Mark Shea, in his defense of the Catholic teaching that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church, used the Papal Bull Unam Sactum in his defense. He listed five general categories that people follow:
- Those nice people who say hopefully, “That statement was not dogma, but just Boniface’s opinion.”
- Those progressive dissenting Catholics who say, “That statement used to be narrow-minded Catholic dogma, but Vatican II thankfully contradicts all that. How the Church has grown!”
- Those anti-Catholics who say derisively, “That statement used to be unbiblical Catholic dogma but Vatican II reversed all that. Now the supposedly infallible Church has flatly contradicted the Bible and itself!”
- Those reactionary dissenting Catholics who say, “That statement used to be glorious Catholic dogma, but Vatican II betrayed all that. How the Second Vatican Council has corrupted the One True Faith!”
- Those orthodox Catholics who say, “Unam Sanctam’s definition is still dogma, and the teaching of the Second Vatican Council does not contradict it or the Bible. Rather, the council develops the Faith of the Church infallibly taught since the apostles, a faith that has never demanded we believe that the Church is found solely in the visible Catholic communion, nor that only members of the visible Catholic Church can go to heaven.”
But that got me thinking: What about the Papal Bull regarding the burning of heretics in Exsurge Domine? In that Papal Bull, it says:
In virtue of our pastoral office committed to us by the divine favor we can under no circumstances tolerate or overlook any longer the pernicious poison of the above errors without disgrace to the Christian religion and injury to orthodox faith. Some of these errors we have decided to include in the present document; their substance is as follows:…33. That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit.
I know that at one time we may not have fully comprehended what it meant by no salvation outside the Catholic Church, but now we do have a better understanding of it where there are some members outside the physical institution of the Catholic Church who may indeed be a part of the Catholic Church (thus can be saved).
But how can it be justified to burn heretics? Maybe I’m reading too much into Pope Leo X’s Papal Bull. Or maybe it is what it is. Any thoughts would be appreciated.