J.P.SOMMERVILLE

 

 


Robert Bellarmine

Catholic resistance theory
 

Robert Parsons (or Persons)

367 - 5 (2)

 
"What earthy name to interrogatories
Can task the free breath of a sacred king?
Thou canst not, Cardinal, devise a name
So slight, unworthy and ridiculous,
To charge me to an answer, as the pope".

(King John, 3.1)

 

 

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One of the myths of the English-speaking world is that there was an internal connection between Protestantism and freedom. Martin Luther supposedly instituted an age of individual freedom of expression when he challenged the monolithic authority of Pope and Church.

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In fact, the vast majority of Protestant Reformers were just as intolerant as their Roman Catholic counterparts. There was no more tolerance of heterodox views in Calvin's Geneva or Cotton's Massachusetts than in Spain under the Inquisition.

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In Hispanic countries, in contrast, Catholicism is often seen as the seed bed of democratic ideas. Thomist notions (that is to say, notions derived from the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, 1225-74) of natural law were inherently hostile to arbitrary or despotic government. During the Religious Wars in France, Roman Catholic Leaguers wrote tracts in support of resistance to tyrannical rulers, and developed theories of original popular sovereignty.

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In much of Central and Eastern Europe, the Counter-Reformation Church allied with secular authorities to reconvert the population to Catholicism and so (particularly from the later 17th century) Catholicism and Absolutism became seen as natural allies - embodied in the person of the Catholic absolutist Louis XIV of France. But this link was far from clear in Western Europe in the age of Shakespeare.
 

 

Francisco Pizarro and Hernan Cortes - two chief conquistadors of the New World

 

Francisco de Vitoria (1492-1546)

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Francisco de Vitoria has been described as the founder of International Law

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Francisco de Vitoria was a Spaniard educated at Paris. He lived in France for eighteen years and then returned to Spain and taught at the University of Salamanca.

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He was greatly influenced by Thomas Aquinas and structured his teachings on theology around Aquinas' Summa Theologica.

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Some of his lectures on natural law, secular authority and international law were recorded by his students. Two of these - De Indis noviter inventis (On the newly discovered Indies) and De Jure bellis Hispanorum in barbaros (Concerning the law in Spain's barbarian wars) - expressed Vitoria's profound doubts about the justice of Spanish imperialist expansion in the New World.
 

"he does smile his face into more lines than is in the new map with the augmentation of the Indies:"

(Twelfth Night, 3.2)

 

 


A class at the University of Salamanca

Domingo de Soto (1494-1560)

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De Soto was a student of Vitoria at Paris and returned with him to Spain. Like Vitoria he was a member of the Dominican Order and taught at Salamanca: -  they and their followers were known as the "School of Salamanca" or the "Neo-Thomists."

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He was sent by the Emperor Charles V to the Council of Trent, where he expounded a Thomist position on sin and grace.  De Soto also wrote on scientific topics in his commentaries on Aristotle.

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However, it was as a jurist that De Soto was most influential - particular for his De justitia et jure libri X (Ten Books on justice and law). This was first published from 1553 to 1557, and was republished 27 times before the end of the sixteenth century.

 


Bartolomé Esteban Murillo - Landscape

Luis de Molina (1535-1600)

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Luis de Molina was a Jesuit priest educated at the University of Salamanca. He taught in Portugal (which was united to Spain from 1580 to 1640).

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Molina wrote an important theological work on the question of predestination and the freedom of the will called De concordia liberi arbitrii & gratiae (On the concordance of free will and grace, 1588). Molina tried to steer a course between arguing that people are saved for acting meritoriously (Pelagianism) and that God saves them without taking account of how they act (predestination). Molina suggested that God knows in advance (prescience) which people will try to act well and to these he gives faith.

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De concordia provoked a major debate in the Roman Catholic church. The Pope established a commission to decide on the Church's teaching on the point, but then dissolved it in 1607 before it had completed its report.

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Molina's opponents (many of whom were Dominicans) said that his theory really amounted to no more than Pelagianism, since it implied that Fallen men could want to act well. A later opponent of Molinism was Cornelius Jansen whose followers were at the heart of an important rift in the French Church.

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Molina's most important work of political theory was De justitia et jura (1592).

 

 

Juan de Mariana (1536-1624)

 

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Mariana was a Spanish Jesuit priest - the illegitimate son of a cleric. He taught in Rome, Sicily and Paris before returning to Spain in 1574, where he lived to a ripe old age in Toledo.

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Mariana's most popular work was his Historiae de rebus Hispaniae (History of Spanish affairs,1592). Mariana wrote in an elegant, readable style, and the book became the standard history of Spain.

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Mariana's most important political work was De rege et regis institutione (About the king and the education of the king, 1599). It was dedicated to Philip III of Spain, but expressed radical views on the rights of the people's representatives to depose any king that acted tyrannically. If the king prevented a representative body from assembling, said Mariana, then any individual could act against him (after proper consultation).

 

"For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings;
How some have been deposed; some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed;
Some poison'd by their wives: some sleeping kill'd;
All murder'd: …"

(Richard II, 3.2)


 

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After the assassination of Henry IV of France, Mariana's detractors said that his work had provoked Ravaillac's murderous deed, and De rege et regis institutione was burnt by the hangman in Paris (1610).

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Mariana also wrote De monetae mutatione (On changes in money,1605) arguing that kings cannot tax their subjects without their consent or manipulate the currency. His understanding of the links between inflation and currency devaluation was unusually sophisticated for the day.

 

Francisco Suárez (1548-1617)

 

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Francisco Suárez was one of the most brilliant and influential early-modern philosophers. He wrote not only on political thought but also on metaphysics, theology and epistemology.

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Suárez was born at Granada of Spanish-Jewish descent. Suárez joined the Jesuits and at first was a poor student, having to retake his exams.

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Later, he taught at Rome and in Spain and Portugal. His most important philosophical work was the Disputationes metaphysicae (1597); it influenced Descartes, Malebranche and Leibniz amongst others.

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De lege ac Deo legislatore (About law and God the legislator,1612) summarized a series of lectures that Suarez gave in the 1590's on all kinds of law - both divine and human. It influenced political philosophy throughout the seventeenth century.
Suárez also wrote Defensio fidei Catholicae & Apostolocae adversus Anglicanae sectae errores (Defense of the Catholic faith against the errors of the Anglican sect, 1613) - an attack on the Oath of Allegiance, and a defense of the pope's right to depose heretical monarchs. This was condemned in England and France.
 

                       "O nation miserable,
With an untitled tyrant bloody-scepter'd,
When shalt thou see thy wholesome days again,
Since that the truest issue of thy throne
By his own interdiction stands accursed,
And does blaspheme his breed?…"

(Macbeth, 4.3)

 

Cardinal Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621)


A Bellarmine jug
These stoneware drinking vessels were often decorated with a picture of a bearded man - supposedly a likeness of Bellarmine; hence the name.

 

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Robert Bellarmine was born at Montepulciano, near Siena. His mother was a niece of Pope Marcellus II (Marcello Cervini, whose reign lasted for 22 days in 1555).

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Bellarmine joined the Society of Jesus in 1560 and studied at Padua and Louvain (Flanders), where he was Professor of Theology from 1570 to 1576.

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Bellarmine then went to Rome, where he lectured on the theological points at issue between Catholics and Protestants. These lectures were published from 1586-93 as Disputationes de controversiis Christiane fidei; known as the "Controversiae", they became the standard defense of Catholicism.

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From 1592, Bellarmine was the Rector of the Jesuit College at Rome, until promoted to Cardinal in 1599, by Clement VII, who said that "the Church of God has not his equal in learning."

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Bellarmine wrote extensively on theology and also produced works of spiritual advice; The Art of dying well (1620) became an early-modern best seller - at least 56 editions were published in ten languages. Bellarmine was also centrally involved in the controversy over Galileo's theories.

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Bellarmine expounded his political thought primarily in his works on Church-State relations, particularly his tracts on the controversy over the Venetian Interdict and his Tractatus de potestate summi pontificis (Tract on the supreme power of the pontiff, 1610). This anti-Gallican tract was condemned by the Parlement of Paris.

 


Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

 

The Catholic theory of contract

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All the foregoing theorists respected the authority of Saint Thomas Aquinas and shared many assumptions and principles:

  1. Human nature requires that people live in society. Not only survival and basic welfare but also fulfilling human potential can be achieved only through social cooperation.

  2. God and Nature do nothing in vain. Since society is natural it must have the powers necessary to function and thrive.

  3. Three types of society are essential. The family is required for survival - especially for the procreation and nurture of children. The commonwealth (or state; or perfect community) satisfies human needs for temporal welfare. The church is necessary to achieving spiritual goals.
    Each society holds the powers appropriate to its ends: the husband/ father holds domestic power; the prince political, and the pope spiritual power.

  4. Christ appointed the pope (in the person of Peter) to govern the church, and God marked out fathers/ husbands as the people who should rule the family. But in the commonwealth, political power was at first held by the people as a whole. By nature all people are free and equal, with no particular person entitled to rule others.
    [These Natural Law theorists recognized that people are not equal in all respects - some people are more intelligent, others stronger and so on. They simply denied that these greater abilities in themselves entailed greater political power].

  5. All individuals had a right to defend themselves from attack, but only a political society had the power to punish criminals. This power was ultimately from God and was vested in the community as a whole, which could then delegate it to a particular government.

  6. Although political society was originally a direct democracy, the impracticality and disorderliness of this form of government made it wise to establish magistracy (monarchy, aristocracy, or representative democracy).
    [In similar fashion, the earth was at first held in common by all people, but since primitive communism was manifestly inconvenient, people should agree to establish private property (meum & tuum, mine & thine).]

  7. When a particular form of government was established, the people could choose to impose conditions and limitations on the ruler(s) to whom they granted power. Rulers who seriously infringed these conditions were tyrants, lost their power, and might be resisted.

  8. The ancient customs and laws of a country showed the nature of the original contract between ruler and people. These varied from place to place, giving kings (say) the right to tax without consent in one place but not in another.
    [Sometimes a king might come to rule a country non-contractually - by conquest in a just war. But even here he would be bound to rule in the public good.]

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The Catholic theory of contract was generally fairly conservative  - any king who refrained from major infringement of the public good was not to be resisted. (Although Bellarmine and others argued that even a king who was useless, though not positively harmful, could be removed).

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The pope played a key role in Catholic resistance theory. Any people contemplating resistance should turn to him for advice in the (almost inevitable) event that their problems had religious ramifications. The pope would ensure that resistance was not embarked on for reasons of selfish ambition or willful disorder: - only the heretical or wickedly oppressive monarch need worry.

 

"A bloody tyrant and a homicide;
One raised in blood, and one in blood establish'd;
One that made means to come by what he hath,
And slaughter'd those that were the means to help him…"

(Richard III, 5.3)


 

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Mariana and the English resistance theorist, Robert Parsons (or Persons, 1546-1610) argued that there were some circumstances in which it was legitimate for a private individual to assassinate a tyrannical ruler, but most Catholic theorists required some endorsement from the whole people and the pope. (An exception was where the tyrant was a usurper - he had no rights),


Westminster

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It is difficult to say how widespread or influential ideas of popular sovereignty were in England before the Civil War, for it was dangerous to express them too explicitly. Even those who opposed royal policies tended to be extremely vague about the nature of the limits on royal power.

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In the stormy Parliament of 1628, such leading members of the House of Commons as John Pym, Sir Robert Phelips and John Selden all alluded to the original contract between king and people.

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Certainly, once the English Civil War began, parliamentarian theorists such as John Milton drew freely on the arguments of Buchanan, Hotman, the Vindiciae and so on. John Cook (the lawyer in charge of prosecuting the King at the trial of Charles I) cited Mariana in his support. Parsons' Conference about the next succession to the Crown of England - a mine of resistance theory - was republished in 1648.

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Parsons had originally published this book under the pseudonym "Doleman" and stayed safely abroad. Another English theorist of popular sovereignty, the puritan William Ames (1576-1633), also expressed his views from the Continent; (he was a professor at Franeker in the Dutch Republic).

 

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