The Saint Robert Bellarmine Quotes

Saint Robert Bellarmine: “The Pope is the Teacher and Shepherd of the whole Church, thus, the whole Church is so bound to hear and follow him that if he would err, the whole Church would err.” 1

“Now our adversaries respond that the Church ought to hear him [the Roman Pontiff] so long as he teaches correctly, for God must be heard more than men. On the other hand, who will judge whether the Pope has taught rightly or not? For it is not for the sheep to judge whether the shepherd wanders off, not even and especially in those matters which are truly doubtful. Nor do Christian sheep have any greater judge or teacher to whom they might have recourse. As we showed above, from the whole Church one can appeal to the Pope; yet from him no one is able to appeal; therefore necessarily the whole Church will err, if the Pontiff would err.” 2

Bellarmine, on Lk 22:32: “Therefore, the true exposition is that the Lord asked for two privileges for Peter…. The second privilege is that he, as the Pope, could never teach something against the faith, or that there would never be found one in his See who would teach against the true faith. From these privileges, we see that the first did not remain to his successors, but the second without a doubt did.” 3

“A general Council represents the universal Church, and hence has the consensus of the universal Church; therefore, if the Church cannot err, neither can a legitimate and approved Ecumenical Council err.” 4

“It must be held with Catholic faith that general Councils confirmed by the Supreme Pontiff can neither err in faith nor morals.” 5

“With these things being noted, all Catholics and the heretics agree on two things. Firstly, that the Pontiff, even as Pontiff, can err in particular controversies of fact, even together with a general Council, because these depend especially on the testimonies of men.” 6

“Secondly, the Pope can err as a private teacher from ignorance, even in universal questions of law concerning both faith and morals, just as what happens to other teachers. 7

“Next, all Catholics agree on two other things, but only amongst themselves and not with the heretics. Firstly, the Pope with a general Council cannot err when he issues decrees of faith or general precepts of morals. Secondly, the Pope, by himself or with a particular Council, while stating something in a doubtful matter, whether he could err or not, must be obediently heard by all the faithful.” 8

Note that the Relatio of Vatican I by Bishop Vincent Gasser cites the fourth proposition below*, specifically saying in the Relatio: “book 4, chapter VI” and then quoting the Fourth proposition in part as “It can be believed probably and piously that the supreme Pontiff is not only not able to err as Pontiff but that even as a particular person he is not able to be heretical, by pertinaciously believing something contrary to the faith.”

Therefore, Gasser was NOT citing the “fourth opinion”*** on the topic of Pastor Aeternus. For that opinion is on deposing a Pope. And Bellarmine makes it clear in that section of the book, which is book 2, chapter XXX, that his opinion is not the fourth, but the first, that a Pope cannot be heretic.**

* Saint Robert Bellarmine: “THE FOURTH proposition. It is probable and may piously be believed that not only as ‘Pope’ can the Supreme Pontiff not err, but he cannot be a heretic even as a particular person by pertinaciously believing something false against the faith. It is proved: 1) because it seems to require the sweet disposition of the providence of God. For the Pope not only should not, but cannot preach heresy, but rather should always preach the truth. He will certainly do that, since the Lord commanded him to confirm his brethren, and for that reason added: ‘I have prayed for thee, that thy faith shall not fail,’ [Lk 22:32] that is, that at least the preaching of the true faith shall not fail in thy throne.” 9

“How, I ask, will a heretical Pope confirm the brethren in faith and always preach the true faith? Certainly God can wrench the confession of the true faith out of the heart of a heretic just as he placed the words in the mouth of Balaam’s ass. Still, this will be a great violence, and not in keeping with the providence of God that sweetly disposes all things.” 10

“2) It is proved ab eventu. For to this point no [Pontiff] has been a heretic, or certainly it cannot be proven that any of them were heretics; therefore it is a sign that such a thing cannot be.” 11

“Many canons teach that the Pope cannot be judged unless he may be discovered to have deviated from the faith, therefore he can deviate from the faith…. all of those canons speak on a personal error of the Pope, not a judicial one.” 12

** “I respond: there are five opinions on this matter. The first is of Albert Pighius, who contends that the Pope cannot be a heretic, and hence would not be deposed in any case: such an opinion is probable, and can easily be defended, as we will show in its proper place.” 13

“Thus, the second opinion is that the Pope, in the very instant in which he falls into heresy, even if it is only interior, is outside the Church and deposed by God, for which reason he can be judged by the Church.” 14 [Bellarmine rejects the second opinion: “but it is not proven to me”]

“The Third opinion is on another extreme, that the Pope is not and cannot be deposed either by secret or manifest heresy. Turrecremata in the aforementioned citation relates and refutes this opinion, and rightly so, for it is exceedingly improbable.” 15

*** “The Fourth Opinion is of Cajetan. There, he teaches, that a manifestly heretical Pope is not ipso facto deposed; but can and ought to be deposed by the Church. Now in my judgment, such an opinion cannot be defended.” 16

Now the fifth of the five opinions is called true by Bellarmine, namely, “that a Pope who is a manifest heretic, ceases in himself to be Pope and head, just as he ceases in himself to be a Christian and member of the body of the Church: whereby, he can be judged and punished by the Church. This is the opinion of all the ancient Fathers, who teach that manifest heretics soon lose all jurisdiction….” 17

Bellarmine: “It can be believed probably and piously that the supreme Pontiff is not only not able to err as Pontiff but that even as a particular person he is not able to be heretical, by pertinaciously believing something contrary to the faith.”18

1 Bellarmine, Robert. On the Roman Pontiff, vol. 2: Books III-V (De Controversiis) (p. 162). Mediatrix Press. Kindle Edition.
2 Bellarmine, Robert. On the Roman Pontiff, vol. 2: Books III-V (De Controversiis) (p. 162). Mediatrix Press. Kindle Edition.
3 Bellarmine, Robert. On the Roman Pontiff, vol. 2: Books III-V (De Controversiis) (p. 156). Mediatrix Press. Kindle Edition.
4 On Councils, book II, chapter 2.
5 Saint Robert Bellarmine, De Controversiis, On the Church, Book II, trans. Ryan Grant, Mediatrix Press, 2017, chapter 2, p. 122.
6 Bellarmine, Robert. On the Roman Pontiff, vol. 2: Books III-V (De Controversiis) (p. 152). Mediatrix Press. Kindle Edition.
7 Bellarmine, Robert. On the Roman Pontiff, vol. 2: Books III-V (De Controversiis) (p. 152). Mediatrix Press. Kindle Edition.
8 Bellarmine, Robert. On the Roman Pontiff, vol. 2: Books III-V (De Controversiis) (p. 152). Mediatrix Press. Kindle Edition.
9 Bellarmine, Robert. On the Roman Pontiff, vol. 2: Books III-V (De Controversiis) (p. 171). Mediatrix Press. Kindle Edition.
10 Ibid.
11 Ibid.
12 Bellarmine, Robert. On the Roman Pontiff, vol. 2: Books III-V (De Controversiis) (p. 172). Mediatrix Press. Kindle Edition.
13 Bellarmine, Robert. On the Roman Pontiff (De Controversiis Book 1) . Mediatrix Press. Kindle Edition.
14 Ibid.
15 Ibid.
16 Ibid.
17 Bellarmine, Robert. On the Roman Pontiff (De Controversiis Book 1) . Mediatrix Press. Kindle Edition.
18 Ibid.

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