Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Seeds of the Reformation. . .

In 1302, Boniface VIII issued the papal bull Unam Sanctam (“bull” from the Latin word bulla for the boiled seal appended to papal documents).  Papal bull’s obtain their title from the first words of the document.  This one began Unam Sanctam (“The One Holy” as in “the only holy catholic church").  Unam Sanctam extended the claims of papal power well beyond its previous reach.  Certain portions of this document are often discounted now (especially the part about the church wielding the physical sword and temporal authority being subject to spiritual authority), but this document certainly played into the Reformation that was to come some two centuries later.

For this [spiritual] authority, although given to a man and exercised by a man, is not human, but rather divine, given at God’s mouth to Peter and established on a rock for him and his successors in Him whom he confessed. . . .Whoever therefore resists this power thus ordained of God, resists the ordinance of God. . . .Furthermore, we declare, state, and define and pronounce that it is altogether necessary to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman pontiff.  

It is therefore impossible for this not to have become a battle between a German monk and the Pope, the Vicar of Christ on earth.  And so it became.  Yet just as the words of Boniface VIII had sown the seeds of the Reformation, so the words of another papal bull from Leo X stirred up and caused the dispute to grow from one theological (justification) to one that included issues of national identity and sovereignty, Biblical and conciliar authority, papal power, and a host of other issues.  (We Lutherans tend to remember this bull and forget the previous one.)  The Reformation was messy and still is.  We cannot limit things down to but one issue or one question.  There are many intertwined and agreement on one does not necessarily lead to an agreement on others.  The central article was and remains justification by grace through faith - without works - but underneath even this remains the issue of subjection to and communion with the Roman pontiff as essential requirement for salvation.

The East is in a similar position with Rome.  While the immediate issues that divide Rome from Constantinople might be resolved, the issue of the Roman pontiff himself remains.  If the East were willing to grant the Bishop of Rome the courtesy of being first among equals (as it currently holds of individual Orthodox Bishops in their relation to the Patriarch of Constantinople), the East will never agree to subjection.  Neither will the heirs of Wittenberg.  So the ecumenical endeavor may be encouraged by occupants of the Chair of St. Peter but those very occupants and the office they claim remains one of the great divides in Christendom.  Reunion will only come for Rome by reconciliation with the authority and jurisdiction of the Roman pontiff. 


Anonymous said...

The 1303 Papal Bull says, "It is
necessary to salvation that every man
should submit to the Pope."

The Council of Trent (1545) says,
"If anyone says justification is in
Christ alone let him be anathema."

The Vatican Council (1870) says,
"When the Roman Pontiff speaks ex
cathedra he is infallible."

The Roman Catholic Church has
never retracted these statements
and never will. Reconciliation with the RCC will never be a true
reality for Lutherans.

Terry Maher said...

It should be noted that the basis and reference of Unam sanctam is not theological at all. It's money.

The entire reason for Unam sanctam was the intent of King Philip IV of France to levy taxes, including on the clergy, to support warfare against Mother England, which is to say, launch a Crusade without papal authorisation and remove tax exemption from the clergy. His counterpart, Edward I of England, removed legal protection from the clergy, Philip IV thereupon threw all non-French bankers out of France and stopped any transfer of money out of France to anywhere, which in turn meant no money to Rome.

That's the high "theology" at stake, money. It went downhill from there in various power plays, with Unam sanctam asserting the superiority of spiritual authority over any other authority. It went further downhill from there, with Boniface excommunicating Philip and Philip's forces holding Boniface captive, shortly after which Boniface died. His successor (Benedict XI) lasted just a few months and it took damn near a year to elect his successor, Clement V, who in turn moved the papacy to France (Avignon). Clement effectively repealed Unam sanctam and earlier bulls aimed at curtailing the power of Philip wrt the "Church".

For those of us who are not kings, of France or otherwise, the provisions of Unam sanctam do not mean one must visibly belong to the Roman Catholic Church and acknowledge the pope to be saved. The position of the RCC has always been -- popular misconception, including among Catholics, aside -- that elements of the Catholic Faith sufficient for salvation can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Church and that those saved thereby are in fact united with the Roman Church though imperfectly and invisibly.

Rome teaches enough error without ascribing to them error they do not teach.

Terry Maher said...

BTW Clement also quashed another independent financial threat, the Knights Templar. But they live on, not in the fantasies of conspiracy theorists or the History Channel, but in their devising a system wherein one could carry a document allowing one to deposit money in one place and withdraw it somewhere else, whose modern high tech descendant is -- the debit card! Thank a Knight Templar next time you hit the ATM!