UNAM SANCTAM: Infallible, authoritative , or just an opinion?

What is the level of authority Catholics ascribe to the UNAM SANCTAM; Bull of Pope Boniface VIII from 1302…
I am not asking about the interpretation of understanding of what it means.
I am asking if it more than Pope Boniface VIII’s personal opinion , and if so; how much more?

When a papal document states “we declare, we proclaim, we define”, the Pope is speaking ex cathedra and it is infallible.

I was reading the other thread that caused you to post this question and I sympathize with your question! It does seem (to me, to you, and some others) that on some questions, the Church changed Her teachings, but Catholics always have some explanation of why that isn’t case, why it doesn’t count, etc. I mean, it looks so obvious sometimes!

So what’s going on here?

I once found an old thread on a similar issue in which in the second post, someone called Ron Conte claims that:

Documents are not infallible. Only a teaching can possibly be infallible. A teaching within a Bull could possibly be infallible, but only if it meets the proper criteria.

When trying to understand what that meant, I think I understood the Catholic position a little better.

Basically, I think the Catholic position is that it is never correct to just quote a few lines of a document. You have to do serious study of it, in its context, to understand what the infallible teaching is. And even if you think you know that it means X - I mean it’s in plain English, er, Latin, and basically everyone at the time thought it meant X - you might be wrong.

Ultimately, the body that gets to decide what the teaching is, what was the infallible lesson to be taken away from the document, is the Church. So when the Church tells you that you misunderstand the Bull, that the point is more subtle than it seems to you, a Catholic will tell you the Church is always right.

There’s a certain beautiful logic to it and how it solves the problem of interpretation. Just like any legal system you need some final authority on what laws means, for the Church, it’s the magisterium that gets the final say on what, well, the magisterium means.

I think this is in part what the Church means when it talks about evolving doctrines. It’s not that the doctrines themselves change, but that we are understanding them better, even better than perhaps the pope himself who proclaimed them. The pope isn’t protected from being wrong, he is protected from teaching incorrectly within a narrow scope. I think it’s possible for the pope to misunderstand his own infallible teachings.

It’s really an interesting epistemological system, but I agree that from the perspective of someone outside the Church, it seems frustrating. But trust me, you will never be able to nail down a true Catholic into admitting that Church changed Her teachings. For a true Catholic, that doesn’t happen and if two documents seem to contradict each other, it’s because you aren’t understanding the teaching correctly. To understand it correctly, must ask the Church what it means!

But how do you ask the Church what it means?
Won’t you stop asking at the first authority that agrees with you?
Will you get the same answer from every Bishop or Cardinal?
Will the Apostolic Exhortation on the family from the Pope clear up the confusion from the Synods?

These aren’t just academic questions. They deserve thoughtful answers,

As irritating as Unam Sanctam is, the definitive statement at the end of the document meets all the criteria for an infallible definition ex cathedra.

You’re right of course. I gave up trying to come back to the Church in large part because I personally don’t get the interest with unchanging truth and infallibility. I’m not trying to convince you that you should accept it - I don’t!

I’m trying to understand the Catholic position in a way that makes sense to me, because like you (I think), my first reaction is that it just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. But if you are charitable in trying to understand it, I think you find that it’s not incoherent, it’s just more subtle that it first appears.

As far as the uncertainty to the teachings, a Catholic is also supposed to be obedient, and that’s how you get around the problems of understanding the teachings. You’re supposed to obey your conscience, but at the same time you must constantly try to form your conscience in accordance with Church teachings. What does that mean when different hierarchs will tell you different things about the teachings?

I found it very easy to find priests who would tell me that contraception was fine. Not most, but it was easy enough to find one who would. But at the same time, I think you have to be pretty willfully ignorant not to know that this isn’t how you’re supposed to interpret the teachings.

But on more subtle points, like, what should I think about the salvation of my protestant mother-in-law, you suspect that as long as you don’t willfully form your own opinion against what your priests tell you, you’re ok.

You may point out that this doesn’t seem to really nail to epistemic uncertainly in the Church teachings at all.They say some things infallibly, but how do you even know what the infallible things are?

Again, I think the Catholic position is that a person is supposed to honestly and docilely (meaning teachably, not gullibly), try to form their conscience in the face of what they learn from the Church. And that’s good enough. But that’s not a low bar! Being really honest with yourself that you are seeking truth from a place of humility and not pride is difficult.

And, yes, I also agree with what you would say here about “Doesn’t that mean the Church’s claim to stamp out epistemic uncertainty is just wrong, because you can never trust the interpretation that any given bishop or cardinal gives you about a doctrine? After all, that bishop might be wrong!”

However, I think that’s the interesting subtly in the Catholic position. Unchanging doctrine is a dangerous thing in the face of evolving culture, knowledge, and circumstances. The way the Church is able to be both infallible and yet robust to changing circumstances is fascinating and if you look at with charitable eyes, is rather brilliant.

And, as I said, you will never be able to quote two Church documents that seem contradictory and force a Catholic to admit there was a change in doctrine. The epistemic system is set up so that this isn’t possible. You can’t be a Catholic and interpret two Church documents as stating infallibly different doctrines. There is always a reason why the underlying teaching is the same. In a sense, it is an extension of the mystery of faith.

For a non-Catholic, I suggest appreciating the beauty to the logic rather than railing against the tides!

alwayswill #1
What is the level of authority Catholics ascribe to the UNAM SANCTAM; Bull of Pope Boniface VIII from 1302…

**UNAM SANCTAM. **The papal bull of Pope Boniface VIII, issued November 18, 1302, in answer to Philip IV of France, who denied the Pope’s authority. Only the last sentence is irreversible doctrine, in which Boniface states: “We declare, say, define and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff” (Denzinger 875). The preceding part of the document deals at length with the relation of temporal and spiritual powers in the Church.
Modern Catholic Dictionary by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Pope Innocent III in the Lateran Council of AD 1215, Unam Sanctam, the Papal Bull of Pope Boniface VIII, 1302, and Pope Eugene IV’s Bull Cantate Domino, 1441 all refer to those who have rejected the true gospel, Pope Eugene IV makes the statement about the pagans, Jews, etc… so this classifies them like the Arians, Monophysites, Ebionites, who heard the message of Christ’s gospel. It is not talking about those who have not heard the gospel. The ones that these decrees are considering are those that have heard the message. If they had heard the message and obstinately stay outside the Church, they cannot be saved. Notice that in this decree, just like the first two mentioned, the decree does not say, “Well, if those pagans and Jews, etc. have never heard of the gospel, they cannot be saved.” This is fully consistent with what the Church teaches now. [My emphasis].

As Saint John Paul II explains in Threshold of Hope (Random House, 1994, p 140-1):
“Besides formal membership in the Church, the sphere of salvation can also include other forms of relation to the Church. Paul VI expressed this same teaching in his first encyclical, Ecclesiam Suam, when he spoke of the various circles of the dialogue of salvation (Cf. p 101-117), which are the same as those indicated by the Council as the spheres of membership in and of relation to the Church. This is the authentic meaning of the well-known statement ‘Outside the Church there is no salvation.’ ”

Christ’s Church knew from the beginning that non-Catholics could be saved:
Pope St Clement knew that non-Catholics could be saved from the beginning, for he wrote in about 95 A.D. to the Church in Corinth: “Those who repented for their sins, appeased God in praying and received salvation, even though they were aliens to God.” Catholic Apologetics Today, 1986, Fr William G Most, p 145].

This is the reality:
“By Faith it is to be firmly held that outside the Apostolic Roman Church none can achieve salvation. This is the only ark of salvation. He who does not enter into it will perish in the flood. Nevertheless, equally certainly it is to be held that those who suffer from invincible ignorance of the true religion, are not for this reason guilty in the eyes of the Lord. Now, then, who could presume in himself an ability to set the boundaries of such ignorance, taking into consideration the natural differences of peoples, land, native talents, and so many other factors” (Pope Pius IX, Singulari Quidem, 1863 A.D.).[My emphasis].

That definitive statement was also taught by the Fifth Lateran Council, so it is certainly infallible. The rest of the document is non-infallible magisterial teaching, or perhaps infallible, on some points, under the ordinary and universal magisterium.

I don’t see why it would be “irritating”.

Because, as a soundbite, it’s easy to misinterpret, and because many have done precisely so in an express attempt to discredit the Church… :shrug:

Claim: “If they had heard the message and obstinately stay outside the Church, they cannot be saved.”

Teaching of Pope Saint John Paul II, to the contrary:
“salvation is accessible in mysterious ways, inasmuch as divine grace is granted to them by virtue of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice, without external membership in the Church, but nonetheless always in relation to her (cf. RM 10). It is a mysterious relationship. It is mysterious for those who receive the grace, because they do not know the Church and sometimes even outwardly reject her.

Unam Sanctam:
“9. Moreover, that every human creature is to be subject to the Roman pontiff, we declare, we state, we define, and we pronounce to be entirely from the necessity of salvation.”

It is necessary to salvation that the Church have Seven Sacraments. However, each person need not receive all Seven to be saved. Similarly, it is necessary to the Church’s work of salvation that the Roman Pontiff have authority, but this does not imply that Protestants and non-Christian believers cannot be saved unless they submit to the authority of the Pope.

I don’t often disagree with you, Ron, but these two teachings are not contrary. Outwardly rejecting is not the same as obstinately staying outside, if it were then one could not receive the grace while doing it.

Claim: “If they had heard the message and obstinately stay outside the Church, they cannot be saved.”

The claim is false because it does not establish that the person has committed an actual mortal sin, and has refused to repent from that sin through the end of their life.

A person can hear the Gospel message, and reject it without the full culpability of actual mortal sin, if the person is misled by society and other religions into thinking, with a sincere but mistaken conscience, that the Gospel message is not the whole truth, or is substantially erroneous. The term “obstinately” is not sufficient to establish that the person had rejected the Church by an actual mortal sin.

Pope John Paul II said that sometimes persons are saved by implicit membership in the Church, despite outwardly rejecting the Church.

If a person does reject Christianity by an actual mortal sin, they might repent and return to (or enter for the first time) the state of grace later in life. This repentance (absent a sacrament) must be with perfect contrition, but it can be implicit perfect contrition (in my view).

Example 1:

A soldier from a non-Christian background rejects the Christian faith, let’s say, in this hypothetical, by an actual mortal sin. For a long time, he does not repent of that sin; he is in a state of unrepentant actual mortal sin.

One day, he is with his comrades in arms, for whom he has some filial affection. An enemy throws a grenade in their midst. If the soldier decides, in full cooperation with grace, to give up his life to save the life of his fellow soldiers, by throwing himself on the grenade, his act of love of neighbor implicitly includes perfect contrition for all his sins — even though he does not call each sin to mind and does not explicitly repent from each one. He therefore dies in the state of grace and is saved.

Here is a very good explanation of Unam Sanctam: mark-shea.com/unam.html

As others have mentioned, the definition at the end is certainly and infallible, dogmatic judgment. It is simply a clarification on the well-established dogma that belonging to the Church is necessary for salvation. It just clarifies which Church: the one subject to the Roman Pontiff (being subject to the Roman Pontiff means belonging to the Church subject to him). That’s why earlier in the document the Pope discusses how Christ entrusted His flock to Peter–if you’re not in Peter’s flock, you’re not in Christ’s flock.

Also, for this reason, St. John Paul II included this definition with the two other definitions of this dogma from the Fourth Lateran Council and the Council of Florence:

[quote=St. John Paul II]4. Since Christ brings about salvation through his Mystical Body, which is the Church, the way of salvation is connected essentially with the Church. The axiom extra Ecclesiam nulla salus—“outside the Church there is no salvation”—stated by St. Cyprian (Epist. 73, 21; PL 1123 AB), belongs to the Christian tradition and was included in the Fourth Lateran Council (DS 802), in the Bull Unam sanctam of Boniface VIII (DS 870) and in the Council of Florence (Decretum pro jacobitis, DS 1351).


(this whole thing is a good read on this dogma as understood by the Church)

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