Rorate Caeli

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Special discount for Rorate readers

The following was submitted to Rorate, and we worked out a 25% discount for our readers. Details at the end of the post:

We are now approaching the half-millennium of the Protestant Revolt.

Yet, our leaders in the Church, increasingly, appear to be more interested in celebrating the great defection from the faith of so many communities rather than decrying it. Since the 1960’s it has been a common phenomenon to say that Luther got it right, and the Church finally realized this at Vatican II, as many who have suffered through RCIA programs can attest. Certainly, every Catholic historian has decried the great corruption and disorder in the Church. Michael Davies, in summing up the opinion of Catholic historians of the Reformation, once noted that the chief aim of the Popes in the late 15th and early 16th century was the accumulation of money.

Nevertheless, the response of a Catholic age, flowing from that flowering of great saints and theologians in the latter half of the 16th century, would not only vociferously disagree with the idea that Luther got it right, but would clearly assert today as yesterday that no, Luther did not get it right, in fact he got it very wrong at every level. Preeminent among these was the great apologetic writer, St. Robert Bellarmine.

Bellarmine, a short, frail and often sickly young man entered the Society of Jesus in 1558. Well trained in Latin, he would later teach himself Greek and Hebrew in his scanty free time while being sent as a preacher (though not yet in orders!) and teacher in Jesuit houses all over northern Italy, and later at Louvain in what was then the Spanish Netherlands. He marveled everyone by his preaching which was full of love of our Divine Savior and his Church, yet where he excelled was in Theology. After seven years in Louvain, the Jesuit superior Aquaviva recalled him to Rome in order to establish him as the chair of Controversial Theology at the Roman College (the forerunner of what is today the Gregorian University). There, Bellarmine’s amazed everyone both by his seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of the Church Fathers as well as his deep knowledge of all the Protestant writers. How could he have acquired such a knowledge of both with so little time? The answer is Bellarmine’s tireless dedication to the salvation of souls that impelled him to sacrifice sleep and rest to study for God and the faith.

Later, these notes were rendered into a manuscript to be published and appeared under the title of De Controversiis in three volumes, embracing subjects on Christ, the Holy Scriptures, the Pope, the Church, Veneration of Images, Purgatory, the Sacraments, in a word, Bellarmine took up every point of the Protestants teaching and summarily refuted it. His importance among Protestants cannot be overlooked. In Elizabethan England one could be put to death for merely possessing a copy of the De Controversiis, yet a London bookseller said he made more money selling Bellarmine’s works than any other book. Anglican clerics made numerous attempts to refute and answer Bellarmine’s argumentation, and one French Calvinist cleric, Junius, declared: “Methinks it is not one Bellarmine who speaks in these pages. It is the whole Jesuit phalanx, the entire legion of them mustered for our destruction.” (Broderick, Robert Bellarmine, Saint and Scholar, pg. 76). Under the reign of Charles I, a debate was held between the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud, and a Jesuit, in which the entire debate turned around Bellarmine. St. Francis de Sales said, that when he made the arduous journeys through the Swiss Alps, owing to the necessity of light luggage, he took with him only two books, the Holy Bible and Bellarmine’s Controversies. He, more than any other, dominated the field of apologetics seemingly forever.

I say seemingly, until our loss of general Latinity in society relegated Bellarmine and many other great writers to obscurity. This is a precarious problem, as we approach the 400th anniversary of the Reformation. In that day, Latin was a sine qua non for any educated man whether he was Catholic or Protestant. Today on the other hand, not only is the ability to read Latin scarcely found amongst Catholic theologians, but the ability to read Ecclesiastical Latin, particularly of the 16th century infused with both medieval and renaissance traditions is even more sparingly discovered. Yet to come to this anniversary without Bellarmine is to come empty handed. Therefore there is a project today that seeks to remedy that.

Ryan Grant, the translator of the SmallCatechism for Catholics, by St. Peter Canisius, and De Divina Traditione of Cardinal Franzelin (due for publication in February of this year), has begun raising funds for a project to put Robert Bellarmine’s works into English. This project aims to translate all of the De Controversiis into English, breaking up the books into smaller volumes that are more easily read, published by Mediatrix Press. To support this project, you can visit the site by clicking here. [NOTE: Paypal link for readers outside the United States.]

Moreover, the first fruits of that project, On the Marks of the Church, is now in print, made possible by the generous patronage of those who have already donated. In this work, St. Robert follows the Theological tradition of that day, expanding the Four Marks found in the Creed to fifteen. For each Mark, he shows this to describe the Catholic Church and not the creations of the Protestant Reformers, quoting them at length and then refuting them form the clear exposition of the Fathers and of Holy Scripture. The work is available for $15.99 on Amazon.

For readers of Rorate Caeli, however, Mediatrix Press has offered a discount of 25%. You can obtain the book for $12 (+$3 shipping) by clicking here: Rorate Caeli Discount

Please support this project to make St. Robert Bellarmine’s works available for the first time in English.