Some of the old chestnuts thrown up against the Church include the allegation that we didn’t want people to read the Bible for themselves, that we are anti-science, and that we are more loyal to the Pope than to our own country. The life, work, and writings of the saint we celebrate on Monday give the lie to all those claims.
St Robert Bellarmine was born in 1542 and died in 1621. He was a very able scholar and very subtle thinker, and perhaps it was not a surprise that as a young man he joined the newly founded Jesuit order. As a Professor at the University of Louvain he encouraged the study of the Bible in its original languages. Later in Rome he became a firm friend of Galileo and defended him against unfair attacks. His work on the relationship between Church and state curbed the excesses of those who wanted to make the latter completely subservient to the former. Robert was no ivory tower theologian either, he produced catechisms and spiritual commentaries meant to increase knowledge and devotion.
Robert is a good example to all teachers. He was keen to find out what his opponents thought but also to explain what the Church actually teaches. We need more like Robert today, men and women who can calmly and charitably correct false impressions of the Faith and put it forward in an attractive way. P.D.