Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Unam Sanctam (part 3)

King Philip IV of France, to whom Unam Sanctam was addressed

Last time, when looking at the 1302 document Unam Sanctam of Boniface VIII, we came to the simple but important conclusions that the final statement of the document does indeed meet the requirements of an infallible statement by the Pope and that this statement is at least addressed to "every human creature," not just to Roman Catholics. Today we will look at the language of the document more in depth.

Before going any further, I want to address something that was brought up in the last post but not really addressed. This is the concept that an infallible declaration by the Pope is only "binding" on Roman Catholics and nobody else. This was posited as one way around the Unam Sanctam "difficulty." I think to say that the Pope can declare dogmas binding only on Catholics is a sloppy and imprecise use of language. We don't usually speak of dogmas as being "binding" but only disciplines. I guess we could say that Catholics are bound to believe what the Church teaches, but usually the verb to bind or binding refers to discipline. If a dogma is pronounced infallibly by the Pope, this means the same thing as saying that this dogma is definitely true (that's what infallibility guarantees).

Now, Catholics have an obligation to profess whatever the Church teaches, but all persons have a duty to seek out and believe the truth. We know that the Trinity is infallibly true, and has been declared so by the Church. Are we to maintain that, because the Church professes this, that only Catholics are "bound" to believe in the Trinity while non-Catholics aren't? This would be nonsense.

Catholics and non-Catholics alike have an obligation to know and accept the truth. But the nature of the obligation is different - for Catholics, there is a moral and canonical obligation to adhere to the truth, but for non-Catholics the obligation is moral only but not canonical.

Nevertheless, the moral obligation is a real one with real consequences if it is neglected. It would be better to speak not of the Pope binding Catholics to believe certain things that are not applicable to non-Catholics, but rather of the Pope and Church proclaiming or defining certain things that are in fact true, and that every human creature has an obligation to adhere to - though the nature of the obligation is different for those inside and outside of the Church. If there was no obligation for non-Catholics to come to the faith and accept the Church's teachings, why should we evangeize at all? And how could our Lord connect this with our very salvation, as He does when He says, "Therefore I said to you that you shall die in your sins. For if you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sin" (John 8:24). Therefore we have to admit that to one degree or another belief in the teachings of the Church (and by extension, the infallible declarations of the Popes) is incumbent upon all peoples, not just Roman Catholics who are under the Pope's juridical authority.

Now, on to the language of the document. A key point in looking at this document, I think, is figuring out what the actual Latin is saying. If we take a look at the original Latin (from the Vatican archives, quoted in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia), we see that it says:

Porro subesse Romano Pontifici omni humanae creaturae declaramus, dicimus, definimus, et pronuntiamus omnino esse de necessitate salutis.

I have noted in the past that this phrase is usually rendered one of two ways. The most common form is the following, the one that we get from the English translation at the Medieval Sourecbook:

Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff."

This is the one that usually shows up in the textbooks. However, there is also another rendering, from Denzinger (number 469) and in any other work that goes back to the Vatican archives for its source:

"Furthermore, we declare, say, define, and proclaim to every human creature that they by necessity for salvation are entirely subject to the Roman Pontiff."

Look at the difference in the two translations: "absolutely necessary for salvation that" versus "by necessity for salvation are..." The two sentences convey vastly different meanings. Here is the translation found in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia:

Now, therefore, we declare, say, determine and pronounce that for every human creature it is necessary for salvation to be subject to the authority of the Roman pontiff."

Notice that in the latter two translations there is no use of the word "absolutely" or "absolute" as in the first translation. This is a huge deal, for the whole question about Unam Santcam revolves around whether the necessity of being subject to the Pope is absolute (ie., binding on every human person at all times) or hypothetical. Therefore, for some translations to lack the word "absolute" and for others to throw it in complicates the task of figuring out what the Pope is saying.

Two key words here are omnino and subesse. Omnino is the word commonly translated as "absolutely" in the sentence "it is absolutely necessary", etc. However, the Latin word for "absolutely" is the participle absolutus -a -um, stemming from the word "absolvo." Had the document wished to say "absolutely," the Pope could have simply used this word, which means "complete, unfettered, or unconditional" (source). But Boniface VIII did not say that the necessity of submission was absolutus but rather omnino. The word omnino means "altogether, certainly, in general, or admittedly" (source). Though words like"certainly" and "wholly" convey the idea of necessity, they do not carry the same weight as the word "absolutely," and Boniface chose to use the word "altogether" rather than "absolutely." Thus my co-blogger Anselm, when discussing this topic with me, remarked "It is my opinion that the translations which render the Bull as "it is absolutely necessary..." are doing a great disservice to the Church." As we shall see in a future post, this disservice is due to the fact that the impression is given that the Church has contradicted itself. So, the best translation of omnino is altogether or certainly, words which may be conveying emphasis without implying any kind of strict necessity.

But to what is omnino referring? Notice the first two translations above attaching omnino to different words. First we have it attached to the word "necessary," so that omnino is translated as "absolute" and the thing that is absolute is the necessity of being subject to the Roman pontiff:

"...we define that it is absolutely necessary..."

Next we have omnino being translated as "entirely" and applied not to the necessity but to the subjection to the Roman pontiff:

"...they by necessity for salvation are entirely subject to the Roman Pontiff."

Now, it has already been shown above that absolutely is a sloppy rendering of omnino and that altogether or entirely are much better translations. Therefore, at least with regards to onmino, I think the second translation is preferable.

But to what does the adverb omnino refer? Are we "to be entirely subject to the Roman Pontiff," or is it that this subjection is "entirely necessary?" I don't have the Latin skills to answer this: my friend Jeff Pinyan of the Cross Reference says that omnino is best placed as referring to necessitate. Another friend I know with a Latin degree came up with the following rendering:

Furthermore, we make clear, assert, define, and proclaim to every human creature that to be subject to the Roman Pontiff is entirely on account of the necessity of salvation.

At any rate, I am not enough of a Latin scholar to know which is best, but the point I am making in bringing this up is that it is far from cut and dry what the best translation of this phrase is.

Let's look at this in context of the next important word: subesse. Now, subesse is usually translated as "to be subject to," but one readily notices that the Latin word for "to be subject to" is not subesse but subjicere, which is also a lot closer to the English. Subjicere means "to throw under, place underneath, or to make subject." Subesse, the word the document uses, simply means 'be under, behind, at hand, close.' Therefore, like the case with omnino, it seems that the common translation of this word subesse as "to be subject to" is a little bit off and would be better rendered as "to be under," since the idea of subjection is not found in the word subesse.

"But Boniface," you are saying, "what is the difference between 'to be under' and 'to be subject to?'

There is actually plenty of difference. Quite simply, one contains the concept of obedience while the other does not, as in these two sentences: "The book is under the table," versus "The sergreant is under the lieutenant." In the first case we simply have a statement of fact, in the second a statement of fact as well but with the added element of willful obedience. So, does subesse have any notion of obedience at all? I consulted Dr. Olga Izzo for this one, former Latin professor at the University of Calgary and an acquaintance through the St. Augustine's Homeschool Enrichment Program (she was also a former professor at Ave Maria). She told me that it was as I suspected: the word chosen by Pope Boniface VIII, subesse, does not contain any connotation of obedience; it is to be under in the sense that the book is under the table, not that the sergeant is under the lieutenant.

This gives us the notion that when Boniface is saying that it is necessary that all persons be under the Roman Pontiff, he is not so much as commanding this subordination as much as stating it as a matter of fact. The gist of the phrase would be that every person is subject to the Roman Pontiff, and this arrangement is of necessity for salvation. This is not unlike the problem in Dei Verbum regarding the clause "for the sake of our salvation."

If you take the documents of Vatican II to be authentic expressions of the Church's faith as I do (albeit in a watered down and ambiguous form), then we cannot really assert that Unam Sanctam literally means that every person on earth has to be in a state of conscious, professed obedience to the Pope to be saved. Then the real question becomes this: of what type of necessity is it that we must be subject to the Pope? Is it utterly absolute (as some renderings of Unam Sanctam) would have us believe, or is it hypothetical? And how does this square with Vatican II statements on the issue? I'll try to get into this next time.


Jeff Pinyan (japhy) said...

Interesting. I'd never seen that Denzinger translation before you showed it to me.

What do you make of the previous statement in the bull, that "if the Greeks or others should say that they are not confided to Peter and to his successors, they must confess not being the sheep of Christ"?

Anselm said...

"Omnino," as you noted, is an adverb. There are basically three choices as to where to place it.

1. It can modify the verb "subesse" as here: "...entirely subject to the Roman Pontiff."

2. It can modify the verb "esse" as here: "...it is entirely of necessity for salvation..."

3. I've never seen anyone attempt it in translation, but I wonder if there is anything to prevent attaching it to the third option, modifying the group of verbs, "declarimus, dicimus, definimus, et pronuntiamus"?

The translation would then look something like this:

"Furthermore, we declare, we say, we define, and we pronounce with certainty to every human creature that it is of necessity for salvation to be under the Roman Pontiff."

Of the three options, I think the least likely grammatically is the first one that I listed, the one from the translation of Denzinger, on account of the adverb being so far removed from the verb. This is not impossible in Latin, but surely less likely than the two options which attach the adverb to one of the two verbs next to it.

Just a thought :)
Great post.

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Ben said...

Loving this, keep it up!