Clement XI Unigenitus


These statements are all condemned in .Unigenitus

What are we to make of it? Do they seem wrong to you?

  1. The grace of Jesus Christ, which is the efficacious principle of every kind of good, is necessary for every good work; without it, not only is nothing done, but nothing can be done.

  2. Without the grace of the Liberator, the sinner is not free except to do evil.

  3. All knowledge of God, even natural knowledge, even in the pagan philosophers, cannot come except from God; and without grace knowledge produces nothing but presumption, vanity, and opposition to God Himself, instead of the affections of adoration, gratitude, and love.

  4. The grace of Christ alone renders a man fit for the sacrifice of faith; without this there is nothing but impurity, nothing but unworthiness.

  5. A mark of the Christian Church is that it is catholic, embracing all the angels of heaven, all the elect and the just on earth, and of all times

  6. The Church or the whole Christ has the Incarnate Word as head but all the saints as members.

  7. The reading of Sacred Scripture is for all.

  8. The sacred obscurity of the Word of God is no reason for the laity to dispense themselves from reading it.

  9. The Lord’s Day ought to be sanctified by Christians with readings of pious works and above all of the Holy Scriptures. It is harmful for a Christian to wish to withdraw from this reading.

  10. To snatch away from the hands of Christians the New Testament, or to hold it closed against them by taking away from them the means of understanding it, is to close for them the mouth of Christ.

  11. To forbid Christians to read Sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels, is to forbid the use of light to the sons of light, and to cause them to suffer a kind of excommunication.


He would condemn the statement that catholicity is a mark of the Christian Church? I don’t believe it for a second - it’s in the Nicene creed fer crying out loud. :confused:

And the Catholic Church DOES sanctify the Lords Day with the reading of scripture - it’s in our Mass and in the Divine Office, which plenty of lay people said in those days.

Some of the other statements maybe - I don’t think we’re all worthless or all fit only to sin without God’s grace, since we’re made in His image and He Himself pronounced us good.


Many of the statements I didn’t quote center around the idea that God’s grace is irresistible, which is clearly not the teaching of the Church. But I’m quoting the document verbatim, which is a collection of verbatim quotes from Quesnel that are condemned.


Looking at it again, I see why the statement about the Church may be condemned. It says that the Church includes all the just. It doesn’t, if you mean by “just” anyone who does just deeds. That is likely the proper context.


**It’s important for us to understand the method underlying the selection of the condemned propositions - there are 101 in all, IIRC. **

**Propositions did not have to be wrong in all senses & contexts - they were also condemned if in their context they were false, or could be taken in an unorthodox sense. Not all condemned statements are heretical or immoral, by any means: a true statement can be given a false sense by its context. **
**The condemnation of propositions might occur for a large number of reasons: heresy may be “spectacular”, but is only the worst of half-a-dozen or so theological censures, as they are called: they went from heresy (doctrinally the most serious species of fault in a theological work) down to censures for less serious weaknesses, with names like “offensive to pious ears”, “rash”, & so forth. The censures, like the theological notes - de fide definita, sententia communis, & the rest, have also been revised: some of them overlapped, for instance. **

**A proposition might be orthodox in itself, yet be condemned as being open to an unorthodox sense. Once seen in that context, it would be taken out of the context in which it became open to an unorthodox sense by the theological assessors judging the work, & listed as a condemned proposition. But as a condemned proposition, it would be an item in a list, with no context. **

That is where misunderstandings so often arise: it is often not the proposition itself that is condemned, but, the proposition considered as open to misunderstanding in an unorthodox sense; & only in that limited sense are such propositions condemned. But the list of propositions shows nothing of this thinking; at most, the theological censure for each proposition might be given; or propositions might be condemned in a body without specifying what censures had been incurred by each one. That a proposition can be taken in a good sense does not mean it cannot be taken in a bad: & so it is here - hence the condemnation of propositions that seem inoffensive, even good.

**So it could seem (& did) that a proposition otherwise taken in an orthodox sense was being condemned in its orthodox sense, & not in its dangerous or objectionable sense. That’s why people see Proposition 85, say, in a book of Catholic doctrine, & conclude that the Church has condemned the reading of the Bible as such & in all circumstances - whereas what is condemned was Pasquier Quesnel’s Jansenist idea of its necessity. If it were absolutely necessary, in every sense, to read the Bible would be indispensable for salvation. It may seem odd to take that proposition in so strict a sense - but that is how propositions were judged. (There ****was a danger that Catholic theological method would degenerate into rationalistic logic-chopping instead of serving the Gospel - & this danger was not always clearly recognised.) **
****That method of condemning error is defunct partly because of changes in theological method since the 16th century; the main difference is that writings are now viewed as wholes & so that what is dubious is seen in its context; rather than as bodies of sentences which may each one of them be orthodox or unorthodox in some sense or other. **
**Unigenitus was extremely controversial in France when promulgated in 1713, & long after - because it seemed to condemn things basic to Christian piety. It did - but only as considered as having a sense not pious. A comparable lack of context is responsible for the misunderstanding of the “Syllabus of Errors” of Pius IX. **

**Hope that helps **


Excellent explanation - very helpful indeed! :tiphat:


But look at what Quesnel does not say in the sentence as it stands: he does not say that sinners are included in the Church. The words are able to be understood as meaning that the Church is confined to the elect & those of holy life. That was (is) a very old error, & the possibility of taking the words in an erroneous sense - regardless of the author’s intentions - is presumably what led to condemnation in the Bull; which condemns all 101 propositions as a group without annexing to each whatever censure it may have incurred (unlike, say, the 1864 Syllabus of Errors of Pius IX, which specifies what is objectionable in each of the errors it condemns.)

And the Catholic Church DOES sanctify the Lords Day with the reading of scripture - it’s in our Mass and in the Divine Office, which plenty of lay people said in those days.

The necessity (or degree thereof) for salvation of reading the Bible is the issue - it’s a matter of emphasis, AFAICS. Bible-reading: excellent; saying it is necessary for salvation: equivocal at best, & therefore, not excellent but condemned.

Some of the other statements maybe - I don’t think we’re all worthless or all fit only to sin without God’s grace, since we’re made in His image and He Himself pronounced us good.

**One has of course to bear in mind something that happened afterwards, as well…:frowning: **

**Thanks for the :tiphat: :slight_smile: **


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit