “A dissertation on the Power of the Pope in temporal matters,” against William Barclay; and several treatises on devotion, the best of which is that on the duties of bishops, addressed to the bishops of France.

Notwithstanding the zeal which Bellarmin had shewed in maintaining the power of the pope over the temporalities of kings, yet his book “De Romano Pontifice” was condemned by Sixtus V. who thought he had done great prejudice to the dignity of the pope, by not insisting that the power which Jesus Christ gave to his vicegerent, was direct, but only indirect. What he wrote against William Barclay upon the same subject, was treated with great indignity in France, as being contrary to the ancient doctrine, and the rights of the Galilean church.

Bellarmin is said to have been a man of great chastity and temperance, and remarkable for his patience. His stature was low, and his mien very indifferent, but his talents and acuteness might be discovered from the traces of his countenance. He always expressed himself with great perspicuity, and the words he first made use of to explain his thoughts were generally so proper, or at least so satisfactory to himself, that there appeared no rasure in his writings. He has been attacked and defended by so many writers, that a catalogue has been drawn up of both parties, and a list of his defenders was composed by Beraldus, an Italian. His life has been written by James Fuligati, and many particulars relating to him may likewise be found in Alegambus, Possevinus, Sponde, &c. 1


Gen. Dict. —Dupin.Moreri. —Saxii Onomasticon.