POPE BONIFACE VIII’S UNAM SANCTAM
The nature of the “Church is to become a sacrament of salvation.” It is brought about by various means of sanctification and different acts of pastoral services rendered to the faithful. It is for this reason that the Church is considered as the authority regarding faith and morals. The concern of the Church is not just to give the spiritual needs of the believers through the sacraments and sacramentals but also to educate the people towards an ethical way of living patterned on Christian values.
Through the course of Christian history, this mission of the Church is carried out under the supreme authority of the pope as the Vicar of Christ. This title, however, gained different understanding and interpretation of power execution. During the medieval period, especially on the rise of French monarchial government, papal subordination has become the sole criterion for salvation. This articulation was given by Pope Boniface VIII in his papal bull, Unam Sanctam.
This paper tries to give a glimpse of the historico-political context on the document and its circumstances.
II. BENEDETTO CAETANI
Around the year 1235, a man named Benedetto Caetani was born in Anagni, Italy. His early youth was spent in Todi where he took his legal studies. He entered the monastery of Friars Minor in Valletri and soon became a canon at the cathedral. On 1264, he became part of the Roman Curia by serving cardinals who became popes like Martin IV and Adrian V. Eventually he was sent to England as a rector of St. Lawrence Church and a papal notary in France. He was later on created as a cardinal on April 12, 1281 by then Pope Martin V.
III. POPE BONIFACE VIII
During those times, the Papal State was in Naples. “Politically it was one of the most centralized states, economically it was a major commercial center and grain producer, and culturally it was a point of diffusion of Greek and Arab learning into western Europe.” Pope Celestine V, after five months in his papacy, has resigned and just lived in a hermitage, who later on was abdicated. After ten days, “the cardinals met in Castel Nuovo, Naples who, on the third scrutiny, elected Benedetto Cardinal Caetani on December 24, 1294 as the successor to the papacy.
Immediately, he transferred the Seat of Papacy from Naples back to Rome. “The ceremony of his consecration and coronation as the Supreme Pontif of the Roman Cathlic Church was performed in St. Peter’s Basilica on January 23, 1295.” This pope is described as “an intelligent but rude and ill-tempered man.” Through the course of his papacy, he asserted the supremacy of the pope in relation with other institutions and imperial states. He wanted to monopolize the power of governance in both spiritual and temporal by being subjected to his authority.
IV. UNAM SANCTAM
On November 18, 1302, Boniface VIII issued the Unam Sanctam which has been considered as “one of the most extreme statements of Papal spiritual supremacy ever made.” It is a bull that “lays down dogmatic propositions on the unity of the Church, the necessity of belonging to it for the attainment of eternal salvation, the position of the pope as supreme head of the Church, and the duty thence arising of submission to the Pope in order to belong to the Church and thus to attain salvation.” The original document does not exist anymore but there is a version of the same text attributed to Pope Boniface VIII’s files in the Vatican Archives. Nevertheless, this one is a landmark in the history of the doctrine of Papal Primacy.
Its message is addressed primarily to the ruling powers of Europe. It is the “classical expression of the specifically medieval claim of the Papacy to absolute dominion over the Christian Commonwealth, its people, princes and kings.” Here, Boniface uses the image of the two swords, “following St. Bernard’s allegorical interpretation of Luke 22: 38,” pertaining to the spiritual and temporal jurisdiction of the Papal Supremacy. Moreover, it is a response to all who contradict the authority of the pope and “re-statement of the reality of the Church’s divinely-given right to correct the sins which kings commit as kings,”
V. POLITICAL CONTEXT
The bull was established as an assertion of Pope Boniface VIII against the taxation of the clergy imposed by the kings of France and England. The unexceptional taxation was brought about by these two kingdoms in “preparation for war with one another over their conflicting claims to rule the southwestern parts of modern France.” This has become an immense problem in the financial system of the Roman Church, particularly to the pope himself.
As a solution for this, Pope Boniface VIII declared 1300 as a Jubilee Year. The announcement for Plenary Indulgence was spread throughout the demography of Christian world. Almost 200, 000 faithful have flocked to the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul in Rome. This time, gathering money from pilgrims has been successful at the height of the papacy.
However, with the gravity of anger held by King Philip IV of France against Pope Boniface VIII, he sent “William Nogaret, one of Philip’s chief adviser, and Sciarra Colonna, with a band of hired ruffians surprised the Aged Pontiff in his palace at Anagni, insulted him, hurled in his face the most infamous accusations, and brutally mistreated him; it is said that Colonna struck him with his iron glove.” He was rescued by the people there but after a couple of days, he died on October 11, 1303. There was a myth that “he had died of suicide from gnawing through his own arm and bashing his skull into a wall.”
Pope Boniface VIII reigned for almost nine years. Throughout his papacy, the various challenges to the Church of Rome gave rise to assert Papal Supremacy. Even though he failed to implement the law of the two swords over the other authorities, the papacy still stood on its place. However, his death would be the beginning of the so called Babylonian Captivity of Papacy under the French Imperial Kings.
As a final remark, the Church, no matter how dark it has taken place in history, her mission to become a living sacrament of salvation continues. Thus, the ultimate criterion for salvation, based on Church magisterium, is not to submit oneself to the pope but to the one whom he represents – Christ the Lord. Amen.
Urged on by our faith, we are obliged to believe and hold that there is one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. And we firmly believe and profess that outside of her there is no salvation nor remission of sins , as the bridegroom declares in the Canticles, "My dove, my undefiled, is but one; she is the only one of her mother; she is the choice one of her that bare her." And this represents the one mystical body of Christ, and of this body Christ is the head, and God is the head of Christ. In it there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism. For in the time of the Flood there was the single ark of Noah, which prefigures the one Church, and it was finished according to the measure of one cubit and had one Noah for pilot and captain, and outside of it every living creature on the earth, as we read, was destroyed. And this Church we revere as the only one, even as the Lord saith by the prophet, "Deliver my soul from the sword, my darling from the power of the dog." He prayed for his soul, that is, for himself, head and body. And this body he called one body, that is, the Church, because of the single bridegroom, the unity of the faith, the sacraments, and the love of the Church. She is that seamless shirt of the Lord which was not rent but was allotted by the casting of lots. Therefore, this one and single Church has one head and not two, - for had she two heads, she would be a monster,- that is, Christ and Christ's vicar, Peter and Peter's successor. For the Lord said unto Peter, "Feed my sheep." "My," he said speaking generally and not particularly, "these and those," by which it is to be understood that all the sheep are committed unto him. So, when the Greeks or others say that they were not committed to the care of Peter and his successors, they must confess that they are not of Christ's sheep , even as the Lord says in John, "There is one fold and one shepherd."
That in her and within her power are two swords, we are taught in the Gospels, namely, the spiritual sword and the temporal sword. For when the Apostles said, "Lo, here,"- that is, in the Church,- are two swords, the Lord did not reply to the Apostles "it is too much," but "it is enough." It is certain that whoever denies that the temporal sword is in the power of Peter, hearkens ill to the words of the Lord which he spake, "Put up thy sword into its sheath." Therefore, both are in the power of the Church, namely, the spiritual sword and the temporal sword; the latter is to be used for the Church, the former by the Church; the former by the hand of the priest, the latter by the hand of princes and kings, but at the nod and sufferance of the priest. The one sword must of necessity be subject to the other, and the temporal authority to the spiritual. For the Apostle said, "There is no power but of God, and the powers that be are ordained of God"; and they would not have been ordained unless one sword had been made subject to the other, and even as the lower is subjected by the other for higher things. For, according to Dionysius, it is a divine law that the lowest things are made by mediocre things to attain to the highest. For it is not according to the law of the universe that all things in an equal way and immediately should reach their end, but the lowest through the mediocre and the lower through the higher. But that the spiritual power excels the earthly power in dignity and worth, we will the more clearly acknowledge just in proportion as the spiritual is higher than the temporal. And this we perceive quite distinctly from the donation of the tithe and functions of benediction and sanctification, from the mode in which the power was received, and the government of the subjected realms. For truth being the witness, the spiritual power has the functions of establishing the temporal power and sitting in judgment on it if it should prove to be not good. And to the Church and the Church's power the prophecy of Jeremiah attests: "See, I have set thee this day over the nations and the kingdoms to pluck up and to break down and to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant."
And if the earthly power deviate from the right path, it is judged by the spiritual power; but if a minor spiritual power deviate from the right path, the lower in rank is judged by its superior; but if the supreme power [the papacy] deviate, it can be judged not by man but by God alone. And so the Apostle testifies, "He which is spiritual judges all things, but he himself is judged by no man." But this authority, although it be given to a man, and though it be exercised by a man, is not a human but a divine power given by divine word of mouth to Peter and confirmed to Peter and to his successors by Christ himself, whom Peter confessed, even him whom Christ called the Rock. For the Lord said to Peter himself, "Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth," etc. Whoever, therefore, resists this power so ordained by God, resists the ordinance of God, unless perchance he imagine two principles to exist, as did Manichæus, which we pronounce false and heretical. For Moses testified that God created heaven and earth not in the beginnings but "in the beginning."
Furthermore, that every human creature is subject to the Roman pontiff, - this we declare, say, define, and pronounce to be altogether necessary to salvation.
 Vatican II, Lumen Gentium no. 1.
 These are the other acts of divine worship such as Liturgy of the Hours, Popular Devotions, Cult of Saints, etc. See Code of Canon Law, Book IV, Part II.
 It means “One Holy” which are the first words of the Latin document.
 Anagni is an ancient town in Central Italy, in the hills east-southeast of Rome.
 Valletri is an ancient city of the Volsci tribe which is now a home for circuit court.
 See http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/402903/Kingdom-of-Naples.
 See http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02662a.htm.
 Joseph H. Lynch, The Medieval Church: A Brief History (New York: Longman Group, 1992), 320.
 John Laux, Church History: A Complete History of the Catholic Church to the Present Day (Illinois: Tan Books & Publishers, Inc.: 1989), 395.
 Philip Hunges, A History of the Church, vol. 3, The Revolt Against the Church: Aquinas to Luther (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1946), 83.
 Joseph H. Lynch, The Medieval Church: A Brief History, 321.
 Also known as King Philip the Fair of France.
 John Laux, Church History: A Complete History of the Catholic Church to the Present, 395.
 See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Boniface_VIII.