Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Unam Sanctam (part 1)

Considering the name of this blog as well as the pseudonym of its founder, it seems appropriate to bring up every now and again the famous Bull Unam Sanctam promulgated on November 18, 1302 by Pope Boniface VIII.

The famous last lines of this document (in the translation provided at http://www.papalencyclicals.net/) run as follows: "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, needless to say, has caused no little bit of controversy. It is, however, as is often the case, useful to look at the Latin text more carefully in order to see what is being said here.

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

My best effort at a literal translation is this: "Furthermore, we declare, we say, we define, and we pronounce, to every human creature, that to be under the Roman Pontiff is altogether of necessity for salvation."

Particularly interesting is that the critical word "omnino" is not an adjective modifying "necessitate" but an adverb modifying "esse". According to the Dictionary of Ecclesiastical Latin, "omnino" means: altogether, entirely, totally, utterly. According to the New College Latin Dictionary, "omnino" means: altogether, entirely, wholly; (w. numerals) in all; (in generalizations) in general; (in concessions), no doubt, to be sure, yes, by all means.

In other words, it is the existence of the necessity that is "absolute", but not necessarily the necessity itself. I would thus argue that the English translation usually given, with the words "absolutely necessary", is extremely misleading and even damaging to the Church inasmuch as it gives the impression that the Church has changed her teaching on this point, which was clearly taught in such a way as to imply infallibility.

Let me try to make this more clear. In regards to matters of necessity, one can distinguish on the one hand between a necessity of means and a necessity of precept, and on the other hand between an absolute and a hypothetical (or conditional) necessity. I would take the adverb "omnino" modifying the verb esse as indicating that the necessity is one of means rather than of precept, while leaving open the possibility that it is nevertheless a hypothetical (or conditional) necessity.

Allow Dr. Ludwig Ott to explain:

Membership of the Church is necessary for all men for salvation. (De fide.)

In the Caput Firmiter, the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) declared: “The universal Church of the faithful is one outside of which none is saved” (extra quam nullus omnino salvatur). D 430. This was the teaching also of the Union Council of Florence (D 714), and of Popes Innocent III (D 423) and Boniface VIII in the Bull “Unam sanctam” (D 468), Clement VI (D 570 b), Benedict XIV (D 1473), Pius IX (D 1647, 1677), Leo XIII (D 1955), Pius XII in the Encyclical “Mystici Corporis” (D 2286, 2288). As against modern religious indifferentism, Pius IX declared: “By faith it is to be firmly held that outside the Apostolic Roman Church none can achieve salvation. This is the only ark of salvation. He who does not enter into it, will perish in the flood. Nevertheless equally certainly it is to be held that those who suffer from invincible ignorance of the true religion, are not for this reason guilty in the eyes of the Lord” (D 1647). The last proposition holds out the possibility that people who in point of fact (actu) do not belong to the Church can achieve salvation. Cf. D 1677; 796 (votum baptismi).

The necessity for belonging to the Church is not merely a necessity of precept (necessitas praecepti), but also a necessity of means (nec. medii), as the comparison with the Ark, the means of salvation from the biblical flood, plainly shows. The necessity of means is, however, not an absolute necessity, but a hypothetical one. In special circumstances, namely, in the case of invincible ignorance or of incapability, actual membership of the Church can be replaced by the desire (votum) for the same. This need not be expressly (explicite) present, but can also be included in the moral readiness faithfully to fulfil the will of God (votum implicitum). In this manner also those who are in fact outside the Catholic Church can achieve salvation (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma [Tan Books, 1974], p. 312).

In regards to invincible ignorance, and this must be stressed, in-vincible means un-conquerable. There are three kinds of ignorance, only one of which is invincible.

Allow St. Thomas Aquinas to explain (I'll note in advance that it is the third kind of ignorance discussed by Aquinas that is said to be invincible, thus making one action (or in this case omission, namely to join the Catholic Church, truly involuntary. Further, an action (or omission) is "involuntary" when it can be said truly that you would not have done it had you only known).

I answer that
, If ignorance causes involuntariness, it is in so far as it deprives one of knowledge, which is a necessary condition of voluntariness, as was declared above (a. 1). But it is not every ignorance that deprives one of this knowledge. Accordingly, we must take note that ignorance has a threefold relationship to the act of the will: in one way, "concomitantly"; in another, "consequently"; in a third way, "antecedently."

1. "Concomitantly," when there is ignorance of what is done; but, so that even if it were known, it would be done. For then, ignorance does not induce one to wish this to be done, but it just happens that a thing is at the same time done, and not known: thus in the example given (Obj. 3) a man did indeed wish to kill his foe, but killed him in ignorance, thinking to kill a stag. And ignorance of this kind, as the Philosopher states (Ethic. iii, 1), does not cause involuntariness, since it is not the cause of anything that is repugnant to the will: but it causes "non-voluntariness," since that which is unknown cannot be actually willed.

2. Ignorance is "consequent" to the act of the will, in so far as ignorance itself is voluntary: and this happens in two ways, in accordance with the two aforesaid modes of voluntary (a. 3).

First, because the act of the will is brought to bear on the ignorance: as when a man wishes not to know, that he may have an excuse for sin, or that he may not be withheld from sin; according to Job 21:14: "We desire not the knowledge of Thy ways." And this is called "affected ignorance."
Secondly, ignorance is said to be voluntary, when it regards that which one can and ought to know: for in this sense "not to act" and "not to will" are said to be voluntary, as stated above (a. 3). And ignorance of this kind happens, either when one does not actually consider what one can and ought to consider; this is called "ignorance of evil choice," and arises from some passion or habit: or when one does not take the trouble to acquire the knowledge which one ought to have; in which sense, ignorance of the general principles of law, which one to know, is voluntary, as being due to negligence.
Accordingly, if in either of these ways, ignorance is voluntary, it cannot cause involuntariness simply. Nevertheless it causes involuntariness in a certain respect, inasmuch as it precedes the movement of the will towards the act, which movement would not be, if there were knowledge.

3. Ignorance is "antecedent" to the act of the will, when it is not voluntary, and yet is the cause of man's willing what he would not will otherwise. Thus a man may be ignorant of some circumstance of his act, which he was not bound to know, the result being that he does that which he would not do, if he knew of that circumstance; for instance, a man, after taking proper precaution, may not know that someone is coming along the road, so that he shoots an arrow and slays a passer-by. Such ignorance causes involuntariness simply (Summa theologiae I-II, q. 6, a. 8).

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