Friday, July 9, 2010

Saint Robert Bellarmine and the American Founding

Comments to a post earlier this week — Phyllis Schlafly on the Declaration of Indepedence — from Stephen suggest that "many scholars consider the political writings of St. Robert Bellarmine to have profoundly influenced the writers of the Constitution (whether they realized it or not)" and a follow-up from Procopius points to "the work of Paul Gottfried (yes of Lew Rockwell) who is a leading expert on the political philosophy of Bellarmine and the modern liberal order."

A quick search digs up this book review — John Zmirak's Guides for Bad Catholics. Dr. Gottfried says that Dr. Zmirak's book offers "an impressive few pages to the career of the seventeenth-century Italian Jesuit Robert Bellarmine." Dr. Gottfried continues:
    Under this last entry we learn about the polemical battle of this feisty cleric with the Anglican monarchist Robert Filmer, who famously defended royal absolutism in Patriarcha. Zmirak notes that some of Bellarmine’s arguments against unmixed royal power and in favor of the right of conscience found their way into Locke’s Two Treatises, the first of which was intended as refutation of Filmer. Bellarmine was also a frequent target of the equally pugnacious Thomas Hobbes. In the last part of Leviathan the English political theorist depicts his work as the last-gasp effort of an essentially medieval Catholic to hold back the modern sovereign state. Zmirak points out the obvious; when he observes that Bellarmine’s argument against the total state does not cease to make sense because we now have popular elections and because our leaders style themselves "democrats." Bringing up their appeals to "democracy" and "human rights" does not render modern states any less threatening than governments of the past. Twentieth-century popular governments, Zmirak remarks in passing, have wrought far more evil than the antiquarian English monarchy that Filmer hoped to free from the shackles of Parliament.

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Omnes Sancti et Sanctæ Coreæ, orate pro nobis.