ROBERTO FRANCESCO ROMULO BELLAR
MI NO first saw light in Montepulciano, a town
of Tuscany, on the 4th day of October, 1542.
Cardinal Roberto Pucci, of Florence, gave him
those names at " the lustral font." The first,
Roberto, clave to him all his life, in honour of
the sponsor ; the second name, Francesco, given
in consideration of the saint adored on that day,
St. Francis of Assisi, was to remind him of the
seraphic patriarch whom he should invoke as
his guardian saint, and whose virtues he might
aspire to imitate ; and as for the third name,
Romulo, it might suggest and quicken aspira
tions after some Roman dignity. His father,
Vincenzo Bellarmino, and his mother, Cintia
Cervini, were of high families ; and his maternal
uncle, Marcello Cervini, sat on the apostolic
throne as Marcellus II.
Wealth and honours attended at his birth,
bidding for eulogies on such illustrious infancy.
" Educated," to borrow the words of his biogra
pher, Fuligatto, " in the bosom of most excellent
parents, from being a diminutive infant, he had
3 A 2
scarcely reached years of an enlightened discre
tion when he gave indications of his future
greatness and incomparable probity. Indeed,
some judged that he had found, in the hands of
God, Creator of human minds, a good soul, a
soul in which Adam himself would not have
sinned, as it had formerly been said of St.
This marvel of unstained purity, according to
Fuligatto, loved religion in preference to play,
and acted over again in the nursery the cere
monies of the Church. A stool served him
instead of altar, whereat he mimicked mass.
On the seat of a high-backed bench, just peep
ing over the top, and wearing something white,
he preached, in his way, about the sufferings of
Christ, much to the delight of his mother, who,
like many others, taught her little Robert to
play at religion when he was six or seven years
old, and left him to play out the game with
greater art at sixty or seventy.
She spared no pains, however, to bring him
up according to the straitest sect of her religion,
suffering him only to associate with elder boys,
and they of his own rank ; and, after he had
risen to eminence, his elder sister Camilla
stated that when only nine or ten years old he
gave up childish sports, and was especially care
ful never to walk too quick. Public fame in*
Montepulciano retained the memory of that edi
fying gravity ; and, in due time, many of the
old people deponed as much on oath. As he
grew bigger, the same propensity to imitate
Priests continued. It is related that when
rambling in the country, he was wont to amuse
himself with catching birds, playing on the
fiddle, and preaching from the trunk of a tree.
Being even then an ardent orator, he gathered
But, amidst all this childishness, young Robert
had higher thoughts : perhaps observing that
the path to eminence could only be trodden by
the diligent, and certainly impelled by a strong
desire after knowledge, he became a diligent
student, and not only rose early for prayers, as
required to do, but often stole from his bed at
night, and by help of a flint and steel struck
light, lit his fire, and outran the morning in
pursuit of learning. But that pursuit must have
been retarded by the observance of a round of
ceremonial festivities, fastings, hours, litanies,
rosaries, and processions. As nephew of a Pope,
godson of a Cardinal, related to some of the
highest families in Tuscany, possessing a vigorous
mind, and having every advantage of education
at command, nothing less than a veto of Divine
Providence could have driven him back into
obscurity. But it pleased God to permit the
contrary. We shall attend this child in his
advance to almost the highest station that the
Church of Rome could give, and find him fore
most in battle with the Reformation.
Partaking of that admiration of classic models
which yet survived the days of Medicean glory in
Florence, he found much delight in their study.
From Virgil, especially, in due time, he drew a
poetic inspiration, while Horace and the Satirists
lent him their charms of number. He could
early write Italian odes with equal facility and
success, and after a few years some of his Latin
verses obtained celebrity. The hymn in the
Roman Breviary, in honour of Mary Magdalene,
beginning with " Pater superni luminis," inserted
there by command of Clement VIII., was from
his pen. That the spur of ambition urged him,
even in the gay morning of childhood, is un
doubted. He used to tell a little anecdote of
himself, which says as much. At church one
day, with his mother, during sermon, and rather
amused than edified, he diverted her attention
by repeating, again and again, and loud enough
to be heard by many, " Signora, do you not see
that I am going to be made a Bishop and a
Cardinal?" "Hush," said Cynthia, "hush,
hush ! " " Nay, lady," he shouted, pointing
at the pictures of illustrious Doctors that adorned
the building, " I shall be like one of them, some
day." Jesuits have imagined that the boy
In order to give him an education correspond
ent to the station of his family, his father
determined to send him to Padua, whither also
a cousin, Ricciardo Bellarmino, was about to
proceed ; and as no Tuscan subject might go
out of the state for education, without licence of
the Duke, such a licence was obtained from
Cosimo I. How to find a suitable companion
and protector, who might first accompany him
into the Venetian territory, and then take some
oversight of him when at college, was a question
that cost some anxiety ; and, at length, it was
resolved to confide that service to a member of
the Society of Jesus.
The favourable disposition towards the Society
that led to this choice was not accompanied
with sufficient foresight in the father. The
mother was fascinated with admiration of the
new fraternity. The son, too, over whom Cynthia
swayed the influence of a fond parent, imper-
^eptibly drank in the spirit of asceticism and of
romance that the Jesuits were diffusing through
out Italy ; and even while the family were looking
around them for a Jesuit companion, and the
house was full of preparation for his departure
to Padua, and the Ducal passport was to invest
the journey with an air of official privilege, little
Robert, shut up in his chamber, meditated on
futurity, and his imagination already pictured
an ideal of perfection.
Cynthia had instructed him in the very reli
gion of Jesuitism, and her own example gave a
vast emphasis to her instructions. Often had
the household heard the sound of a whip ; and
Camilla, an elder sister, had told him how she
had been in their mother s chamber, unperceived,
and seen her lay her shoulders bare, and lash
them fearfully, until reverence for the mother
alone restrained the child from rushing out of
her hiding-place, and ending the penance by
snatching away the knotted scourge. Already
he had written acrostics on VIRGINITY, aud
composed stanzas in dispraise of the world.
And now he fancied that, in Padua, he might
find some outlet from the world. The words of
a Prophet, which he had often heard in chant,
resounded again within him in the silence of his
chamber : " that I had wings like a dove ! then
would I fly away, and be at rest." On this his
mind lingered. In this his heart became entangled
" and be at rest" Then, holding colloquy with
himself, it seemed as if voices answered again from
the depth of his bosom. Nay, it seemed as if an
angel spake, advising renunciation of the world,
provoking courage to abandon its endearments,
and impelling him to fling away its honours.
In this frame of mind he left Montepulciano,
and came to Padua ; not roused from the dream
by the conversation of his travelling-companion
and master, the Jesuit Sgariglia. One object
henceforth absorbed his thoughts. He sought
some religious order, within whose inclosure he
might delight himself in the fragrance of disci
pline, contemplate models of perfection, plunge
into the depths of science, lay hold on what is
most excellent, and learn to reject all that is
mean and vile. And he was led to believe that
such a home for his weary soul would be found
in the Society of Jesus. Sgariglia directed
his literary pursuits, and guided his aspirations
towards the summit of repose. His cousin
Ricciardo caught the flame, which now en
wrapped them both ; and, consumed with desire
after this heaven upon earth, they communicated
intelligence of the passion to their fathers?
No. That would have been consulting with
flesh and blood. Being now too spiritual to
condescend so low, they sent up their prayer
for acceptance to Diego Laynez, General of the
Jesuits at Rome, beseeching him to admit them
into the army of Jesus Christ.
An answer to their letter came without delay.
Laynez offered them welcome ; but, that Robert
might gain his object by the gentlest way, (ut
qui vellet Robertum id quum mollissimd via conse-
qui,) directed them to ask leave of their fathers.
By this time Robert was about seventeen years
of age ; and when the report of his attachment
to Jesuitism reached his father, the good man
was astounded at intelligence which he might
reasonably have expected, and began to bemoan
the frustration of those hopes that he had set on
the most promising of his children, having counted
on him, chiefly, for a repair of the fortunes of
the family, now considerably reduced. Both the
young cousins were in secret correspondence
with the General of the Jesuits, their fathers
being kept in utter ignorance. Vincenzo first,
observing that his son Robert was frequently in
private conversation with his cousin Richard,
suspected what was going on ; but when the
request came to permit him to take the Jesuit
habit, it was bitter indeed. Robert talked high
about a vocation of the Holy Spirit. The father,
for fear of the Inquisition, durst not demur to
the idea that the Holy Spirit of God called
people into the bosom of Jesuitism ; but he
wished to see some proof of constancy in the
lad, some evidence of the Divine will. Robert
persisted in pleading a heavenly summons to the
Company, but his father sternly forbade him to
enter a Jesuit church, or to speak with a Jesuit,
for twelve months, and required him only to
attend mass in a church of the Dominicans.
The General had allowed them to remain at
home for that period ; and the two mothers
danced with joy when they found that, by a
half-measure of the husbands, they and the boys
had gained all their hearts desire. Cynthia,
however, found that her husband was firmer
than he had seemed to be, and therefore gave
him no rest, day nor night. He resisted. She
fretted, and fell sick ; and then he relented for
a little. The residence of Alessandro Cervini, at
a place called Vivo, served as a temporary school.
Alessandro himself acted as master ; and, adapt-
WELCOMED AT ROME.
out from all ecclesiastical preferment and civil
dignities, the good man could Lave no idea that
this lad would rise to be a Cardinal, but thought
that he was thenceforth buried in sworn poverty.
WELCOMED AT ROME.
Bellarmine first saw Rome on the 20th of
September, 1560. His cousin entered the city
with him, but died four years afterwards in the
College of Loreto. Going directly to the House
of Jesus, Robert found a cordial welcome, such
as might well be given to the representative of a
Papal family. Enraptured with the attainment
of the object so long coveted, he almost fancied
himself numbered with the inhabitants of heaven.
To his mind Ignacio, the founder, was perfect
above all that ever had been mortal ; and his
ambition, while treading on the same ground,
and living within the walls that had resounded
with his voice, was to be more like Ignacio than
like himself. On the very day of entrance he
implored permission to take the vows of obe
dience, chastity, and poverty, " a threefold cord,
not easily to be broken, whereby he might bind
himself most closely to Christ and to His cross."
Ten days were spent in " the retreat," medi
tating, according to custom, on themes pre-^.
scribed, exercising himself in that submission of
the thoughts to the guidance of superiors, and
that abnegation of the will in abandoning the
thoughts to the direction of another mind, which
is at once the weakness and the strength of
Jesuitism.* There they taught him his soul was
to be nourished, a hidden life revived, and his
heart cleansed from all the stains it had con
tracted since the day of baptism. Then he took
the habit of the order, and entered on the duties
of the house. Those duties were to exercise
him in humility ; and, accordingly, the scion of
the Bellarmini and Cervini went into the kitchen,
officiated in the scullery, scoured the kettles,
washed the dishes, cleansed the tables, and
chopped wood. In the refectory, too, he served
up the dinner. In the dormitory he made the
beds. All over the house he swept the floors.
Services beneath enumeration he performed, and
all with exquisite self-satisfaction. " For, as a
prudent novice, he considered this to be an
opportunity of the highest value, that the tower
of perfection might be erected on the foundation
of humility, "f
IN THE ROMAN COLLEGE.
Scarcely had a fortnight passed from his first
admission, when he was transferred to the
* For an insight into these exercises, and the discipline
to which Novices are now subjected, I would refer to
"The Novitiate: or, the Jesuit in Training," &c. By
Andrew Steinmetz. London : Smith, Elder, and Co.
t Let it be understood that quotations, unaccompanied
hy any foot-note, are translated from the " Vita Robert!
Bellarmini, &c., a Jacoho Fuligatto Soc. Jesu. Italice
IN THE ROMAN COLLEGE.
Roman College, there to study, and recognised
as a member of Society. So rapid a promotion
sounds very strangely now ; but it was possible
in those early days. The year that intervened
between his leaving Padua and appearing in
Rome, during which time he had been under the
observation, and perhaps under the guidance, of
Jesuits, was counted as a period of probation.
His vows, it must also be observed, were every
year taken anew, until his juniority was fairly
past. Perhaps the rapidity of his admission,
with dispensation of a regular novitiate, was the
effect of discernment rather than precipitancy ;
but Laynez, setting aside the usual guard of
probation, professed to do so in honour of the
new comer s uncle, Marcellus II. ; but the pre
cedent was dangerous, and the fifth General Con
gregation recorded a law, that no future General
should be at liberty to dispense thus.*
Of his obedience, too, there was no question,
and in that virtue, or quality, whichever it may
be in the case of a Jesuit, he seemed cordially to
delight. " I only wish," he said, some time
after this, to the Secretary, Polanco, " to per- .
form those things to which a holier and better
will appoints me ; even if that will should com
mand me perpetually to teach rhetoric, or to
primum scripta : a Silvestro Petra Sancta Latino reddita.
* Ristretto della Vita di Roberto Cardinal Bellarmino,
&c. Dai P. Francesco Marazzani. Bologna. Capo U y
LI5 B 2
instruct children of the lowest class in Latin.
For on this I calculated from the very day when
I entered into this holy Society ; and on this I
have resolved, whenever I may leave Rome, and
on this very day I wish it to be taken as a point
settled. And that I may never ask anything for
myself inconsistent with obedience, to change my
abode, for example, or anything else, I this day
beseech the General to grant me nothing under
the idea of showing me a kindness, but only if,
without regard to any request of mine, the most
exact rule of obedience would require the very
thing that I ask. For I would rather be pre
served from error at the cost of pain, than to
commit an error, and have what I desire. For
assuredly I cannot err, so long as I obey." If
all this had been addressed to God, instead of
being written to Polanco, it would have been a
good exposition of the Christian s daily prayer,
"Thy will be done on earth as it is in
Under the direction of Pedro Parra, a Spa
niard, he completed a course of philosophy,
extending through three years, and won great
applause. But although his application to study
was not severe, the ascetic discipline of the place
broke his health, and for some time the phy
sicians apprehended symptoms of consumption.
This induced the superiors, considering also that
their College at Rome was overcrowded, to send
him to Florence, where he might breathe in
BEGINS TO TEACH.
the more salubrious atmosphere of his native
BEGINS TO TEACH.
Too scantily supplied with money, Robert set
out for Florence, and would have had great
difficulty in finishing the journey, if a Spanish
gentleman, with whom he met, had not assisted
him. Weary and pale, he made his appearance
at the College, more like an applicant for admis
sion into a hospital, than a master come thither
to teach. A physician exhausted the resources
of his art upon the patient with little effect ; but
after some time he rallied, and application to his
new duties rather hastened than retarded the
restoration of health. For the first time he dis
charged the duties of a teacher.
And now the juvenile attempts at preaching
were succeeded by more public and more effective
efforts. Two sermons in the great church, deli
vered with much fluency, full of imagination,
elegant, arid not unlearned, drew the attention
of the Florentine academicians. Then he appeared
on feast-days, in the same place, reciting verses
of his own, said to be remarkable for richness,
melody, and figure, and charmed the ear of
numerous assemblages. When opportunity
occurred, he made himself and the Society
conspicuous by disputing with the learned con
cerning the nature of the universe ; and
although a report of those disquisitions would
17 B 3
now minister more amusement than instruc
tion, we may be sure that they contributed
much, at that time, to strengthen his influ
ence over the pupils at the College, and to
win admiration from the public. In short, he
became a sort of oracle, and, after having been
resorted to for the solution of numberless mys
teries in sciences yet unlearned, he felt himself
competent to explain, to a company of acade
micians, "the doctrine of the sphere of the
world ; questions concerning the situation and
the magnitude of the heavenly bodies ; concern
ing their going and coming ; concerning the
power of the stars ; and particularly concerning
their distribution under the figures of men
and beasts." Perhaps it was about the very
time of the appearance of Bellarmine in Florence
in quality of astrologer, that Galileo drew his
first breath in the same city ; and he grew up
to appear before the lecturer under an accusa
tion of heresy in regard to the going and
coming of those corpora sujprema. But more
of this hereafter.
After shining in Florence for one year, our
youthful Doctor was sent to Mondovi, a town in
the present kingdom of Sardinia, not far north
ward of the junction of the Apennines and Mari
time Alps. There he announced an explication
of certain books, and, especially, "Demosthenes,
a Greek author," to revive the knowledge of
Greek. " Robert was altogether ignorant of the
BEGINS TO TEACH.
Greek language ; but what was wanting in learn
ing, mind and industry supplied." He converted
the occasion into an opportunity for learning
Greek, first mastering the rudiments of the
grammar, which he set forth with magisterial
confidence, telling his audience that " that foreign
language was equally useful and difficult, but
they must begin with the elements, in order to
proceed more certainly." Advancing from alpha
bet to nouns thence to verbs thence to con
struing and on to Isocrates, Demosthenes, or
any other author, he at length acquired a pretty
considerable smattering, and passed for master
without much difficulty. The readers of Bellar-
mine may be recommended to bear in mind this
origin of his acquirements in Greek while they
weigh his criticisms. Although he revived Greek
among the boys at Mondovi, they will not mistake
him for a Chrysoloras.
At home he exemplified obedience and indus
try. One might have thought that all the bur
dens of the house rested upon him alone. He
was last in bed, and first out. Early in the
mornings he roused the fellows by putting lamps
upon their tables, performing the function of
waker-up. At table he officiated as reader. It
was he who ran for a Priest when any one fell
sick. At the door he answered as porter. For
any menial office he was ready. At home he
gave exhortations without end : abroad, he deli
vered sermons and grew popular. Everywhere
quite at home, he would step into a neighbour
ing convent of Dominicans, take a cheerful glass
of wine, and away to his appointment. In the
pulpit, a place where old men trembled, he knew
no trepidation, and must have admired the sim
plicity of devout women, who, mistrusting the
powers of so juvenile an orator, dropped on
their knees, as he rose in " the superior place,"
and prayed for him to be helped through the
sermon. Every one wondered at his versatility ;
grave Clerks clustered around him at the foot of
the pulpit-stairs, and kissed his hands ; and the
Rector of the College of Mondovi, writing of his
wonderful eloquence to the General at Rome,
thought that it could only be expressed by the
appropriation of a sentence that should have
checked the flattery, " Never man spake like
this man." When travelling, he stopped at each
village, and gave a sermon to the rustics. He
bent at the shrine of every saint that lay in his
way, and strove to vanquish the unfriendliness
of the older monkhoods by paying special
reverence to their favourite saints, and by
encouraging the common people to frequent
From Mondovi he went to Padua, the scene
of early studies, and there acquired fresh fame.
Francesco Adorno, the Provincial, sent him thi
ther, deeming his talent necessary for the public
service ; and there, amidst brisk dispute con
cerning election and reprobation, he seems to
BEGINS TO TEACH.
have essayed his controversial powers with con
siderable effect. This took place in the year
1567. Sometimes he sat at the feet of Doctors,
and heard them heavily emitting disquisitions on
law and metaphysics ; and thence rushed into
the pulpit, and gave his mind free reaction in
delivering popular addresses. At Venice, on one
of the days before the carnival, when all Priests
are expected to be very zealous in preaching
down immorality, with the general understand
ing that there will be much of it abroad, he
declaimed grandly against the licentiousness of
those days to a vast congregation ; and, at the
close of that oration, several Senators did him
the honour of kissing his hands.
Next we find him at Genoa, taking part in a
meeting of the Jesuits of the province, receiving
strong patronage from the superiors, and figur
ing high in those exhibitions of dialectic subtilty,
whereby they were wont to impress the multi
tude with admiration of the learning and intel
lectual resources of the order. In rhetoric,
logic, physics, and metaphysics, young Bellar-
mine had no superior within hearing ; and at
length the Provincial commanded the President
of a great assembly to permit him to speak with
out restriction. He did so ; and, after amazing
.the learned, he suddenly turned to the people,
"passing from the chair of wisdom to the gate
of virtue," and with impassioned gravity exhorted
both Clergy and laity to take heed to themselves.
The more deeply read perceived that he had
recited great part of a homily of St. Basil.
The Fathers at Rome saw that his talent was
too powerful to be limited to ordinary service,
and resolved that the skill in disputation dis
played at Genoa in academic skirmishing, should
be spent in real warfare with the chiefs of the
Reformation. In that view the Spaniard, Fran
cisco de Borja, General of the Company, wrote
to the Rector of the College of Padua, command
ing him to send Robert Bellarmine to Louvain,
there to prosecute the study of theology, and to
preach in Latin. When the mandate came, the
young Preacher had just surrounded himself
with fresh applause, and the Rector, building
large hopes on the profit to be derived from
his zeal and popularity, was unwilling to lose
such a workman, yet unable to disobey the
General. He therefore acknowledged the receipt
of the letter ; but represented that the constitu
tion of the young brother was very delicate ;
that physicians gave their judgment against his
undertaking a journey at that season of the year,
for it was winter, and it would endanger his life
then to cross the Alps ; and he also intimated
that the loss to the Society at Padua by his
removal would be irreparable, and an occasion of
grief to every member of the Academy. But
remonstrance was vain. Pius V. was laying the
foundation of the Palace of the Inquisition in
Rome, and the Inquisitors were sweeping Italy
of heretics without resistance. Controversialists
had little to do in those parts where imprison
ment, burning, and drowning silenced argument.
Not so in France and Belgium, where armies
had but half conquered the Reformation, and
where the doctrine of the Gospel was known
well enough to engage the assent of multitudes
of the people, and even to bring over some of
the Clergy to the side of truth. The General
received other letters of remonstrance, written
with extreme earnestness ; hut he knew that this
Preacher would be more effectively employed in
Belgium ; and merely allowing him to remain at
Padua over the winter, then required him to
proceed to Louvain without more delay. The
Church in that country was infected, he said,
with the poison of heresy, and a skilful
surgeon was wanted there to search her
Bellarmine professed himself willing to scale
the Alps, although their heights were horrid
with ice, and touched the skies, rather than lose
an hour in hastening to the spot whither the
supreme pleasure sent him. Great was the joy
in Rome on seeing so noble a person as the
nephew of Pope Marcellus present himself as a
living victim on the altar of obedience ; and as
soon as the Alpine passes were open, the willing
messenger, accompanied with one Father Jacques,
a Belgian, set out from Milan. One Irishman,
and three Englishmen, among whom was William
Allen, the incendiary of English Romanists,
afterwards Cardinal, made up a congenial party.
In good health and spirits, after a perilous
journey, they reached Louvain, and he delivered
his first sermon in that city on the 25th of July,
The Belgians wondered at the sight of so young
a man in the pulpit ; for although nearly twenty-
seven years of age, he looked much younger.
But this was nothing in comparison with the
novelty of a layman preaching, in the eyes of
people who had never seen the pulpit occupied
by any except a Priest in sacerdotal vestments.
If we might believe on the testimony of Andrew
Wise, a Knight of Malta, and Grand Prior of
England, the want of robes was more than made
up by an envelopment of light that surrounded
him when in the pulpit, while his face shone as
the face of an angel. The Fathers of Louvain,
therefore, besought their General to obtain a
licence for the stranger to receive sacred orders,
although regulations then in force made the
ordination of any but a Jesuit professed depend
on a special licence from the Pope. The
licence was readily granted ; and at Liege
he received the first tonsure, the four lesser
orders, and the diaconate. At Ghent the Bishop
Cornelius Jansenius made him Deacon, and then
conferred on him the priesthood.* Robed in
sacerdotal honour, Bellarmine returned to Lou-
vain, and felt himself another man.
Invested, also, with pontifical authority, and
with no less boldness than sub til ty, for he
never knew diffidence, he poured forth floods
of eloquence that captivated those whom it did
not convince, and they boast that " heretics " in
great number came from Holland, and even from
England, to hear him ; and that not a few, over
whelmed by his talent, renounced Protestantism,
and^-were reconciled to Rome. Whether there
were any so simple, and, if so, how many, is a
question of slight importance. Every one agreed
that he was the most clever Preacher in all
Popedom at that time. The Clergy of Paris
earnestly desired to have him in their midst.
The Cardinal-Archbishop Borromeo craved him
for Milan. The Belgian Fathers kept a close
hold on him for Louvain ; but, in truth, it best
pleased the Pope to keep him to that chosen field,
where he might hold up the Roman standard,
cultivate his peculiar talent, and serve Romanism
better than any other man of his age.
He was now to teach theology in the Univer
sity. Although he had preached from childhood,
* This Jansenius is not to be confounded with the
famous Doctor of Louvain, whose followers are known as
Jansenists. The name of each was Cornelius ; but the
latter, and more eminent man, was not born until the
25 ->^ c
and even while a layman had risen to peerless
eminence as a Preacher, he was not considered a
divine. He had only spent one year in the
study of scholastic theology at Louvain ; but, in
truth, he knew quite enough for the purpose,
and, all formalities being dispensed with, he
received the title of Doctor, and took the
professorial chair in the beginning of October,
1570, "first of the Society who, with most
prosperous beginnings, taught supreme wisdom
in that city."
To combat with the scholars of reformed
Christendom was no light undertaking, at the
best ; but having begun to teach polemics in
the sight of Europe, he discovered, to a degree
that he had not anticipated, his imperfect pre
paration for the work. The interpretation of
holy Scripture by means of Hebrew learning,
not, however, matured by liberal and profound
study as it now is, gave character and immense
advantage to the Reformation, as it brought
men nearer to the fountains of revealed truth.
But of Hebrew Bellarmine was as ignorant when
he began to teach theology, as he was untaught
in Greek when he began, at Mondovi, to lecture
on " Demosthenes, a Greek author." However,
he mastered the elements of the grammar in a
week, which was no very remarkable achieve
ment ; and then a vocabulary, not what we should
acknowledge to be a lexicon, (tantmn adhibito
codice vocalulorum,) without any of the learning
AT LOU VAIN.
really needed by an expositor, set him up.
Furnished with this apparatus, he drilled his
pupils in Greek and Hebrew, making those
exercitations serve himself as a study, and so
he learned by teaching.
Gifted with a most rapid perception, and
capable of iron perseverance, he turned over the
Fathers, aided, of course, by Latin versions of
the Greeks, and searched the Councils. Folio
after folio passed under keen review. Others
had gone before him in the same path ; humbler
brethren would aid in the mechanical processes
of reference ; and the exigencies already dis
covered and overcome by such men as Laynez,
theologian at Trent, no doubt led to the accu
mulation of helps to be placed at his command.
One man had the glory, although the resources
of a fraternity were at his disposal ; yet, even
so, none but a man of great industry could have
done so much as he did. And it appears, by
his own statements, that the composition of his
voluminous works was neither more nor less
than the prosecution of a study. He entered at
once on controversy, working his way through
by means of material presented at the time,
rather than producing, as those do who, in the
ktter years of life, bring things new and old
out of long-gathered treasuries.
On. the octave of St. Peter and St. Paul, in
the year 1572, the rising Doctor earned a new
reward of diligence by elevation to the order of
27 c 2
the Professed of four vows, a distinction only
conferred on those who are deemed worthy of
entire confidence, and fit to be admitted into
the secret of higher counsels. In obedience to
the summons of his superiors, he took the fourth
vow of obedience to the Supreme Pontiff, and
his successors, "as to the Vicar of Christ the
Lord, to go forth, without excuse, and without
asking for any provision for the journey, to any
nation whatever, at the command of His Holi
ness, either among believers or infidels, on such
service as might tend to the worship of God and
the good of the Christian religion." * And it
would appear, that he strove to sustain the new
honour by those observances of sanctimony
which were considered proper for one admitted
into the first ranks of " the Religious." And as
the history of such an one demands the adorning
of gifts correspondent to the favours of earthly
superiors, the biography of Bellarmine is at
this time embellished with a miracle. That
no secondary representation may attenuate its
grandeur, Fuligatto himself shall exhibit this
first-fruit of his profession. Hear him, thus :
" There was in the College of Louvain, while
Robert was residing there, one of the Society"
(no very independent witness in the cause)
" who had had, for many years, a running ulcer
in his leg." (Ulcers, as the readers of my
* Constitutiones Societatis Jesu. Exam. Gen. i., 5.
biography of St. Francis Xavier may remember,
furnish some interesting details for the history
of the Society.) " Physicians and surgeons
had tried all the succours of their art, but had
not cured the wound. The patient, therefore,
anxious in mind, and seeing that human care
was mastered by the pertinacity of the disease,
began to consider within himself whether there
was any man made after God s heart, (factus ad
cor Dei,} by whose prayer a way to recovery
might be opened to him ; and while he was thus
meditating within himself, Bellarmine appeared
to be an effectual and grateful offerer of prayer
to God ; and a hope sprang up within him that
he might at once recover, if, after sacred con
fession, he could also be refreshed by him in the
communion. His faith was not vain. The
Rector consented. He deposited the secret of
his conscience in the ears of Robert,, from his
hand received the most holy eucharist, and,
behold, his leg was restored to soundness. The
surgeon was astonished, when in two or three
days he saw the wound covered with living and
native skin, and the slightest trace of so long-
disease did not remain upon the part."
Most opportune was this miracle of healing on
the sore leg. It was performed just at the exact
moment when all expected it. The skin was
native, even though the lesion of the skin had
been artificial. The object of faith was Robert.
The subject of faith was an obscure Jesuit bro-
29 c 3
ther. The effect of faith was the cicatrisation
of a sore. The instrument of faith was mass
after confession, an instrument most proper to
be exalted for the confusion of heresy in Belgium
and Holland. And the triumph of faith unless
popular unbelief should hinder would consist
in the glory of transubstantiation, of Robert,
and of the Jesuits. Admirable calculation !
His intellectual power was displayed, far less
equivocally than his power of working miracles,
by the composition of a work in confutation of
opinions put forth by Michael Baius, a scholar
of Louvain. Yet, by avoiding the name of his
antagonist, whose doctrine the Pope, Pius V.,
had condemned already, he covered himself from
the inconvenience of an open combat, and no
less merited the favourable consideration of his
order and " the Sacred College." Probably
this achievement had hastened his assumption
into the ranks of the professed.
DEPARTS FROM BELGIUM.
Before the expiration of the year wherein he
took the fourth vow, the Belgian horizon dark
ened suddenly. Some cities of the province
cast off their allegiance to Philip II. of Spain ;
and a rumour flew that the Prince of Orange
was on his march with overwhelming forces to
attack Louvain. The city was quite unprepared
to stand against him, arid men were all trem
bling, and Monks trembled even more than they.
DEPARTS FROM BELGIUM.
The religious recollected the horrid slaughterings
committed by the Duke of Alva, and, conscious
that they had themselves instigated executions,
dragonnades, and inquisitions, they expected
vengeance every moment. Then came the alarm
that Orange was in sight, even at the gates.
The population turned out under arms. The
Monks decamped, swift, like a flight of seated
pigeons. The Rector of the Jesuit College,
unwilling to abandon a scene where, haply, he
might have some part to play, directed all the
inmates to change their clothes, shave their
hair, and seek shelter in safe places. They
quickly swept away the tonsured hair, took some
cash in their pockets, vacated the house, and
resolving the community into pairs, each pair of
fugitives chose the house wherein to lurk, or the
road by which to flee. Bellartnine and his
companion preferred flight, chose to seek Douai
as the place of shelter, and set out on foot,
girded with swords, and quivering with fear.
For his part, however, he had little strength for
such a pilgrimage ; and, after hurrying onward
for some time, his limbs failed, and, panting,
pale, and but half alive, he sank down on the
road-side. There his companion, too, lay by
him in sad fraternity of trouble ; sounds of
horse-hoofs, and shouts of Calvinists, seeming to
beat upon their ears. Soon they descried a
party approaching from the direction of Louvain ;
and while plunged in fresh terror by the thought
that they might be pursuers of such persons as
themselves, they perceived a permanent gallows
erected at some short distance, for hanging cri
minals, according to the custom of those times.
"Take heart, my brother," sighed Bellarmine ;
" for, if I mistake not, we shall soon hang there.
There only wants a Calvinist hangman." Flight
was hopeless ; for how could fainting footmen like
them escape from the swift-wheeled chariot that
neared them rapidly each instant ? " All things
appeared ready ; and if those enemies should fall
upon them, there were the instruments of mar
Amidst these premonitions of death, they saw
the chariot bound over the ground, as if the horses
had been winged the driver plied his lash they
came near, the passengers were themselves half
dead with terror ; but seeing two persons in an
attitude of supplication by the way-side, took them
to be fellow-sufferers, drew up, and kindly called
them to come in. It was a company of "Catho
lics," also fleeing from the enemy, and finding
that of the two men one was no less than a dis
robed Priest, they took him in, and resumed
their speed towards Douai. " Then," said Car
dinal Cresceuzio, when the incident had become
historical, " by a miracle of Providence he was
preserved from death, yet not defrauded of the
glory of martyrdom, an occasion which he
doubted not that he should embrace with alacrity
of mind." This notion of alacrity was an after-
DEPARTS FROM BELGIUM.
thought ; but the sight of a gallows had sug
gested the dread of martyrdom, and thus the
shadow of a martyrdom comes in opportunely
enough, and next in order after the narrative of
a miracle. This event bespeaks canonisation.
After a short absence he returned to Louvain.
Seven years toil in Belgium had impaired his
health, which was yet further weakened by the
shock of war, and he became obviously unable to
pursue his labours with such vigour as formerly.
This the physicians certified by letter to Rome,
and the Fathers there called him back to Italy.
To reach the monumental city from Douai, it
befell the traveller to cross a region infected with
Lutheran and Calvinian pestilence. In those
places the habit of a religious man, and the
name of a Priest, were hateful things. " There
fore the Fathers persuaded him to use the com
mon dress of a man of the world, and to set out
on his journey with such equipments as tra
vellers of the laity use. He rode with belt and
sword, and carried fire-arms on the pommel of
his saddle." Clad in a habit " so unlike his
virtue," he had scarcely left the city, when two
travellers, heretics, whose names have not been
accepted for the ornament of history, asked him
to join company for Italy. His name, however,
is made known, for he passed as Romulo ; and
the strangers were intensely pleased with the
good fellowship and talent of their Italian com
panion. His knowledge of the language, and
even his acquaintance with some part of the
way, made him useful ; so much so, that they
were glad of his services to give directions for
the accommodation of the party at the inns.
Most carefully he threw aside all that might
Betray his priestly character, joked as merrily as
any, and often rode onward, as if in sport, or as
if to reach an inn and order provision, but, in
reality, to pull out his prayer-book, and perform
his devotion. At length they crossed the Alps.
As they drew near to Genoa, the Italian air
brought him a flush of rekindling health, and he
entered that city, in company with the heretics,
under the same guise of a profane layman.
Relaxing none of his attentions, he conducted
them to a lodging-house, told them he was
going to the house of a friend, and, thus saying,
disappeared. A day or two afterwards, having
strolled into a church, as curious Protestants are
wont to do, the travellers beheld their assiduous
friend, robed at the altar, saying mass ; and
recalling his features, which were very markt-d,
two keen eyes, a serene and broad forehead,
an aquiline nose, and most expressive mouth,
they looked wisely at each other, and exclaimed,
" There is our friend Romulo, changed into a
At Genoa he found two orders from the
General. By the first he was forbidden to go to
Milan, where the Archbishop, Cardinal Borro-
meo, was anxious to have him as a helper against
PROFESSES CONTROVERSY AT ROME.
the cause of truth, that had long been largely
diffused throughout Subalpine Italy, but which
was now to be suppressed, if possible, by French
dragoons. But the Pope s Vicar, Cardinal Savelli,
wanted him in Rome. By the second order, he
was instructed to go onward by way of Monte-
pulciano, see his aged father, and endeavour to
recruit his health.
PROFESSES CONTROVERSY AT ROME.
Gregory XIII., one of the Pontiffs that
laboured most successfully to promote a counter-
Reformation, and suppress evangelical religion
by consecutive operations and well-constructed
schemes, patronised Jesuitism, his chief instru
ment, with greater munificence than any of his
predecessors. The subjects of the Papal States
remember him as one of the most relentless
Popes that ever wore them down with burdens
of taxation. The Jesuits extol him with all that
pomp of language that is so peculiarly at their
command. No fewer than twenty- two colleges
were erected for them at his bidding ; and he
disbursed, on the single account of maintaining
scholastics, no less, it is said, than two millions
of ducats during his reign. The system of Pro
paganda education then took the character
which it retains to this day ; for, after inclosing
streets and allotting revenues, he saw the Semi
nary of all Nations opened, and heard orations
in twenty-five languages, all translated into
Latin, on the day of opening. Each student
was taught to consider himself as a young sol
dier, whose only duty would be to march to the
conquest of Protestantism, under the banner of
the Company. He was to be formed for victory.
Bellarmine, by common consent, was chosen
to be the leader of this band ; and the General
informed him that it must be his duty to do at
Rome, but on a grander scale, what he had been
doing at Louvain. There, as Professor of Scho
lastic Theology, he had taught languages, and
entertained the wondering students out of a sort
of cyclopaedia of erudition, while his writings
against Baius, and the necessity laid on him to
strive against the influences of the Reformation,
had induced a strongly controversial habit, and
made him famous as a disputant. He was
extremely mild, politic, and winning, and there
fore was just the fit man to train a generation of
emissaries, to throw themselves into the heat of
the battle throughout Europe. One Bellarmine
was thought equal to conduct the enterprise, "just
as one Hebrew woman, whom God armed with
beauty, wrought confusion in the camp of Holo-
fernes, and in the house of the King of Assyria."
This conception was proud ; but it indicated an
apprehension that artifice would be needed in
war with the Reformation, no less than force.
About the end of October, 15/6, he entered
on his new chair of controversial Theology in
Rome. The "General Controversies/ as they
PROFESSES CONTROVERSY AT ROME.
are called, or Controversial Lectures, occupy
four folio volumes of the edition before me, and
are considered to be second to nothing that has
ever been written in defence of the Church of
Rome. But those who love the charm of great
names, and could weep to see one such name
despoiled of the charm, as a child would weep
over the shattering of a lily, will not thank me
for giving them the analysis of the first part of
an address delivered by Bellarmine in the Gym
nasium in Rome, in the year 1577. It is pre
fatory to the "controversy" concerning the
Before entering on the disputation, he has to
premise some observations on its utility and
magnitude, on the antagonists in argument, and
on the order to be followed. The matter now
treated of, but which is called in question, is
great indeed. "For of what are we speaking,
when we speak of the primacy of the Pontiff?
"We speak of nothing less than the sum and sub
stance of Christianity itself. For the question
is simply whether the Church ought to last any
longer, or to be dissolved, and fall to ruin. For
what else can be meant, when you ask whether
the foundation should be taken away from the
building, the shepherd from the flock, the gene
ral from the army, the sun from the stars, or the
head from the body ; that the building may fall,
* Robert! Bellarmini Opera, Colon. Agrip., MDCXX.,
torn, i., p. 498, seq.
the flock be scattered, the army beaten, the stars
darkened, the body die ?"
The adversaries, he affirms, although disagree
ing among themselves on every other point,
agree in attacking the Papal See ; and there
were never any enemies of Christ and the
Church, who did not also hate the Pope. "Isaiah
seems to me to have long ago foreseen and pre
dicted the magnitude and utility of this matter,
when he said, Behold, I lay in Zion for a
foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious
corner-stone, a sure foundation. But he also
predicts the contention and violence of heretics,
when he calls this stone itself a stone of stum
bling, and a rock of offence/ Which last words,
although not put by Isaiah in the same place,
the Apostles Paul and Peter so join all these
words of the Prophet, that no one can doubt
that they refer to the same end, and are to the
same purport. And although we are not igno
rant that these words principally apply to Christ,
we consider that they may not inaptly be made
to suit the Vicar of Christ"
The foundations of Zion he understands to be
the twelve Apostles, according to St. John ; but
the one singular and chief stone mentioned by
Isaiah, he considers to be Peter ; and for this he
argues in the usual manner. Jews, Heathens,
Greeks, and Turks have in vain spent their fury
on this foundation-stone. Emperors have enacted
tragedies in the Church. The devil has moved
PROFESSES CONTROVERSY AT ROME.
the Roman people (often) to rebel against the
Pope. Internal schisms have threatened the
existence of the Papacy ; but, even while anti-
Popes were struggling in the chair of Peter, they
could not break it. The gates of hell could not
prevail against it ; and, although there had been
Popes of little worth in that chair, it had not
sunk under them. It outlasted Stephen VI.,
Leo V., Christopher I., Sergius III., John XII.,
and others not a few, showing proof that its
continuance does not depend upon purity and
morality in its occupants. Notwithstanding all
this wickedness, which our lecturer confesses
without reserve, he maintains that it is divinely
founded, and kept erect by guardian angels, and
by the singular providence of God. That the
Papacy is fitly called a corner-stone, and pre
cious, he expounds in some pretty common
places ; and then, as to its being a foundation-
stone, argues thus :
"In fundamento fundatum.* FOUNDED IN
A FOUNDATION. For what is founded in a
foundation, except it be a foundation after a
foundation, a secondary foundation, not a pri
mary 1 Of course, we are not ignorant that the
* So says the new Vulgate, in violation of the letter of
the Hebrew original, TD173 1^72 well translated in
our own Version, " sure foundation ;" by Lowth, " immov
ably fixed ; " by the Jewish Ferrara, " cimiento a cimen-
tado;" and so by others. . The ancient Latin versions, as
collected by Sabatier, all contradict the Vulgate.
39 D 2
first and principal foundation of the Church is
Christ, of whom the Apostle says, Other founda
tion can no man lay, except that which is laid,
which is Christ Jesus. But after Christ, the
foundation is Peter ; and no one can come to
Christ, except hy Peter." At this rate he travels
to the end of his oration, and at the same rate
he dashes through the controversy. A false trans
lation, a bold substitution of one idea for ano
ther, an insolent contradiction of the plain text
of Scripture, serves as a starting-point ; and, this
point once taken, there is no conclusion to which
he cannot arrive by the most severe logic. Let
him take his premiss, and you must grant him
his conclusion. Great copiousness of patristic
lore stands in the stead of sound elementary
learning ; and, like many others of his age, he
passed for wise, because dressed in a grotesque
robe of erudition, and seemed formidable to
many who allowed themselves, enslaved by a
fashion prevalent, to fall into the same illusion.
Of this the Romanists gloried, and claimed the
victory ; but whenever these famous controver
sies are submitted to the test of such criticism as
is now familiar to every well-educated Protestant
theologian, the Bellarminian web is found to be
thinner than gossamer.
Simultaneously with his labours as Professor,
he was occupied, under the command of the
Pope and the General, in preparing a collection
of his works for publication, the first folio
PROFESSES CONTROVERSY AT ROME.
volume of which bears date in 1581. In the
preparation of those volumes he was assisted by
some of the most learned and subtle censors that
could be found, but chiefly by Muzio Yitelleschi,
the General, Benedetto Giustiniani, and Andreas
Eudsemon Johannes, a Greek. These all testi
fied that no one could be more willing to resign
his own opinion, and pay deference to the judg
ment of his advisers, whose revision of his
labours extended even to the last syllable. And
in this we discover one great reason of his
acceptance at Rome.
Not yet being made a Cardinal, he could not
sit in the Consistory ; but constant use was made
there of his information. The Cardinal of Santa
Severina, Patriarch of all the East, and Chief of the
Holy Inquisition, borrowed the counsels of Bellar-
mine in regard to all the eastern churches, then sub
jected to the fearful discipline of that Tribunal.
I have elsewhere * spoken of the atrocities
perpetrated by the Inquisition in India. Let it
suffice here to say, that Bellarmine took a most
active part in the ruin of the Syrian Church.
He saw Mar Simeon, Bishop of Malabar, and
Mar Joseph, Bishop of Cochin, perish in Rome.
He advised, with sanctimonious placidity, the
nefarious felony of Alexo de Meneses in Diamper.
But we shall have occasion again to note some
other proceedings of Bellarmine, invested with
full powers as Inquisitor.
^ Brand of Dominic, chap. xx. India.
41 D 3
It was at this time, associated with S. Filippo
Neri, father of the Oratorians, and another less
famous person, that he took part in the exami
nation of a woman from Naples, who called
herself a Prophetess, and reported her unfit to
exercise the gift. The Pope, therefore, sent her
home again with an injunction to mind her own
matters, and abstain from the use of prophecy
for the time to come ; as if the Pope could
countermand a Divine mission, if such a mission
ever had been given to the Prophetess of
Naples. His fame as an author was exalted to
the highest pitch ; and he was proclaimed
scourge of heretics, flower of divines, the Atha-
nasius and Augustine of his age, slayer of mon
sters, bulwark of the Church, pillar of Christian
faith, avenger of Catholic truth, prince of writers.
" The breast of Bellarmine is the library of
Christ!" With less exaggerated praises, and
going so far as his talent was to be described, a
Protestant might concur. But when eulogy
grows extravagant, a suspicion rises that the
extravagance is thrown over the subject as a
veil to hide it from closer search.
IS SENT TO FRANCE.
Amidst controversial and literary labours,
and frequent correspondence with Cardinals and
Inquisitors, who came, after the usual manner of
the Roman Court, to employ him as their con-
suitor, this leader of controversies received an
IS SENT TO FRANCE.
order from the Pope to accompany his Legate,
Cardinal Caetano, on a mission to Paris. His
instructions required him to advise the Legate on
all points relating to religion, or, in other words,
to represent the ecclesiastical claims of the
Pope, and watch for such an issue of the civil
war, then raging, as might assure a conquest
of the Reformation in France. Henry III.
had been assassinated. Henry IV., successor to
the throne, had been at the head of the Hugue
nots, although rather attached to them by
family connexion and antipathy to the Guise
faction, than by any purely religious motive.
The Princes of the anti-Protestant league had
risen in arms, to prevent the occupation of the
throne by a heretic. The country was in a
state of civil war. The first object of the Lega
tion was, of course, to sustain the rebels, and to
get rid of the Protestant King.
On his first appearance in this new character,
the Parisians were disappointed. They expected
to see a man who could figure with majesty in
church, and, by a bold presence, command
respect at court. But they saw a small person,
more of a student than a courtier ; and could
scarcely believe that their eyes beheld the great
Robert Bellarmine. A man of so high repute
ought, as they deemed, to be of lofty stature.
But he had no lack of courage, and displayed
considerable zeal in carrying out the intentions
of his masters. Strictly abiding by the letter of
instructions from both the General and the Pope,
he kept aloof from all affairs that were merely
political, so far, at least, as ostensible participation
went, and kept within his proper department as
theological consultor of the Legate. The chief
service he rendered was in aiding to repress a
movement of nationality among the French
Clergy, who were on the point of assembling in
Council at Tours ; not without a disposition to elect
a Patriarch of their own, and to withdraw their
obedience from the See of Rome. The Legate,
fearing that such a procedure would be but the
beginning of a succession of national schisms,
ending in the disintegration of the Popedom,
sent, from the pen of Bellarmine, a letter to all
the French Bishops, telling them that even if the
Church were diseased, she had no authority to
heal herself, that it did not become the patient
to prescribe the medicine. No one, he said, had
power to convoke a Synod in France, so long as
a Legate was in the kingdom : * it was the
office of the Holy See to decide everything
relating to faith and discipline. And he threat
ened to excommunicate all who presumed to go
to Tours for such a purpose, to lay an interdict
on the churches, and to hurl the Priests from
their dignity into the depths of canonical censure.
* It was the prerogative of the Bishop of Aries to
convoke a Synod of the French provinces, but in such
terms as implied a royal permission to hold it. (De
Marca, De Concordia Sacerdotii et Imperil, lib. v., cap. 17.)
IS SENT TO FRANCE.
Threats of Roman thunder, and the sound of
Navarrese artillery, deterred them from the exe
cution of their purpose.
Meanwhile the situation of the Legate and
his train became very critical. Henry IV., not
yet acknowledged by the Parisians, sat down
before the city, and made the walls tremble and
all hearts quake. Bellarmine had seen some
fighting in Italy, when a boy, and had fled at
the sound of an enemy in Belgium ; but here
were to be encountered the horrors of a siege.
People were feeding on dogs, and other unclean
animals. The Spanish Ambassador and suite
subsisted on horse-flesh ; and the Fathers of the
Jesuit College were indebted to him for occa
sional presents of this strange venison. Weeds,
roots, or any vegetable substances, shoe-leather
and harness, were employed to cheat the pangs
of hunger. Prayers and litanies resounded for
the deliverance of the city ; and Bellarmine
made himself admirable by the self-infliction of
many penances. At length the siege was raised,
and the Legate received instructions to withdraw
from the seat of war, that Sixtus V. might not
be so implicated as to incur the wrath of the
The Legate, of course., had no disposition to
remain. He had encouraged the Sorbonne to
issue a declaration, that the people of the king
dom were absolved from their oath of allegiance
and fidelity to King Henry; and that, without
scruple of conscience, they might assemble, arm,
and collect money for the support of the Roman
Catholic Apostolic religion against his execrable
proceedings. Bellarmine attended at the secret
meetings of the Legate, and his confidential
adherents ; rose from his seat, and withdrew to
a corner of the room, when strong measures were
proposed ; gave ear to nothing that would shock
his meekness ; merely said, when the question,
Who should be King of France, was agitated : " I
have nothing to do with politics ; but I want to
see a King in France that will establish the decrees
of the Council of Trent." This meant that he
would have Philip II. of Spain ; not Henry, the
actual Sovereign. And the doctrine he strenu
ously taught, tended to dethrone every Pro
testant Sovereign in the world. Yet he declared
himself innocent of politics. However, Henry had
possession. For argument, Henry used the sword.
Even the Romanists in France were divided on
the question ; but the victor decided it by the
" last reason of Kings."
But that the Pope should hesitate, in a case
where the King resisted was a heretic, seemed
grievous to these Ambassadors. The Legate
resolved to go back to Rome ; and Bellarmiue,
with a suspicious faculty of prescience, foretold
that the Pope would not live long ; nay, that
he would die within that very year. Four months
before that event, Sixtus had been suffering
symptoms that became aggravated gradually,
IS SENT TO FRANCE.
until the extinction of life; and "persons of
good sense" I now quote from Gregorio Leti
" thought it extremely probable that he had
been poisoned." This impression was confirmed
by the physicians, on a post mortem examination.
The Spaniards were suspected, at Rome, of this
crime ; * and it is notorious, that his failure
from promises made to the League in France
to support them against Henry IV., exposed him
to the violent resentment, both of the Spaniards
and the Jesuits. It was remarkable, therefore,
that Bellarmine should have exercised a pro
phetic gift just at that time, and in that manner.
The Legate, having left the Pope in good health,
as robust and headstrong as ever, thought his
death unlikely ; but the Jesuit constantly insisted
that he would surely die. Had he calculated the
time necessary for the poisonous solution gene
rally used in Italy for that purpose, to take effect,
he could not have been more exact. Accord
ingly, on the morning of September 19th, 1590,
"finding a bundle of letters on the table, just
brought from Rome, while every one present
was guessing at their contents, Father Robert
took up one, and, after trying the weight of
it in bis hand, somewhat jocosely said, Qui
dentro vi sta un Papa morto, There is a dead
Pope inside here/ " The Secretary of the Lega-
/* L Histoire de la Vie du Pape Sixte Cinquieme,
;raduit de 1 Italien de Gregorio Leti. Paris, 1698.
tion opened this letter, announced to the
pany that Sixtus was really dead ; * and Caetano,
anxious to take his place in the Conclave, instantly
gave orders to quit Paris, and with his train,
including the prophet, hurried back to Rome.
The pleasantry of Father Robert, weighing
the letter laden with a dead Pope, is by no
means unaccountable. Sixtus had branded him
with heresy in the sight of the whole world, by
placing his great work on the Controversies in
the Index of prohibited books, because he only
attributed to the Popes an indirect poxver over
temporals out of Rome.f As soon as the Pope
died, the controversialist was released from that
literary durance. It was natural that he should
anticipate the decease of so hard a master with
pleasure, and even be off his guard in letting his
pleasure be apparent. And it was equally natural
that he should afterwards express himself in such
words as these : "To speak plainly, so far as I
think, so far as I know, and so far as I understand,
he is gone down to hell." J If Sixtus had con-
* Marazzani, capo vi.
f In Mendham s reprint of the " Index Librorum Pro-
hibitoium " of Sixt. V., the following prohibition occurs :
Robert! Bellarminii Disputa- -\
tiones de controversiis Chris- /Nisi prius ex superioribus
tianae fidei adversus hujus j regulis recoguitae fuerint.
teporis haereticos. J
J Quoted from Watson s Quodlibets by Mendham,
Literary Policy of the Church of Home, p. 105 and note.
RETURNS, AND REVISES THE VULGATE.
sented to take a Jesuit Confessor, had flattered
the Society, had supported Spain and the League
more vigorously against Henry of Navarre, and
had been satisfied with the doctrine of Bellarmine
as to his power over the temporalities of Princes,
it is not likely that we should have heard of this
prophecy or of its fulfilment.
RETURNS, AND REVISES THE VULGATE.
A travel of six or seven weeks brought Caetano,
his Prelates, his Jesuit, and their servants to the
gates of Rome. The cavalcade entered with no
small bravery. The Prince of the Church
hurried with palpitating heart towards the
Vatican, there to sit in Conclave, to create
or be created Pope. Sixtus, indeed, had
been replaced by another, Urban VII. ; but
Urban saw no more than twelve suns rise upon
him, and was now departed, leaving the Sacred
College to strive once more for a vacated throne.
Father Robert found himself at home in the
College of Jesus, where loving brethren, " after
the manner of the Society," covered him with
embraces, in signal of liveliest affection.
Now, there was more work for him to do.
Notwithstanding his inclusion with authors pro
hibited, Sixtus being gone, he was thought
eligible for the most confidential service ; and
the new Pontiff, Gregory XIV., soon found him
employment. The Council of Trent had not
been satisfied with the editions of the Vulgate.
In pursuance of their decision, the Popes had
directed it to be revised. Sixtus V. gave his
authoritative sanction to the last revision, which
was to be received universally as perfect. But
it was pronounced very imperfect ; and Gregory
commanded a select Congregation to meet in his
presence, and determine how such an edition
might be prepared as would meet the expecta
tion of the Church. Bellarmine was one of that
Congregation. After various opinions had been
given, he proposed that it should be confided to
a few learned men to expurgate the edition of
Sixtus from beginning to end, " collating it
with old editions, and with manuscript copies, as
well of the Greeks as of the Latins, and with
commentaries of the Fathers ; by which means the
emendation of Sixtus V. might have been made
such as he would have had it, and might have
been brought to such a state of perfection as
becomes the heavenly work." To this proposal
the Congregation acceded ; and it was appointed
that Cardinal William Allen, Master of the Sacred
Palace, Cardinal Marc-Antonio Colonna, Robert
Bellarmine, and four others, should meet in the
palace of Colonna, and there prosecute the
revision. On Bellarmine, it is said, fell the
chief part of the labour, and final arrangement
of all their contributions. He also wrote the
Preface. And on reading this Preface, I find
more ingenuity than truth in the statement
that, the defectiveness of the Sixtine Vulgate
IS MADE RECTOR AND PROVINCIAL.
was to be attributed to the printer,* while the
fault lay so far as that edition was really
faulty with the editors themselves, under the
responsible sanction of the Pope. Those who
have gone over the same ground, critically ex
amining the patristic workmanship of Bellar-
mine, can best estimate its quality. After the
revised, and more deeply Romanised, Vulgate
came out in the pontificate of Clement VIII., Bel-
larmine asked his General, Aquaviva, to allow him
ten years for the production of a commentary.
Aquaviva, not disposed to encourage a multiplica
tion of commentaries, refused permission ; and
we have no reason to regret that he did refuse.
IS MADE RECTOR AND PROVINCIAL.
A service of so great magnitude to the Church
of Rome as the preparation of an ecclesiastical
Bible, as the Vulgate really is, deserved
something more than the Society could give.
Promotion in the Society, however, might fitly
precede elevation in the Church. The Gene
ral, after taking the suffrages of his assist
ants, made Bellarmine Rector of the Roman
College ; and the new year, 1593, found him just
entered on the duties of the office. Already
Aquaviva had made him Confessor and Spiritual
Father of the youth in that College ; and there is
reason to believe that, as a mild and exact
* A-" animadvertens non pauca in sacra Biblia praeli
vitio irrepsisse, quae," &c. (Pracfatio ad Lectoreiu.)
51 E 2 \
disciplinarian, he was well qualified to govern.
Daring a period of thirty-two years he had
obeyed well, and could, therefore, gracefully
command, and reasonably exact obedience.
According to the custom of the College, he
delivered a discourse, expository of the method
of administration he intended to pursue ; and
took for theme the following words from the
Book of Ecclesiasticus : Rectorem te posuerunt.
Noli extolli : esto in illis quasi unus ex ipsis
et non impedias musicam* "They have made
thee Rector. Be not lifted up : be among them
like one of themselves and do not interrupt
the music." Speaking much of the humility he
desired to exemplify, he encouraged the inmates
of the College, two hundred and five in number,
to approach him with entire confidence, and
placed himself at their service.
And in order to exemplify the virtue of humi
lity, he descended to the humblest offices, and
addressed each fellow with as much formality of
respect, as if their position had been reversed,
suffering none to be uncovered, or to stand
waiting in his presence. Returning once from
Frascati to the College, just in time to cook
the dinner, it being his turn that day to
perform the duty of cook, he walked into the
kitchen, and applied himself, as usual, to the
laborious operation. Every one admired the
Rector, who could exercise such exemplary self-
* Chap, xxxii. 1 5.
IS MADE RECTOR AND PROVINCIAL.
denial ; although fatigue might well have served
him as excuse for ordering any one to serve that
day in his stead. Nor was he less jealous over
the Society in regard to the virtue of poverty. A
Father had some superfluous articles of apparel in
his room, which the Rector caused to be removed
to the common vestiary of the house ; and the
Father, although suffering inconvenience by the
loss, at the same time, of some necessary clothing,
professed that he would rather lose his clothes
than his poverty. It behoved a Jesuit to have
nothing that he might call his own ; and there
fore the Rector turned out of his own room every
trifling ornament or superfluity, retained only
the most necessary articles, and changed even
those for others of meaner material or coarser
fabric. And added to this assiduous display
of poverty and humility, was great facility of
linguage, and blandness of manner, which served
to bring fairly into view a large store of know
ledge, the fruit of long and laborious application :
" so that there was none who, returning from
that oracle, did not say, Did not our hearts burn
within us, while he spake with us by the way ?
In the beginning of the reign of Clement
VIII., he was deputed as one of two repre
sentatives of the Roman province to the General
Congregation, holden in the year 1593.
By the common voice of this congregation,
the General sent him to take the government of
the province of Naples. His diligence in visitu-
f>3 E 3
tion, and the manner of his government, won
general applause ; and, after spending twenty-
five months in that office, he received a summons
from the Pope to hasten to Rome.
IS MADE THEOLOGIAN OF THE POPE.
On the death of the Cardinal of Toledo, the
Pope s theologian, Clement VIII. resolved to
supply the vacancy by appointing Bellarmine.
He had read with peculiar satisfaction one of
his treatises, (I)e Translatione Imperil,} and had
shown deference to his opinion by desisting
from a purpose of introducing the Platonic
philosophy into the school of the Sapienza in
Rome. Bellarmine objected that the nearer
resemblance of Plato to the inspired writers,
rendered him so much the less eligible ; and
argued, that as a Heathen is less mischievous
than a heretic, so is Aristotle less mischievous
than Plato. The Cardinals Baronio and Aldo-
brandini also used their influence in his favour.
Now constituted oracle of him whose bare
word is itself an oracle, it became necessary that
he should dwell beside the chair of infallibility ;
and apartments in the Vatican awaited his occu
pation. But it was the uniform custom of the
Jesuits in those days to profess abhorrence of
honours and elegancies, when set before them ;
and where every one acted alike in such cases, it
is impossible to conjecture how much of humility
was to be attributed to an imperious custom, or
IS MADE THEOLOGIAN OF THE POPE.
how much to the man. Bellarmine implored
permission to withdraw from the Vatican, and
live in the Jesuit House, which was quite
near enough for his presence to be had at any
moment ; and thither he went to elaborate
theology for the service of the Holy See.
And Clement was carrying this theology into
practical application. Alfonso d Este, Duke of
Ferrara, had lately died, leaving the dukedom by
testament to Cesare d Este, in default of here
ditary succession. Don Cesare took possession,
the subjects most willingly rendered him their
oaths of allegiance, and other princes received,
as matter of course, the usual intelligence of his
accession to the ducal chair. Not so the Pope.
He said that the Duke deceased, as his vassal,
had no right to dispose of the state, which
reverted to the Roman See by the extinction
of the line. The Emperor interposed a remon
strance, and so did the Venetians, but in vain.
Cesare set about self-defence, raising a little
army, and fortifying the city ; not hoping for
power to resist, but venturing to hope that
other states would see it their interest to
espouse his cause. Rome rose in wrath. Money
was levied, artillery collected, and 25,000 soldiers
added to the forces of the Vicar of Christ !
Aldobrandini appeared as General of the recruits,
which were to be doubled, if necessary. A fort
night was given to Cesare to consider, whether
he would fight or yield. If contumacious, a
sentence of excommunication hung over his
head : and the same curse threatened Emperors,
Kings, Republics, Princes, all or any who
might abet his rebellion against the Apostolic-
See. The Pope appeared, full robed, in the
court of St. Peter s, had the sentence read,
flung a lighted taper on the ground, to signify
the plunging of the soul of Cesare into eternal
darkness ; and the Cardinals threw down smaller
tapers, to concur in the damnation of the rebel.
The bells rang an alarum ; the drums rolled ;
the hoarse trumpets poured forth defiance ; the
cannon of St. Angelo confirmed the anathema.
A proclamation on the gates of St. Peter s, and
of the Lateran, and in other accustomed places,
declared Cesare to be smitten with spiritual
death, and to have incurred temporal death in
consequence. The Lord of Ferrara bowed to
the outrageous wrong, and ceded Ferrara and the
Ferrarese to the Chief Priest of Rome ; but
was allowed to subsist on his allodial estates,
with the title of Duke of Modena and Reggio.
The Pope decreed that the territory thus
usurped should never be granted to any one
in feudatory title ; and hastily set out to take
possession, accompanied by most of the Court.
Bellarmine, necessarily, went with him ; and it
was observed that while at Ferrara, although his
great simplicity compelled him to lodge with the
Jesuits, he was constantly in presence of the
Pope, was treated with unusual distinction, and
IS MADE INQUISITOR.
was marked as a Cardinal in petto* Alarmed,
of course, at the prospect of a red hat, he en
treated his General to endeavour to avert so
dreadful a calamity. Aquaviva mentioned this
repugnance ; but Clement understood the form
alities, and just answered that Bellarmine, being
a Jesuit, could not have such a dignity. But
the courtiers, familiar with their own dialect,
interpreted the Papal word as the vulgar were
wont to interpret dreams, just to mean the
contrary. And this, be it noted, is frequently
the best interpretation of a pontifical sentence.
The pen of Bellarmine earned its reward.
IS MADE INQUISITOR, &C.
But to return. A month had not elapsed
after the arrival of Bellarmine at Rome from
Naples, when the Pope added him to the Con
gregation of the Sacred Roman Inquisition.
Never was honour conferred more worthily. The
theologian had reduced the doctrine of the
Inquisition to summary, for the instruction of
the rising priesthood. After citing the examples
of Moses, Elijah, Joshua, Jehu, and Nebuchad
nezzar in justification of the salutary practice of
putting heretics to death, he gathered the fol
lowing palmary arguments from the New Testa
ment. I translate them closely.
" In the New Testament we have Matt. viii.
to l^egin with, where we learn that the Church
* In petto " in the breast," or intention, of the Pontiff. \
may reject those who refuse to obey, regard
them as Heathen and publicans, and then hand
them over to the secular power, as no longer
children of the Church. Then we have Rom.
xiii., teaching that the secular power may
punish wicked men with the sword. * For, it
says, * he beareth not the sword in vain : for he
is the minister of God, a revenger to execute
wrath upon him that doeth evil. from which
two places it is evidently collected, that it is law
ful to cut off heretics from the Church, who are
rebels against the Church, and disturbers of the
public peace, and deliver them to be punished
with death by the secular judge.
" Christ also, and His Apostles, compared
heretics to things which are, without controversy,
to be repelled by fire and sword ; for the Lord
says, in Matt, vii., * Beware of false prophets,
which come to you in sheep s clothing, but
inwardly they are ravening wolves. And in
these words in Acts xx., * I know this, that after
my departing shall grievous wolves enter in
among you ; heretics must certainly be under
stood, under the name of wolves, as St. Ambrose
beautifully explains it in his commentary on
the beginning of Luke x. But grievous wolves
are most lawfully put to death, if they cannot
be otherwise got rid of; for the life of the
sheep demands far higher consideration than
the death of the wolves. Also John x. He
that eutereth not by the door into the sheepfold,
IS MADE INQUISITOR.
but climbeth up some other way, the same is a
thief and a robber. Where, under the name of
* thief and robber/ heretics are to be understood,
and all seducers, and inventors of sects, as
Chrysostom and Augustine explain it : and every
one knows how thieves and robbers are punished.
And iii 2 Tim. ii., heresy is compared to a cancer,
which is not cured by medicaments, but must be
cut out with a knife, or it will perpetually spread,
and corrupt the whole body. Then in John ii.,
Christ drove the traders out of the Temple with
the scourge. In Acts v., Peter killed Ananias
and Sapphira because they had lied against the
Holy Spirit : and Paul, Acts xiii., smote a false pro
phet with blindness, because he was endeavouring
to turn away the Proconsul from the faith."
Then comes a long train of witnesses, from
Constantine, and the " most religious Emperors,"
Theodosius, Valentinian, and others, down through
a succession of saints, ending with St. Bernard.
And, lastly, Bellarmine himself speaks.
" Finally. It is proved by natural reason,
First : Heretics may be justly excommunicated,
as all allow ; therefore they may be killed. The
consequence is proved, because excommunication
is a greater punishment than temporal death.
Augustine (lib. i. Cont.adv. Leyis et Prophetarum,
c. 1 7) says, that it is more horrible to be delivered
to Satan by excommunication, than to be smitten
with the sword, consumed in flames, or thrown
to wild beasts to be devoured.
tc Secondly : Experience teaches that there is
no other remedy. For the Church has proceeded
gently, and tried all remedies. First, she only
excommunicated ; then she added pecuniary
fines ; then exile. At last she was compelled
to come to death ; for heretics despise excommu
nication, and say that it is but a cold thunder
bolt. If you threaten them with pecuniary
fines, they neither fear God nor regard men ;
but say that there will be no lack of simpletons
to believe them, from whom they will get main
tenance. If you shut them up in prison, or send
them into exile, they will corrupt with their
discourses all that come near them, and them
that are afar with books. Therefore the only
remedy is, to send them in good time to their
" Thirdly : Falsifiers, in the judgment of all,
deserve to die. Heretics are falsifiers of the
word of God.
" Fourthly : In the estimation of Augustine,
Ep. 50, it is worse for a man to be unfaithful
to God, than for a woman to be unfaithful to her
husband. If this is to be punished with death,
why not that ?
" Fifthly : There are three causes for which
reason teaches that men should be killed ;
which causes Galen beautifully lays down in his
book, Quod mores animi corporis temperamen-
tum sequantur, towards the end.
" The first cause is, that bad men may not
IS MADE INQUISITOR.
hurt good ones, and that mischievous persons
may not oppress the innocent. And hence,
most justly, as all agree, murderers, adulterers,
and thieves are put to death. The second is,
that by the punishment of a few, many may be
corrected ; and they that would not benefit the
commonwealth by living, should benefit it by
dying. And hence we also see that most justly,
by common agreement, some horrid crimes are
punished with death, although they have not
hurt any one in reality, as necromancy ; and
certain unutterable offences, and offences against
nature, which are so much the more gravely
punished, that others may understand them to
be extremely wicked, and not dare to perpetrate
the like. The third is, because, even to the very
men who are killed, it is often useful to be
killed ; that is to say, when they are growing
worse, and there is no likelihood that they will
ever come to a sound mind." And so on.*
No one could doubt the eligibility of such
a pleader for the Inquisition to be himself an
Inquisitor. His demeanour, too, when Con-
suitor, and the disposition he had manifested in
regard to the suffering Nestorians in India, and
their kidnapped Bishops, had given entire satis
faction to the benevolent Patriarch who, for
their own good, (!) extinguished the spark of
life in many Syrian opponents of the Society of
Jtsus. And, to add emphasis to the irony,
\ De Laicis, lib. Hi., cap. 21. \
61 * F
Bellarmine, illustrious advocate of capital pun
ishment for heresy, was employed to give judg
ment on the petitions for mercy that might come
up to the Pope from persons not yet incarcerated,
on behalf of relatives or friends languishing
in the dungeons. "Before a rescript of grace
could be given, his judgment was expected."
And where there was no petition, nor even any
accusation of heresy, his lynx-eye descried it.
Thus he detected Nestorianism in the profession
of faith sent to Paul V. by the Patriarch of
Babylon. Under his patronage, the terrible
folio of Farinacci, succeeding to that of Eymeric
as the Inquisitorial Manual, came to light. Nay,
he revised, enlarged, and recommended it. Yet
this Inquisitor could be marvellously tender to
some persons. One day, for example, when on
his way to the Holy Office, a heavy shower of
rain came on. He stopped the carriage, request
ed some Prelates that were with him to sit close,
that his Familiars might get in ; and when an
attendant reminded him that that was not the
usage, he devoutly answered that the Familiars
were his brothers in Christ, and if one of them
were to fall sick from a wetting, he should have
to render an account to God. But he would
not condescend to count Galileo among his
brethren in Christ. He made the astronomer
choose between prison and recantation ; and it
was at his feet that Galileo knelt to renounce
the heresy of the revolution of the earth.
IS MADE INQUISITOR.
While thus engaged, I cannot find how
many rescripts of grace he procured, Cardinal
Taruggi, an intimate friend of Baronius, re
quested him to write a Catechism for little
children, accompanied by a more copious expli
cation for the use of their teachers. It was
wise to employ the most effective writer then to
be found for this important service ; and, in
fact, the best writers only have been able, in any
Church, to provide this kind of literature. Bel-
larmine consented, and produced the " Christian
Doctrine," which may almost be regarded as the
basis of Romish popular Catechisms throughout
the world. Xavier and others had written
similar manuals ; but the " Doctrina Christiana "
of Bellarmine went far to supersede them all.
Inquisitor, Theologian, and Catechist, our
hero discharged also another kindred function,
being made Examiner of Candidates for the
dignity of Bishop. No man, presenting himself
before so awful a personage, could presume to
waver one hair s breadth from the exact line of
Nor must I forget to note that he was also
appointed Regent of the Penitentiary of St.
Peter ; that court wherein absolution is dispensed
to those who can only hope for pardon through
the mercy of the Pope himself. No Priest, no
Bishop, can release them from the thraldom of
certain sins. They must apply at Rome ; and
in Rome there is an office where such applica-
63 F 2
tions are examined, and when it is found that
the transaction is in order, and when the neces
sary fees are paid, the Regent, or chief clerk,
writes in the margin one or other of the forms
appointed ; thus it passes to the Pope, and the
Pope concludes the matter.*
IS CREATED CARDINAL.
Scarcely had the hand of Bellarmine rested
for two months upon the helm of .Roman mercy,
when a rumour spread through court and citv
that Pope Clement VIII. intended to make a
fourth promotion of Cardinals. A thrill of
expectation ran through the bosoms of the
Prelates. Down to the humblest Monk was felt
an intense impatience to know on whom the boon
would rest. Perhaps the Holy Father was not
himself perfectly decided, either as to number or
names ; but fame sometimes points to the final
resolution, and in this instance Clement found
that the public voice was pronouncing in favour
of the new Regent of the Penitentiary. And
this wandering suffrage reached the ear of Father
Robert himself. From the Palace Apostolic he
had heard nothing : the mind of the Pontiff was
shut up in deepest silence. Only it was known
that a Consistory would be held for discussing
the merits of personages named as worthy of
elevation to the purple. On the night before,
* Relazione della Corte di Roma, da Fr. Antonio Zacca-
ria, parte ii., capo 23.
IS CREATED CARDINAL.
he sent a memorial to the General of the Society,
praying him to endeavour to prevent the descent
of such a dignity, if haply it were imminent.
Bellarmine further entreated Aquaviva to obtain
for him an audience of the Pontiff, that he might
throw himself on the floor of the Papal closet,
and by force of tears, if words were not suffi
cient, divert His Holiness from such a thought.
He also trusted that, if even this failed, no one
could fancy that he had hankered after the
purple while refusing it.
Next morning, March 3d, 1599, the Pope
nominated " twelve august Fathers," reserving
one in petto, and among them Robert Bellarmine,
of whom he spake thus : " Him we choose,
because the Church of God has not his equal in
learning ; and because he is nephew of a
most excellent and most holy Pontiff." While
the Consistory was yet assembled, Cardinal
Aldobrandini despatched a messenger from the
Vatican to command him not to stir out of his
house, under penalty of anathema, until the
Pope should give him leave. That made it
clear that he was to be Cardinal ; but seeing
that he was a Jesuit, and could only receive the
hat by an act of sovereign authority in the
Pope, it became him to reluctate, and he there
fore sat in silence, like a man transpierced with
grief. But when a few moments had passed
away, he summoned all the Fathers of his
College, and besought their counsel. After a
65 F 3
decorous hesitation, they agreed to think that
his poverty was lost for ever. The Pope had
named him, the Sacred College had accepted the
nomination, and he was at that moment taken
out of their hands and in the custody of the
Pope himself. He could not resist Providence.
Bellarmine alone dissented, or seemed to dissent.
He sent a messenger to Aldobrandiui to say,
that, even with groans, he besought an audience
of the Pope, to give his reasons for deprecating
the dignity. Aldobrandini sent back to say,
that the Pope wanted not reasons, but obedience.
"Then Bellarmine, seeing himself hedged
round every way, and unable to escape, burst
into tears. He bemoaned the loss of that
sweet and tranquil peace that he had enjoyed
for so many years in the Society ; and therefore
reiterated those words which, in like circum
stances, the most holy Pontiff, Gregory the
Great, had sighed out : Call me not Naomi,
call me Mara ; for the Almighty hath dealt very
bitterly with me. " While thus lamenting, they
came to conduct him into the Pope s presence to
take the cap, and meet the others who would
come for the same purpose, shaven and robed.
But Bellarmine was immovable. He would not
put off the black habit of his order. Then came
his friend Aldobrandini from the Pope s closet,
with a special message ; and him Bellarmine
intreated that he might stay in "his proper state
of religion and poverty. But Aldobrandini
IS CREATED CARDINAL.
repeated that the Pope required submission,
under peril of excommunication. "At this
intimation the servant of God bowed his head,
and in tears devoutest put on the purple ; and
thus weeping, was conducted to the Pope s feet,
to receive the cap. And there, too, he wished
to speak for himself ; but the Pontiff, with new
precept, and with threatening of excommunica
tion, iattt sententice, quite shut his month."*
Thus ended that part of the ceremony which
was required by a rule of his order, f and which
used to be repeated on every like occasion, with
^ Marazzani, capo viii.
p " It will also be of the utmost importance, in order
that the happy state of the Society be preserved, most
diligently to put away ambition, parent of all evils in
every republic or congregation ; and to close up the way
against seeking, directly or indirectly, any dignity or pre
ferment in the Society. All the Professed, therefore,
must vow to our God and Lord that they will never do
anything to obtain such ; and that they will inform
against all who do ; and they shall be held incapable of
any preferment of whom it can be proved that they have
sought it. They must also promise our God and Lord
that they will do nothing to obtain any preferment or
dignity out of the Society ; nor shall any one, so far as he
can help if, give his consent to any election of himself
to any office of the kind, unless his obedience, who may
command under pain of sin, shall have compelled him to it.
But let every one consider in what manner he can contri
bute to the salvation of souls, according to the humility
and submission of our profession, and that the Society be
not deprived of those men who are necessary to the
attainment of this end." (Const., pars x., sect. 6.)j
a uniformity that renders it impossible to give
the weepers any credit for their tears. He was
compelled so to refuse as to render compulsion
necessary. That being accomplished, nothing
A circular letter from Aquaviva to the Pro
vincials of the whole Society, on occasion of this
event, may not be uninteresting to my readers.
" Perhaps," he writes, " you may have already
received, by letters from others, intelligence of
what God has disposed concerning the recent
assumption of our Father Robert Bellarmine
into the order of Cardinals. Yet I consider it
to be consistent with the duties of my office to
write you more distinctly. For by relating what
really took place, I shall extinguish, or at least
moderate, that feeling which the Society enter
tains with regard to admitting any marks of
honour ; and with which feeling we earnestly
desire that God may constantly keep us in our
humility. I wish, therefore, all to understand
clearly, that not only on the part of the Society
was everything done, seriously to deter the Pope,
by reasons laid before him, from bestowing
honours and titles of the kind ; but that Father
Bellarmine himself signified to the Pope, with
all possible humility, that he only desired one
thing, to live and die in the same manner in
which he had lived so long. Bat the Pope
thought that he had given the matter sufficiently
careful consideration, and that the appointment
IS CREATED CARDINAL.
was pleasing to God. He, therefore, would not
listen to the supplications of Bellarmine. And
indeed, before he had received the first insignia
of Cardinal, when he was beginning to speak
for himself, and, while yet undressed, was refus
ing to be attired in the purple robes, the Pope
forbade him to speak, under the penalty of
instantly thundering censures upon him, if he
said a word more about refusing. Perceiving
how matters were, we all rejoiced, and see that
nothing that could be done was left undone,
either by the Society or the Cardinal. And we
may also hope that this election will redound to
the service of God. For since the Pope has
freely conferred this dignity on a man of so
great learning, integrity, and religion, as is
Bellarmine, we may expect him to be a Cardinal
of most praiseworthy example in the Church,
devoted to public usefulness, and friendly to
the Society. Now that God may favour all our
desires, and give health to Bellarmine himself,
with which he may attain to as great eminence
in the purple as he enjoyed by his virtue in
the Society, let all the Priests that are in your
province offer one mass, and all the members
that are not in orders one rosary to the Divinity.
Meanwhile, I commend myself to the holy sacri
fices and prayers of you all. Rome, March
To himself the usual visits and letters of
congratulation came. Montepulciano was in a
rapture of pride and joy at the addition of
another Cardinal to those of whom the town
already boasted. In places where he had resided,
the inhabitants kept holiday. At Taverna, a
small town in Calabria, the rustics seemed beside
themselves. The house-tops flamed with torches ;
the people danced and sang through the streets ;
tears floated in their eyes with joy, and the
grand dames wept outright. The fraternities
walked in procession for three nights, shouting
Te Deum as they went ; adding by way of chorus
at intervals, Viva Gesu ! Viva Bellarmino ! And
the multitude caught the cry, " Long live Jesus !
Long live Bellarmine !"
DISDAINS THE PURPLE.
Where there is one spiritual despot to control
the conscience general, every man who submits
his particular conscience to that authority should
obey without scruple. But if he cannot over
come his own scruples, he ought to break loose
from the vassalage at once, and appeal to God,
who is, indeed, the Judge of all. The Pope was
acknowledged by the Jesuits to be the controller
of their common conscience ; and as such he
compelled Bellarmine to be a Cardinal under
peril of anathema. Yet the new-made Cardinal
rendered the Pope no more than a divided
Here are questions of conscience which, using
DISDAINS THE PURPLE.
the third person, he proposed in writing to his
Genera], Aquaviva, with the answers rescribed.
Nt^ How has he entered into this dignity ? By
the true door ? Yes, by the true door.
2. Can he live in that state without offending
God ? Certainly he can.
3. Could he go on better in the service of
God, if he were to return to his former manner
of life ? That is doubtful.
4. Would not this be much better? This,
too, is doubtful.
5. Is it likely that he could be permitted to
return ? Scarcely, ^r
6. Or would it be safer, simply to give ear to
God who calls, and who commands by the voice
of His Vicar, and not be solicitous about changing
his state, but to become perfect in that rank in
which obedience places him ?
Aquaviva gave no answer to this last question.
He told him, indeed, that he had entered by the
right door, and might possibly be a Cardinal
without offending God ; but that, whether he
could serve God better in that state, or whether
it was better for him to continue thus, was
doubtful. There was no hope of being extri
cated from this ambiguous position ; and on the
great question of submission to "the Vicar of
God," the General did not pronounce. The
General, for himself, was bound to serve the
Pope ; but he, and every other member of the
Society, were by a special rule bound to the
Society, even after exaltation to a dignity beyond
its precincts. There could be no absolute release
from that order, as there might from others ;
and Bellarmine, being perfectly imbued with the
spirit of Jesuitism, would interpret most strictly
the rule he had sworn to keep.* Resolved to
be a true Jesuit to his latest breath, he entered
on a course of asceticism, surpassing the require
ments of the Society itself, and serving to dis
tinguish him from every other member of the
College. And he was "a poor Cardinal," depend
ent for subsistence on the allowance annually
distributed to the poor Cardinals, and on the
revenue of a benefice that had been previously
given to him, but was liable to fluctuation.
This poverty, however, had its advantages.
He acquired a reputation of sanctity, and main-
* " He must also promise God that if, being compelled
in this way, he accepts any preferment without the Society,
he will ever afterwards hear the counsel of the General for
the time being ; or that of any one whom the General may
appoint for this purpose in his stead ; and that if he shall
think that to be best which he " (the General) "advises, he
will carry it into execution. Not that he who is made
Prelate " (the word is here used in its general etymological
sense ; but Prelates are, in common language, distinguished
from Cardinals) " has any one of the Society to be his
superior; but because, freely, in the sight of God he is
willing to be bound to do that which he shall understand
to be best for the Divine service, and because he is pleased
that there be some one who will propose it to him with
Christian charity and liberty for the glory of God and our
Lord." (Const., pars \., sect. 6.)
DISDAINS THE PURPLE.
tained himself in a position of independence.
Without much of the pomp, he enjoyed the
privileges, of his rank.
Having taken possession of the palace, he
engaged a steward whom he well knew, to carry
out his plans ; and having ascertained the state
of the establishment, as left by his predecessor,
and made inquiry concerning the customs of
those few Cardinals who had persevered in
habits of asceticism, he made out an inventory
of the furniture, submitted it to the inspection
of Aquaviva, and begged him to direct how
much plate, what articles of furniture, and how
many servants he should have ; in order that he
might not so much live for the glory of the
purple, as for the observance of the vow of
poverty which he had taken on entering the
Society. Even after his revenue became larger,
his voluntary humility continued. The " court "
of a less ostentatious Cardinal had usually con
sisted of about sixty persons. Baronius, lauded as
a great despiser of worldly pomp, counted forty-
five in his train. But Bellarmine would have no
more than ten gentlemen (uomini di respetto),
fifteen of inferior class, and menials, making up
the number to thirty. For a peer of Kings
this modesty was wonderful. On every suitable
occasion he spoke of his robes as a grief and
an incumbrance, flames of fire enwrapping
his body, rather than a visible distinction
of honour ; and it is related, that, once in
company, taking off his broad red hat, and
holding it up, he hurst into tears, and said,
" God gave me this purple in punishment of the
sins that I committed when I was in the world."
He described himself as an object of pity rather
than of envy, and, after a long speech, setting
forth his misery, left the party sitting in silent
admiration of humility and heavenly-mindedness
in Princes of the Church so rare.
ADMONISHES THE POPE.
Cardinals are privileged to advise the Sove
reign Pontiff; and Clement VIII. had desired
Cardinal Bellarmine to tell him if he saw that
anything might be better and more wisely done
for the good of the Church. In obedience to
this injunction, the Cardinal sent him a paper
" concerning the chief duty of the Pope." Cle
ment perused it carefully, and on each article
noted a reply. This document came into the
possession of Fuligatto, who gives it in his
biography ; and it certainly exhibits a remarkable
example of plain dealing.
The Supreme Pontiff, Bellarmine began by
saying, sustains in the Church a threefold repre
sentation of God. He is Shepherd and Ruler
of the universal Church, Bishop of the city of
Rome, and temporal Prince of the Papal state.
But, of all his offices, the care of all the churches
is indisputably the first, and incomparably the
greatest. First, because St. Peter was consti-
ADMONISHES THE POPE.
tuted Shepherd of all the Lord s flock, long
before he was made Bishop of Antioch, or of
Rome. There are many other Bishops of most
noble cities, and many other temporal Princes ;
but the Pontiff of the world, the Vicar-General
of Christ, the universal Shepherd of the Church,
stands alone in dignity. Greatest, because,
while the diocese of Rome is narrow, and the
temporal principality of the Church is compre
hended within contracted bounds, the Supreme
Pontiff has no limits to his dominion, except the
limits of the world itself.
This office, so ancient, so great, so singular,
the Pope might easily fill, if he were to appoint
good Bishops over all the churches, and compel
them, if necessary, to do their duty. And if the
good Bishops would choose good Priests, good
Preachers, and good Confessors, everything
would be right. But the Priests, Preachers,
and Confessors were not good. The writer
hinted that the failure began with Clement him
self; and therefore said, "Trusting in the Apos
tolic benignity, I will confide to the bosom of
the most pitiful Father, or rather, I will lay at
his feet, my scruples, which, I must confess, will
not let me rest."
To this exordium the Pope answered : " We,
too, are alarmed. But as the hearts of men are
only known to God, and we can only elect men,
two examples comfort us. One is, that when
our Lord Jesus Christ elected twelve Apostles,
75 G 2
after spending a whole night in prayer, which
we know not that He did on any other occasion,
there was yet one Judas among those whom He
elected. Then the twelve Apostles, all full of
the Holy Spirit, elected seven Deacons, of whom
one was Nicolaus, afterwards so notorious a
heretic. Which examples we suppose Almighty
God left in the Church for the comfort of those
Bellarmine proceeded to enumerate six points
of reformation that could not be overlooked
Churches were left without Pastors, a defi
ciency which it was the Pope s duty to supply.
Clement confessed that, in this particular, he
had sinned, and still was in sin. But fit men,
he said, could not be found. Many, very many,
were recommended, but he could not trust
them ; and, besides, he had determined to lay
hands suddenly on no man.
The second point of censure was the promo
tion of useless Prelates. Churches ought to be
provided for good persons, not persons with
good churches. The Council of Trent says, that
they to whom it pertains to make promotion sin
mortally, if they do not observe this rule. The
implied conclusion is, that the Pope is in mortal
sin. His Holiness answers : " This we know ;
and, so far as we can, we always keep it in view,
endeavouring to provide for churches, not for
persons. But the Church must be the first
ADMONISHES THE POPE.
and greatest object of consideration. This is
true ; but if we are to be confined to the more
worthy (dignioribus), the Church will never be
provided for, because we have no means of know
ing who is the more worthy. And as for the
Bishops themselves, we are here again in diffi
culty ; for if we will not give bishoprics to those
who ask for them, or to those whom others
recommend, we know not how the churches are
to be provided for, especially the smaller and the
poorer ones. If your lordship knows how to
manage this better, we shall be glad to hear
your method, and to adopt it. Many good things
may be said on this subject ; but when we come
to practice, we encounter great difficulties."
The third point was the absence of Bishops
from their churches ; for of what use is a good
man jf he is not at his work ? Many Bishops
are Apostolic Nuncios, who do not see their
churches for years together, but are busy else
where with politics. And many are -at Rome,
doing work that might be done by others,
leaving their dioceses to ruin. " In this mat
ter," writes Clement, " we confess that we have
sinned, by too readily indulging Bishops with
permission to come to Rome ; and when they
are come, it is difficult to get rid of them. You
may remember, however, that formerly there
were far fewer resident. As for the Nuncios, we
think it far more becoming that Nuncios should
be Bishops, because they command Bishops, and
77 G 3
are of greater authority than Princes and peo
ple ; * and if we were not so badly off for men,
we should change them sooner." And then he
extenuates the blame of employing ecclesiastics
in civil magistracy.
The fourth evil was that of " spiritual
polygamy," or, as we should speak, pluralities.
Against this Bellarmine severely arrays the sen
tences of saints and canonists. " As for this
polygamy," rejoins the Pope, somewhat angrily,
" at present it only consists in those six cardi-
nalitial bishoprics, in which we do not intend to
make any change ; for this matter has been
examined by our predecessors, even since the
Council of Trent, and is fixed. And to disturb
the order of the College, and throw blame on
the acts of our predecessors, and of so many
Cardinals, seems to us a thing that could not be
done without scandal."
The fifth sin reprehended was the facile trans
lation of Bishops from one see to another. It
was branded as a breach of spiritual marriage.
" For it is well known, from cap. Inter corpo-
ralia, fyc., that the bond of spiritual marriage is,
in a certain sense, greater than the bond of
bodily marriage, and therefore cannot be dis
solved, except by God, or by the Vicar of God
declaring the will of his Lord." And it is in-
\* Here is a reason why the Pope will not send a lay
man as Ambassador lo England. His representative here
must exercise jurisdiction* i
ADMONISHES THE POPE.
credible that God could approve of such breach
of marriage for the sake of pecuniary gain. The
Pope quietly answers that, on that subject, lie
has given good advice to Princes.
Lastly, Bellarmine condemns the resignation
of bishoprics without lawful cause, and, worst of
all, when the retiring Bishop keeps the revenue.
" It is as if a man should divorce his wife, and
yet keep the dowry." Clement justifies his per
mission of this exorbitancy by saying, that such
resignations are always effected with difficulty,
and always preceded by due examination in the
Consistory of Cardinals.
And after the discussion of these abuses come
professions of humility from Bellarmine, and
professions of good intention and good-will from
But this kind of counsel from a poor Cardi
nal, who carried himself as loftily as if he had
been privileged as highly as " the Nephew," and
whose poverty, being the expression of a severe
and censorious cynicism, marked him to the
public eye, must have made his presence more
and more vexatious to the courtiers.
Although the semblance of good-will, at least,
continued between the Pope and his monitor, its
cordiality was weakened. The famous contro
versy between the Dominicans and Thomists on
one side, and the Jesuits and Molinists on the
other, divided the Romish theologians, for seve
ral years, into two adverse hosts, Molina, a
Spanish Jesuit, led the opponents of predesti-
narianism, and to him the Society adhered. The
Pope convened Doctors of both parties, entered
warmly into the question, and was anxious to
use his prerogative and enforce decision. Bellar-
niine, devoted to Jesuitism, strenuously defended
the Spaniard; and, seeing that the decision would
not leave his party in possession of the field,
laboured hard to dissuade the Pope from carrying
his wish into execution. He and his colleagues
succeeded in putting off the threatened decision,
that would have pronounced their doctrine con
trary to that of St. Augustine and St. Thomas. The
quarrel was hushed at Rome. Nations espoused it ;
and if the Holy See had condemned either party,
the other might have revenged itself in schism.
The divines refrained from a precipitation of the
affair, and Bellarmine, honoured with the arch
bishopric of Capua, was put out of the way.
By his own censure of absentees, he was bound
to reside within the diocese ; and thus, wedded
to Capua, he was removed from Rome.
ARCHBISHOP OF CAPUA.
Cardinal Baronius had often applied to the
Pope on behalf of his friend, soliciting appoint
ments to rich benefices as they fell vacant ; but
hitherto without success. The annalist repre
sented to His Holiness that, having created Bel
larmine a Cardinal, he ought to make the favour
complete by giving him a sufficient maintenance.
ARCHBISHOP OF CAPUA.
Clement sometimes expressed regret that he had
not found opportunity to do so ; and Bellarmine
as often replied, that he wanted nothing ; but
comforted himself, when reflecting on his de
pendence, as a poor Cardinal, on the bounty of
the reigning Pontiff, by considering that, when
Clement died, he could go back again to the
Jesuit College, and there be sure of the same
fare as his brethren.
On the vacation of the archiepiscopal see of
Capua, Clement thought well to dismiss the
stern monitor, and the stubborn champion of
Molinism, with a good grace. On Sunday, April
21st, 1602, the second Sunday after Easter,
the Gospel for the day being, " I am the
good Shepherd," the Pope consecrated him
with great pomp as Archbishop, and gave him
the pallium two days afterwards in the Vatican.
On the second day after this investiture, he was
on his way to Capua, hastening, partly to avoid
the trouble of ceremonial visits, and partly to
enter on the new station without delay.
He made his entry into the city on the 1st of
May. The populace were rejoicing in the pros
pect of indulgences, which he had promised to
all who should merit them by going to mass,
and thus be the first to take benefit of his minis
trations as their Metropolitan. The Clergy met
him first, then the laity, and, under shelter of a
silken canopy, he rode into Capua. The six
gentlemen elected to the government of the peo-
pie carried the canopy. The nobility surrounded
him ; some at the bridle, some at the stirrups,
some on either side the horse. And this was in
expression of a homage that the Church exacts
on all similar occasions.* The cross preceded,
to show that he took possession of the province.
The way was strewed with flowers. From the
belfries of the twenty parish churches, and from
those of the numerous monasteries, came clash
ing peals of welcome. The crowds, kneeling,
received his blessing as he advanced ; and, at the
cathedral, into which he was carried over the
heads of the crowd, it seemed to him that St.
Stephen, the protomartyr and guardian of the
place, extended the right hand of recognition.
And if it be true that an arm of the saint, whom
devout men buried, was disinterred, and if, in
defiance of the waste of sixteen centuries, it
remained entire in Capua, that very limb was car
ried in procession round the church, and in this
fashion exhibited for two days, by command of
the new Archbishop, and to the delectation of
the people. On the feast of Ascension, although
it was not usual to preach on that day, he set
aside the custom, took the pulpit, and delivered
a sermon on these words of the Prophet : " See,
I have this day set thee over the nations, and
* Fuligatto and Marazzani relate what the ccrremoniale
JEpi.scoporum of Clement VIII., (still in use,) lib. i., cap. 2,
prescribes. These honours, therefore, were not sponta
ARCHBISHOP OF CAPUA.
over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull
down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to
huild and to plant." But the Capuan pulpit
had been poorly occupied ; the inhabitants felt
little desire to hear sermons ; and it was not
until after great exertion and perseverance that
he could gather numerous congregations. Then
he wrote an earnest letter to the Pope, entreat
ing that, while such cities as Rome, Naples, and
Milan, were supplied with excellent Preachers,
second-rate cities, like his own, should not be
left destitute. " In these," he says, "if the
Bishop does not speak, all are mute, except
during the days of Lent. In Lent, indeed, there
are many Preachers to be heard, whom pay,
rather than charity, attracts, and who rather
gape after gain of money than seek souls.
These, therefore, are miserable cities, desolate
fields, which Heaven, while it waters all the rest,
rains upon for one month only in the year ; and
from such fields you can gather nothing but
thorns and weeds."
In reply to a friend who asked him, some
years afterwards, by what means he made him
self so good an Archbishop during his residence
of three years in Capua, he gives this account :
" As when one looks into a mirror, I set my
mind to consider intently the life and conduct of
the most admired Bishops that had been in the
Church before me ; endeavouring, by God s help,
to throw off all that was imperfect in myself,
and assume a new exterior, resembling theirs as
nearly as possible, tbat so I might adapt my
actions thereunto. T therefore read constantly
the histories of those Bishops, perusing in order
the volumes of Surius ; and I read, especially,
the lives of the holy Popes Ambrose, Martin,
Augustine, Germanus, Anselm of Canterbury,
Antonine of Florence, Lawrence, Patriarch of
A T enice, and others. But I derived the greatest
advantage from the narratives of those most
holy Prelates who went before me in Capua,
Ansbertus and Andoenus ; for both of them per
fectly sustained the name and office of Pastor,
nourishing the souls of their subjects with the
constant preaching of the word of God, their
bodies with liberal charities, and themselves with
the wholesome food of prayer."
If Bellarmine had written to gratify the eye of
Protestantism, he would scarcely have exhibited
so artlessly the earthly model of perfection that
he had chosen for imitation, or have disclosed so
fully his utter forgetfulness of Him who left us
an example that we should walk in His steps.
If instead of the lives of Bishops he had studied
the word of God, his profiting would have been
indeed apparent, and his career as an ecclesiastic
far more equal. Still we must acknowledge
that he was, in his way, a sincere and success
ful imitator ; and if it be a virtue in a man who
has no domestic tie, and who is free to consume
all that comes into his hands, not concerning
ARCHBISHOP OF CAPUA.
himself as to widow or child, his virtue was
heroic. He gave away his income almost as
fast as he received it. The poor, indeed, for
whom scarcely any other provision was made,
could only look to the Clergy for help. The
Church revenues were held with the understand
ing that almsgiving was due from the Incum
bents. By his steward, or with his own hand,
he gave money daily to crowds of beggars ; and
as he was not churlish in the distribution, so
neither did he make any careful inquiry into the
necessity or the character of the beggars that beset
his door. In all such cases, therefore, charity is
but artificial, and we are obliged, in order to find
any ground for praise, to observe the temper in
which he dispersed his bounties ; and here it is
pleasant to find indications of an exceedingly
benevolent nature, with an air of simplicity so
captivating, that I have experienced a sensation
of disappointment in passing from a cursory
reading of the biography to a careful study of
His proceedings as a disciplinarian give us
occasion to note the state of the Italian churches
in those times.
Gambling, with its attendant vices, prevailed
generally in Capua and the neighbouring towns,
in spite of royal edicts to the contrary ; and the
local authorities did not interfere. The Arch
bishop, at first, intended to launch spiritual
censures on the offenders, but on consideration
perceived that such a measure would only bring
himself into contempt. His predecessor, an
eminent decretalist,* had never interfered with
the amusements of the people, and they had
been too long pursuing their own course to
be brought suddenly under ecclesiastical re
straint. Secretly, that the magistrates might
not suspect his interference, he sent a messenger
to the Viceroy of Naples ; obtained a new law for
the prohibition of gambling-houses ; and had the
Governor dismissed, and another put in his
place. An edict came from Naples, the new
Governor enforced it, and they regarded Capua
as reclaimed " by those arts, to a sense of
The laity being thus involuntarily reformed,
the Archbishop set about the reformation of the
Clergy also, who were not less addicted to the
same sin. The Priests, in general, laid aside the
dice, or tossed them in private ; but after all those
efforts, one of them was brought up as incor
rigible. " How is it," asked Bellarmine, " that
you, an ecclesiastic, and a Priest beside, did not
fear that the sound of dice would be heard, but
played even in open day, either for pleasure or
for shameful gain ?" " Because," answered the
Priest, " I am destitute of maintenance ; and
* Cesare Costa, thirty years Archbishop of Capua, who
was employed by Clement VIII. to edit a seventh book of
Decretals, with glosses and notes. (Ughelli, Italia Sacra.,
torn, vi., p. 359.)
ARCHBISHOP OF CAPUA.
unless I get money by play, I must starve."
The good Archbishop gave him as much as he
would have won by a lucky throw, bade him
come to him whenever he would otherwise have
gambled, and promised that each time he should
receive as much. The Priest, seeing that he was
caught, became another man.
In visiting the churches, Bellarmine found
that in many of them there was seldom any sort
of ritual performance, but that the Priests them
selves bought and sold in them, as if they were
market-houses ; the hucksters actually exposing
their wares in the naves. Porters traversed the
aisles with burdens, and trade was carried on so
briskly in the porches, that the Priest could not
be heard to sing mass. This indecency the
new Archbishop diminished, but could not
Priests of the first class were seen to solicit
the meanest occupations for the sake of a living,
and appeared seldom at church. This degradation
he forbade, and commanded them to attend at
lectures established for their instruction. He
convened the Canons frequently in chapter,
and himself presided, restoring ceremonies, and
settling disputes. In the absence of Canons
from their stalls, laymen had been accustomed to
occupy those convenient seats ; but he would not
suffer them even to enter the choir, which was
not a place, he said, for " profane persons,"
for the laity were all held to be profane. Every
87 H 2
day he attended in the choir once, and on festivals
at all the hours. To encourage attendance there,
each Canon, when present, was allowed a small
sum of money. Bellarmine took his own daily,
and then applied it to some charitable use. By
his presence, too, he compelled the Canons to
refrain from chanting immodest words with sacred
music, and from levity in church. He was
also careful to obtain young men of as good
character as could be found, to be educated for
the priesthood, free of charge.
When visiting his diocese, he presumed to imi
tate our blessed Saviour, by sending forward two
Jesuits, whom he likened to disciples, to announce
the approach of their master. Several Jesuits were
generally to be found in Capua, and he maintained
them in his palace. For twenty-two years there
had not been a Provincial Council in the metro
politan church, nor a Diocesan Synod ; but he
caused Synods to be held annually, and ordered a
Council once in three years ; but Bellarmine had
scarcely fulfilled one triennial cycle, when he
was called to Rome again. For the sake of
showing hospitality, he enlarged and repaired the
archiepiscopal palace. The cathedral, too, he
repaired ; restoring and decorating the chapel of
St. Paul, which had been converted into a
lumber-room. Nor did he forget to remove the
body of his predecessor into a sumptuous tomb,
and place a neat inscription over it.
Near the church of St. John there was a
ARCHBISHOP OF CAPUA.
nunnery, where the depravity of the inmates had
become so scandalous that a Congregation of
Cardinals had forbidden any more females to
be admitted as novices. The community had
dwindled down to six, and those six " religious
women" were covered with infamy. On the
arrival of Bellarmine, they applied to him for
something more than he could give, a restora
tion to good report. They asked for mass to be
said in their chapel once again. It was granted,
and a sermon besides, when they fell on their
knees, wept, implored interest at Rome for the
grant of a new character, and offered to submit to
any rule that their Archbishop would impose on
them. The patrons of those "sacred virgins"
plied Bellarmine hard for a restoration of cha
racter at Rome, and permission to return again
"to a form of holier life." The men of Capua
complained that the nunnery, having a revenue
of three thousand ducats, and therefore capable
of receiving many women, to the relief of poor
families, was no longer available for that use.
Bellarmine wrote to the Sacred Congregation,
and prayed them not to shut their ears against
returning virtue. The Cardinals could scarcely
imagine such a reformation to be possible ; but
they yielded to his importunity, and gave licence
for other females to be admitted to recruit the
society of the repentant virgins, under condition of
their vacating the nunnery where no one would
ever imagine that aught good could dwell, and
89 H 3
taking up a new abode. Bellarmine superintended
the change ; having first of all purified the Nuns
by eight months absolute seclusion, under two
ladies from another house, bought other pre
mises, made enclosure with very lofty walls, and
only permitted one small spot for communica
tion with the world, a small grating, so close
that not a feature could be seen through it by
the most prying eye. Encouraged by this suc
cess, another disordered community, that of St.
Francis and St. Clare, was committed to his
hands ; and by kindly diligence he succeeded in
placing those Nuns, also, on a more creditable
Attracted by his fame as a Prelate, multitudes
of young men resorted to him for ordination ;
and when any were to be sent out as Missioners
to China or to India, the Rector of the Roman
College was wont to send them down to Capua,
that from his hand they might receive the
indelible character of priesthood. At this time
he also enjoyed the credit of having so great
power with God, that nothing could be denied to
his intercession. Sick persons were brought to
him for healing, and others possessed with devils
for exorcism. One woman was brought from a
neighbouring village, said to be possessed by
many. The Cardinal knew her to be an ener-
gumen, but commanded her to go home again.
Afterwards, intending to use every means for her
recovery, and fully conscious of the power which.
ARCHBISHOP OF CAPUA.
Christ our Lord had given him, he began more
austerely than usual to break the strength of the
demons by fastings and prayers. By this they
felt his power, and exclaimed with, indignation,
"What has Cardinal Bellarmine to do with us?
He torments us more than he ought ; he com
mands us to go forth ; he compels us to depart
hence ; therefore we will depart." Having re
peated these words several times, they left the
woman in the church, much exhausted. Many
sick persons they say he healed ; and " on the
bodies of the diseased he laid a small piece of
paper, cut out of the epistles of St. Ignatius,
on which was his name written by his own
hand ; and by that many were restored to
Be it remembered that these fables are told of
one of the cleverest doctors of whom the Church
of Rome can boast, and that they were pub
lished, as soon as possible, after his death, both
in Italian and Latin, by the command of Muzio
Vitelleschi, General of the Society of Jesus, with
dedication to Urban VIII.,* who might himself
r " It would have been glorious, if, as thou didst intend,
thmi hadst written concerning Bellarmine, in the dignity of
manners and of purple in which thou wast. But it is more
glorious that thou wast so prevented ; and that the impe
diments were, to thy feet, the kisses of the world ; to thy
handv, the bounties of heaven ; to thy mouth, answers and
oracles of truth ; to thy soul, God and the management of
His affairs." (Dedication by Silvester 1 etra Sancta, the
translator, to Urban VIII.)
have been the biographer, but for his elevation
to the pontificate. Such are the finer peucillings
wherewith a Roman artist, of most approved
manner, finishes a portrait that is to be offered
for the admiration, if not the worship, of the
The biographer and his followers thought it
necessary to invest this "servant of God" with
the gift of prophecy. If, as they say, Bellar-
mine predicted, on leaving Rome, that Clement
VIII. would die within three years, his charac
ter rises not in our estimation. We remember a
former presage of the same very suspicious kind.
The death, however, did take place when the
Archbishop had been two years and ten months
in Capua ; and after preaching a farewell sermon
he made haste to take part in the election of a
successor to the pontificate.
Clement expired March 3d, 1G05 ; and on the
14th day of the same month, sixty Cardinals
shut themselves up in Conclave.* In the first
scrutiny it was found that Bellarmine had the
largest number of votes. Eleven gave him a
nomination. Eight bestowed a similar honour
on Baronius. After Baronius, many received
insignificant numbers of tickets, or single votes.
* A description of a Conclave, and of the ceremonial
now observed in the election of a Pope, may be found in
the Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine for 1851. *
The Cardinals were not yet prepared to act in
earnest ; for the intrigues and contradictions
which kept them there until the 1st of April were
but beginning ; and therefore they gave a sort of
random vote for the least likely persons. Each
Cardinal-Deacon had one, at least, except San
Cesareo, who jocosely mourned that no one
wanted him for Pope. Bellarmine sternly
told his friends that the levity of the Conclave
was offensive ; " for although Bulls, and the
honour of the blessed God, bound the Cardinals
to give their votes to the most worthy, they had
voted for boys of fifteen, treating that as a jest
which demanded infinite respect, and thus com
mitting mortal sin." The suffrages for Bel
larmine diminished, as soon as their Eminences
fell to work, and grew more numerous for
Baronius, who displayed his satisfaction in the
usual manner by perversely quoting Scripture.
The passage most in his lips was, " The pains
of death have compassed me about." But
when at the very last another interest rose into
ascendency, Alessandro de Medici received the
tiara, and came forth as Leo XI. Four weeks
durance and contention had wearied out the
aged Princes ; and several of them were already
driven to their palaces by gout, fever, or vex
ation.* Conclaves, in those days, were more
tumultuous and scandalous than they are likely
to be at present, under improved regulations.
: > Conclavi de Pontefici Romani. MDCLXV11I. Leone XL
A fatality haunted new-made Popes. Twenty-
eight days had been consumed in the creation
of Leo XL, and in twenty-six he ceased to be.
Again, therefore, fifty-nine Cardinals went into
the Vatican. On Sunday morning, May llth,
and without keeping any Sabbath, for there
is none at Rome, they proceeded at once to
form themselves into parties. In this Con
clave Bellarmine became a person of import
ance. Sforza, his relative, and Aquaviva, nephew
of the General of the Jesuits, applied themselves
in earnest to collect votes for him ; and on the
scrutiny fourteen were counted in his favour.
For a short time a rumour prevailed that Bellar
mine was likely to be elected, under favour of
some of the most eminent members of the Col
lege. But, in reality, some of his supporters merely
used him for the time to divert support from
another candidate ; and the prospect of having a
Jesuit Pope alarmed all the Cardinal-Friars, who
raised a clamour instantaneously. The reporter
of the proceedings of this Conclave says, that
" Bellarmine had great friends in consideration
of his learning, and singular goodness ; but his
being a Jesuit, and of delicate conscience, made
him to be little loved by many, who moved every
stone to ruin him The remembrance of
Bellarmine s disgrace under Sixtus V., who
caused his work on the power of the Pope to be
prohibited, was revived. There were earnest
discourses concerning all the consequences that
RISES TO NEW DIGNITIES.
might be apprehended from the exaltation of a
Jesuit, and the management on the other side
was carried on so vigorously that the project
was quickly set at rest." * After close fighting
for five days, the Cardinal Borghese emerged
from the crowd of competitors as Pope Paul V.
The cries of adverse factions, and the din of can
vassing, that had resounded in those chambers,
were now hushed ; and the new Pontiff was
robed, worshipped, and proclaimed in Rome as
" Universal Father."
RISES TO NEW DIGNITIES.
When Bellarmine left Capua, he thought it
likely that his services would be acceptable at
Court. His wordy patron had been equally
careful to remove him thence, and to measure
out revenue so moderately, that no very influential
treasury should be at his disposal. Clement being
no more, he had, probably, good reason to infer
from the correspondence of old friends that his
position would be altered. And in a valedictory
sermon, he even ventured, " although not a pro
phet," to predict that the new Pope would not
suffer him to quit Rome, and that, therefore,
the Capuans would not see his face again. The
stroke of pathos told upon the congregation, and
there were who cried aloud : " Good shepherd,
do not leave us." " Leave us not fatherless."
" We have sinned against thee, Father, but will
* Ut supra, Conclave di Paolo V.
be better children for the future." Such accla
mations were not unusual in Italian congrega
tions, and even now are sometimes to be heard.
As he divined it came to pass. Leo XI. first
desired him to stay in Rome ; and Paul V. also
showed him favour. Having so often condemned
Prelates who dismissed their wives, the churches,
and yet retained the dowries, he could not con
sistently retain the archbishopric of Capua, but
surrendered charge and a great part of the re
venue to Paul. He received, however, an annuity
of four thousand crowns, rich compensation
flowed from other quarters, and he remained a
pillar of the Roman Church, bearing no small
weight of responsibility for counsel, while more
courtly men were employed in diplomacy and
My leading authority, Fuligatto, is just now
singularly barren. No small proportion of his
volume is occupied with details intended to
illustrate the wisdom and piety of his hero ; but
some of them are incredible, and most of them
are trifling. As for his wisdom, it was expended
in Congregations and in monasteries, the affairs
of which cannot interest the reader. And as for
his piety, I shall presently refer to other docu
ments. Enough to say, that he governed the
bishopric of Montepulciano, his native place,
with diligence, although he never visited the
diocese, but took the office of ecclesiastical
governor with an understanding that the duties
RISES TO NEW DIGNITIES.
of residence and visitation would be devolved
upon a Vicar.
In common with other Cardinals he exercised
rights of patronage. "Among other occupa
tions undertaken by the Cardinals at Rome,
that they may assist the Supreme Pontiff in the
government of the universal Church, are num
bered patronages ; not only of kingdoms and
provinces, but also of religious orders. The
Pope himself distributes prefectures of this kind
among them. Cardinal Bellarmine had to dis
charge this function ; and the order of Celes-
tines, a monastery in the city of Sacred Virgins
of St. Matthew, and the College of the Germanic
Nation, were placed under his protection." Pro
tection, however, and patronage, are merely
words that cover the idea of supreme govern
ment. Nominally, supremacy belongs to the
Pope alone, and to him only it is ever attri
buted ; but sixty or seventy Cardinals actually
govern. They are called Patrons or Protectors,
to save the fundamental doctrine of a monarchy
that scorns to share its honours with another ;
and to exalt the personage that would imitate
Him who is indeed almighty and omnipresent.
Bellarmine, acting as a lieutenant of the
Pope, sometimes gave proof of much practical
wisdom. In his patronage of the Celestines, for
example, he restored a w y ise provision of the
founder himself, Celestine V., that although the
Supreme Abbot was only elected for three years,
he might be re-elected for a similar term. Pope
John XXII. had abrogated this power of the fra
ternity, under the idea that ambitious brethren
would manage to get repeated appointments to
the exclusion of others. The necessity of chang
ing the government of the community every
third year, thus induced, however effectually it
might frustrate, ambition, and also tended to chill
the hopes and depress the spirit of the brother
hood. " It was found by experience that the
space of three years, when the Abbot was a good
one, was too small for the continuance and
establishment of what had been usefully begun."
He obtained authority from Paul V. for the
restoration of the primitive licence, and saw it
twice used with great effect. Both the sexennial
Abbots took heart, in prospect of lengthened
occupation, and revived the order in France,
Belgium, and Italy. The Court of Rome saw
that in the struggle with Protestantism no ad
vantage of consolidation and persistency was to
be lost even to one of the least of their institu
tions. And this may be recorded, as one of the
best examples of the wisdom of our Cardinal,
by whose means the improvement was effected.
Occasion soon came for giving Bellarmine far
more important work than the patronage of monk
eries. His own patron, Paul V., was resolved to
make such a stand as had not been made since the
Reformation against anti-Papal doctrines through
out the world. Everywhere the temporal powers
resisted him ; but almost everywhere he over
awed them by some stroke of authority that
none but himself would have attempted. Princes
condescended to be absolved and reconciled, after
having done no more than their duty in object
ing to his exorbitant assumption of power over
their subjects by means of canon law. One
state, however, refused to follow the general
example of submission. Venice had been sub
jected, in common with others, to the extortion
of the priesthood. Delegates from Rome de
manded power over the Venetians by means of
the Inquisition and other ecclesiastical courts.
The Venetian Clergy were required to surrender
national privileges, and submit to be absorbed
in the vortex of Roman jurisdiction. The
Congregation of the Index prohibited, one by
one, the best books printed in Venice, the sale
of which constituted a main part of Venetian
commerce. The printers had put forth their
utmost energy, and by issuing magnificent Mis
sals, and other Church-books, were partially
recovering themselves, when a revision of those
formularies superseded the existing editions, and
a prohibition of printing new editions, except in
Rome, threatened them with ruin. The spirit of
the Venetians was aroused. Then Rome endea
voured to encroach on the boundaries and on the
fisheries of the Republic. The Republic made
99 i 2
reprisals. For the sake of self-defence restraint
was laid upon the rapacity of the Clergy. The
Senate enacted a law of mortmain to protect fami
lies from robbery by Confessors who beset the
death-beds. The civil authorities treated Papal
decrees and constitutions with just contempt,
whenever they were contrary to the law of the
land. Some seditious Monks were imprisoned,
and the Nuncio in vain demanded their release.
On the 17th day of April, 1606, to crush the
temporal power, Paul set the seal of the Fisher
man, in fury, to an excommunication of the
Doge and his assessors, and an interdict laid on
the Republic. It then became necessary to
justify the Roman aggressions and extortions by
a plea of Divine right. For doing this Bellarmine
was best fitted by a concurrence of principle and
habit ; and him, therefore, the Pontiff set to
work. It was in a juncture when the excom
munication was despised and the interdict re
sisted, and when the Jesuits, as adherents of the
Pope, were expelled from Venice, that Bellarmine
again pleaded for Papal supremacy, as coolly as
if all Europe were content to suffer it.
This is his doctrine : * Princes have no power
over Clergymen, who by the testimony of all
Catholic lawyers, and by the letter of God s law,
are exempt from earthly jurisdiction. It is
* Controversial Meinorabilis inter Paulum V. Pontificem
Max. et Venetor, &c., Acta et Scripta. In Villa Sanvin-
ccutiana, 1607. An instructive collection.
manifestly false to say that the Most Christian
King has power from God over the French, the
Catholic King over the Spaniards, or the Repub
lic over the Venetians ; for Sovereigns possess
their dominion by some human right only, never
by Divine. The Pope has received from God
the immediate grant of sovereignty over all
Christians. Kings may surrender their states,
because the tenure is only secular ; but the Pope
cannot surrender a province, a town, nor even
an individual : for his kingdom, like that of
Christ, is inalienable and without end. His
tenure is Divine and eternal. If Princes have
no power immediately from God over the laity,
certainly they can have none over the Clergy ;
nor can they deal with the Clergy as if they
were subjects either by Divine or human right.
It is true that every power is of God. Some
power is immediate, as that of Moses and the
Pope ; and some is from the people by election,
or other means. The Clergy, therefore, first
obey him who has power immediately from God,
and then they obey such human and secondary
laws as are not contrary to the Pope s laws.
But if a Clergyman breaks a human law, no
human power can justly punish him. Secular
Princes, it is acknowledged, are called gods of
the people, but the Priest is god of the Prince.
Priests may judge Emperors, but an Emperor
may not judge a Priest. Priests are shepherds,
and laymen sheep : sheep cannot rule their
shepherd. " As in a man reason and flesh are
united, and so make up the man ; even so in
holy Church there is the ecclesiastical or spiritual
power, and the secular or temporal, which both
make up the mystical body of the Church. And
as in the man reason is superior to flesh, not
flesh to reason, except when it rebels ; so reason
leads and governs flesh, and even subdues and
punishes flesh with fasts and watchings, but flesh
never guides or punishes reason. Thus is the spirit
ual power superior to the worldly, and therefore
both may and can guide, govern, command, and
punish it, when it does wrong. But the secular
power, not being superior to the spiritual, can
not guide or govern it, except de facto, and by
way of rebellion and tyranny, as heretical Princes
have sometimes done." Princes are hired ser
vants of the people, but Priests are ministers of
God. All persons and all things are theirs.
Whatever heretics may say, the Church has the
right to put heretics to death ; for she has two
swords, temporal and spiritual. In her great
tenderness she refrains from using the former,
but requires the temporal power to use it in her
behalf. From these propositions, and much,
very much more of the same kind, Bellarmine
teaches the Venetian Republic how fearfully it
has offended God by imprisoning those Priests ;
and at the close of one of his writings he broadly
hints that the Doge will be worried to death by
his own subjects, who will act as ministers of
Divine vengeance. He tells him that he will perish,
as other tyrants have perished, in punishment of
resisting Rome, unless he repents and yields.
The quarrel was compromised at last, leaving
the Pope conqueror in reality, and in full enjoy
ment of the benefit of this outrageous theology.
But outrageous as it was, it was precisely the
dogma that Rome needed to have established.
What could be more grateful to the vulgar ear
than a denial of the Divine right of Kings ?
What could be more politic for the Papacy than
to depress royalty to the level of republicanism ?
Henceforth Roman diplomatists and Priests
might coolly accommodate themselves to any
change of government ; or they might aid in
subverting kingdom, empire, or commonwealth ;
or become accomplices with any despot, or with
any demagogue in tearing up ancient landmarks.
They were not to be respected, because they
were but accidental, only the effect of some com
pact or of some capitulation. The Church could
sit calmly amidst revolutions of her own crea
tion, and obtain from the dominant faction, or
the de facto government, the price of her com
plicity. Under this theory, and with the prac
tice corresponding, especially as seen in Europe
within the last five years, there is nothing in the
world sacred, and nothing safe : there was not a
sentiment conveyed in the controversy with the
Venetians that Jiad not been published long
before, iu his treatise De Ponfffice Romano. Yet
this was one of the confidential correspondents
of James I. of England ; for a statement of
Bellarmine himself in his answer to " the triple
knot" of that King is amply corroborated by
other evidence. The Cardinal, speaking in the
third person, says, that " the King had written
to the Pope himself, as well as to the Cardinals
Aldobrandini and Bellarmino, letters full of
civility, in which, besides other things, he de
sired that some one of the Scots should be
created Cardinal of the holy Roman Church, in
order that he might have some one at Rome by
whom to transact business with the Pope more
easily." But afterwards, about the time of the
Gunpowder Plot, King James performed the part
of a zealous Protestant, either through fear of
the Jesuits, or for the sake of keeping up his
character in England ; and then he wrote a book
against the Pope and Bellarmine. The coolness
of the latter enabled him to appear much better
on paper than his royal antagonist. An inci
dental specimen of his coolness appears in a
letter from his hand, which I find in manuscript
in the British Museum, and translate underneath.
It is addressed to the Cardinal D Este,* and
* " My most Illustrious, most Reverend, and most
Respected Lord, It having pleased the King of England
to write a book against the holy Catholic faith, and against
my person, I have thought it necessary to answer him to
defend the holy faith, and myself also. However, I send
you the enclosed copy, hoping that you may be willing to
would suggest even to a reader, uninformed of
the constant usage, that all these controversial
productions underwent censorship, and there
fore expressed authentically the mind of the
Court of Rome.
Tyrannicide, as the phrase went, that is to
say, the killing of Kings, was openly advocated
by Jesuits, and defended at Rome. When Jean
Chastel, a student of the Jesuit College in Paris,
attempted to assassinate Henry III., and the
Court of Parliament proceeded against the
criminal, their act was censured at Rome.*
The Spanish Jesuit, Mariana, wrote a treatise f
tending to establish the same horrid doctrine ;
and Bellarmine, in answer to a work of an
Englishman, George Barclay, maintained the
same. This work, which is a fair exposition of
Roman doctrine, may be found in its place. J It
exhibits an array of sentences confirmatory from
"illustrious writers" of Italy, France, Spain,
see and read it. Praying that you may enjoy the next
Christmas festivities, and not having to give you any
further trouble with letters of this kind, I commend my
self to you in yratiam. From Rome, November llth,
1609. Of your most Illustrious and most Reverend, the
most humble and devoted servant,
*>** THE CARDINAL BELLARMINE."
(Additional MSS. from 1782 to 1835 in British Museum.
* Le Tocsin, Paris, 1610.
t De Rege, et Regis Institutione.
Seventh volume of Bellarmine s \Vorks. Cologne,
Germany, England, and Scotland, with sentences
of Councils. The alleged prerogative of the
Supreme Pontiff, and the duty of the people in
regard to heretical Princes, are laid down under
great variety of argument, precedent, and figure.
The conclusions are such as these :
Princes, in these latter times, may be deprived
of their princedom without any detriment of the
people, and without any injustice, by authority
of the Church.
Kings are the rams of the flock. If the rams
injure the sheep with their horns, they must be
put away from the flock by the shepherd. The
Pope is the universal shepherd ; and if Kings
tyrannise over the people, he has the right to
put them out of the way, and is under the obli
gation so to do. However, as he does not use
the sword himself, he must necessarily call on
armies, magistrates, or people, to employ such
means as may effect the purpose.
Heretical Kings are wolves that destroy the
flock. The good shepherd will drive away the
wolf; (and elsewhere Bellarmine has said that
wolves are to be killed ;) and even so the Pope,
supreme power on earth, and universal shepherd,
should require the services of all who can render
it, to drive those wolves away.
These books not only made great stir in Venice
and England, but wrought powerfully in France
among the Clergy and on the least worthy part
of the laity, as appeared May 13th, 1610, when
Ravaillac stabbed Henry IV., who fell mortally
wounded ; and it became evident that the fol
lowers of Mariana and Bellarmine, with all the
vassals of the Roman Court, deemed that act to
be heroic and meritorious. On the l()th of
June the Parisian Parliament ordered the book
of Mariana to be burnt before Notre Dame ; but,
unhappily for France, the deceased King, blind
to the fact that- the Jesuits, the Romans, and
the Spaniards were combined to overturn his
throne, had patronised the Jesuits, and made
one of them tutor of his son. They had, there
fore, sufficient influence at Court and in Parlia
ment to shield their order, and suppress in the
Arret of Parliament the designation of Mariana
as a Priest of the Society of Jesus.
Still the Jesuits were accused of being acces
sory at least by consequence of their teaching
to the murder of the King, and a day was
appointed for their cause to be pleaded at the
palace. The Itectors and Doctors of the Sor-
bonne came in a body to the widowed Queen,
ready to establish their complaint ; but the
Jesuits had succeeded in persuading Her Majesty
to merge the duties of a Queen and the affec
tions of a widow in the submission of a devotee ;
and she dismissed her most faithful subjects with
an injunction to cease their pleading. The
Sorbonne obeyed ; but the same day the public
prosecutor demanded judgment of the Parliament
against Bellarmine s answer to Barclay, and on
that day week an order was issued forbidding
" all persons under penalty of treason to receive,
retain, circulate, print, cause to be printed, or
expose to sale the said book, tending to the over
throw of sovereign powers ordained and estab
lished by God, to the revolt of subjects against
their Prince, to the withdrawal of their obedi
ence ; inducing them to make attempts against
their persons and estates, and to disturb public
quiet and tranquillity."*
Thus did that court fulfil its duty, refraining
only from ordering Bellarmine s book to be
burnt, in consideration of his rank as Cardinal,
and of the Queen s love of the Jesuits. But their
loyalty was displayed in vain. The Nuncio hurried
away in anger to the palace, and threatened that,
unless the Queen made reparation, he would no
longer stay in France. She was alarmed, sum
moned the Parliament into her presence, and
demanded the reason of their proceeding. They
gave it with great firmness. The first President
represented that she and her son, now King,
were brought under subjection to the Pope, and
in danger of being deposed whenever it should
please him. Bellarmine, they said, at a time
when the Pope ought to have sent her a letter of
condolence and consolation in her sorrow, had
published that book in France, and so thrown a
firebrand of sedition among her people. Her
husband, they believed, would have gone to
* Extraict des Registres de Tarlement.
Rome and demanded the person of the author.
But Henry Mas murdered now, and the book was
a canonisation of Ravaillac his murderer, and
an authentication of the crime. " Madam/ he
added, "we have found the sword drawn against
you and your state : we had been traitors to you
and to our places, if we had not raised our arms
to parry the blow." She could not reprove the
Parliament, but she bade them suspend the
execution of their order for the present. Mean
while the Nuncio persisted in his complaint.
The Jesuits gave her no rest. Bellarmine, on
hearing what had happened, wrote a letter to
defend his doctrine, protesting that he only
meant it to be applied for the deposition of
Princes that were heretics, as in England, and
assured Her Majesty of his good intentions. The
Queen professed herself well satisfied, all oppo
sition was turned aside, and the King-killing
doctrine was propagated without restraint.* The
Tocsin, a publication that its authors were com
pelled to issue anonymously, at a time when it
was dangerous to be a patriot, was suppressed,
and gathered up with such religious diligence
that even the British Ambassador at Paris could
not obtain a copy. One copy, at any rate, is
preserved, and it has afforded me a reference on
a preceding page.
* Winwood s Memorials, vol. iii., pp. 231-233, 234-
210,241. Cretineau-Joly, Histoire de la Compagnie de
Jesus, tome iii., chap. 3. Fuligatti Vit. Bel., lib. ii.,cap. 7.
The general reader must here be cautioned
against the artfulness of some writers and the
simplicity of others, who would cover the guilt
of partisans in those days with the cloak of mis
representation, or the mantle of a blind charity.
Cretineau-Joly, for example, says that our
Cardinal wrote to Arch-Priest Blackwell, in Eng
land, blaming the proceedings of the Romanists
here. He wrote, indeed, to Blackwell ; but what
did he say ? His letter, written not long after
the Gunpowder Treason, contains an assertion,
anything but true, that no Pope had ever
killed any King, or approved of any such mur
der, and treats the fear of danger to the life of
James I. as idle. But the writer says nothing
condemnatory of the conduct of the traitors of
the 5th of November. On the contrary, he
censures Blackwell most severely for taking an
oath of allegiance, which he calls unlawful.
" Neither, dearest brother, could that oath be
come lawful by being presented to you in any
way tempered or modified. For you know that
such modifications are nothing else than snares
and tricks of Satan For it is certain that in
whatsoever words an oath may be framed by the
adversaries of the faith in that kingdom, it can
only tend to transfer the authority of the Head
of the Church from the successor of St. Peter to
the successor of Henry VIII. in England." And
as by taking an oath of allegiance to his rightful
Sovereign he has fallen like St. Peter and St. Mar-
ct lliuus, lie entreats him, in the Lord s name, to
repent like them, and renounce that allegiance ;
thus returning to the path of truth and virtue.
He endeavours to stimulate the Arch-Priest to lead
all the Romanists in England to withdraw their
allegiance from the King, against whose life, as
he well knows, enemies are plotting, both at
home and abroad. And he tries to stir them up
to sedition by arguments from Gregory the
Great, St. Leo, and the Jesuit Sanders ; and by
the examples of the Bishop of Rochester and Sir
Thomas More. " For the sake of that single
and most weighty article of doctrine alone " (the
dominion of the Pope over the King) " they were
leaders unto martyrdom of very many others." A
clear confession that the Romanists who suffered
in the reign of Queen Elizabeth were not
punished for any other article of their "reli
gion" than that which led them to sedition and
to regicide. And we must not attribute zeal for
this article of doctrine to the Jesuits alone, inas
much as Paul V., following the traditions of his
fathers, announced the same repeatedly, and
especially in a Brief published more than five
weeks before the famous letter of the Cardinal.*
* The Bull was dated August 21st, and the letter Sep
tember 28th, 1607. The letter was intercepted, and forth
with printed by authority, with a " Large Examination
taken at Lambeth, according to His Majesty s direction,
point by point, of M. George Blackwell, made Arch-Priest
of England, by Pope Clement VIII., &c., &c., &c. London,
Ill K 2
It is therefore evident that Bellarmine, far from
condemning treason, inculcated most earnestly
the doctrine hy which treason is a virtue ; and
having no official reason for writing to the less
disloyal Arch-Priest of England, went out of his
way to do so, just on the strength of having
known him more than forty years before.
His blessing or his curse was always ready to
be addressed to the friends of his Church and
order, or to their foes. While prosecuting, with
unflinching perseverance, the ruin of every Pro
testant Sovereign, and of every untractable state,
he repaid subservient Princes with his best
offices. For example : The crown of Bohemia,
being elective, was to be set on the head of a new
ruler ; and as the doctrines of the Reformation
had gained ascendency in the land of Huss, until
the Jesuits succeeded in bringing round what is
called a counter-Reformation, our Cardinal and
his Company set their heart on bestowing that
kingdom on the King of Hungary. Although
not Superior of Jesuits in Bohemia, or anywhere
else, Bellarmine kept up correspondence with the
Society in that country, carried their letters into
the Pope s closet,* and, being assured that Mat
thias would raise them up into power, and spare
no means to slaughter his subjects of the Reform
ation, engaged the highest interest that the
Popedom could afford to dethrone his brother
Rudolf, the tolerant Emperor, and obtain the
* \Vin\vood, vol. iii., p. 270.
ENFORCES HIS DOCTRINE.
election of Matthias to be King of Bohemia,
King of the Romans, and then Emperor in his
stead. Matthias promised the Bohemians tolera
tion, to obtain their votes, and offered the Jesuits
patronage for the same reason ; and having, by
assistance of the latter, gained his point, he
let them loose upon the others. To the conscience
of Bellarmine, this management was all " for the
greater glory of God."
ENFORCES HIS DOCTRINE.
This Cardinal theologist had a vast advantage
in the propagation of doctrine, inasmuch as he
was also an Inquisitor. And, although the
Inquisition had not a tribunal in France, it had
agencies and power there, as it has in every
country where the Church possesses influence,
either direct or indirect. Take a proof.
During the outburst of indignation in France
on the proclamation of death to heretical Kings
in the answer to Barclay, arid after the execution
of death on King Henry IV., who, having sought
peace with Rome by apostasy, fell by the dagger
of a Jesuitised assassin, the Parisian preachers
were divided. Many passed over the subject in
silence. A few lauded the Society of Jesus.
Some dared to speak the truth, but with various
degrees of hesitation or of liberty. One honest
Frenchman, an Abbe de Bois, "a man very
famous for his gallant preaching, and for his
knowledge in matters of the world," preached
113 K 3
freely in one of the largest churches in Paris,
hoth against the Pope s assumption of temporal
power, and against the practices of the Jesuits.
The Jesuits, however, being supported by the
Nuncio, compelled, or persuaded, him to make
in private a kind of recantation ; and, as he
abstained from any further animadversions on
their doctrine or conduct, he might have thought
himself at peace. But not so. He happened to
be the Queen s almoner, and, by some allure
ments of the Nuncio, was induced to go to
Rome, with a commission from Her Majesty.
No sooner did the Abbe come within the juris
diction of Bellarmine, whom shame never could
restrain when he felt the impulse of bigotry, or
was bidden by his General, than he was con
victed of heresy, and thrown into the Inquisi
tion.* The act exceedingly offended "all the
world " in Paris, and especially the Clergy ; but
the force of public opinion could not be felt by
Inquisitors at Rome.
About this very time (A.D. 1611) Galileo first
appeared as a culprit in the presence of Bellar
mine. The Jesuits, more earnestly than many,
had taught the physics of Aristotle, as well as
his philosophy. Aristotle knew nothing of the
system conjectured by Copernicus, and by others
before him, and even propounded by that learned
German in Rome less than a century past.
Therefore the Aristotelians, and most especially
* Winwood, vol. iii., pp. 307, 308.
ENFORCES HIS DOCTRINE.
the Jesuits, abhorred the notion of the revolu
tion of the earth ; and, although the book of
Copernicus, " De Revolutionibus," did not ap
pear in the Index of prohibited books, it was in
all probability suppressed. Bellarmine had once
taught the immobility of the earth to his hearers
at Lonvain ; and now Galileo, the Tuscan inno
vator, was to be put to silence. Provincial
censors denounced his theory as absurd and false
in philosophy, and expressly contrary to holy
Scripture, and therefore heretical. The case was
laid before the Congregation of the Holy Office,
who caused it to be examined by theologians ;
the theologians in their wisdom confirmed the
hard sentence of the Florentines, and Galileo
was commanded to appear at Rome. He dared
to go ; or perhaps it would be more correct to
say, that he durst not attempt to flee. He was
brought into the Minerva, and found Inquisitor
Bellarmine there, seated as his judge. He might
have pleaded that, under apostolic licence, the
same theory had already been propounded in a
book printed in the eternal city ; but no argu
ment could avail, and the Cardinal gave him his
choice to be shut up in a dungeon in that fear
ful palace, or to make a promise never to teach
the revolution of the earth again by word or
writing.* Not to ignorance, but to impatience
of contradiction, must be attributed the sentence.
t have no means of estimating the extent of
Bellarmiue s labours in the Inquisition, but find
* Botta, Storia d Italia, lib. xxi.
that instructions were then issued for levying
charges on victims for each act of accusation,
for each witness in accusation or defence, for
clerks, for familiars, for tormentors, for jailors ;
so much for the sentence, and so much for the
stake.* The precision of these arrangements,
and the regard paid to the dignity of the Supe
riors and the compensation of the suhordinates,
indicate the same hand that prescribed capitular
and monastic reformation in the archdiocese of
Capua, and sustained so exact discipline in the
Roman College. At least, it is unquestionable
that the same hand gave the sanction and en
forced the execution. The same hand, also,
wrote some pieces of mystic devotion, which
were done into English by clerical admirers in
this country, and circulated among the simple
folk, with prefaces laudatory of the pious and
learned Cardinal. The translators might have
been far more usefully employed.
LOOKS TOWARDS THE TIARA.
Perhaps no one would have made a better
Pope than Bellarmine. That he was not with
out hope of attaining to the supremacy is appa
rent from a paper once written by himself, when
secluded for " spiritual exercises," as they were
called. It is very short, and shall be translated
entire, thus :
"Wednesday, September 26th, 1GU. Being
* Instructions for the Vicars of the Holy Inquisition.
LOOKS TOWARDS THE TIARA.
in the House for Novices, St. Andrew s, occupied
in spiritual exercises, and after mature delibera
tion, at the sacrifice of the mass, when I was
about to receive the most holy body of our Lord,
I vowed a vow to the Lord, in this form : I, Ro
bert, Cardinal Bellarmine, of the Society of Jesus,
a Religious professed, vow to Almighty God, in
the presence of the blessed Virgin Mary, and of
all the court of heaven, that if haply (which I do
not wish, and pray God may not come to pass) I
be advanced to the Pontificate, I will not exalt
any of my relatives, by blood or by affinity, to the
Cardinalate, or to be temporal Prince, or Duke, or
Count, or to have any other title ; neither will I
make them rich, but will only help them to live
comfortably in their civil state. Amen. Amen."
That is to say, he vowed that he would still be a
Jesuit, and would enforce the same artificial
humility upon his relatives. This is all. The
spiritual exercises of that month did not pro
duce any grand purpose for the reformation of
the Clergy, nor any fervent resolution to pro
mote the glory of Christ.
Again was manifested a marvellous faculty of
prevision. But four months after these very
pious resolutions, the throne was vacated by the
unexpected demise of Paul V. So vigorous was
his constitution, that he seemed likely to bury
all the elder Cardinals, when the stroke of death
fell on him, and, after three days suffering, he
breathed his last on the 28th of January, 1615.
The Roman population abandoned themselves to
the irregularities that are repeated on such occa
sions, and every appearance of good order and
morality vanished both in town and country.
" Highnesses, adored and idolised by courtly
flattery, were suddenly laid low, and covered
with confusion. He that had shown a spirit of
lordliness and pride, contending for the highest
station, found himself humbled in the first days
of that interregnum. Then he might be seen
bowing, and paying low obeisance to the man
that he had despised but a few days before.
Then the ancient magistrate laid aside his pomp,
and another, that was thought quite unequal to
open or to close the ascent to the sublime region
of the Pontificate, took courage, and carried
himself sternly towards persons with whom he
Lad been formerly courteous and obliging. The
authority of the tribunals ceased, and every one
was free to speak and write at pleasure, and say
things openly that a moment before he would
have kept hidden in the silence of his own
thoughts." * The tumults of the city were such
as ever had been when the reins of Papal autho
rity were snapped ; but each Conclave has had a
history of its own, and anonymous conclavists
have divulged several. When fifty Cardinals
went in procession to the Vatican, they resolved
themselves into factions, domestic and political,
and, before the solemn closing of the doors, the
* Conclavi de Pontifici Romani. Greg. XV.
LOOKS TOWARDS THE TIARA.
Ambassadors of all the foreign courts were
closeted with their adherents, and labouring to
exclude all Cardinals obnoxious to their masters,
but leaving the field open to the rest. The first
night of their entrance into the Vatican was
nearly all spent in this way. As for Bellarmine,
it was not his manner to hold much intercourse
with Princes : therefore, he quietly crept into
his cell, and went to sleep. In the dead of the
night Cardinal Borghese ran to solicit his vote
for a member of his faction ; but he coldly bade
him wait until the morning, when they might all
say mass, according to the rules, and pray for
inspiration to elect a fit person. Again, before
break of day, taking other Cardinals with him, he
bolted into the cell, awoke him, and asked his vote.
" This is not an hour," said he snappishly, " to
make the Pope. These are works of darkness :
pray let me rest." Borghese begged his pardon,
but entreated him to say what he meant to do. "I
can tell you nothing now," replied Bellarmine,
most angrily : " I want to sleep. If you want to
know anything, the chamber of Ubaldino is near :
go there, and let me sleep." Thus did he spare
himself the trouble of leading a party, or the in
dignity of serving one, receiving applications from
hostile candidates, or their agents, but not giving
his interest to any, and also receiving, as before,
the first votes of the undecided, who meant to
transfer them, in due time, to some one concern
ing whom they might agree. With this tacit
understanding he had more votes than any one
else, again, at the first scrutiny, but not one
afterwards. At length Cardinal Alessandro
Ludovisio, transformed into Gregory XV., re
ceived the adoration of the Conclave,* and Bel-
larmine came out with the others, never more to
take part in a similar transaction.
IS AN ASCETIC.
Neither did he appear very conspicuously in
public affairs during the remainder of his life.
Here, therefore, we may review his religious
character, as it is depicted by his friends. They
say, that he was exceedingly affable and cour
teous to all who came near him, and so humble
in demeanour, that unless they had remembered
him to be a Cardinal, nothing in his manner
would remind them of it. To Jesuits he always
showed the greatest kindness, calling them his
brethren, sons of his mother, the Society. And
to the Superiors of the Society he paid as much
reverence as if he had been a junior under their
direction. So strong was his attachment to the
Roman College, that he would fain have dwelt
within its walls, if such an arrangement had
been compatible with the discipline of the place.
But he lived near, and, still not content, endea
voured to make a subterranean passage whereby
to gain access to his brethren secretly ; but the
difficulty of excavation, or some other obstacle,
* Conclavi de Pontifici Romani. Greg. XV.
IS AN ASCETIC.
prevented the fulfilment of his purpose. Then
lie solaced himself with listening to the sound of
the bells, and by them regulated his hours of
devotion, both by day and night. And through
out his life he observed minutely the laws and
customs of the Society. Every year, as we have
already noted, he withdrew, by permission of the
Pope, to the House of Novices at St. Andrew s,
for the performance of spiritual exercises. If
any of the Novices were sick, he paid them fre
quent visits, entertained them with pious conversa
tion, or of that kind, at least, which they deemed
pious, and sprinkled them, if the sickness was
severe, with holy water.
At those times he most carefully avoided even
the slightest indulgence. He would not even
walk in the garden, nor allow himself relaxation
for a moment. If he wished a book, he would
not suffer any one to bring it from the common
library ; but went thither in person, carrying an
inkstand and pen-case to make extracts, much to
the admiration of the young students, who had
never seen a Cardinal condescend to mingle with
inferior company. He would only eat the plain
est food, at any time ; for he thought that the
use of food did not consist in the delectation of
the palate, but in the supply of nourishment.
When he needed the services of the domestic
barber, he would not send for the man, but went
down into his cell, " descending by all the steps
of humility," in order that he might lose his
hair more happily than Samson, and, by the
loss, increase his virtue. Comforts he eschewed,
and barely tolerated necessaries. He always
added a higher degree of rigour to the " custom
ary severities of a religious life." Sometimes,
after recovering from sickness, his upper servants
would entreat him to allow himself to be carried
in a sedan chair ; but, although so feeble as to
be scarcely able to walk, he would not submit to
such a luxury. Other Cardinals were so carried ;
but if the physicians would not allow him to go
out, except in that way, he remained in his chamber,
in preference to departing from his resolution.
Twenty-two years elapsed from his creation as
Cardinal to his decease. But he wore the same
purple that was given him by Clement VIII. ,
and no consideration could induce him to put on
a new gown. When the sleeves were worn off
his arms, he would have new ones attached to
the old garment, for so much was necessary, but
no more. An under garment, worn with the
attrition of many years, he would never put off,
and, on his death, it was found on his body,
patched with coarse rags. He did not allow
himself enough even of this most sordid clothing.
In winter, when suffering from the cold, he
would rather go shivering in wind and rain, than
wear a cloak, and refused to wear gloves, until
his hands became so swollen and chopped, that
their exposure would have been offensive to
others. In the winter months he rose long
IS AN ASCETIC.
before day, and lit his lamp ; but no fire cheered
his room until the hour of audience, when it was
lit for the sake of the visiters. The General,
Claudio Aquaviva, advised him to have a fire on
his hearth in the coldest part of the season ; but
he had read in the life of the most holy Pontiff,
Pius V., that that saint had done without fire,
and therefore he wished to follow the high
example. He might have added, that Pius V.
reserved his fire for the heretics ; and in that,
also, he was willing to emulate, if he could not
equal. After visiters had withdrawn, he was
used to take off the burning coals, and so reduce
the temperature of the apartment.
On Mondays he ate eggs only. On Wed
nesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, in Lent, in.
Advent, and on the profestal days, or days which
preceded the feasts of saints, he fasted until
night. In the latter years of his life, his Con
fessor compelled him to dimmish the fasts a
little ; but still he fasted, like the ancient Phari
sees, thrice in the week. In this abstinence he
persisted to the last ; and, although he often lay
awake whole nights for want of food, on the
evening of a fast-day he would only take one
smallish piece of bread, dipped in wine, and
then drink once. He never seemed pleased with
a dish well cooked ; but rather preferred meat
ill-dressed or ill-flavoured, a meal that would
sustain nature without gratifying taste. He
drank at meals only, and would never drink
123 L 2
merely to quench thirst, neither would he eat
fruit for that purpose. In the heat of summer
he would not refresh himself by washing in cold
water ; and persevered through six months,
towards the close of his life, refusing to assuage
the heat of a fever by a draught of water. It
behoved him, he said, to imitate thirsting mar
tyrs, who most resembled, by the copious
shedding of their blood, our Lord Jesus Christ
when on the cross athirst.
Still Bellarmine thought that he had not filled
up the measure of his vows, and, by severer
mortification, strove yet more perfectly to subdue
the flesh, and imitate saints who had inflicted
the severest suffering on themselves. In this
hope, he began to feed on herbs and pulse only ;
but that crude diet made him sick, and the
physicians compelled him to desist. Often did
he scourge himself in secret, and afflict himself
with sackcloth, in hope of pleasing angels and
God. So long as his mind revolted from any
thing unpleasant, he thought that the flesh was
not yet subject to the spirit. To subdue the
spirit, he ate things that would make other
stomachs nauseate. He had corns, and, although
he could scarcely bear to walk, would not have
them cut ; for others, he said, who tasted the
bitter pains of purgatory and of hell, were
As he endured cold, so did he expose himself
to heat. When the sun blazed into his chamber
IS AN ASCETIC.
in the hottest days of summer, he would not
exclude the beams, but sat there, covered with
perspiration and oppressed with languor, writing,
for hours together, with as much apparent tran
quillity as if he had been shaded in the most
delicious bower. His servants, unable to enter
the oven-like apartment, flung themselves to rest
in some sheltered place. He, on the contrary,
used to sit in such positions like a statue ; and
while gnats, or other insects, lighted on him, he
sustained their stings without once making a
wry face, but welcomed them as messengers
from God to try his patience. He moved not a
hand, nor would he suffer any one by any
means to disturb the flies that sported on his
head and face ; saying, " with a sweet voice,"
that those little animals had no other paradise
than liberty in flight, and power of lighting on
the spot that pleased them. Or he would more
gravely substitute profanity for wit, and say, " I
was dumb, and opened not my mouth, because
Thou didst it." The bystanders, of course, were
edified by that sublime piety, and forgot the
imprisoned heretics, whose only paradise was a
To this wondrous patience and humility he
added a multitude of devotions, and was reputed
to be, eminently, a man of prayer. Besides the
prayers which all Priests are required to recite,
he added every day two offices, that of the
blessed Virgin, and that of the dead. At mid-
125 L 3
day, after dinner, not indulging in conversation,
it was his custom to leave the table, walk to and
fro alone, with head uncovered, and say a rosary
of the Virgin, " and another crown of Christ
the Saviour." Early in the morning, after an
hour s prayer, he spent another hour on his
knees in meditation. Thence proceeding to the
altar, he performed mass after the most approved
manner. Not only in Rome, but in London, he
passed for a great saint ; and our King James,
while he wrote against his book, " De Potestate,"
read, with admiration, the tract, " De Gemitu
Columbse." His voluntary humility and childish
mysticism wrought upon weak minds that his
politics and polemics had irritated ; and this
kind of blind acceptance procured him too great
a name. Among the books of devotion which
he used, we find not the divine hymns of the
Old Testament, nor the life-giving words of our
Lord and Saviour in the New. And if ever the
example of Him in whose steps the Christian
ought to follow appeared among the examples of
Popes, Prelates, and Monks, it was only in some
small particular of circumstance, or in some dis
play of divine or magisterial authority, which,
therefore, was not to be imitated by any mortal.
Thus, in visiting his province of Capua, the
Archbishop sent two Jesuits before him to an
nounce his approach, in imitation of Jesus, who
sent two of His disciples. Not even in those
favourite virtues of humility and poverty did he
ON HIS DEATH-BED.
imitate the Lamb of God so much as a favourite
saint. Certainly, as an Inquisitor, he did Dot
imitate Him who came to save men s lives, and
not to destroy them. When aiming at the most
perfect exercise of devotion, he displayed an
arrogance that we cannot observe without dis
gust : for, in going into his annual retreat, he
chose the month of September, because in that
month only the High-Priest went into the holy
of holies. Any but a spirit the most intensely
proud would have shrunk from the comparison
implied in that arrangement. But he dwelt on
it, doubtless, with complacency. And, as an
ascetic, his practice, together with his doctrine,
was as much opposed to Christianity as is the
kindred system of Buddhism in the East. And yet
Bellarmine is, by some persons, extolled as a mirror
of piety! If he was, his admirers must confess
that Simon the Stylite was a yet brighter mirror.
ON HIS DEATH-BED.
Life and health were both declining when he
came out of the last Conclave. His petulance
and inaction there had indicated indisposition to
mingle in the stir of court ; and frequent attacks
of sickness, with great weakness consequent,
must have admonished him that his race was
nearly run. Then he redoubled his efforts to
save himself from eternal pains, and thought
that salvation could be wrought out by temporal
suffering. For conscience sake he ate herbs,
BELL ARM I NE
endeavouring to please God by an imitation of
the Therapeutae, of whom he had read in the
course of his patristic studies, and whom the
eastern Monks had followed. He thought ordi
nary prayers and the penances prescribed insuf
ficient for salvation, and therefore added more.
He exhibited a puerility of artificial patience that
betokened, at the same time, a clamorous con
science and a weakened mind. Few spectacles
can be more affecting than that of so eminent a
man struggling for peace in his latter days ; and
we shall do well to wait at his bed-side, and
observe how he passes through the valley of the
shadow of death. Our witness is one of his own
Society, who saw him there, and whose admiration
of his character, and zeal for the honour of the
order, leads him to paint a highly-coloured
picture ; but we will take it as we find it, and
not even conjecture what darker touches might
have been added by an impartial hand.*
A consciousness of approaching death impelled
him, in the year 1621, to make earnest suit to
Gregory XV. to be released from Court, Con
sistories, and Congregations, and from all offices,
with permission to retire altogether to his accus
tomed place of retreat, the Jesuit Novitiate. He
therefore dismissed the greatest part of his
family, allowing them, however, to remain in his
* A True Relation of the last Sickness and Death of
Cardinal Bellariuine. By C. E., [Coffin,] of the Society of
Jesus. Permissu superiorum, M.DC.XX1I.
ON HIS DEATH-BED.
palace until they could be placed elsewhere. The
25th of August, which is in Rome sacred to St.
Bartholomew, he observed with great solemnity,
that day being also the anniversary of the
" slaughter of the Huguenots " in Paris. But
one business of great moment yet remained in
the Congregation of the Index, which much
required his presence for dispatch. There, on
the 28th day of the month, he joined the Car
dinals ; and, the business being finished, he took
his leave of all the Congregation, and went into
That very night he was taken sick, and went
to bed. There he lay with great patience, re
peating prayers on his rosary, or. crossing his
arms upon his breast. The physicians advised
him to take the sacrament of the altar, and he,
in turn, desired them to tell him his condition.
They did so ; and he assured them that he had
no fear, but rather a wish to die. On the fourth
day of his sickness the doctors consulted whether
or not it was expedient that he should receive
" the blessed sacrament of the altar by way of
viaticum," and agreed that it was not expedient
to give it him in that manner, because he might
continue many days, but only by way of ordinary
" Upon this warning given," says Coffin, " he
prepared himself to confession, and in such man
ner as if that confession were to be the last that
ever he should make in this life ; and such was
the innocency of the man, that albeit he were in
his perfect sense, yet could he hardly find what
to confess ; insomuch as his ghostly Father was
in some perplexity, as wanting matter of absolu
tion, till by recourse to his past life he found
some small defects of which he absolved him :
and when the blessed sacrament was brought, he
would needs rise to receive it, as he did, and
prostrated himself on the ground, to the great
edification and amazement of all the beholders."
" Such was the innocency of the man !" Ay ;
such was his self-satisfaction. No misgiving as
to the tendency of his teaching troubled him.
No doubt as to the lawfulness of the rebellions
and civil wars that he had promoted. Two of
his disciples had assassinated two Kings in
France ; but he did not hear the voice of their
blood crying from the ground. Victim after
victim had he seen bound weeping racked
burning ; but no image of anguish or death came
before his eyes. Prayers from the Syrians of
India remonstrances from invaded churches
groans from the pits of the Minerva depreca
tions of the dying curses of the living
troubled him not while searching his memory
for sin, just for something to be pardoned.
Neither cruel deaths nor treasons were sins to
his apprehension, if only the victims were here
tics. He said that he had no sin. He was a
liar, therefore, and the truth was not in him.
With the same fixedness of will that was wont
ON HIS DEATH-BED.
to triumph in its power over the reluctant or the
fainting flesh, he persevered in mechanical devo
tion on the rosary ; but the physicians required
him to pause after each ten beads, lest the inces
sant recitation should hurt his head. This trou
bled him, and he gave utterance to his disquiet
thus : " Methinks I am become a secular man, and
am no more religious ; for I neither say office nor
mass. I make no prayers, I do no good at all
On the fifth day of his sickness, the Pope
came to see him ; and as Gregory entered the
chamber as if it had been the Lord himself
Bellarmine saluted him with this sentence : Non
sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum. " I am
not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my
roof." The Pope gave him words of great kind
ness, and after he had withdrawn, the Cardinal
said to a Jesuit present, Father Minutoli, " Now
truly do I well hope that I shall die ; for the
Popes are never known to have visited Cardinals
but when they were in danger of death, or rather
past all hope of life ; to which effect he alleged
divers examples." And then, his apprehension
of death being quickened by the portentous inci
dent of a Papal visit, he proceeded to describe the
state of his conscience, in the words following :
" Now nothing troubles my conscience, for
God (His goodness still be thanked therefore)
hath so preserved me hitherto, as that I do not
remember in the whole course of my life to have
committed any scandalous action, which perhaps,
if I should live longer, may befall me : for weak
ness of body draws oftentimes with it weakness
of mind, by which good men may be seen to
have relented from their former vigour and
virtue." And here I cannot but observe that a
saying attributed to Bellarmine at this time, does
not appear in any narrative that I have met
with. The tale is that when he was asked,
"Unto which of the saints wilt thou turn?"
he answered, Fidere meritis Christi tutissimum :
"It is safest to trust in the merits of Christ."
The question was not likely to be put by any of
his visiters ; for it is precisely such an one as
would have come from the lips of a Protestant.
And even if he had used the words attributed to
him, they would have been but consistent with
the notions of a Jesuit who preferred the tutelage
of Jesus. The story has been repeated by Pro
testants as exhibiting the concession of an adver
sary ; but it is also repeated to sustain the conclu
sion that, in the judgment of charity, such persons
may be saved. As for the person before us, there
is no evidence that he had the faintest idea of trust
in Christ alone as the Saviour of sinners.
When it was agreed that some one should
announce to him that he was near his end,
Muzio Vitellschi, the General, gave him the intel
ligence ; and on hearing it he exclaimed, " Good
news ! good news ! what good news is this !"
And then to which of the saints did he turn.
Let us hear from Father Coffin. "After this
ON HIS DEATH-BED.
he caused one to read unto him the death of St.
Charles Borromeo ; as desirous in his own to
imitate it ; which being ended, he desired to
receive the sacraments of holy Church, and that
as soon as might be, lest after he should be less
able for indisposition both of body and mind to
receive them ; and to prevent also any sudden
accident that might in this weakness take him
away, ere he had armed himself with this so
sudden and necessary defence." The General
complied, and gave him the wafer and the wine,
to receive which he would get out of bed. Six
or seven hours afterwards he was "anneyled,"
and after each anointing devoutly said, Amen.
The dying man was now looked on with
superstitious reverence, as no more belonging to
this lower world, and people came to survey the
miracle of sanctity. ** Some sent unto the Car
dinals and great personages ; some entreated the
Fathers ; some used the help of his servants ;
and others made other devices, and this not only
to see him, but to kiss his hands, his head, or
some other thing about him ; and when therein
they had satisfied their devotion, they would
touch his body with their books, their beads,
handkerchiefs, crosses, medals, and other the
like things, and that very reverently on their
knees : and in this kind none were more forward
than the Cardinals themselves ; who by reason
of their more frequent conversation did most
know him, and some of them mentioned his
canonisation : and when once they knew of his
sickness, they came very often unto him, and ten
of them sometimes in one day, who all desired
his blessing, but he constantly refused to give
it ; and one of them taking him by the hand
kissed the same, and then touched his eyes and
head therewith, at which Bellarmine marvelling,
when the other was gone asked those about him
what kind of courtesy this was, and how long it
had been in use among the Cardinals."
This grew to a revolting excess, when Cardi
nals demanded his blessing and he begged for
theirs ; but no one would presume to bless him,
and they seized his hand and blessed themselves
with it. Then they congratulated him on his
prospect of going straight to heaven, and begged
him, when there, to pray for them. To this he
answered : " I shall think it no small favour to
be sure of purgatory, and there to remain a good
while in the flames that must purge and cleanse
the spots of my offences, and satisfy the just
wrath and justice of Almighty God. But when I
am come home, I will not fail to pray for you all."
Then came prayers for his relics. Cardinal Farnese
wrote from Caprarola, to ask for his Breviary, or
for a pair of beads, when he should have died.
" The three last days before his death, when
he was sometimes sleepy, sometimes with his
eyes closed in prayer and meditation, he neither
marked who they were that came, nor heeded
much what they did ; in which time the foresaid
Cardinals, Bishops, Prelates, and others sent
many little caps of silk, such as they use to
ON HIS DEATH-BED.
wear under their square caps ; and others sent
white night-caps, which they desired might be
put on his head as they were ; and with them
they sent also little crosses of gold and silver,
reliquaries, prayer-books, and other things to
touch him, and that in such multitude, as there
were more than one hundred and fifty red, white,
and other caps put on and taken from his head
during this time ; and since his death that num
ber hath much increased. Many things were
taken away by such as came to visit him, and
those also by great personages." The medical
attendants vied with the most devout in honour
ing their patient. When applying leeches, in
hope of reducing inflammation, and restoring
him from delirium, they used clean white hand
kerchiefs whereon the creatures might disgorge,
and carried them away, stained with sacred
blood, for distribution among their friends. In
the midst of this tumultuous delusion came a
great favour from the Pope, a plenary indulg
ence. This was to frank him into glory. Despite
the judgment of Almighty God, the Pope under
took to send him into heaven ; and he, the pride
of Romish theology, the hammer of heretics,
then having eternity full in view, ventured to
confide in that indulgence, and " the better to
gain it, he said a Confiteor with his divers other
prayers." Last of all "a great crucifix" ab
sorbed his attention. They laid it upon his
lips, and- let it rest upon his shoulders, and so
135 M 2
lulled him into the last slumber. In the morn
ing of September 1/th he died. The body was
carried to a room in the church of the Jesuits,
whither the people crowded, and kissed it kneel
ing. Loty Prelates pushed through the crowd,
and kissed the fingers that had written so much
for the Church. Then the Pope s physician
took the body to embalm it, distributed towels,
handkerchiefs, and sponges, stained with its
blood, and took for himself a small piece of bone
from the hinder part of the skull, as payment
for the service, esteeming it " a peerless jewel
and inestimable treasure." This done, the em
balmed body was exposed in the church, with a
repetition, on a larger scale, of the same noisy
and exorbitant veneration. The vestments were
nearly all stolen piecemeal from the corpse, in
spite of a strong guard of soldiers ; and two
Bishops were walking away with his Cardinal s
hat, when a Jesuit and two guards forced them
to give it up again. Marvellous tales ran through
the city, of miracles done by the relics ; and
says the narrator " the same morning that the
Cardinal departed this life, his voice was heard
to speak unto some in the city, (of the number
I am uncertain,) and to say unto them, Addio,
adesso me ne vado in paradiso. ( Adieu, I am
now going into paradise. Which voice, among
others, was heard by the Duchess of Sforza, a
very virtuous lady, now living in Rome."
The reader has now a complete example of a
CANNOT BE CANONISED.
Roman death. How Christians are enabled to
depart in peace ; what kind of testimony they
bear to the grace of God through faith in the
Lord Jesus Christ ; and how utterly self is lost
in sight of the great atonement, in the presence
of the most high God, and in the apprehension
of His judgment, we know. But nothing that
marks the departure of a Christian can be recog
nised in this case ; and I have transcribed largely
the very words of a Jesuit who witnessed the
scene that he relates, in order to avoid the
possibility of misrepresentation.
CANNOT BE CANONISED.
When death tore the Cardinal from their
bosom, the Jesuits would fain have made good
the loss by the acquisition of a Saint. Even
while Bellarmine lay on his death-bed a whisper
of canonisation ran through the chamber ; and
the Fathers were not likely to let the idea be
forgotten. Urban VIII. seemed to render the
attainment of their object impossible, by certain
decrees adverse to the frequent creation of saints ;
and it was also required that an interval of half
a century should elapse from the death of a
"servant of God" before the Congregation of
Rites could proceed judicially to examine evi
dences of saintship. But the Jesuits were not
to be thwarted by a Bull, nor was the Pope him
self to be limited ; and he received their suppli
cations to authorise an extrajudicial inquiry
137 M 3
into the merits of Bellarmine, in Rome, Moute-
pulciano, Capua, and Naples. The Congregation
of Rites issued this licence on the loth of Ja
nuary, 1627, and on the 5th of May, 1629, the
reports were submitted to the auditors of the
Rota ; but still the antecedent limitation of
Urban conflicted with the purpose of the Jesuits,
who could only hope to compass the point by
evasion and by patience.
When a generation had passed away, Alexander
VII., yielding to a revival of the importunity,
authorised Cardinal Brancati, in 1655, to renew
the investigation. Still it advanced but slowly,
and it was not until 16/4 that the Cardinal- Vicar
thought it right to confirm the application ; nor
until yet another year did the Pope, Clement X.,
sanction the confirmation. At length, on the 7th
of September, 1675, the Congregation, of Sacred
Rites went into solemn disputation concerning the
theological and cardinal virtues of Robert Bellar
mine ; and it is said that they came to a favourable
decision, the Cardinals, although not very warm
in the cause, being fortified by the sentences of
twenty-two Consultors.* But that Congrega
tion displayed a " pious facility " that appeared
highly objectionable to some members of the
College of Cardinals, and when they met again,
* Charles Albert Card. G. Cavalchini fills a large quarto
\vith his relation of the cause of the venerable servant of
God, Card. Bellarmine, presented to Benedict XIV. on the
Ides of September, 1752, whence I take these dates.
CANNOT BE CANONISED.
on September 20th, 16/7, under the presidence
of Innocent XL, seven Cardinals out of eighteen
voted against the admission of Bellarmine into
the Calendar. The Congregation then dispersed,
leaving the question open, and it was privately
discussed with exceeding earnestness.
One of the documents prepared on that occa
sion is now within reach in the more authentic
form of manuscript, probably written by the
hand of its author, the Cardinal Dezio Azzolino,
who filled some of the highest offices in the
Court of Rome, and who evidently wrote for the
eye of the Pope alone. With that document before
me,* I note the reasons that were then urged
why our Jesuit should not be made a saint.
A certain pious facility of making saints with
out sufficient proof of sanctity has latterly crept
into this Court of Rome ; and when such matters
are dispatched in the gross, " people will all say,
and with reason too, that we not only can be
deceived, but that we wish to be." In order to
avoid this imputation, certain precautions have
been taken, at least during the twenty-three
years that Azzolino has been a member of the
Congregation of Rites ; and, according to an
approved doctrine, the proofs of sanctity should
be "clearer than meridian light, and leave no
place for doubt." To maintain the credit and
authority of the Holy See, both in the Catholic
Church and out of it, " particularly now that we
* " Additional MSB." in the British Museum. Num. 8373.
are under so great disadvantage, everywhere
losing ground, and especially in exceeding dis
credit on account of this matter of canonisation,"
through the frauds and negligencies of parties
concerned, we are bound to advise our Lord to
impose yet greater strictness. In the present
case, if seven Cardinals out of eighteen vote
against the proposal, will there not be a dissi-
dence in the world corresponding to that of the
Congregation ? And if so, with how great
scandal ! It may be very well to decide by
majorities in Councils, where decisions must be
had, and where infallibility is certain. But
here, where certainty depends not on spiritual
prerogative, but on human proofs, no room
should be left for doubt : but while even one
dissents there is room left for doubt. Now to
come to the merits of the case.
Did Bellarmine ever do anything surpassing
human power, showing himself to be a partaker
of the Divine nature ? Never. The model of
holiness is Christ ; but heretics use the immoral
ity of the Clergy and the Cardinals as a weapon
against us and our doctrine : wherefore our best
defence lies in canonising those only who re
semble Christ. If we do not so, men will say
that instead of being saints we make saints, and
these modern saints will bring the old ones into
suspicion. Besides, we must acknowledge that
it is not necessary to make saints, much less
such saints as have been made of late.
CANNOT BE CANONISED.
It is wearisome to hear many worthy men,
who have been asked to attest the sanctity of
Bellarmine, excuse themselves by saying that he
was a good Cardinal, but no saint. Many wit
nesses think consider scarcely recollect do
not know, that the servant of God said did this
or that they know not that he ever told a lie,
and so on. No one speaks distinctly, and the
Cardinals, of all others, speak most vaguely.
Such a degree of evidence as is now produced
would not suffice to banish a robber ; much less
should it suffice to make a saint. And besides
the irregularity of all the proceedings in this
cause from first to last, there is an utter want of
evidence to prove his virtues, and the witnesses
contradict each other on every important point.
They say, indeed, that Bellarmine was innocent,
because he could find no sin to confess when on
his death-bed ; but we want not a negation of
sins, but the presence of perceptible virtues.
When S. Filippo Neri was deputed by Clement
VIII. to try the spirit of Sister Orsola of Naples,
whether it was of God, he gave her, unexpect
edly, a very severe slap in the face. Instead of
resenting it, the Sister meekly knelt at his feet,
and prayed him to give her his commands ; and
therefore he judged that she possessed the good
spirit in heroic measure. But by what has the
spirit of Bellarmine been tested ?
Was his faith heroic? Knowledge, not faith,
is apparent in his writings, which arc in many
points unsound, even after the Jesuits have
mended them from beginning to end ; and every
one knows that they were placed in the Index
Expurgatory. He always obeyed his General rather
than the Pope. He fled from martyrdom, instead
of wishing for it, as all s;reat saints have ever done.
Assuredly his faith was anything but heroic.
\Vashishopeheroic? It could not have been.
For he confessed that he abstained from prayer,
through doubt of obtaining what was expedient
Was his charity heroic? No. Defective at
all points. Heroic charity impoverishes itself
for the sake of others ; but he merely gave away
the surplus of his income after providing well
for himself. "The servant of God," says the
process, " kept his table a little better than
when he icas in the Company." And who will
say that to live a little better than a Jesuit con
stitutes heroic abstinence ? On the contrary, it
is proved by calculation from the statements of
himself and his friends, that he lived as well as
most Cardinals, and much better than Pope
Pius V. But he took the choicest dainties, if a
servant would only say that nothing else was to
be had ; and so exhibited a scandalous defect,
not of heroic, but of common, virtue.
They say that he was humble. But assuredly
he was anything but humble, or prudent either,
when, in France, he pretended to prophesy the
death of Sixtus, after learning from the courier,
CANNOT BE CANONISED.
from private letters, or even from the triple seal of
the heads of orders, that the letter over which he
jested contained intelligence of that Pope s decease.
Not very humble when, preaching at Capua, he
compared himself to St. Gregory the Great. Not
very humble when he wrote his own life, and
penned those monstrous eulogies of himself that
Fuligatto copied. Not very humble when he said
that his Superior wrote of him to Rome, " Never
man spake like this man."
This life of his, first written by himself, and
then published with additions by Fuligatto, is
full of scandal, and perilous to the faith. " I
conceive," says Azzolino, " that it is of the
utmost importance that Your Holiness should
provide against the most enormous mischief that
would result from carrying this matter forward.
I think it necessary that you should get posses
sion of his Life, written by the Father-General of
the Company, and make sure that a single copy
of it does not remain. Let all the impressions that
are with the printers be gathered in ; and let all
the Cardinals and Consultors have an order to give
up any copies they may have, causing the whole to
be burnt with the greatest secresy. I humbly im
plore Your Holiness to press this matter ; for the
thing is too grave, and the peril too great, to be
passed over." His works ought all to be sub
jected to a severe censorship, and dealt with
according to the propositions they contain ; but
if you make him a saint, the Apostolic See con-
firms them all, and adopts that sentence of his
that hoth Pope and Council may err in questions
If, by making him a saint, you confirm his
writings, what will you say to France, when she
charges you with giving sanction to his prin
ciples ? And if you thus confirm his writings,
what will you say to England, where the heretics
quote his statements in regard to the revision of
the Vulgate against the Church. It was but the
other day that a learned Cardinal showed me a
book that is in his library, intituled, Bellum
Papale, fyc., written by an English heretic,
printed in London in 1609, and dedicated to the
Archbishop of Canterbury. That book points
out the contradiction between the Clementine and
the Sixtine Bibles, " which truly is most notable,
and renders palpable in practice the enormous
prejudice that would follow, if we should go on
with the canonisation of Bellarmine."
These considerations set aside the project for
that time ; but it was renewed by the Jesuits
under the reigns of Clement XI. and Benedict
XIV. Those Popes would gladly have added him
to the number of the guardians of their Church,
but it was impossible ; and the very best that could
be said of him was that sentence of Cardinal
Albrizio : " A good Cardinal, but no saint. "
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A Jesuit Cardinal