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Unam Sanctam - new English translation with notes

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Latin source text with notes

Note: the English text of Scripture verses within the text has been translated ad hoc from the Latin phrasing in the source text itself for Unam Sanctam; this differs significantly in several instances from the later Sixtine and Clementine Latin texts. My numbering (1. - 9.) has been added to the document.

Boniface, Bishop, Servant of the servants of God.
For perpetual remembrance.

1. Urged by faith, we are obliged to believe and to hold that there is One Holy Catholic and truly Apostolic Church. And this we firmly believe and simply confess: outside of Her, there is neither salvation, nor the remission of sins, just as the Bridegroom in the Canticles proclaims: "One is my dove, my perfect one. One is her mother; elect is she who bore her." [Canticles 6:8]. And this represents the one mystical body, whose head is Christ, and truly God is the head of Christ. [1 Corinthians 11:3] In Her, there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism. [Ephesians 4:5] For certainly, in the time of the Flood, the ark of Noah was one, prefiguring the one Church. And She, having been completed by the measure of one cubit, [Genesis 6:16] had one pilot and helmsman, that is, Noah. And outside of Her, everything standing upon the land, as we read, had been destroyed.

2. Thus, we venerate Her as the only one, just as the Lord said by the prophet: "O God, rescue my soul from the spear, and my only one from the hand of the dog." [Psalm 21:21] But he prayed for the soul, that is, for his very self, head and body together. And this body, which he named as the only one, is certainly the Church, because of the Bridegroom, the Faith, the Sacraments, and the love of the Church, united. She is that seamless tunic of the Lord which was not torn, [John 19:23-24] but was distributed by lot.

3. And so, the one and only Church is one body, one head, (not two heads like a monster), Christ certainly, and the vicar of Christ, who is Peter and the successor of Peter. For the Lord said to Peter himself, "Feed my sheep." [John 21:17] He said "my" generally, not solely of these or of those. By this, it is understood that all [universas] were committed to him. Therefore, if either the Greeks or others declare themselves not to be committed to Peter and his successors, they necessarily admit themselves not to be among the sheep of Christ, just as the Lord says in John, "there is one sheepfold, and only one shepherd." [John 10:16]

4. We are instructed in the Gospel sayings that in Her and within Her power, there are two swords, specifically, the spiritual and the temporal. For the Apostles say, "Behold, there are two swords here," that is, in the Church. But when the Apostles were speaking, the Lord did not respond, "it is too much," but "it is sufficient." [Luke 22:38] Certainly, whoever denies that the temporal sword is in the power of Peter, misunderstands the word of the Lord, saying: "Put your sword into its sheath." [Matthew 26:52] Therefore, both are in the power of the Church, namely, the spiritual sword and the material. But indeed, the latter is to be exercised on behalf of the Church; and truly, the former is to be exercised by the Church. The former is of the priest; the latter is by the hand of kings and soldiers, but at the will and sufferance of the priest.

The Latin word 'patientiam,' in this context is translated as 'sufferance,' indicating a type of permission. But sufferance (patientiam) can also refer to a toleration for act that are contrary to one's will, to a certain forbearance, to restraint in exercising a right in the face of some degree of injustice or harm.

St. Bernard (De Consideratione, Lib. iv. c. 3) writes:
"And both therefore, are of the Church, specifically, both the spiritual sword and the material. But indeed, the latter is to be exercised on behalf of the Church; and truly the former is to be exercised by the Church; the former is of the priest, the latter is by the hand of the soldier, but truly at the will of the priest and the order of the emperor."
[My translation of the Latin found in: Dr. Johann Karl Ludwig Gieseler, A Text-book of Church History, (Harper Brothers: New York, 1857), p. 351.]

5. Now one sword ought to be under the other sword, and so the temporal authority is to be subject to the spiritual authority. For though the Apostle said: "there is no authority except from God and those who have been ordained by God," [Romans 13:1] still they would not have been ordained unless one sword were under the other sword. And so what is inferior should be led forward by another, to what is highest. For, according to blessed Dionysius, it is a law of divine power that what is lowest is to be led forward by what is intermediate, to what is highest.

Certainly, by 'what is highest' (suprema) is meant God Himself, for so Dionysius explicitly states in the text from which this teaching is drawn:
"This, then, is the all-sacred Law of the Godhead, that, through the first, the second are conducted to Its most Divine splendour."
[English text from: Dionysius the Areopagite, Works (1897), Volume 2, The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, chapter 5, section 4.]

This "blessed Dionysius" is certainly the man called Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite, an author of several important works of Christian theology, including 'The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy,' which was relied upon in Unam Sanctam, n. 5 above. The true identity of this Dionysius, who wrote under the pseudonym of the convert from paganism mentioned in Acts 17:34, is hidden in obscurity. He appears to be a late fifth century Catholic priest who himself was converted from paganism. But despite his near-anonymity, his works have achieved a prominent place in Catholic theology. See these websites:
1998 Speech of Pope John Paul II

6. Therefore, it is not in accord with the order of the universe that all things should be led back to order equally and immediately, but rather the lowest through the intermediate, and the lower through the higher. And so, to whatever extent the spiritual power excels beyond the worldly, in both dignity and rank, we must, to the same extent, clearly admit that the spiritual surpasses the temporal. And this, nevertheless, we distinguish with clear eyes from the gift of tithes, and from benediction and sanctification, by the reception of the authority itself, and by the government of the things themselves. For truth is the witness that the spiritual authority holds the ability to establish the earthly authority, and to judge if it might not have been good. And this, concerning the Church and the authority of the Church, the prophecy of Jeremiah verifies: "Behold, today I have appointed you over nations and kingdoms" [Jeremiah 1:10] and the rest that follows.

Notes: This last part of the passage is based almost word for word upon Hugo de St. Victor, De Sacramentis, II. 2, 4. -- "The spiritual authority holds the ability so that it may establish the earthly authority, and holds the ability to judge if it might not have been good."
[My translation of the Latin found in: Rev. Johannes Baptist Alzog, Manual of Universal Church History, Volume 2, (Gill and Son: Dublin, 1890), p. 448-449.]

7. Therefore, if the earthly power goes astray, it will be judged by the spiritual power; but if a lesser spiritual power goes astray, it will be judged by its superior; and truly, if the highest power goes astray, it will not be able to be judged by man, but by God alone. And so the Apostle testifies, "The spiritual man judges all things, but he himself is judged by no one." [1 Corinthians 2:15]

8. But this authority, even though it may be given to a man, and may be exercised by a man, is not human, but rather divine power, having been given by the divine mouth of Christ to Peter, and to him as well as to his successors, by Christ Himself, that is, to him whom He had disclosed to be the firm rock, just as the Lord said to Peter himself: "Whatever you shall bind," [Matthew 16:19] etc. Therefore, whoever resists this authority, such as it has been ordained by God, resists the ordination of God. [Romans 13:2] Otherwise, he would be proposing two principles to exist, as did Manichaeus, and this we judge to be false and heretical. For Moses testified that God created heaven and earth, not in the beginnings, but "in the beginning." [Genesis 1:1]

9. Moreover, that every human creature is to be subject to the Roman pontiff, we declare, we state, we define, and we pronounce to be entirely from the necessity of salvation.

Notes: Saint Thomas Aquinas, opusc. contra errores Graec. fol. 9
"For it is revealed that subjection to the Roman Pontiff is from the necessity of salvation."
[My translation of the Latin found in: Dr. Johann Karl Ludwig Gieseler, A Text-book of Church History, (Harper Brothers: New York, 1857), p. 351.]

Given at the Lateran,
18 November 1302,
in year eight of our pontificate.

[These notes and translation, by Ronald L. Conte Jr., are hereby placed in the public domain.]

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