Thomas Hobbes and Cardinal Bellarmine: Leviathan and 'he ghost of the Roman empire'

History of Political Thought 16 (4):503-531 (1995)
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Abstract

As a representative of the papacy Bellarmine was an extremely moderate one. In fact Sixtus V in 1590 had the first volume of his Disputations placed on the Index because it contained so cautious a theory of papal power, denying the Pope temporal hegemony. Bellarmine did not represent all that Hobbes required of him either. On the contrary, he proved the argument of those who championed the temporal powers of the Pope faulty. As a Jesuit he tended to maintain the relative autonomy of the state, denying the temporal powers ascribed by radical papalists and Augustinians. Their argument was generally framed as a syllogism: Christ, who possessed direct temporal power as both God and man, exercised it on earth; the Pope is the vicar of Christ; therefore the Pope possesses and may exercise direct temporal jurisdiction. Bellarmine simply denied that Christ had exercised the temporal power, which as God, it is true, he possessed. Moreover, he drew up and circulated a list of patristic passages collected under the title De Regno Christi quale sit, to prove to the Pope the orthodoxy of his position.

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Patricia Springborg
Humboldt-University, Berlin

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