Boniface the Martyr and Boniface the Pope

Pope Boniface VIII in the Vatican (May 2004)


The Catholic Saint Boniface (Latin: Bonifacius; c. 680 – June 5, 754), is known as the Apostle of the Germans.  He was born Winfrid, Wynfrith, or Wynfryth possibly at Crediton  in the kingdom of Wessex (now in Devon, England).   He is the patron saint of Germany and the first archbishop of Mainz.

His “feast day” is celebrated on June 5 in the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, and the Anglican Communion but on December 19 in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

But on “his day”, I would like to focus on one of his namesakes, Pope Boniface VIII.  I first became familiar with this pontiff upon a trip to the Vatican in 2004.

Partially because of political problems in Europe with French King Philip, Pope Boniface VIII took a bizarre and highly overreaching step.  In 1302, he issued what is known as the bull Unam Sanctum that claimed:

We are obliged by the faith to believe and to hold—and we do firmly believe and sincerely confess—that there is one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and that outside this Church there is neither salvation nor remission of sins

Therefore, if the Greeks or others say that they are not committed to Peter and his successors, they necessarily confess that they are not Christ’s sheep…

…in this Church and in her power are two swords…Both are in the power of the Church, the spiritual sword and the material. But the latter is to be used for the Church, the former by her; the former by the priest, the latter by kings and captains but at the will of the priest…

Furthermore, we declare, state, define, and pronounce that it is altogether necessary for salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff. (As cited in Bettenson H, ed., Documents of the Christian Church.  London: Oxford University Press, 1943, pp. 126-127).

Notice that his position was quite definite.  I mention that because I believe that many within the Vatican now have a different view and will compromise in many, many ways, to ultimately entice most of the Orthodox (called the Greeks above) and others into a revised ecumenical faith that will call itself “Catholic”.

As his pronouncement was made as a matter of “faith” was Pope Boniface VIII infallible when he published it?  If so, then this seems to disagree with positions take by some of the later popes, as well as the Bible (cf. Acts 4:10,12).

Notice what the Catholic writer E. Duffy wrote:

Boniface is a mysterious man, proud, ambitious fierce…It was Boniface who declared the first Jubilee or Holy Year in 1300, when tens of thousands of pilgrims converged on Rome to gain indulgences, adding enormously to the prestige of the papacy…(and in the process enriching the Roman basilicas, where the sacristans were said to have had to scoop in pilgrim offerings with rakes).  This promise of ‘full and copious pardon’ to all who visited Peter and the Lateran after confessing their sins was the most spectacular exercise of power of the keys since Urban II issued the first Crusade Indulgence…

Boniface…displayed some of the worst traits of clerical careerism, enriching his relatives at the expense of the Church, and waging a relentless was against family’s traditional rivals. (Duffy, Eamon. Saints & Sinners: A History of the Popes. Yale University Press, New Haven (CT), 2002, p. 160)

Other writers have also mentioned his less than saintly behavior.

A former Catholic priest wrote:

Few popes ever enriched their kin as much as Boniface did…A libertine, he once had a married woman and her daughter as his mistresses. (De Rosa P. Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy.  Poolberg Press, Dublin, 2000, p. 75)

A current Catholic priest and scholar wrote:

Boniface VIII…Other popes were more inept and more corrupt, but none made claims for the papacy that were further removed from the spirit of the Apostle Peter, not to mention the Lord himself.  (McBrien, Richard P. Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to Benedict XVI. Harper, San Francisco, 2005 updated ed., p. 232)

Boniface certainly sounds like one more driven by his own lusts that one who was a true apostolic successor, but he is claimed to be “Peter’s successor” for nearly a decade (1293-1303).  Interestingly, Boniface VIII also was confined to eternal torment by Dante in his Divine Comedy while he was still alive.

There were others of ill fame who also took the name Boniface, but my point today is that one of the so-called successors (who certainly did not follow him morally) of Peter made a pronouncement that sounded like it was supposed to be one on faith and morals and many within the Vatican are currently taking a different position (for example, the position that they took with the Anglicans violated a statement made by the late 19th century Pope–see More Anglican Leaders Considering Defecting to Rome).

Compromise has often occurred within the Vatican, and I am concerned that both biblical and even Catholic prophecy point to a time when more compromise will be made for the sake of “unity”.

Some articles of possibly related interest may include:

Attending the Church of Choice This article discusses whose choice is important to worship God; should you attend the church of your choice or the church of God’s choice?
Unity: Which COG for You? Why so many groups? Why is there lack of unity in the Churches of God? Has it always been this way? What can/should be done about it?
Why Should American Catholics Should Fear Unity with the Orthodox?
Are the current ecumenical meetings a good thing or will they result in disaster?
Orthodox Must Reject Unity with the Roman Catholics The talks for unification involve compromise and the apparent rising up of a changed religion that no one should accept.
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?

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