I'm highly confused ... please help me, someone!


I am currently in RCIA in the Diocese of Lafayette, LA. I have been very gung ho for converting to Catholicism since I made the decision in August.

However, now I’ve hit a stumbling block. Unam Sanctum is a papal bull by Pope Boniface VIII (written in the 1300s). In it, the pope made a dogmatic state amounting to the following: One can not be saved unless they are subject to the Pope.

Now, I seriously hope I am misinterpreting the Pope, but it seems to me that that means that someone must be Catholic to be saved. This seems to contradict what the Catholic Church currently teaches about salvation, which is that all Christians may be saved (depending on circumstances). Since these 2 ideas contradict, that would mean that the Catholic Church is wrong! I seriously hope this is not the case, because I will have some very difficult decisions ahead of me if that is the case (none of which involve me finally ending up Roman Catholic).

So, can someone please help me to understand what Pope Boniface VIII is teaching here?


Great article by one of the masters, Mark Shea: check it out.


God bless you. Persevere in your studies, and have confidence in the cohesion of the truth.


Thank you so much! This article answered all of my questions. I didn’t think the Church was wrong, but I wanted to make sure I got this problem out of the way before it grew and began to really cause problems in my faith life. Again, thank you SOOOO much!

God bless.


The latest issue of “First Things” also has an article about this issue. The doctrine of “no salvation outside the church” has been restated in a variety of ways over the centuries. These ways are not contradictory if you keep in mind the historical circumstances accompanying the developments. Also keep in mind that in the 1300’s, in western Europe, there was only one Church–the Catholic Church, so the statement about being subject to the pope meant something rather different then than now. No one was going to say, for example, “but wait, I’m a Seventh Day Adventist” or “I’m a Baptist,” because those religions didn’t exist then.


Pope Boniface was writing in a time not long after major schisms occurred and while ongoing debate continued over the issue of Papal primacy. It was natural that he would feel compelled to define and defend the fact that the Church is the one true Church established by God and that all humans are ordained to be under the authority of that Church and the Pope in order to be made righteous (justified) according to Gods’ plan. It was a very clear and definitive statement. Today the Church, in Her teaching about the role of the individual conscience, emphasizes that a person who stays true to the law which God has written in all of our consciences, regardless of whether or not they’ve even heard of the CC, are under the Popes’ authority, although imperfectly, due to the fact that by following their consciences, as described above, they are following the teachings of the Church, as she teaches the same law as the one which is written inside of them. The Church’s teachings on faith and morals are not foreign to man, in fact they are natural for him when he is spiritually oriented but are dimmed in him due to the fall and sin. He will be judged by how well he conforms to Church teachings in spite of his knowledge of the Church’s supreme value-or even her existence, although his lot is much better if he has found her, learned at her feet, and so can consciously follow the truth that he has been made aware of. On the other hand, those who’ve known the Church’s role and have rejected her will have to answer differently.


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