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   St. Robert Bellarmine

On Papal Authority

  Chapter 3  
That the Pope is not Master of the Whole Christian World.

Now to discuss what we proposed as a second consideration: that the Pope is not the Master of the whole Christian world. Hugh of St. Victor teaches (in the second book of his "De Sacramentis," Part II, chapter 4): "Earthly power has as its head the King, spiritual power, the Supreme Pontiff. And, even more clearly, John Driedo, in his work on Christian Liberty, chapter 2: "Christ," he says, "when He placed Peter as Pastor over the universal Church, did not at the same time give him temporal power over the whole Church, nor did He withdraw from emperors and kings their domains, nor did He will that all regal power as well as ecclesiastical power be derived and descend from the power of Peter." The same view is that of many others. And it is proved, first, because, if the arrangement were as they would have it, and indeed by divine law, it should be clear from the Scriptures or certainly from Apostolic Tradition: from Scripture, we have nothing, except the keys to the kingdom of heaven that were given to Peter: there is no mention of keys to the kingdoms of earth; the adversaries adduce no Apostolic Tradition. Moreover, Christ did not withdraw, nor does he take kingdoms from those to whom they belong; for Christ did not come to destroy those things that are in good condition but to perfect them; therefore, when a king becomes a Christian, he does not lose the earthly kingdom which he rightfully obtained but acquires a new right to an eternal kingdom: otherwise, the bounty of Christ would be a burden to kings, and grace would destroy nature. And this view is confirmed by the hymn of Sedulius: "What do you fear, enemy Herod, from Christ's coming? He who bestows heavenly kingdoms does not wrest away earthly kingdoms."

The same is true if the Pope were the Master of the whole Christian World; thus, individual Bishops are princes with temporal power over the towns subject to their episcopacys; if, indeed, what the Pope is in the universal Church, each bishop is in his particular church: that is, just as the Pope is the true head and Pastor of the universal Church, so a bishop is the Pastor and head of a particular diocese. But Bishops are princes of [some] towns where they are bishops, which adversaries refuse to concede. Whence Ambrose: "If the Emperor asks for tribute, it is not denied, the fields of the Church surrender it." And, further on, "That the imperial tax belongs to Caesar is not denied. The Church is God's and ought not to be assigned to Caesar." And in a letter of Athanasius, the Bishop Hosius says to the Emperor: 'To you God entrusted imperial rule, but to us Christ entrusted what belongs to the Church.'"

Finally, there is proof from the declarations of Pontiffs. Leo, in a letter to the Emperor Martianus, confesses that the Emperor Martianus was chosen by God for imperial rule, and in his letter 43 to the same man he declares that the Author of the imperial rule of Martianus is God. And similar statements he makes in nearly all the letters he writes to the emperors Theodosius, Martianus, and Leo, as they succeed one another. Gelasius, in a letter to Anastasius: "There are two, August Emperor," he says, "by whom this world is principally ruled, the sacred authority of the Pontiffs and royal power." Where, it should be noted, Gelasius speaks not merely about mere execution [or de facto performance] but of power and authority itself, lest adversaries say as they are wont, that the Pope had indeed both powers but chooses to delegate the exercise of these to others.

Gregory, in the Second Book of Letters, in Letter 61, to Martianus: "Power," he writes, "has been given to the piety of our princes [devotion of superiors to their subjects] over all men." And, most clearly, Nicholas, in a letter to Michael: "Do not develop any prejudice against the Church of God. It, indeed, carries no prejudice against your imperial power." And, further on, "The same Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, so carefully distinguished between the powers and dignities of both spheres, that Christian emperors would be in need of Pontiffs and Pontiffs would resort to imperial laws only in the conduct of their temporal affairs." Here, also, the Pontiff speaks not simply about enforcement [or execution of the laws] but also about power and dignity [of office].

Alexander the Third, when asked whether an appeal from a secular judge to the Pope has validity, replies: "It has validity in those matters that are subject to our temporal power: in other matters, however, we believe such an appeal has validity according to the rigor of law." Likewise, in a matter relating to which children are legitimate: "We await," he says, "for the disposition of the King in those matters that belong to him rather than to the Church."

Finally, Innocent the Third: "Since," he says, "we are unable to discharge the duties of our own jurisdiction, why would we wish to usurp another's?" Here, the Pontiff calls usurpation of another's jurisdiction, if he should attempt to exercise temporal jurisdiction in the kingdom of the Franks. And, further on, "We do not intend to make a judgment about a feud whose decision belongs to another, but only to discern where sin lies, whose censure belongs without doubt to our competence." "For the firmament of Heaven," he says, "that is, for the Universal Church, God has made two luminaries, that is, He has made two dignitaries which preside over the day, which are, one for spiritual matters, which are greater, and one for bodily matters, which are lesser, so that, as a great difference is recognized between the sun and the moon, so a similar difference should be acknowledged between Pontiffs and kings." Where, observe: Just as a star, the sun, and the moon are not the same thing, and as the sun did not establish the moon, but God, thus also, the Pontificate and the Imperial Power are not one and the same thing, nor does one absolutely depend upon the other. Similarly, the Pontiff alone has full temporal power over the patrimony of the Church [the places ruled by the Pope as their Prince], but in other spheres this is not so, and, in the same place: [???]