Pope Boniface VIII: Unam Sanctam

From The Church Teaches: Documents of the Church in English Translation, by the Jesuit Fathers of St. Mary's College, St. Marys, Kansas. Imprimi Potest: Daniel H. Convay, S.J., Provincial, Missouri Province; Nihil Obstat: Malachi J. Donnelly, S.J., Censor Deputatus; Imprimatur: Edward J. Hunkeler, D.D., Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas, 20th April 1955. ©1955 by B. Herder Book Co. © 1973 by TAN Books & Publishers, Inc. See here for the full text on the New Advent site...
Note: Out of an unfortunate and turbulent period of Church history comes this very clear definition of the unity of the Church, its necessity for salvation, its divine origin, and the foundation of the authority of the Roman Pontiff. This bull of Boniface VIII (1294-1303) also contains the well-known reference to the two swords, the spiritual and the temporal. At this time the hierocratic theory, that is, that the temporal power was bestowed by God through the mediation of the pope, was a common, though by no means universal, theory among the canonists. The theologians, men such as St. Thomas and John Quidort (John of Paris), did not generally hold with the canonists. Boniface states the hierocratic theory in its extreme form, but as a theory, not as a dogmatic definition.

The theologians (and some canonists) held that the temporal society is autonomous, though its end is inferior in dignity to the end of the spiritual society, the Church. The difficulty arose from the need of safeguarding the distinct finality of the temporal society and the pre-eminence of the spiritual society. God is the source of both powers; the two theories differed in explaining how that power is conferred.

We are compelled in virtue of our faith to believe and maintain that there is only one Catholic Church, and that one apostolic. This we firmly believe and profess without qualification. Outside this Church there is no salvation and no remission of sins. Thus the spouse proclaims in the Canticle, "One is my dove: my perfect one is but one. She is the only one of her mother, the chosen of her that bore her" (Cant. 6:8) Now this chosen one represents the one mystical body whose head is Christ, and Christ's head is God. In her there is "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph. 4:5). For at the time of the deluge there existed only one ark, the figure of the one Church. This ark received its final touch by one cubit's provision and had but one pilot and captain, that is, Noe. And we read that all things existing upon the earth outside this ark perished.

We honour this Church as the one and only Church, as the Lord says by his prophet, "Deliver, O God, my soul from the sword: my only one from the hand of the dog" (Ps. 21:21). The Lord was praying for his soul, that is, for himself as head, and at the same time for his body which he called his only one, that is, his Church, because of the oneness of his spouse, the Church, in faith, in the sacraments, and in charity. This Church is the seamless robe of the Lord (see John 19:28), which was not cut but for which lots were cast. Therefore, the one and only Church has one body, one head (not two heads, like a monster); namely, Christ and his Vicar Peter, and the successor of Peter; for the Lord said to Peter himself, "Feed my sheep" (John 21:17). My, says Christ, and this universally, not singling out "these" or "those." By this expression it is clearly understood that He entrusted to him all without exception. If, therefore, the Greeks or others say that they are not committed to Peter and to his successors, they necessarily say that they are not of the sheep of Christ, as the Lord says in John that there is one fold and one shepherd (see John 10:16).

We are taught by the words of the Gospel that in this Church and under its control there are two swords, the spiritual and the temporal... Both of these, that is, the spiritual and the temporal swords, are under the control of the Church. The first is wielded by the Church; the second is wielded on behalf of the Church. the first is wielded by the hand of the priest, the second by the hand of kings and soldiers but at the wish and by the permission of the priests. Sword must be subordinated to sword, and it is only fitting that the temporal authority should be subject to the spiritual... We must be all the more explicit in declaring that the spiritual power is as far superior to any earthly power both in dignity and nobility as spiritual things are superior to temporal... For, as Truth witnesses, the spiritual power can both establish the earthly power and judge it, if it proves to be no good... Therefore, if the earthly power goes astray, it will be judged by the spiritual power; and if the lesser spiritual power goes astray, it will be judged by its superior; but if the supreme power goes astray, it will not be judged by men, but only by God, as the Apostle says, "The spiritual man judges all things, and he himself is judged by no man." (1 Cor. 2:15).

This authority, moreover, although given to man and exercised by man, is not human, but divine, given by the divine lips to Peter and, as far as he and his successors were concerned, grounded upon Him, whom the Rock [Peter] had confessed. For to Peter himself the Lord said, "Whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven" (Matt. 16:19). Whoever, therefore, resists this authority thus ordered by God, resists the command of God (see Rom. 13:2); unless, like a Manichaean, he supposes that there are two sources of power; and this we judge to be false and heretical because, as Moses testifies, God created heaven and earth not by several powers, but by one power (see Gen. 1:1).

Further, 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.

[There is a word play in the Latin that the English cannot reproduce. The first verse of Genesis begins with the words in principio in Latin. Our English Douay version reads in the beginning. But the Latin words can also mean by the power or by one power. Pope Boniface takes them in this last sense to point out the contrast between the Catholic doctrine according to which there is but one omnipotent source of all power, and the Manichaean doctrine, according to which there are two absolute sources of power, a good and an evil one. ]
Note by Prakash J. Mascarenhas: Pope Boniface VIII wrote the Bull Unam Sanctam to set right the anti-Catholic King of France, Philip le Bel, after all other measures (e.g. Ausculta Fili) to bring him to his senses failed. As for Le Bel, he had gone astray after pride and arrogance and was aided and abetted by his evil genius William of Nogaret. Nogaret had been descended from an Albigensian family. The Aligensians were a successor-sect of the Manichaean heresy, but had been suppressed by force after their rebellions and subversion of the Christian order in Provence. Nogaret was publicly understood as favouring his ancestral heresy and of using the malice of Le Bel to avenge the suppression of the Albigensians, and to injure the Church. Nogaret is also the principal responsible for the demonisation of the Knights Hospitaller — then the most powerful armed wing of the Church — and of their suppression and of the robbery of their goods, etc. Pope Boniface's reference to, and condemnation of Manichaeanism, otherwise a long dead and long irrelevant heresy, is aimed principally at Nogaret. Nogaret latter, at the command of Le Bel kidnapped and assaulted the pope and thus caused his early death...
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