He studied philosophy and began the study of theology at the Catholic University of Leuven, where Adrian of Utrecht, later Pope Adrian VI, was one of his teachers. Pighius completed his studies at Cologne, but it is not clear whether he received the degree of Doctor of Theology. When his teacher Adrian became pope, he went to Rome, where he also remained during the reigns of Pope Clement VII and Pope Paul III, and was repeatedly employed in ecclesiastical-political embassies. He had taught mathematics to Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, afterward Paul III. In 1535 Paul III appointed him provost of St. John's at Utrecht, where he had held a canonry since 1524. At the conference of Ratisbon in 1541, he was on the Catholic side.
Among his writings the following belong to the sphere of his mathematical/astronomical studies:
- "Astrologiæ defensio adversus prognosticatorum vulgus, qui annuas prædictiones edunt et se astrologos mentiuntur" (Paris, 1518);
- the treatise addressed to Pope Leo X upon the reform of the calendar, "De æquinoctiarum solstitiorumque inventione et de ratione paschalis celebrationis deque restitutione ecclesiastici Calendarii (Paris, 1520);
- "Apologia adversus novam Marci Beneventani astronomiam" (Paris, 1522);
- "Defensio Apologiæ adversus Marci Beneventani astronomiam" (Paris, 1522).
As a theologian he defended the authority of the Catholic Church against the Reformers. His most important theological work is a rejoinder to Henry VIII of England titled "Hierarchiæ ecclesiasticæ assertio" (Cologne, 1538, dedicated to Paul III; later editions, 1544, 1558, 1572). In reply John Leland wrote his "Antiphilarchia".
Pighius also wrote:
- "Apologia indicti a Paulo III. Concilii, adversus Lutheranas confederationes" (Cologne, 1537; Paris, 1538);
- "De libero hominis arbitrio et divina gratia libri X" (Cologne, 1542), against Martin Luther and John Calvin;
- "Controversiarum præcipuarum in Comitiis Ratisponensibus tractatarum ... explicatio (Cologne, 1542). To this were added the two treatises: "Quæstio de divortiatorum novis coniugiis et uxorum pluralitate sub lege evangelica" and "Diatriba de actis VI. et VII. Synodi".
Other theological works were:
- "Ratio componendorum dissidiorum et sarciendæ in religione concordiæ" (Cologne, 1542)
- "Apologia adversus Martini Buceri calumnias" (Mainz, 1543).
A treatise "Adversus Græcorum errores", dedicated to Clement VII, is preserved in manuscript in the Vatican Library.
Pighius on some points advanced teachings which were not in harmony with the Catholic position. One was his opinion that original sin was nothing more than the sin of Adam imputed to every child at birth, without any inherent taint of sinfulness being in the child itself. In the doctrine of justification he made concessions to Protestants.
He originated the doctrine of the double righteousness by which man is justified, that has been characterized as "semi-Lutheranism". According to this theory, the imputed righteousness of Christ is the formal cause of the justification of man before God, while the individual righteousness inherent in man is always imperfect and therefore insufficient. These opinions of Pighius were adopted by Johannes Gropper and Cardinal Contarini; during the discussion at the Council of Trent of the "Decretum de Justificatione" they were maintained by Girolamo Seripando, but the Council rejected the compromise theory.
- Hubert Jedin, Studien über die Schriftstellertätigkeit Albert Pigges (Münster/Westf. 1931)
- Linsenmann, Albertus Pighius und sein theologischer Standpunkt in Theol. Quartalschrift, XLVIII (1866), 571-644;
- Ludwig von Pastor, Die kirchlichen Reunionsbestrebungen während der Regierung Karls V. (Freiburg im Br., 1879), 167 sq.;
- Dittrich, Gasparo Contarini (Braunsberg, 1885), 660-69;
- Hefele-Hergenröther, Conciliengesch., IX (Freiburg im Br., 1890), 936-38;
- Hefner, Die Entstehungsgesch. des Trienter Rechtfertigungsdecretes (Paderborn. 1909), 165 sq.
- G. Melles, Albertus Pighius en zijn strijd met Calvijn over het liberum arbitrium (Kampen, 1972)
His correspondence was published by Friedensburg, Beiträge sum Briefwechsel der kathol. Gelehrten Deutschlands im Reformationszeitalter in Zeitschrift für Kirchengesch., XXIII (1902), 110-55.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Albert (Pigghe) Pighius". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.
- cf. Dictionary of National Biography (London, 1909), XI, 893.