Unam Sanctam... authoritative?

On November 18, 1302, Pope Boniface VIII issued a papal bull entitled “Unam Sanctam” (apparently Latin for the One Holy, meaning the Roman Catholic Church).

New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia defines a bull as, “…For practical purposes a bull may be conveniently defined to be “an Apostolic letter with a leaden seal,” to which one may add that in its superscription the pope invariably takes the title of episcopus, servus servorum Dei…”

Here is what Pope Boniface VIII says that Roman Catholicism teaches:

“Now, therefore, we declare, say, determine and pronounce that for every human creature it is necessary for salvation to be subject to the authority of the Roman pontiff” (Porro subesse Romano Pontifici omni humanae creaturae declaramus, dicimus, definimus, et pronuntiamus omnino esse de necessitate salutis).

Why should be ‘not’ interpret this as authoritative? This is formulated just like a Dogmatic Profession…

Your Thoughts?

It is authoratative because it draws on the infallible Dogma Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus which predates the Bull Unam Sanctam which falls under the Universal Infallible Magisterium.

No, Cesar…it is authortative because it is a Papal Bull.

III. Ex cathedra decisions admit of great variety of form. At the same time, in the documents containing such decisions only those passages are infallible which the judge manifestly intended to be so. Recommendations, proofs, and explanations accompanying the decision are not necessarily infallible, except where the explanation is itself the dogmatic interpretation of a text of Scripture, or of a rule of Faith, or in as far as it fixes the meaning and extent of the definition. It is not always easy to draw the line between the definition and the other portions of the document. The ordinary rules for interpreting ecclesiastical documents must be applied. The commonest forms of ex cathedra decisions used at the present time are the following:—

  1. The most solemn form is the Dogmatic Constitution, or Bull, in which the decrees are proposed expressly as ecclesiastical laws, and are sanctioned by heavy penalties; e.g. the Constitutions Unigenitus and Auctorem Fidei against the Jansenists, and the Bull Ineffabilis Deus on the Immaculate Conception.
  1. Next in solemnity are Encyclical Letters, so far as they are of a dogmatic character. They resemble Constitutions and Bulls, but, as a rule, they impose no penalties. Some of them are couched in strictly juridical terms, such as the Encyclical Quanta cura, while others are more rhetorical in style. In the latter case it is not absolutely certain that the Pope speaks infallibly.
  1. Apostolic Letters and Briefs, even when not directly addressed to the whole Church, must be considered as ex cathedra when they attach censures to the denial of certain doctrines, or when, like Encyclicals, they define or condemn in strict judicial language, or in equivalent terms. But it is often extremely difficult to determine whether these letters are dogmatic or only monitory and administrative. Doubts on the subject are sometimes removed by subsequent declarations.
  1. Lastly, the Pope can speak ex cathedra by confirming and approving of the decisions of other tribunals, such as general or particular councils, or Roman Congregations. In ordinary cases, however, the approbation of a particular council is merely an act of supervision, and the decision of a Roman Congregation is not ex cathedra unless the Pope makes it his own.

A Manual Of Catholic Theology, Based On Scheeben’s “Dogmatik” Joseph Wilhelm, D.D., PHD. And Thomas B. Scannell, D.D. With A Preface By Cardinal Manning

Vol. 1. The Sources Of Theological Knowledge, God, Creation And The Supernatural Order Third Edition, Revised, London, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Lt. New York, Cincinnati, Chicago, Benziger Bros. 1906 [Pp. 85-110]

For a dogmatic definition, doesn’t the document have to unambiguously state that the definition is intended to be binding on all Catholics everywhere and for all time? I don’t recall the exact formula off the top of my head, but it requires an explicit statement of universality and not just for a particular region or Church (like say, in Alexandria) and that the Holy Father intends to make such a statement drawing on his power to proclaim infallible doctrine. Of course, all of that was not formally defined until the first Vatican council. Perhaps there’s a Church historian lurking who can authoritatively answer the question of what constituted an infallible formula in the fourteenth century?

Why should be ‘not’ interpret this as authoritative? This is formulated just like a Dogmatic Profession…

Because its “mean spirited” and would hurt the feelings of our separated bothers and sisters those who are on a different “faith journey”. It also sounds very judgmental which is a moral sin.

The general teaching on canon law is that the pope musst be speaking as the Head of the Church with the intention of binding all [Christians] on some matter of faith or morals which is explicitly defined. Current canon law clarifies this somewhat by making it clear that the pope’s intention must be to define something infallibly.

In the case of Unam Sanctum the language suggests that the teaching may be infallible. However, Pope Pius IX in his teaching on invincible ignorance pretty much destroyed the teaching in Unam Sanctum as being infallible since he stated that it was possible for one to be saved without being a member of visible Catholic Church.

I italicized “visible” because there are ways to be part of the Church without appearing to be part of the Church. Baptism of desire is the most common method, but any valid baptism joins one imperfectly to the Church since there is one faith, one Lord and one baptism.

Most scholars since the time of Pius IX have, therefore, held that *Unam Sanctum, *while an authentic teaching, is not infallible and is, in fact, no longer considered the teaching of the Church.

The reason for this is that the entire concept of “no salvation outside the Church” had to be reappraised in light of Pio Nono’s teachings.

Deacon Ed

Here’s a good article on this bull from the Catholic Encyclopedia that predates Vatican II: Unam Sanctam.

However, the Catechism explains this teaching and how it affects our separated brethren as well as non-Christians:

"Outside the Church there is no salvation"
846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers?335 Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:
Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.336
847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:
Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.337
848 "Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men."338

I italicized “visible” because there are ways to be part of the Church without appearing to be part of the Church. Baptism of desire is the most common method, but any valid baptism joins one imperfectly to the Church since there is one faith, one Lord and one baptism.

Since Pius XII is well after Vatican I and Pius IX, how do you explain this, from Mystici Corporis Christi:

  1. Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed. “For in one spirit” says the Apostle, “were we all baptized into one Body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free.” [17] As therefore in the true Christian community there is only one Body, one Spirit, one Lord, and one Baptism, so there can be only one faith. [18] And therefore if a man refuse to hear the Church let him be considered – so the Lord commands – as a heathen and a publican. [19] It follows that those are divided in faith or government cannot be living in the unity of such a Body, nor can they be living the life of its one Divine Spirit.

I am curious in what text, and the usuage of what words, His Holiness Pius IX teaches salvation to a soul without being a member of a the visible, presuming you mean Roman Catholic, Church. I was taught years ago that His Holiness only meant that the person, who had never heard of the Church, was not held under pain of mortal sin for not entering into it. It did not excuse him of any other mortal sins he had committed, since God has written His Law in our hearts.

Romans 2: 11 For there is no respect of persons with God. 12 For whosoever have sinned without the law, shall perish without the law; and whosoever have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law. 13 For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. 14 For when the Gentiles, who have not the law, do by nature those things that are of the law; these having not the law are a law to themselves: 15 Who shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to them, and their thoughts between themselves accusing, or also defending one another,

First, papal infallibility doesn’t depend on whether something is a Bull or verbal statement. The delineation between kinds of papal documents did not exist for much of the early centuries of the Church–yet papal infalliblity is al ways true. According to the definition from the First Vatican Council (and it’s restatement by the Second), all that is necessary is that the pope definitively declares a teaching to be held by the universal Church. That’s it :thumbsup:

Boniface VIII’s statement is correct in that it requires that it is necessary for salvation to be subject to the Roman Pontiff–that is united to the Universal Church governed by him.

This teaching was repeated by Bl. John XXIII:

“The Saviour Himself is the door of the sheepfold: ‘I am the door of the sheep.’ Into this fold of Jesus Christ, no man may enter unless he be led by the Sovereign Pontiff; and only if they be united to him can men be saved, for the Roman Pontiff is the Vicar of Christ and His personal representative on earth.” (Pope John XXIII, homily to the Bishops assisting at his coronation on November 4, 1958Papal Teachings: The Church, Benedictine Monks of Solesmes, Boston, St. Paul Editions, 1962, par. 1556.)

Now, let’s look at the Pius XII statement. Obviously baptized kids and others who believe doctrinal error due to poor catechesis or whatever are not excluded from the Church. Same goes for other Baptized individuals suffering from the same ignorance. They “have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed.”

Likewise, he is discussing the Church in terms of a visible Body and those are members of the Body–these are openly professing Catholics. But there are those who are united to the Soul of the Church, namely the Holy Spirit of which he says:

“Finally, while by His grace He provides for the continual growth of the Church, He yet refuses to dwell through sanctifying grace in those members that are wholly severed from the Body.”

Are all non-Catholics wholly severed from the Body? According to Pope Pius XII, they are not:

“For even though by an unconscious desire and longing they have a certain relationship with the Mystical Body of the Redeemer, they still remain deprived of those many heavenly gifts and helps which can only be enjoyed in the Catholic Church. Therefore may they enter into Catholic unity and, joined with Us in the one, organic Body of Jesus Christ, may they together with us run on to the one Head in the Society of glorious love.”

He expresses this more explicitly in his encyclical Summi Pontificatus:

“Nor can We pass over in silence the profound impression of heartfelt gratitude made on Us by the good wishes of those who, though not belonging to the visible body of the Catholic Church, have given noble and sincere expression to their appreciation of all that unites them to Us in love for the Person of Christ or in belief in God.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church, explains this idea of being united to the Spirit in this way (citing the Council of Trent):

“But baptism of desire is perfect conversion to God by contrition or love of God above all things accompanied by an explicit or implicit desire for true Baptism of water, the place of which it takes as to the remission of guilt, but not as to the impression of the [baptismal] character or as to the removal of all debt of punishment. It is called ‘of wind’ ‘flaminis’] because it takes place by the impulse of the Holy Ghost Who is called a wind ‘flamen’]. Now it is de fide that men are also saved by Baptism of desire, by virtue of the Canon ‘Apostolicam De Presbytero Non Baptizato’ and the Council of Trent, Session 6, Chapter 4, where it is said that no one can be saved ‘without the laver of regeneration or the desire for it.’”

Anyone who is unted to the Church is subject to the Roman Pontiff whether they know it or not.

Imagine if a king newly acquired a very large piece of realm with some remote areas where tribes lived who received very little outside information (this happened often with imperialism in Africa). Those folks might be ignorant of the fact that they are subject to the King, but they are still his subjects. Same goes with ignorance and the Roman Pontiff. As they respond to the Holy Spirit as He draws them in, they become united in some way to the Church and therefore are subjects of the Roman Pontiff.

Forgive me for being so blunt, but this makes no sense to me. First of all, God has given us actual grace to know Him in His Church. If it isn’t our fault seeking Him in good will, and with a so-called sincere heart, the fault of a person being in ignorance would be God’s fault. This cannot be. Someone is inevitably culpable for remaing stubborn in their sin and not seeking the Truth or providing the Truth. Since God cannot sin, the fault lies with the human person. This text you quote here tends to say God is impotent, that those seeking him sincerely will not be given the Truth! He is OMNIpotent, and will provide for a soul of good will seeking Him. Read this link here :


A man of good will is seeking the truth. God, in a miraculous manner, sends an angel to Phillip who sends him to preach the Truth to the eunuch. The eunuch believes and is baptized. After the baptism it goes on to say…“And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord took away Philip;” (kind of sounds like bilocation).

And we know if we seek God with a truly sincere heart, He will give us the Truth and lead us to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church…

Matthew 7: 7 Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. 8 For every one that asketh, receiveth: and he that seeketh, findeth: and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you, of whom if his son shall ask bread, will he reach him a stone? 10 Or if he shall ask him a fish, will he reach him a serpent? 11 If you then being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children: **how much more will your Father who is in heaven, give good things to them that ask him? 12 All things therefore whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you also to them. For this is the law and the prophets. 13 Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat. 14 How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it! **

Our Good God has given us free will. We can either accept His Authority or reject it.

I absolutely did not interpret this as you. This states they are deprived of heavenly gifts if they do not enter into the Church.

In response to those who want to know where Pius IX taught that one could be saved without being a member of the visible Church or how that compared with the writings of Pope Pius XII, here’s the answer. If is found in the Encyclical Quanto Conficiamus Moerore:

  1. Here, too, our beloved sons and venerable brothers, it is again necessary to mention and censure a very grave error entrapping some Catholics who believe that it is possible to arrive at eternal salvation although living in error and alienated from the true faith and Catholic unity. Such belief is certainly opposed to Catholic teaching. There are, of course, those who are struggling with invincible ignorance about our most holy religion. Sincerely observing the natural law and its precepts inscribed by God on all hearts and ready to obey God, they live honest lives and are able to attain eternal life by the efficacious virtue of divine light and grace. Because God knows, searches and clearly understands the minds, hearts, thoughts, and nature of all, his supreme kindness and clemency do not permit anyone at all who is not guilty of deliberate sin to suffer eternal punishments.

  2. Also well known is the Catholic teaching that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church. Eternal salvation cannot be obtained by those who oppose the authority and statements of the same Church and are stubbornly separated from the unity of the Church and also from the successor of Peter, the Roman Pontiff, to whom “the custody of the vineyard has been committed by the Savior.” The words of Christ are clear enough: “If he refuses to listen even to the Church, let him be to you a Gentile and a tax collector;” “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you, rejects me, and he who rejects me, rejects him who sent me;” “He who does not believe will be condemned;” “He who does not believe is already condemned;” “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” The Apostle Paul says that such persons are “perverted and self-condemned;” the Prince of the Apostles calls them “false teachers . . . who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master. . . bringing upon themselves swift destruction.”

Invincible ignorance does not mean that a person has never heard the Gospel or never heard of the necessity of the Church for salvation. It means that they do not understand and accept it. Pope Pius XII and Pope Pius IX both teach that if one accepts and believes the teachings of the Church, but later rejects it, such a person places his or her salvation at great risk. Note that they must be “stubbornly separated” which, as the Church understands this, means they were once a part of the Church.

Deacon Ed

It is authoritive.

There is no salvation outside of the Church. And every human creature MUST be subject to the authority of the Roman Pontiff.

Its funny how clear, simple, straightforward decrees of past Popes are debated on these forums, but the ambiguous, suspicious and confusing documents of VII are implemented like the Dogma to end all Dogmas in debates…:confused:

In all due respect, I think you are interpretting this in a very broad sense. If you would have posted the next paragraph you will see how important it is for us, as Catholics, to bring those outside the Church that are in error, back to the ONE true fold so they will “gain eternal salvation”:

  1. God forbid that the children of the Catholic Church should even in any way be unfriendly to those who are not at all united to us by the same bonds of faith and love. On the contrary, let them be eager always to attend to their needs with all the kind services of Christian charity, whether they are poor or sick or suffering any other kind of visitation.** First of all, let them rescue them from the darkness of the errors into which they have unhappily fallen and strive to guide them back to Catholic truth and **to their most loving Mother who is ever holding out her maternal arms to receive them lovingly back into her fold. Thus, firmly founded in faith, hope, and charity and fruitful in every good work, they will gain eternal salvation.

Kind of ironic. My friend just sent me this today…

Here’s a good video based on Pope Boniface VIII’s bull, Unam Sanctam.


I don’t find either confusing. There is debates because people do not understand the proper contexts of each one. If anything, th Vatican II documents give much more detail because their aim was to explain something, not just to blanketly warn all dissenters.

Besides the necessity for salvation of being subject to the Roman Pontiff (As Vatican I explained, not just in matters of faith and morals, but also in Church governance and disciplinary decrees) Unam Sanctam also has another intersting tidbit that many sedevacantists and other dissenters from the authority of the pope conveniently leave out:

“Therefore, if the terrestrial power err, it will be judged by the spiritual power; but if a minor spiritual power err, it will be judged by a superior spiritual power; but if the highest power of all err, it can be judged only by God, and not by man, according to the testimony of the Apostle: ‘The spiritual man judgeth of all things and he himself is judged by no man’ [1 Cor 2:15]. This authority, however, (though it has been given to man and is exercised by man), is not human but rather divine, granted to Peter by a divine word and reaffirmed to him (Peter) and his successors by the One Whom Peter confessed, the Lord saying to Peter himself, ‘Whatsoever you shall bind on earth, shall be bound also in Heaven’ etc., [Mt 16:19].”

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