The Catholic University of America Press

St. Robert Bellarmine's defense of the sacrificial nature of the Mass was influential for centuries. Several contemporary theologians, however, have accused Bellarmine of making a "massive methodological mistake" in deriving his definition of sacrifice from an examination of "the religious cultures of the world." Some also allege that his definition was a theological novelty. This article argues that Bellarmine's methodology made a positive contribution to the theology of the sacrifice of the Mass. It will also refute the argument that he derived his definition of sacrifice by considering "the religious cultures of the world." Moreover, the article will argue that his definition was not a theological novelty.


Robert Bellarmine, Eucharist, sacrifice, Lord's Supper, liturgy

In the sixteenth century, Protestant reformers denied that in the Mass there was a true and proper sacrifice. In his Disputationes de controversiis Christianae fidei adversus huius temporis haereticos, St. Robert Bellarmine (1542–1621) offered a forceful and nuanced defense of the sacrificial nature of the Mass, offering a clear and precise definition of sacrifice that was influential for centuries. Several contemporary theologians, however, have accused Bellarmine of making a "massive methodological mistake"1 in attempting to [End Page 252] derive his definition from an examination of "the religious cultures of the world."2 Some also claim that his definition is a theological novelty composed as a response to Protestantism. This article will argue that Bellarmine's methodology for arriving at his definition of sacrifice was a positive contribution to the theology of the sacrifice of the Mass. Moreover, it will argue that Bellarmine did not arrive at his definition by examining "the religious cultures of the world." To this end, this paper will examine the Protestant rejection of the Mass as a sacrifice and then the Catholic reaction to this rejection, including the early Catholic controversialists and the Council of Trent. After this it will examine Bellarmine's definition of sacrifice. It will then examine recent critiques of Bellarmine's definition and his methodology for arriving at it. Finally, it will examine the claim that Bellarmine's definition is a theological novelty.


In 1520 Luther denied that the Mass is a true and proper sacrifice in his two treatises, Ein Sermon von dem neuen Testament das ist von der heiligen Messe and De captivitate babylonica ecclesiae.3 In the latter treatise Luther stated that the Mass was "by far the most wicked abuse of all,"4 a view he continued to hold for the rest of his life. In the Schmalkaldic Articles, written on the eve of the Council of Trent, he called the Mass "the greatest and most [End Page 253] horrible abomination."5 In this language and judgment, Luther was followed by subsequent Lutheran, Reformed, and Anglican theologians.

Protestant theologians had multiple reasons for rejecting the Mass as a true and proper sacrifice. First, they objected that the Mass is a human work whereby we try to please God, which they believed impossible to do.6 Second, Protestant theologians viewed the Eucharistic sacrifice as detracting from the sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice on the cross.7 Third, the sacrifice of the cross was the final sacrifice, and so there is no other necessary sacrifice in either Christianity or elsewhere.8 Fourth, they argued that the Mass cannot be a propitiatory sacrifice for the living and the dead, since only Christ's death is propitiatory.9

Lastly, and most importantly, early Protestant theologians also objected that Catholics refused to give a precise definition of what they meant by the term "sacrifice." Philip Melanchthon, for example, had accused Catholic theologians of having "published endless volumes about sacrifice, and yet not one of them thus far has given a [End Page 254] definition of 'sacrifice.'"10 Protestant theologians were willing to call the Lord's Supper a sacrifice in some sense. Martin Chemnitz (1522–1586), for example, an intractable opponent of the "Roman Church," lists seven ways "about which there is no dispute" that the Eucharist can be called a sacrifice.11 In any case, Protestant theologians offered their own definitions of sacrifice. Melanchthon, for example, defined sacrifice as "any ceremony or good work offered to God to worship Him,"12 while Calvin defined it as "every sort of thing offered to God."13

Some Catholic theologians like Cardinal Gasparo Contarini (1483–1542) and Melchior Cano, O.P. (c. 1509–1560) admitted the truth of this Protestant charge in the sense that there was no one common definition of sacrifice amongst Catholic theologians.14 It cannot be doubted that Protestant objections to the sacrificial nature of the Mass directly led Catholic theologians to reflect more deeply on the nature of the Eucharistic sacrifice.15 Even after the Council of Trent, Cano, who had participated in the discussions on sacrifice during the second period of the council, was still lamenting that there was no common definition of sacrifice. He stated,

If there is any dispute in which it is necessary to define what is being discussed, I am convinced that it is especially necessary [End Page 255] in the one that is being proposed to us today, seeing how we see that not only the Wycliffites and the Lutherans but even some Catholics are engaged in the error and ignorance of the meaning and nature of sacrifice.16

Other Catholic controversialists, however, as we will see, used various "definitions" that could be found in the tradition, such as that of St. Augustine.

The Council of Trent opened on December 13, 1545, with four cardinals, four archbishops, twenty-one bishops, and five superior generals of mendicant orders present.17 The doctrine of the Mass as a sacrifice was discussed in all three periods of the council, spanning the eighteen years that the council intermittently met. Throughout the debates the various council fathers and theologians clearly had some kind of definition of sacrifice in mind. Thomas Maria Beccatelli, O.P., for example, states that "sacrifice is the offering by which we consecrate something to God to give thanks,"18 while Ferdinand Tricius states that a sacrifice is "a work of religion."19 Finally, in September of 1562 the Council of Trent promulgated in its twenty-second session a dogmatic decree on the sacrifice of the Mass, and this proved to be decisive for the shape of Bellarmine's thought. Importantly, the council did reject the view that the Mass is "a simple commemoration of the sacrifice accomplished on the Cross,"20 and it did this by asserting that in [End Page 256] the Mass there is a "true and proper sacrifice" (verum et proprium sacrificium).21 While the council refrained from giving a definition of the term "sacrifice," it did define a number of necessary elements that would need to be part of any Catholic definition of sacrifice. These include four elements of Trent's solemn definition on the sacrifice of the Mass: (1) priest, (2) victim, (3) oblation, and (4) immolation. Any definition of sacrifice, including Bellarmine's, will have to include these four elements.


St. Robert Bellarmine joined the Jesuit order in 1560, and as a Jesuit, he was trained according to its unique school of theology, which can be characterized as broadly Thomistic, though it differed from the Dominican school primarily in that it formally emphasized both scholastic and positive theology.22 Ignatius would eventually insist in the Constitutions of the Society that scholastics study "the scholastic doctrine of St. Thomas."23 The early Jesuits were especially influenced by the Salamancan reform of Thomism.

After Bellarmine was ordained a priest in 1570, he was appointed a professor to teach scholastic theology at the Jesuit College in Louvain, where he began a series of lectures on Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologiae, which he delivered over the course of [End Page 257] six years.24 Upon falling ill in 1576, he was sent to Rome to recover and was made the professor of controversial theology at the Collegium Romanum, where he lectured for eleven years, from 1576 to 1587.

Bellarmine is most famous for his Disputationes de Controversiis Christianae fidei adversus huius temporis haereticos, which is an over two million-word25 response to Protestant theologians in which he systematically expounds the Catholic faith and attempts to correct irenically their errors. In the preface to the first volume, Bellarmine writes that his goal is "to bring together the many and most diverse questions in one place," so that anyone can obtain an answer to Protestant objections "quickly, cheaply, and without much effort."26 The first volume of the De Controversiis appeared in 1586, covering the issues of Scripture and Tradition, God, and ecclesiology, followed by the second volume in 1588 covering the sacraments, and the third in 1590 covering theological anthropology.27

Bellarmine divided the work into fifteen controversies,28 each a self-contained theological tract, roughly following the outline of the Creed. In controversy ten, De Eucharistia & Sacrificio Missae, Bellarmine treats the Eucharist as a sacrament and as a sacrifice in six books. The first three books of the tenth controversy deal with the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.29 The fourth book deals [End Page 258] with the Eucharist as a sacrament. Finally, the fifth and sixth books deal with the Eucharist as a sacrifice. The fifth book covers the meaning of the term Mass (missa), the definition of sacrifice, the death of Christ as a sacrifice, the precise nature of the controversy between Catholics and Protestants, a biblical and patristic defense of the Catholic doctrine of the sacrifice of the Mass, and the nature of the Eucharistic sacrifice.30 The sixth book covers the Mass as a propitiatory and impetratory sacrifice, the efficacy of the Mass, the Mass offered for the living and dead, the Mass celebrated by a priest without a congregation (sine populo), and the prayers and ceremonies of the Mass.


Bellarmine begins his treatment of the Mass as a sacrifice by examining various Protestant definitions of sacrifice. Melanchthon defined a sacrifice as "any ceremony or good work offered to God to worship Him."31 Bellarmine argues that Melanchthon's definition of a sacrifice as any good work is simply not biblical for three reasons. First, Sacred Scripture often opposes sacrifice to other good works: "I desire mercy, not sacrifice" (Hos 6:6), and "obedience is better than sacrifice" (1 Sam 15:22). Therefore, one cannot simply treat the terms "work" and "sacrifice" as if they are synonyms. Second, Bellarmine argues that a sacrifice cannot consist in a sacrificial action alone, but there must be some sensible object offered.32 This is why Bellarmine thinks that things like morally good works, singing the Psalms, praying, fasting, enduring persecution, and genuflecting are not sacrifices in the proper sense of the term. Since in these kinds of acts no sensible object is offered, they can only improperly be termed "sacrifices."33 [End Page 259]

According to Bellarmine, a sacrifice in the proper sense of the term always requires a sensible object. He offers several examples of such a sensible sacrifice. When Isaac sees the wood and fire, he asks his father, "Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" (Gen 22:7). The Letter to the Hebrews states that "every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer" (Heb 8:3). Lastly, a true and proper sacrifice requires, in addition to a visible object, a visible priesthood to make the offering and a visible altar on which the offering is made.34 For Bellarmine altar and priesthood are co-relative. If there is to be a true and proper sacrifice, there must be a true and proper priesthood.

Bellarmine also rejects Calvin's definition of sacrifice, which further expanded term to include "every sort of thing offered to God."35 Bellarmine objects that Calvin's definition does not accord with the scriptural notion of sacrifice. When Scripture speaks of an offering of gold, precious stones, or wood, one understands that this is an oblation or offering and not a sacrifice (Ex 25:4; 35:6). When Aaron offered the Levites to God (Num 8:11), it is understood that the Levites were merely an oblation, not a sacrifice. By contrast when Abraham set out to sacrifice Isaac (Gen 22:9), it is understood that he was preparing a true and proper sacrifice since he intended to kill Isaac.36 In the end, however, Abraham did not sacrifice Isaac, and his intended sacrifice remained a mere oblation. Bellarmine argues that in Scripture, while every sacrifice has an oblation, not every oblation is a sacrifice,37 since in addition to an offering there must also be a destruction of that thing. The various sacrifices in the book of Leviticus clearly require destruction. Bellarmine writes, [End Page 260]

All the things which are called sacrifices in Scripture must be destroyed necessarily; if living, by being killed; if solid inanimate objects, such as flour, salt, and incense, by being burned; if liquids, such as blood, wine, and water, by being poured out on the ground.38

Whenever Scripture refers to something as a sacrifice in the proper sense, it always involves the destruction of the thing sacrificed.

After rejecting Protestant definitions of sacrifice, Bellarmine provides the definition of what constitutes a true and proper sacrifice in the strict sense:

A sacrifice is an external oblation made to God alone, by which, in recognition of human infirmity and in profession of the divine majesty, some visible and permanent reality is consecrated and transformed (transmutatur) by a mystic rite, performed by a legitimate minister.39

Bellarmine divides his definition into eight parts and then explains each part of his definition.

First, a sacrifice requires that there be an act of offering or an oblation to God. The Letter to the Hebrews states, "For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer" (Heb 8:3). Second, the oblation must be external. He notes that in any one sacrifice, there are two aspects of a sacrifice: 1. the invisible and internal sacrifice and 2. the visible and external sacrifice. The internal aspect is the pious desire to offer to God what one possesses. Following Aquinas, Bellarmine concedes that this internal aspect is more [End Page 261] important in one respect since it is for the inner sanctification of man.40 In the proper sense, however, a sacrifice also requires a visible and public oblation or offering.41

Third, in a proper sacrifice the oblation is made to God alone. It is sometimes the case that an external offering may be made to a man or to both man and God. This happens, for example, when alms are given to the poor to please God. Such offerings made to men, even in order to please God, are not sacrifices in the proper sense because sacrifice properly belongs to latria. Moreover, the various external gestures one performs at Mass, such as genuflecting or prostrating the whole body, are not sacrifices since they can be made to God or to man. The Scriptures are clear that to offer sacrifice to anyone other than God is evil and deserving of death: "Whoever sacrifices to any God other than the Lord must be destroyed" (Ex 22:20).42 Fourth, a sacrifice is made to God to honor the divine majesty or to appease God on account of human sinfulness.43

Fifth, a sacrifice must be done by a legitimate and public minister. The action of offering a sacrifice is not common to everyone but rather is bestowed on a publicly recognized man who acts on behalf of the community. In the pre-Mosaic era, it was the father or head of the family who acted as the priest, as seen in the examples of Noah (Gen 8:20) and Abraham (Gen 22:13). From the time of Moses to the New Law, however, it was only Aaron, his sons, and their descendants that acted as priests. Later, in the New Law, the Levitical priesthood was replaced by bishops and priests as the only public ministers commissioned to offer sacrifice on behalf of the community.44

Sixth, in a sacrifice one must offer a sensible and permanent object. This explains why transient acts done in honor of God, such [End Page 262] as chants, prayers, fasting, and genuflections made by the priests, are not sacrifices in the proper sense.45 Seventh, in a sacrifice a profane object is consecrated and dedicated to God in a mystical rite. In the Old Law, the consecration of the object was always done with a specific rite, such as the imposition of hands on the victim or the elevation of the object offered. In this, a sacrifice properly called is distinguished from a simple oblation, which does not require a mystical consecration of the object.46

It is the eighth and last part of Bellarmine's definition of sacrifice, however, that has proven the most controversial: the object offered must be destroyed. This point is commonly misunderstood. For Bellarmine, a true sacrifice does not require a destruction strictly conceived, in which the offering is annihilated; he only requires that a type of transformation take place. This is why he can also occasionally use verbs such as "to transform" (transmutare) and "to change" (immutare) as synonyms to describe this destruction.47 Without this type of transformation, Bellarmine notes, it would be impossible to distinguish a sacrifice from a mere oblation. He looked to the sacrifices in the Old Testament, and these seemed to require a destruction of sorts. There is little doubt that Trent's discussion of the double immolation, bloody and unbloody, also played a role in Bellarmine's thought.


Recent critics of Bellarmine's methodology fall into two distinct camps. Some in these two camps critique Bellarmine by name while others critique his general approach. Although both camps frequently express similar criticisms, they do so ultimately for very different reasons. The first camp is composed of theologians whose [End Page 263] various theories usually fall under the label of "sacramental sacrifice," although a better term for their theory is "sacrificial sacrament."48 While critical of Bellarmine's theology of sacrifice, they are consciously attempting to work within the Catholic theological tradition. Almost all these theologians hold that the "representation" of the cross in the Mass should be understood as a "re-presentation," i.e., a making present again. As a result of this position, they also hold that the sacrifice of the Mass is numerically identical to that of the cross, although they have different ways of explaining this.49 These are mostly twentieth- and twenty-first-century theologians such as August Arnold, Odo Casel, O.S.B., Franz Diekamp, Emmanuel Doronzo, O.M.I, Lawrence Feingold, M.-S. Gillet, O.P., Charles-Edmond Héris, Charles Journet, O.P., Eugène Masure, Michael Schmaus, Gottlieb Söhngen, Aloïs van Hove, and Anscar Vonier, O.S.B.50 [End Page 264]

The second camp is composed of revisionist liturgical theologians, such as Louis-Marie Chauvet, Robert J. Daly, S.J., Edward Kilmartin, S.J., David Power, O.M.I., and Kevin Seasoltz, O.S.B. Daly, for example, explicitly advocates for a "revisionist" approach to the notion of sacrifice,51 while Chauvet and Power speak of "demythologizing" the notion of sacrifice.52 For these authors the term sacrifice in reference to the Mass ought to be understood only metaphorically.53 Therefore, they reject not only Bellarmine's notion of sacrifice but also Trent's doctrine on the Mass as a "true and proper" sacrifice. Moreover, some of these theologians would like to remove the term sacrifice from Christian vocabulary altogether and replace it with terms like "gift," "self-gift," "anti-sacrifice," or "anti-sacerdotal."54 Sacrifice, if the term is to be retained, is to be understood in the sense of the terms just mentioned or as ethical activity rather than ritual activity,55 resulting in sacrifice being [End Page 265] understood metaphorically as an ethical "self-gift" of the liturgical community or of Christ.56 These authors extend this novel understanding of the term sacrifice to both Christ's death on the cross and the sacrifice of the Mass, both of which become "anti-sacrificial" and "anti-sacerdotal."57 These theologians also reject basic biblical corollaries associated with the Jewish notion of sacrifice, such as redemption, satisfaction, propitiation, and—as we will see—the entire Hebrew sacrificial system.

Some scholars in both camps disparagingly assert that theologians like Bellarmine derived their notion of Christian sacrifice from an examination of the religious cultures of the world, i.e., pagan and Jewish religions.58 Daly, for example, asserts that Bellarmine made a "massive methodological mistake" by looking at the "practice of sacrifice in the world's religions in order to establish a definition of sacrifice from which to examine the so-called Sacrifice of the Mass."59 Feingold too asserts that Bellarmine derived his thesis of the necessity of destruction from "the notion of ritual sacrifice as it was understood in the religious cultures of the world."60 If true, such a charge is damning, since it implies that Bellarmine never really grasped the central mysteries of the Christian faith but remained rooted in pre-Christian and pagan notions. There are two distinct [End Page 266] questions which must be examined to affirm or deny this claim. First, did Bellarmine derive his understanding of sacrifice by examining pagan religions? Second, did Bellarmine derive his understanding of sacrifice by examining the Jewish religion?

First, Bellarmine did not attempt to derive his understanding of sacrifice by an examination of pagan sacrifices, and it is hard to understand how these theologians could have even made such a claim. In chapter one, on the definition of the term Mass, and in chapter two, on the definition of the term sacrifice, Bellarmine does not cite a single pagan source in his discussion of either term.61 Instead, the sources for his definition of sacrifice are derived from Sacred Scripture and the Fathers of the Church. In chapter two, Bellarmine cites Scripture 20 times and the Fathers of the Church 23 times. Immediately after the chapter on the definition of the term sacrifice, Bellarmine has a chapter on the sacrifice of Christ as "the most perfect sacrifice," which only cites the Scriptures and the Fathers.62

Bellarmine then spends nine chapters showing how the sacrifice of the Mass is derived from Sacred Scripture. Chapter 6 proves that the Mass is a sacrifice from the priesthood of Melchizedek, chapter 7 from the figure of the paschal lamb, chapter 8 from different figures of the Old Testament, chapter 9 from the prophets, chapter 10 from the prophecy of Malachi, chapter 11 from John 4, chapter 12 from the words of institution, chapter 13 from Acts 13, and chapter 14 from 1 Corinthians 10. This scriptural approach is, of course, exactly what one would expect in a controversial work directed at refuting Protestant objections.

Second, Bellarmine almost never mentions "pagan" sacrifice. He does not use Greek, Roman, nor Egyptian sacrifices to formulate his definition of sacrifice. The Bible records a number of pagan sacrifices [End Page 267] in which the Israelites participated. They offered sacrifices to the Moabite God (Num 25:1–3), Solomon built altars for the worship of the Ammonites (1 Kgs 11:5–8, 33), the Greeks wanted the Jews to sacrifice pigs and unclean animals (1 Mac 1:43, 52), and the Lycaonians wanted to sacrifice bulls to Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:12). The Jews repeatedly offered their children to Molech (see Isa 57:5–7; Ezek 16:20–21; 20:28; 23:39). Israel sacrificed to Baal (Hos 11:2). Jephthah, for example, imitates the pagan sacrifices by killing his unnamed daughter (Judg 11:30–40).63 Bellarmine could have used this last passage to show that a sacrifice involves a true immolation, but he did not. Such wicked pagan sacrifices play no role in the formulation of his definition of sacrifice. It should not be surprising that he does not use them, since for Bellarmine, as for Paul, "what pagans sacrifice, they offer to demons and not to God" (1 Cor 10:20).64 Therefore, these pagan sacrifices could not be point of reference for Bellarmine.

When Bellarmine does refer to instances of sacrifice outside the Mosaic law, he almost exclusively talks about sacrifices that are part of the natural law as recorded in the Old Testament.65 While sacrifices of the natural law could include morally good pagan sacrifices, Bellarmine focuses on the sacrifices of Abel, Noah, Abraham, and Melchizedek.66 He cites these sacrifices of the natural law for three basic reasons. First, these sacrifices are part of divine revelation. [End Page 268] Second, he does so to respond to various Protestant objections.67 Third, he does so to show that a human's obligation to offer sacrifice is not just part of the divine law, but it is also part of the natural law.68 Recall that Protestants argued that there was only one sacrifice in the New Law, that of the cross. Bellarmine's point is that while the New Law abrogated the ceremonial prescriptions of the Old Law, it did not abrogate the natural law. The natural law requires sacrifice, so one would expect that sacrifice would be on-going, even after the sacrifice of Christ. This argument was also common among other early modern Thomists such as Domingo de Soto, O.P. (1494–1560), Francisco Suárez, S.J. (1548–1617), Gregory of Valencia, S.J. (1549–1603), and the Carmelite Thomists of Salamanca (Salmanticenses, 1694).69 So then Bellarmine's understanding of sacrifice, in so far as it is derived from an examination of Jewish sacrifice, comes from the morally good sacrifices of the natural law and the Mosaic law as recorded in Sacred Scripture.

Theologians like Daly and Vonier also object to Bellarmine's reliance on Jewish notions of sacrifice.70 Daly argues that Bellarmine (and the next 400 years of theologians and the magisterium) made a "massive methodological mistake" by not making the crucifixion the point of reference for interpreting all other sacrifices. He also argues that Bellarmine made a "content mistake" by thinking that "a real sacrifice requires a real change or destruction of the victim, and then the application of this idea to the Mass." Daly argues: [End Page 269]

For it was still common for theologians to deal with the Old Testament and the New Testament in a relatively undifferentiated way, i.e., without any historicizing hermeneutic. One took one's definition of sacrifice from the Old Testament and applied it, without differentiating hermeneutic, to the Eucharist, almost as if the paschal event of Christ had not taken place.71

These theologians are correct in recognizing that Bellarmine is deeply indebted to Jewish notions of sacrifice. One must object to those who lump together the sacrifices of the Old Law with pagan "sacrifice in the history-of-religions sense of the word" for several reasons.72 First, Jewish religious rites, unlike pagan religious rites, were instituted by God Himself. Second, God directly and repeatedly commanded the Israelites to offer sacrifices as part of their ceremonial law (Lev 4:1–5:13; 6:24–30; 12:6–8). Third, Judaism was the religion that Christ practiced perfectly (Jn 8:29; 55), and He repeatedly affirmed its normative character (e.g., Lk 10:25–28), even instructing His disciples to obey the law (Mt 23:2–3). Fourth, Christ saw Himself as a fulfillment of the Jewish religion, and this was repeated by the apostles (Mt 5:17, Jn 5:39, Rom 8:3–4). Given this last reason, one must look to the Jewish sacrifice to understand Christian sacrifice.

Some theologians in both camps are united in arguing that instead of looking to pagan and Jewish sacrifices to understand Christian sacrifice, one should look only to Christ's death on the cross.73 Vonier, for example, argued that Christ's sacrifice is so "entirely sui generis that it has to be defined by itself."74 Daly argues that one should look only to the "Christ-event" in order to understand Christian sacrifice.75 [End Page 270]

The Letter to the Hebrews confirms Bellarmine's method and is especially inconvenient for revisionist theologians like Daly. Hebrews does not treat the sacrifice of Christ as if it is either "anti-sacrifice" or "anti-sacerdotal."76 The author of Hebrews' argument is that Christ is the fulfillment (antitype) of all the Old Testament types, and therefore one should not hold onto the Old Covenant but must embrace the New Eternal Covenant.77 The use of type and antitype emphasizes the basic structural connection between the two, such that real persons and places of the Old Testament have a corresponding, intelligible, and similar reality in the New Testament. The [End Page 271] author of Hebrews relates that God appointed Jesus as High Priest (Heb 3:1) who in His faithfulness is the fulfillment of Moses (Heb 3:2). Jesus is like the high priests in the Old Covenant insofar as He is human and subject to weakness. The advantage of His weakness is that Christ can empathize with those for whom He intercedes (Heb 5:1–2). Jesus is also the fulfillment of Melchizedek and in this respect is greater than the Levitical priesthood since He is "a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek" (Heb 7:17). When Melchizedek blessed Abraham, it showed the superiority of Melchizedek's priesthood to the Levitical priesthood (Heb 7:7). Since Jesus is a priest in the order of Melchizedek, His priesthood is also greater than that of the Levitical priesthood.

Perhaps most embarrassing for the revisionists is that Hebrews makes two basic points concerning sacrifice. First, the establishment of a covenant (diatheke) requires death (Heb 9:16–17). Second, Hebrews is also clear that there is no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood (Heb 9:22). The author of Hebrews is emphatic that Christ's sacrifice is patterned on the sacrifices of the Old Law, which required both death and blood. Ultimately, Christ's sacrifice is the perfect sacrifice. So, the revisionists' insistence that the nature of Christ's sacrifice is an "anti-sacrifice" is simply unbiblical, while Bellarmine's methodology is that of divine revelation itself.

The New Testament repeatedly does what scholars like Daly object to, i.e., it describes Christ's death in the sacrificial terms of the Old Testament, using such terms as priest, sacrifice, feast, and oblation. One sees this both in the Gospels and also in the epistles, especially the Letter to the Hebrews. Christ's sacrifice, however, does not tell us what these terms meant, because these terms had a meaning which preceded Christ's sacrifice on the cross. As Karl Rahner has pointed out,

if the sources of revelation call the death on the Cross or the Mass a sacrifice, they must employ a term which has at least a generally defined sense and content independent of its use in this instance. Otherwise they would only be putting a verbal [End Page 272] label on an occurrence already understood without it. Nothing would be affirmed by such a state which we did not already know.78

What is clear is that these sacrificial terms and their underlying meaning were used to explain Christ's sacrifice, not the other way around. For Bellarmine, then, these sacrificial terms were used in reference to the Mass and the cross because they are the terms that revelation used to describe these events.

Ultimately, these revisionist authors succumb to a type of crass supersessionism in which Christ's sacrifice is not a fulfillment of the Old Law but a rendering of all which came before it obsolete and irrelevant. Christianity becomes inherently unintelligible, because in this conception there is no connection between Old Testament prophesies concerning the Messiah and Jesus the Jew who fulfilled these prophesies. It is true, as the Council of Florence defined in 1442, that Christ's sacrifice rendered all the ceremonial elements of the Old Law obsolete and that the sacraments of the New Law replaced those of the old. Nevertheless, Florence acknowledged that the sacraments and sacrifices of the Old Law were "instituted to signify something in the future."79

God revealed Himself principally through the Jewish people to mankind. As Dei Verbum explains, "the economy of the Old Testament was deliberately so orientated that it should prepare for and declare in prophecy the coming of Christ, redeemer of all men, and of the messianic kingdom, and should indicate it by means of different types."80 The books of the Old Testament "attain and show forth their message in the New Testament."81 Lumen Gentium notes [End Page 273] that God's relationship with the Israelites, by choosing them as His special people with whom He formed His covenant, was "done by way of preparation and as a figure of that new and perfect covenant, which was to be ratified in Christ, and of that fuller revelation which was to be given through the Word of God Himself made flesh."82 Lumen Gentium also calls the Church the New Israel with the Messiah at its head. The sacrifices and sacraments of the Old Law were not abolished simpliciter; rather they are fulfilled in the sacrifices and sacraments of the New Law.


Some recent theologians have leveled a second objection against Bellarmine, i.e., that his definition of sacrifice, with its inclusion of a real destruction, was a theological novelty invented in response to Protestantism.83 Again some of these authors criticize Bellarmine by name while others do not name him but criticize his theory that a destruction is a necessary part of the notion of sacrifice. Some of these theologians, like Feingold and Vonier, see Bellarmine's definition as having departed from the great medieval tradition and particularly from Trent's understanding of sacrifice, which held, they assert, that the Mass is a sacrifice in so far as the sacrifice of the cross is "re-presented" or "made present" again within it. In this account, then, a destruction beyond that of Christ's death on the cross is not needed. Revisionist liturgical theologians like Daly also see Bellarmine's definition as a theological novelty, but in a very different sense. For Daly, Bellarmine's definition is just one in a long line of errors, going back through Trent to Aquinas and Augustine. Daly argues [End Page 274] that Bellarmine's definition is what he calls a "content mistake" for adding a "real change or destruction" in the Mass.84

In the sixteenth century, the novel sacramental and ecclesiastical questions raised by the Reformation needed clarification. Robert Bellarmine was central to working out answers to these questions. Prior to the sixteenth century, for example, there was no common definition of an ecumenical council. Based on his study of such councils, Bellarmine came up with a definition and worked out the number that had occurred until his time. His list took on a quasi-official status when it was adopted in the 1612 Roman edition of councils published by the Vatican press.85 Since then, the Catholic Church has, for the most part, followed Bellarmine's listing of the ecumenical councils prior to Vatican I.86

Like his definition of an ecumenical council, Bellarmine's definition of sacrifice helped to clarify the Church's doctrine on the nature of the sacrifice of the Mass. It was shared at least in its broad strokes by many important subsequent theologians such as Juan de Lugo (1583–1660), Alphonsus Liguori, C.S.s.R. (1696–1787), and the Salmanticenses.87 Bellarmine did not think, however, that his [End Page 275] definition was a theological novelty; he thought it was deeply rooted in Sacred Scripture and the Church's tradition. While Bellarmine's definition is new in a certain sense, i.e., the term "sacrifice" had not been given such a precise formulation before, it is also very traditional with respect to the conceptual content of that definition. It is useful here to recall Bellarmine's definition:

A sacrifice is an external oblation made to God alone, by which, in recognition of human infirmity and in profession of the divine majesty, some visible and permanent reality is consecrated and transformed (transmutatur) by a mystic rite, performed by a legitimate minister.88

There are at least three arguments that Bellarmine's definition is not a theological novelty conceptually.

First, whether one thinks that Bellarmine's definition of sacrifice is applicable to the Mass or not, one must admit that his definition correctly captures conceptually the biblical data with respect to the sacrifices of the Old Law. It explains both the sacrifices of the pre-Mosaic law, such as those offered by Abel, Noah, Abraham, and Melchizedek, as well as the sacrifices of the Mosaic Law as contained in the book of Leviticus. It also explains the sacrifice of the New Law.

Second, Bellarmine's definition of sacrifice is consistent with the Tridentine doctrine on the sacrifice of the Mass. The Council of Trent intended to define what it understood to be the doctrine of the Church on the sacrifice of the Mass and to avoid siding with any one school of theology on the issue.89 While it is true that the council did not give a definition of sacrifice, it did define a doctrine that contained the traditional constitutive components of the sacrifice of the Mass. Any definition of sacrifice would have to [End Page 276] incorporate at least those four elements: (1) priest, (2) victim, (3) oblation, and (4) immolation. Bellarmine's definition contains these traditional elements.

Third, Bellarmine thought that his view was Thomistic. In the Summa, Thomas treats of sacrifice in two principal places: in II–II, qq. 85–86, and in III, qq. 73–83. The sacramental sacrificialists commonly appeal to St. Thomas, turning to the Tertia Pars where he treats of the Eucharist as sacrament. The problem with this is that in III, qq. 73–83, Thomas is presenting his view on the Eucharist as sacrament, not his view on the Eucharist as a sacrifice. Moreover, they often studiously ignore Aquinas' treatment of sacrifice in question 85 of the Secunda Secundae.90 Early modern Thomists, on the other hand, turned to Aquinas' treatment of sacrifice in II–II, qq. 85–86, where he speaks of sacrifice as such.

In II–II, q. 85, a. 3, ad 3, St. Thomas offers a "definition" of a sacrifice "properly speaking." This definition proved decisive to the direction of Bellarmine's view of the Eucharistic sacrifice and of early modern Thomists such as Cano, de Soto, Francisco de Toledo, S.J. (1532–1596), Suárez, Gregory of Valencia, and the Carmelite Thomists of Salamanca.91 Aquinas defines, [End Page 277]

A "sacrifice," properly speaking, requires that something be done (fit) to the thing which is offered to God, for instance animals were slain and burnt, the bread is broken, eaten, blessed. The very word signifies this, since sacrifice is so called because a man does something sacred. On the other hand, an "oblation" is properly the offering of something to God even if nothing be done thereto, thus we speak of offering money or bread at the altar, and yet nothing is done to them. Hence every sacrifice is an oblation, but not conversely.92

There are several things to note about this definition. First, Thomas here is defining sacrifice "properly speaking," which he does not do in his treatment of the Eucharist as a sacrament in the Tertia Pars. Second, he distinguishes an offering from a sacrifice. He writes that "an 'oblation' is properly the offering of something to God."93 Thomas states that "every sacrifice is an oblation, but not conversely."94 An oblation is a necessary part of sacrifice, but a sacrifice requires something more than an offering.95 Third, something must be done (fit) to the thing offered. In the next question, Thomas explains what must be "done,"

The term "oblation" is common to all things offered for the divine worship so that if a thing be offered to be destroyed (consumendum) in worship of God, as though it were being made into something holy, it is both an oblation and a sacrifice. Wherefore it is written (Ex 29:18): "Thou shalt offer the whole ram for a burnt-offering upon the altar; it is an oblation to the Lord, a most sweet savor of the victim of the Lord" and (Lev 2:1): "When anyone shall offer an oblation of sacrifice to the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour." If, on the other hand, [End Page 278] it be offered with a view to its remaining entire and being deputed to the worship of God or to the use of His ministers, it will be an oblation and not a sacrifice.96

What makes something a sacrifice is that it is destroyed (consumendum). Thomas gives two examples: a ram destroyed in a burnt offering, and fine flour destroyed through burning, as specified in Leviticus 2:1–2. If the object offered remains intact, then it is not a sacrifice. In II–II, q. 85, a. 3, Thomas, as we saw above, gives two similar examples. There he refers to animals "slain and burnt" and bread which is "broken, eaten, blessed." Bellarmine comments on this text, noting that Aquinas does not say that the sacrifice of the Mass takes place in the conversion of the bread and wine but rather in the fraction, benediction, and consumption.97

Finally, Thomas held that the element which distinguishes a sacrament from a sacrifice is that a sacrifice is offered to God alone.98 He writes,

Again, the soul offers itself in sacrifice to God as its beginning by creation, and its end by beatification: and according to the true faith God alone is the creator of our souls, as stated, while in Him alone the beatitude of our soul consists, as stated above. Wherefore just as to God alone ought we to offer spiritual sacrifice, so too ought we to offer outward sacrifices to Him alone: even so "in our prayers and praises we proffer significant words to Him to Whom in our hearts we offer the things which we designate thereby," as Augustine states (De Civ. Dei x, 19). Moreover, we find that in every country the people are wont to show the sovereign ruler some special sign of honor, and that if this be shown to anyone else, it is a crime of high treason. Therefore, in the divine law, the death punishment is assigned to those who offer divine honor to another than God.99 [End Page 279]

It is therefore no surprise that Bellarmine, who lectured for seven years on the Summa at Louvain, composed a definition whose parts can be readily found in Aquinas.


Bellarmine's definition of the sacrifice of the Mass has not been well received in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries for a variety of reasons. At least two of the reasons for this are not well founded. First, Bellarmine did not derive his definition from an examination of the "the religious cultures of the world." Instead, he derived his definition from a study of the sacrifices of both the Old Law and the New. While one may not agree with every aspect of his definition of sacrifice, it cannot be considered a "massive methodological mistake," as Daly has described it. Instead, Bellarmine's methodology should be seen as a good correction to the methodology of contemporary revisionist liturgical theologians, whose definition of sacrifice is unbiblical. Second, it should be clear that Bellarmine's definition is not really a theological novelty invented in the sixteenth century in response to Protestantism. Instead, it should be seen as a theological development grounded in biblical and Thomistic reflections. It should not be surprising that such a development took place in the sixteenth century, since the Mass as a true and proper sacrifice had never been challenged in a substantial way until then. [End Page 280]

Christian D. Washburn

Christian D. Washburn, Ph.D. is Professor of Dogmatic Theology at the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.


1. Robert J. Daly, S.J., Sacrifice Unveiled: The True Meaning of Christian Sacrifice (London: T&T Clark, 2009) 166; id., "Robert Bellarmine and Post-Tridentine Eucharistic Theology," in Theological Studies 61 (2000) 239–260, at 259; there is a revised version of this article in From Trent to Vatican II: Historical and Theological Investigations, ed. Raymond F. Bulman and Frederick J. Parrella (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006) 81–101.

2. Lawrence Feingold, The Eucharist: Mystery of Presence, Sacrifice, and Communion (Steubenville: Emmaus Academic, 2017) 355–356; Daly, "Robert Bellarmine and Post-Tridentine Eucharistic Theology," 259.

3. See Notker M. Halmer, "Der literarische Kampf Luthers und Melanchthons gegen das Opfer der heiligen Messe," in Divus Thomas 21 (1943) 63–78.

4. "Est longe impiissimus ille abusus." Martin Luther, De captivitate babylonica ecclesiae (Luther's Works [henceforth as LW] 36,35; Weimarer Ausgabe [henceforth as WA] 6,512.7–8).

5. Schmalkaldic Articles, in The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, ed. Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000) 301.

6. See Martin Luther, De captivitate babylonica ecclesiae (LW 36,35; WA 6,512); id., The Misuse of the Mass (LW 36,169; WA 8,512); John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.18.1, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics 21, 2 vol. (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960) vol. 2, 1429.

7. See Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans. Fred Kramer, 4 vol. (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971–1986) vol. 2, 494; Westminster Confession, 29.2, in The Creeds of Christendom with a History and Critical Notes, ed. Philip Schaff (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996) vol. 3, 664. Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.18.3, ed. McNeill, vol. 2, 1432.

8. See Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.18.3, ed. McNeill, vol. 2, 1432.

9. See Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, vol. 2, 494; Jan Rohls, Reformed Confessions: Theology from Zurich to Barmen, trans. John Hoffmeyer (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998) 220–221; Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.18.13, ed. McNeill, vol. 2, 1441–1442.

10. Melanchthon, Apology of the Augsburg Confession, XXIV, in The Book of Concord, 260.

11. Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, vol. 2, 444–445.

12. Melanchthon, Apology of the Augsburg Confession, XXIV, in The Book of Concord, 261.

13. Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.18.13, ed. McNeill, vol. 2, 1441.

14. See Gasparo Cardinal Contarini, De sacramentis Christianae legis, et Catholicae Ecclesiae libri quatuor: eiusdem katechesis siue Christiana instructio: eiusdem De potestate pontificis quòd diuinitus sit tradita Commentariolus ad Nicolaum Teupolum: eiusdem Conciliorum magis illustrium summa ad Paulum Tertium Pontificem Maximum (Florence: Apud Laurentium Torrentinum, 1553) 73.

15. See Joseph Pohle, The Sacraments: A Dogmatic Treatise, Vol. 2: The Holy Eucharist, adapted and edited by Arthur Preuss, 6th ed. (St. Louis: Herder Book, 1930) 284.

16. "Si qua disputatio est, ubi id, de quo disputetur, necesse sit definire, hanc ego vel maximè esse crediderim, quae nobis hodie instituitur. Cùm non modo Wicleffistas & Lutheranos, sed quosdam etiam catholicos videamus, sacrificii vi & natura ignorata in summo errore & maximarum rerum ignoratione versari." Melchor Cano, De locis theologicis libri duodecim (Salamanca: Mathias Gastius, 1563), l. XII, c. 13, 458.

17. John W. O'Malley, Trent: What Happened at the Council (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2013) 75.

18. Concilium Tridentinum: Diariorum, actorum, epistularum, tractatuum nova collectio, ed. Societas Goerresiana (Freiburg: Herder, 1901–) vol. 6/2, 445.

19. Ibid., vol. 8, 728.

20. Council of Trent, Session 22, Doctrine and Canons on the Sacrifice of the Mass (September 17, 1562), can 3: Enchiridion symbolorum definitionum et declarationum de rebus fidei et morum, ed. Heinrich Denzinger, Peter Hünermann, Helmut Hoping, Robert L. Fastiggi, and Anne Englund Nash, 43rd ed. (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2012) [hereafter as DH], no. 1753.

21. Ibid., can. 1: DH, no. 1751.

22. See Christian D. Washburn, "Schools of Theology at the Council of Trent," in The Cambridge Companion to the Council of Trent, ed. Nelson H. Minnich (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022) 53–71, at 64.

23. The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus and Their Complementary Norms: A Complete English Translation of the Official Latin Texts, ed. John W. Padberg (St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1996) 184 (no. 464).

24. For a list of his lectures on the Summa, see Sebastian Tromp, S.J., "Conspectus Chronologicus Praelectionum, quas habuit S. Robertus Bellarminus in Collegio S. I. Lovaniensi et Collegio Romano," in Gregorianum 16 (1935) 97–105.

25. See James Brodrick, S.J., The Life and Work of Blessed Robert Francis Cardinal Bellarmine, 2 vol. (London: Burns, Oates and Washbourne, 1928) vol. 1, 132–133.

26. Robert Bellarmine, Ad lectorem, in Disputationes Roberti Bellarmini Politiani Societatis Jesu, de Controversiis Christianae Fidei, Adversus huius temporis Haereticos, 4 vol. (Paris: Triadelphorum, 1613) vol. 1, sig. aiiijr. The work will be cited hereafter as De Controversiis. Unless otherwise noted, citations refer first to the number of the controversy, then the book within the controversy, the chapter within the book, then the overall volume of the De Controversiis, and finally the page number.

27. See Carlos Sommervogel, Bibliothèque de la Compagnie de Jésus, Vol. 1: Bibliographie; Abad–Boujart (Brussels: Schepens; Paris: Picard, 1890) 1156–1157.

28. Bellarmine, De Controversiis, vol. 1, sig. bijr.

29. Ibid., 10.1–3, vol. 3, 341–588.

30. Ibid., 10.4, vol. 3, 705–794.

31. Melanchthon, Apology of the Augsburg Confession, XXIV, in The Book of Concord, 261.

32. Bellarmine, De Controversiis, 10.5.2, vol. 3, 711.

33. Ibid., 10.5.2, vol. 3, 712; 10.5.10, vol. 3, 746.

34. Ibid., 10.5.2, vol. 3, 712.

35. Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.18.13, ed. McNeill, vol. 2, 1441.

36. On the intended killing of Isaac, see Christian D. Washburn, "The New Natural Lawyers, Contraception, Capital Punishment, and the Infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium," in Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture 22 (2019) 19–50, at 35–37.

37. Bellarmine, De Controversiis, 10.5.2, vol. 3, 714.

38. "Et omnia omninò, quae in Scriptura dicuntur sacrificia, necessariò destruenda erant; si viventia, per occisionem; si inanima solida, ut simila, & sal, & thus, per combustionem; si liquida, ut sanguis, vinum, & aqua, per effusionem, Levit. 1. & 2." Ibid.

39. "Sacrificium est oblatio externa facta soli Deo, qua ad agnitionem humanae infirmitatis, & professionem divinae Maiestatis à legitimo ministro res aliqua sensibilis, & permanens ritu mystico consecratur, & transmutatur." Ibid., 715.

40. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae [hereafter as ST], II–II, q. 81, a. 7; also II–II, q. 85, q. 2.

41. Bellarmine, De Controversiis, 10.5.2, vol. 3, 716.

42. Ibid.

43. Ibid.

44. Ibid.

45. Ibid., 717.

46. Ibid.

47. See ibid. (transmutare), and 10.5.27, vol. 3, 789 (immutare).

48. Bellarmine would not deny that the Mass contains a sacramental sacrifice, but he would not approve their theory of sacramental sacrifice.

49. These theologians like to cite the Roman Catechism, which states that "Unum itaque et idem sacrificium esse fatemur." Catechismus Romanus seu Catechismus ex decreto Concilii Tridentini ad Parochos Pii Quinti Pont. Max. iussu editus, ed. Petrus Rodríguez et al. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana/Ediciones Univ. de Navarra, 1989) 848. In the sixteenth century this was often interpreted differently than it is now. It simply meant that the sacrifice of the Mass and of the cross were the same with respect to the same principal minister, same priest, and same effects; it did not mean the two sacrifices were numerically one. See Johannes Umberg, "Die These von der Mysteriengegenwart," in Zeitschrift für katholische Theologie 52 (1928) 357–400, at 391–392; Adolph Tymczak, "The Essence of the Sacrifice of the Mass: An Analysis of Fr. Doronzo's Theory," The Thomist: A Speculative Quarterly Review 17 (1954) 525–557, at 550; Francis Clark, Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Reformation (Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1960) 250.

50. August Arnold, Der Ursprung des christlichen Abendmahls im Lichte der neuesten liturgiegeschichtlichen Forschung (Freiburg i. Br.: Herder, 1937); Odo Casel, The Mystery of Christian Worship, ed. Burkhard Neunheuser (New York: Crossroad, 1999); Franz Diekamp, Theologiae dogmaticae manuale, Vol. IV: De sacramentis, 2nd ed. (Paris: A. Hoffmann, 1946); Emanuel Doronzo, Tractatus dogmaticus de eucharistia (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1948); Feingold, The Eucharist; M. S. Gillet, "Les harmonies de la Transubstantiation," in Revue des sciences philosophiques et theologiques 8 (1914–1918) 258–269; Charles-Edmond Héris, Le Mystère de L'Eucharistie (Paris: Siloe, 1943); Charles Journet, The Mass: The Presence of the Sacrifice of the Cross, trans. Victor Szczurek (South Bend, IN: St. Augustine's Press, 2008); Eugène Masure, The Christian Sacrifice, trans. Illtyd Trethowan (New York: Kennedy and Sons, 1944); Michael Schmaus, Katholische Dogmatik, Vol. 3/2: Die Lehre von den Sakramenten und von den letzten Dingen (München: Hueber, 1941); Gottlieb Söhngen, Symbol und Wirklichkeit im Kultmysterium (Bonn: Hanstein, 1940); Aloïs van Hove, Tractatus de sanctissima eucharistia (Mechelen: Dessain, 1941); Anscar Vonier, A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist (Bethesda, Md: Zaccheus Press, 2003).

51. Daly, Sacrifice Unveiled, 100.

52. David N. Power, The Eucharistic Mystery: Revitalizing the Tradition (New York: Crossroad, 1992) 322. Louis-Marie Chauvet, Symbol and Sacrament: A Sacramental Reinterpretation of Christian Existence, trans. Patrick Madigan, S.J., and Madeleine Beaumont (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1995) 302.

53. See Power, The Eucharistic Mystery, 322; David N. Power, The Sacrifice We Offer: The Tridentine Dogma and Its Reinterpretation (New York: Crossroad, 1987) 153; Louis-Marie Chauvet, "'Sacrifice': An Ambiguous Concept in Christianity," in Concilium (2013/4) 13–24, at 18.

54. See Chauvet, Symbol and Sacrament, 260, 302, 307–310; Daly, Sacrifice Unveiled, 228.

55. See Chauvet, Symbol and Sacrament, 260, 299; Robert J. Daly, The Origins of the Christian Doctrine of Sacrifice (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978) 140; id., Sacrifice Unveiled, 225. R. Kevin Seasoltz, God's Gift–Giving: In Christ and Through the Spirit (New York: Continuum, 2007) 74.

56. "Jesus' priesthood and sacrifice were exercised existentially, and not ritually. His sacrifice consisted precisely in bringing about this 'newness,' by which worship is embodied in life itself through faith, hope, and charity." Chauvet, Symbol and Sacrament, 299 (emphasis in the original); see also ibid., 310; Robert J. Daly, "Sacrifice Unveiled or Sacrifice Revisited: Trinitarian and Liturgical Perspectives," in Theological Studies 64 (2003) 24–42, at 28.

57. Chauvet, Symbol and Sacrament, 302.

58. Robert J. Daly, "The Council of Trent," in A Companion to the Eucharist in the Reformation, ed. Lee Palmer Wandel, Brill's Companions to the Christian Tradition (Leiden–Boston: Brill, 2013) 159–182, at 168; id., Sacrifice Unveiled, 166; id., "Robert Bellarmine and Post-Tridentine Eucharistic Theology," 258; Feingold, The Eucharist, 356; Kilmartin, The Eucharist in the West, 184, 353; Masure, The Christian Sacrifice, 30; Vonier, A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist, 105–106.

59. Daly, Sacrifice Unveiled, 106, 166.

60. Feingold, The Eucharist, 355–356.

61. Bellarmine does cite two pagan authors, Marcus Terentius Varro and Porphyry, but only to show how certain sacrificial terms were understood in Latin and Greek. The reference to Porphyry was not even derived from Porphyry himself, but rather from Eusebius' Preparation for the Gospel. Bellarmine, De Controversiis, 10.5.2, vol. 3, 712 (Varro), 714 (Porphry).

62. See Bellarmine, De Controversiis, 10.5.3, vol. 3, 717–718.

63. There is some debate about whether Jephthah sacrificed his daughter or gave her over to a life of virginal service of God. See Joseph M. Gleason, "The Sacrifice of Jephthah's Daughter," in American Ecclesiastical Review 9 (1893) 168–179.

64. Bellarmine, De Controversiis, 10.5.14, vol. 3, 760.

65. Theologians such as Augustine and Aquinas divided up the history of salvation into four ages: (1) the age of natural law from Adam to Moses, (2) the age of the Mosaic Law from Moses to Jesus, (3) the age of the New Law from Jesus to His return, (4) the age of beatitude. Augustine, Expositio quarundam propositionum ex epistula apostoli ad Romanos, 13–18 (CSEL 84,9–10). See J. Mark Armitage, "Aquinas on the Division of the Ages Salvation History in the Summa," in Nova et Vetera 6 (2008) 253–279.

66. Bellarmine, De Controversiis, 10.5.2, vol. 3, 715; 10.5.20, vol. 3, 775; 10.5.21, vol. 3, 778.

67. Ibid., 10.5.2, vol. 3, 715; 10.5.14, vol. 3, 760.

68. Ibid., 10.5.21, vol. 3, 778.

69. See Domingo de Soto, De iustitia & iure: libri decem (Salamanca: Andreas a Portonariis, 1553) 710–712; Francisco Suárez, In tertiam partem D. Thomae, q. 83, art. 1, disp. 73, sec. 7, in Opera Omnia, vol. 21 (Paris: Vives, 1861) 621–623. Gregory of Valencia, Commentariorum theologicorum tomi quatuor. in quibus omnes materiae, quae continentur in summa theologica diui thomae quinatis ordine explicantur, vol. 3 (Ingolstadt: Sartorius, 1595) 1761–1762; Salmanticenses, Cursus theologicus Summam theologicam Angelici Doctoris D. Thomæ complectens, Editio nova, correcta, vol. 18 (Paris: Palmé, 1882) 759–760.

70. See Masure, The Christian Sacrifice, 25. Vonier, A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist, 105–106.

71. Daly, "Robert Bellarmine and Post-Tridentine Eucharistic Theology," 259.

72. Ibid.

73. See Chauvet, Symbol and Sacrament, 260.

74. Vonier, A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist, 105.

75. Daly, "Robert Bellarmine and Post-Tridentine Eucharistic Theology," 258; id., "The Council of Trent," 168.

76. It must be noted that when the revisionists speak of "sacrifice" and "anti-sacrifice," they do so in a way that is fundamentally different than type and antitype. For the revisionists, "anti-sacrifice" is no longer even analogous with sacrifice; instead, it is a relationship of antithesis. "Anti-sacrifice" is not the fulfillment of sacrifice, but something wholly other. Daniélou expresses the relationship this way: "The typological method of exegesis defines the relationship of the Old Testament to the New, explaining both the similarities and the differences between them. So the Flood, the resurrection of Christ, and holy baptism all conform to one basic structural type: in all three, there is a judgement of God, importing the destruction of the sinful world, the old man; in each case, the righteous is spared, to be the origin of a new manhood. So again, the crossing of the Red Sea prefigured both the Resurrection, and Baptism, being an exercise of divine power to save the people from the bondage of the powers of evil. In this way, typology gives expression to the specific intelligibility that belongs to history as such. Without it, the events recorded would convey no assimilable meaning to our bewildered comprehension; the key is in the possibility of reference back to earlier manifestations of the same ways. Thus, the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary belongs to a series of annunciations, to Sarah, to Hannah, to Zacharias, while at the same time surpassing them all." Jean Daniélou, The Lord of History: Reflections on the Inner Meaning of History, trans. Nigel Abercrombie (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1958) 6.

77. Daly and other revisionists basically reject the message of the Letter to the Hebrews. Daly, for example, writes, "Although Hebrews treats sacrifice more extensively than any other New Testament writing, its unparalleled uniqueness cautions against making it alone, rather than Paul, the basis for a New Testament theology of sacrifice." Daly, Origins of the Doctrine of Sacrifice, 69. The Letter to the Hebrews is no less God's word than the rest of the Pauline corpus. One wonders on what principle Paul's purported letters are more inspired than the Letter to the Hebrews.

78. Karl Rahner and Angelus Albert Häussling, The Celebration of the Eucharist, trans. William J. O'Hara (New York: Herder and Herder, 1968) 13–14.

79. Council of Florence, Bull of Union with the Copts and the Ethiopians Cantate Domino (February 4, 1442): DH, no 1348. See also ST, I–II, q. 103, a. 3.

80. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum (November 18, 1965) no. 15.

81. Ibid., no. 16.

82. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium (November 21, 1964) no. 9.

83. See Daly, "The Council of Trent," 169; id., "Robert Bellarmine and Post-Tridentine Eucharistic Theology," 248; Feingold, The Eucharist, 355–356; Kilmartin, The Eucharist in the West, 184; Masure, The Christian Sacrifice, 221–222; Vonier, A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist, 105–106.

84. See Daly, "Robert Bellarmine and Post-Tridentine Eucharistic Theology," 259; id., Sacrifice Unveiled, 166.

85. Concilia generalia ecclesiae catholicae Pauli V pont. max. auctoritate edita, graece et latine 4 vol. (Rome: Typ. Vaticana, 1612).

86. See Christian D. Washburn, "Conciliar Infallibility and Error in the Thomistic Ecclesiology of St. Robert Bellarmine, S.J.," in The Journal of Early Modern Christianity 8 (2021) 251–273, at 260–261; Nelson H. Minnich, "What Is an Ecumenical Council? The Sixteenth-Century Teachings of the Theologian Roberto Bellarmino and the Canonist Domenico Giacobazzi," in Nelson H. Minnich, The Decrees of the Fifth Lateran Council (1512–17): Their Legitimacy, Origins, Contents and Implementation (Abingdon: Routledge, 2016) 1–21.

87. See Juan de Lugo, Disputationes scholasticae, et morales, de sacramentis in genere; de venerabili Eucharistiae sacramento; et de sacrosancto missae sacrificio, Editio novissima (Lyon: Prost, Borde, & Arnaud, 1644) disp. 19, s. 5, 532; Alphonsus Liguori, Institutiones morales Alphonsianae seu Doctoris ecclesiae s. Alphonsi Mariae de Ligorio doctrina moralis ad usum scholarum accommodata, 6th ed., ed. Marc Clément, 2 vol. (Romae: Ex typographia Pacis, Philippi Cuggiani, 1891) vol. 2, 128; Salmanticenses, Cursus theologicus, vol. 18, 758.

88. "Sacrificium est oblatio externa facta soli Deo, qua ad agnitionem humanae infirmitatis, & professionem divinae Maiestatis à legitimo ministro res aliqua sensibilis, & permanens ritu mystico consecratur, & transmutatur." Bellarmine, De Controversiis, 10.5.2, vol. 3, 715.

89. See Washburn, "Schools of Theology at the Council of Trent," 62.

90. Vonier, for example, cites St. Thomas 108 times. Strikingly, 105 citations are from the Tertia Pars. He quotes from II–II only twice (qq. 4 and 16), but neither of these are the qq. 85 or 86 on sacrifice. Söhngen cites the Tertia Pars 31 times, but he does not cite q. 85 even once; see Söhngen, Symbol und Wirklichkeit im Kultmysterium, 27, 53, 57, 58, 63, 71, 77, 79, 90, 97, 99. Gillet does not cite II–II, q. 85. Masure is little better. Although he does cite the definition, he does nothing with it. In the preface to the American edition, Masure states that "the condition for sacrifice laid down by St. Thomas, quando circa res oblatas aliquid fit, had never been thus fulfilled." Masure, The Christian Sacrifice, Preface to the American edition, 34; see also id., The Sacrifice of the Mystical Body: Sign and Reality, Sacramentum et Res, trans. Anthony Thornold (London: Burns & Oates, 1954) 91, 132.

91. See Cano, De locis theologicis, l. XII, c. 11, 460, 462; De Soto, De iustitia & iure, 710. Francisco de Toledo, In Summam Theologiae S. Thomae Aquinatis enarratio, ed. Iosephus Paria, 4 vol. (Rome: Typis S. Congregationis de Propaganda Fide, 1869–1870) vol. 4, 339. Suárez, In tertiam partem D. Thomae, q. 83, art. 1, disp. 73, sec. 5, in Opera Omnia, vol. 21, 613–614. Gregory of Valencia, Commentariorum theologicorum, vol. 3, 1753. Salmanticenses, Cursus theologicus, vol. 18, 758.

92. ST, II–II, q. 85, a. 3 ad 3. All translations of Aquinas, unless otherwise noted, are from Summa Theologiae, ed. John Mortensen and Enrique Alarcón, trans. Laurence Shapcote, O.P., Latin/English Edition of the Works of St. Thomas Aquinas 13–20 (Lander, WY: The Aquinas Institute for the Study of Sacred Doctrine, 2012).

93. "Oblatio autem directe dicitur cum Deo aliquid offertur"; ibid.

94. "Unde omne sacrificium est oblatio, sed non convertitur"; ibid.

95. See ST, III, q. 79, a. 5.

96. ST, II–II, q. 86, a.1.

97. Bellarmine, De Controversiis, 10.5.27, vol. 3, 794.

98. See ST, III, q. 85, a. 2; III, q. 82, a. 10.

99. ST, III, q. 85, a. 2.