Papal infallibility has been a topic of discussion for centuries. At one point The Pope was able to have a strong effect on European politics. However, with time the outlook on the Papal authority has waned. This paper will cover “The Bull Unam Sanctam” by Pope Boniface VIII.
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“Unam Sanctam” is considered one of the first steps toward the change of Papal authority over Europe. As the lecture describes, this document was written with the intent to show that Philip IV has no right to tax or imprison church members who refuse to pay taxes. His basic argument lies in the following sentence: “We believe in her [the church] firmly, and we confess with simplicity that outside of her there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins.” Through these words, he declares that only the Catholic Church, with the Pope at the helm, can hold power over people. To put this in context, the lecture talked about how Pope Boniface VIII intended to increase church revenue by implementing new fees and taxes on the clergy. Philip IV also wanted to tax the clergy members putting him in conflict with Pope Boniface VIII. This document is similar to an earlier document by Pope Gregory VII called the “Dictatus papae.”
Both papers state that the Pope holds absolute power over things spiritual and temporal. The paper consists of 27 headings stating the power of the pope. Statements 18 and 19 are especially reminiscent of “Unam Sanctam.” Statement 18 reads: “That a sentence passed by him may be retracted by no one; and that he, alone of all, may retract it.” This echoes the sentiment that the Pope holds power over policy. Statement 19 confirms this by proposing that no one can judge the Pope. However, there are major differences between the “Unam Sanctam” and the “Dictatus papae.” The structure of the text is entirely different. “Unam Sanctam” is written as a normal text, perhaps an address to the masses and Philip IV, while the “Dictatus papae” is only a list of headings. This is due to the difference in the purpose of these documents. The “Dictatus papae” was not a public document. It was not published and was not supposed to be known about outside the Church. “Unam Sanctam” however, was a published document, which led to retaliation by Philip the IV.
Patricia Crone states that religion and politics are often interconnected, and both are responsible for shaping history. “Unam Sanctam” can be a clear example of religious authority being connected to political authority. Although this was not the first statement of political ambitions of the Church, it was certainly most emblematic. This document led to the death of Pope Boniface VIII, which in turn led to a series of events that changed the way the Church authority was perceived by the people of Europe. I tend to agree with Student A that this document shows how the Church was able to play a major role in the politics of the time, but I would like to add that the consequences of this document also support this notion.
“Unam Sanctam” signified a turn in the history of medieval Europe. The reaction to this document has shown the limits of Papal authority and changed the way people see the Church. It also clearly shows that religion and politics are often interconnected.