"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."


“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.” - Pope Boniface VIII, Bull* Unam Sanctam*

I know that this quote often pops up as a thorn in the side of declaration in Unitatis Redintegratio from the Second Vatican Council:

“It follows that the separated Churches and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church.”

If anyone can offer it, I’m looking for a conclusive explanation of this apparent discrepancy. One of these statements must be true:

  1. Unam Sanctam is not an ex cathedra statement.
  2. Unam Sanctam doesn’t contradict Unitatis Redintegratio.
  3. The Second Vatican Council erred.

Which is it?


Oooh, good question. :thumbsup:

I think you’ve put it accurately, “apparent discrepency”. Like all comparisons of church teachings, they have to be taken in context. I haven’t read the bull in it’s entirety, but have read Unitatis Redintegratio, so really can’t resolve the issue:shrug: :wink: .

I think, though, that in part one type of teaching likely carries more weight as official church teaching as the other i.e. a bull vs. a councilar declaration.

We need a more learned opinion than mine. :blush:


The second answer (that the two documents are not in contradiction) seems to be false. One clearly states that being subject to the pope (the Roman Pontiff) is required for our salvation, whereas the other states that the “separated churches and communities” (I believe this refers mostly to Eastern Orthodoxy, right?) are not deprived of salvation, though I’m pretty certain that these separated churches are not subject to the pope.

The contradiction seems pretty clear and explicit.

I believe it is current church teaching that recognized councils are infallible in their declarations, is it not?

Also, does a papal bull not count as an “ex cathedra” statement? If it’s not actually infallible, then are Roman Catholics not bound to believe what is contained in these papal documents?


This is the one case where you can make a reasonably strong case that doctrine has been reversed.Basically the Pope has the keys. He can let in or keep out whom he likes. That’s the characteristic of the keyholder.
So he can also change his mind on whom he will let in.


So then, in the end, even direct contradiction isn’t error? Are the requirements for salvation not things which fall into the “matters of faith an morals” category, the category in which, supposedly, the pope cannot err when officially teaching? Either subjectiveness to the pope is required, or it isn’t. One has to be right, and the other wrong…unless you’re saying that God changes his qualifications (since we know that the pope’s actions are to be guided by God, and not God’s actions determined by the pope)?


I should add a fourth statement to my original post:

  1. The First Vatican Council erred… that is, the Pope is not infallible.

I’m very much leaning towards #3. The Second Vatican Council is ecumenical, but I don’t believe that this particular document is dogmatic or canonical, meaning error is possible. Am I correct?

I’m pretty certain that Unam Sanctam meets the requirements for an ex cathedra declaration. The Pope was clearly defining a matter of faith.


I would rather say that even people who do not assent to the Pope in a visible manner still may nonentheless assent to his Christ given authority whenever they agree with the Catholicism, and therefore Christ himself.

For example, one could point toward a passage like this…

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. "No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.

…and conclude that there is indeed no salvation outside the Catholic Church, but that the Catholic Church most likely extends further into the world than most Christians, whether Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant, would be willing to admit.

In other words, we are most likely subject to the Pope regardless of whether we know it or not-- or whether we agree with it not as well. Me personally, as a Catholic, I’m quite glad that I’m subject to the Pope-- though I can see why others might not share my joy in this knolwedge.

My own view of Christianity (in general) is similar to the 12 tribes of Israel. Expressed differently, whereas Joseph would be the Catholic Church, his other brothers would be symbolic of the other basic groupings of Christianity-- quite literally “separated brethren” but still a family noenthless no matter how much violence and hatred is expressed between them.


God’s plans are often inscrutable. Only in the hereafter will it be truly possible to “see” and, therefore, to understand. But would it be possible to have a glimpse even now of the answer to the question that, for centuries, many believers have asked? Why would the Holy Spirit have permitted so many different divisions and enmities among those who claim to be disciples of the same Gospel, disciples of the same Christ?

Yes, indeed, we can truly ask ourselves: Why did the Holy Spirit permit all these divisions? In general, the causes and historical development of these divisions are well known. It is legitimate, however, to wonder if there is perhaps a metahistorical reason as well.

There are two possible answers to this question. The more negative one would see in these divisions the bitter fruit of sins committed by Christians. The more positive answer is inspired by trust in the One who is capable of bringing forth good even from evil, from human weakness. Could it not be that these divisions have also been a path continually leading the Church to discover the untold wealth contained in Christ’s Gospel and in the redemption accomplished by Christ? Perhaps all this wealth would not have come to light otherwise.

More generally, we can affirm that for human knowledge and human action a certain dialectic is present. Didn’t the Holy Spirit, in His divine “condescendence,” take this into consideration? It is necessary for humanity to achieve unity through plurality, to learn to come together in the one Church, even while presenting a plurality of ways of thinking and acting, of cultures and civilizations. Wouldn’t such a way of looking at things be, in a certain sense, more consonant with the wisdom of God, with His goodness and providence?


Only (2) is correct.

Unam Sanctam is an infallible statement, as evidenced from the “pronounce, declare, and define” clause.

But the Second Vatican Council was an ecumincal council of the Church. It is therefore authoritative. Things like “pastoral council, not doctrinal” are the lines of the disobedient and disloyal.

This means that there is no conflict between US and UR.

It is indeed possible to submit to the Pontiff, even if one is not aware or even willing to do so. A rebel against the state will still be subject to the state’s authorities even if he has explicitly renounced allegiance.

That’s why it’s possible to still be “subject” to the Roman Pontiff when one who is non-Catholic seeks in good faith all the truths laid out by Christ, endeavor to follow him and try to live out all he commanded.

That’s also why once someone comes to the knowledge that the Catholic Church is the true Church of Christ, yet refuses to join with her, cannot be saved. Thus says Vatican II.


AFAICS, it’s number 1.

It was part of the paper war between Boniface VIII (& Clement V after him), & Philip IV of France; & I don’t think it can be properly understood if taken out of that context.


I believe the key is in understanding fault and guilt when it comes to the sin of schism. Vatican II was very clear that salvation is open to those Christians who, through no fault of their own, are not in full communion with the Catholic Church. They are not guilty of the sin of schism because they are serving Christ to the best of their knowledge, have received sacramental baptism, and are not consciously rejecting the authority of the Church as it actually exists (though they may be rejecting some erroneous distortion about Church authority).

If one has a pretty clear understanding of Church teaching on her aurthority and, with full consent of the will, rejects that authority, that person is in serious danger.


I think it’s important to note that Unam Sanctam was promulgated in 1302 - well before the Protestant Revolution. (Yet after the Great Schism, I know…that’s another kettle of fish, IMO) Generally speaking if you were a believer in Christ at all you were a Catholic believer. Right before that statement it says:

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]. Therefore whoever resists this power thus ordained by God, resists the ordinance of God [Rom 13:2], *unless he invent like Manicheus two beginnings, which is false and judged by us heretical, *since according to the testimony of Moses, it is not in the beginnings but in the beginning that God created heaven and earth [Gen 1:1].

Sounds like this was also a “friendly reminder” against the heresy of Manicheism, if I’m reading it rightly.


The Defined Dogma proclaimed by Pope Boniface VIII was “outside the Church there is no salvation.” His statement isn’t infallible because a Dogma can only be defined once and it was defined at Lateran IV. What he said in his bull was a REITERATION of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. Nothing in this Papal Bull is untrue however. Only Catholics go to heaven. The Church has always and will always believe this. However the Church doesn’t know who is actually Catholic, as some people who are not officially Catholic MIGHT be saved if certain conditions are met. They must be free from mortal sin and have never heard of Jesus or his Church. If someone even supposes that the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ, he is duty bound to find out more. If he rejects this Church, he cannot be saved. If he meets all of the conditions he is considered imperfectly joined to the Church, thus he is Catholic, even if he is officially something else. He is saved by implicit Baptism of Desire. Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Mystici Corporis explains this far better than I ever could. To prove that Baptism of Desire has been constant teaching since the beginning of the Church check out this link:


Contrary to popular belief, invincible ignorance and Baptism of Desire were not created by Vatican II. The Orthodox explain it this way: “We know who is in the Church, but we don’t know who is out of it.” Baptism of Desire is the key here. Doctor of the Church St. Alphonsus Ligouri says this about Baptism of Desire:

We shall speak below of Baptism of water, which was very probably instituted before the Passion of Christ the Lord, when Christ was baptised by John. 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 of 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.”


Baltimore Catechism on Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus:

  1. Q. Are all bound to belong to the Church?
    A. All are bound to belong to the Church, and he who knows the Church to be the true Church and remains out of it, cannot be saved.

Anyone who knows the Catholic religion to be the true religion and will not embrace it cannot enter into Heaven. If one not a Catholic doubts whether the church to which he belongs is the true Church, he must settle his doubt, seek the true Church, and enter it; for if he continues to live in doubt, he becomes like the one who knows the true Church and is deterred by worldly considerations from entering it.

In like manner one who, doubting, fears to examine the religion he professes lest he should discover its falsity and be convinced of the truth of the Catholic faith, cannot be saved.

Suppose, however, that there is a non-Catholic who firmly believes that the church to which he belongs is the true Church, and who has never – even in the past – had the slightest doubt of that fact – what will become of him?

If he was validly baptized and never committed a mortal sin, he will be saved; because, believing himself a member of the true Church, he was doing all he could to serve God according to his knowledge and the dictates of his conscience. But if ever he committed a mortal sin, his salvation would be very much more difficult. A mortal sin once committed remains on the soul till it is forgiven. Now, how could his mortal sin be forgiven? Not in the Sacrament of Penance, for the Protestant does not go to confession; and if he does, his minister – not being a true priest – has no power to forgive sins. Does he know that without confession it requires an act of perfect contrition to blot out mortal sin, and can he easily make such an act? What we call contrition is often only imperfect contrition – that is, sorrow for our sins because we fear their punishment in Hell or dread the loss of Heaven. If a Catholic – with all the instruction he has received about how to make an act of perfect contrition and all the practice he has had in making such acts – might find it difficult to make an act of perfect contrition after having committed a mortal sin, how much difficulty will not a Protestant have in making an act of perfect contrition, who does not know about this requirement and who has not been taught to make continued acts of perfect contrition all his life. It is to be feared either he would not know of this necessary means of regaining God’s friendship, or he would be unable to elicit the necessary act of perfect contrition, and thus the mortal sin would remain upon his soul and he would die an enemy of God.

If, then, we found a Protestant who never committed a mortal sin after Baptism, and who never had the slightest doubt about the truth of his religion, that person would be saved; because, being baptized, he is a member of the Church, and being free from mortal sin he is a friend of God and could not in justice be condemned to Hell. Such a person would attend Mass and receive the Sacraments if he knew the Catholic Church to be the only true Church.

I am giving you an example, however, that is rarely found, except in the case of infants or very small children baptized in Protestant sects. All infants rightly baptized by anyone are really children of the Church, no matter what religion their parents may profess. Indeed, all persons who are baptized are children of the Church; but those among them who deny its teaching, reject its Sacraments, and refuse to submit to its lawful pastors, are rebellious children known as heretics.

I said I gave you an example that can scarcely be found, namely, of a person not a Catholic, who really never doubted the truth of his religion, and who, moreover, never committed during his whole life a mortal sin. There are so few such persons that we can practically say for all those who are not visibly members of the Catholic Church, believing its doctrines, receiving its Sacraments, and being governed by its visible head, our Holy Father, the Pope, salvation is an extremely difficult matter.

I do not speak here of pagans who have never heard of Our Lord or His holy religion, but of those outside the Church who claim to be good Christians without being members of the Catholic Church.

Catechism of St. Pius X on Baptism of Desire:

17 Q: Can the absence of Baptism be supplied in any other way?

A: The absence of Baptism can be supplied by martyrdom, which is called Baptism of Blood, or by an act of perfect love of God, or of contrition, along with the desire, at least implicit, of Baptism, and this is called Baptism of Desire.


It is also interesting to note for those who think the Church has changed something here is that some of the most Traditional Catholic societies like the Society of St. Pius X, Society of St. Pius V, Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen, and the “True” Catholics who “elected Pius XIII” all believe in Baptism of Desire. This is so because Baptism of Desire does not contradict “Outside the Church there is no salvation.”


This is a telling point. Unless a teaching is directed at the whole of the Church, then the provisions and protections pertinent to pronouncements on faith and morals are not properly applied.

I was in a position where that statement could have been directed at me, when I worshipped apart from the Church, and it would have applied. Indirectly, a human who does not know Christ, but who can be saved through him, can indeed be subject to the Roman Pontiff by virtue of the life he leads. For Christ’s Vicar calls all humanity to salvation in Christ, even those who have never heard of Christ.

In any event, are we sure that the “subject” in the letter was about faith and morals, rather than politics? If the latter – and no doubt there was a fair helping of that involved back then – then it was not a declaration on faith and morals for the universal Church. Just a missile in a paper war.

Context, context, context, as they say.




[quote=Gerry Hunter]Indirectly, a human who does not know Christ, but who can be saved through him, can indeed be subject to the Roman Pontiff by virtue of the life he leads. For Christ’s Vicar calls all humanity to salvation in Christ, even those who have never heard of Christ.


This definition of what it means to be subject to the Vicar of Christ certainly seems very – shall we say – creative.


Thanks, Semper! You really cleared things up :smiley:


Submission: 1: the condition of being submissive, humble, or compliant **2: **an act of submitting to the authority or control of another (Webster’s)

Therefore submission requires a conscious act. If someone does not have the opportunity to submit then how can they be in submission? In other words Unam Sanctam does not state that to be saved one must follow the Pope, but that those who do not submit to the Pope (i.e. rebel against the Pope) are risking their salvation.

When read in context Unam Sanctam is clearly condemning those who are openly questioning the authority of the Pope, it was not intended to apply to those who have not heard the truth.


I have not read this whole thread, but as soon as I read the OP, I had an answer. Forgive me if I’m repeating something someone else has said.

I think there is no contradiction between the two statements. Look at it this way: there are anti-government movements – even militias – who do not recognize the authority of the US government. Does this in any way diminish the government’s authority over them? Certainly not – such a suggestion is completely absurd.

The same is true of the necessity to be subject to the Pope. Given the fact that the Catholic Church is the pillar and ground of all truth, and that the Pope is the earthly head of the Church, it follows that all men are subject to Papal authority.

To put it another way: if the Pope states infallibly that X is true, then X is true – period. X does not cease to be true for Joe Baptist, Steve Atheist, Sally Hindu, or Philomena Muslim, simply because they don’t believe it. If it did, then there is no absolute truth.

To sum up: the necessity of being subject to the Pope is real, and all men are subject to him, whether they know or accept it or not. As such, the statement about the workings of grace in the Protestant sects does not contradict this edict of universal Papal authority.



Read the rest of Unam Sanctam. It is about how the true flock is the one entrusted to and subject to St. Peter and that outside that flock there is no salvation. Baptism makes us members of that flock (or the desire for it). The Second Vatican Council is assuming non-Catholics are not guilty of the sins of separation here so a Baptized protestant would be united to that flock that is subject to the Roman Pontiff.

Remember, this is an absolute necessity because union with the Mystical Body of Christ is a necessity of means, not just of precept.

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