The Roman Catholic Spin Zone

The following article centers upon the inherent contradictions within Rome between the pronouncements of Vatican II and Unam Sanctum [the bull of Pope Boniface VIII] with regards to salvation outside of the Roman Catholic religion. Christians may safely observe that Rome does indeed contradict herself. Also, asking Rome who can be saved or lost is, to the Christian, a nonsensical question. The Christian knows that salvation is not found in the religious labyrinth of Rome at all. Therefore, Rome is not suited for judgment on the question of salvation. Also, it is well to keep in mind that Roman apologists nonetheless continue to work overtime to hide their inconsistencies while all the while failing to see that their Roman Catholic religion cannot bring anyone to salvation.

Here, in this analysis of one of their intramural struggles, one can see how Mark Shea [Roman Catholic apologist] fidgets and frets while unsuccessfully trying to make blatant contradictions within his own religion disappear.

Rome used to say that there was no hope of salvation outside of the Roman Catholic religion. At Vatican II Rome considered salvation to be present in others kinds of Christian communities. Indeed, post Vatican II Rome sees salvation available in non-Christian communities. This kind of contradiction needs some
spinning. How odd that a non-Christian cult continues to argue within her as to whether those not involved with her are in fact Christians! It is a very bizarre world. RMZ

Mark P. Shea, a Roman Catholic writer, has written an article in Crisis magazine wherein he tries to reconcile the dogmatic proclamation of Pope Boniface VIII [Unam Sanctum] with the more modern proclamations of Vatican II [Lumen Gentium].

Shea senses that there might be a raised eyebrow among Roman Catholics and others if they were to compare the Bull of Boniface with the official teaching of Vatican II. Vatican II is very, very soft as far as salvation being available for those outside of the Roman Catholic religion. Lumen Gentium pronounces that salvation is indeed possible outside of Rome. Shea quotes a portion of Lumen Gentium:

"The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter."

This announcement by Vatican II is viewed by some as a flat out contradiction to the Bull of Boniface. Hence, the reaction within the Roman Catholic community has been mixed. Some think that the old religion has been betrayed. Others think the new religion of Rome is better. Others do not know what to think. But the worst is those who think that Rome has contradicted herself. This is the one charge that Shea fears the most. His article is designed to spin the data so that there is no betrayal, no new religion, no real change and no real contradiction. Although Shea only sets forth the very last sentence of the Bull, it is best to read the first and last sentences of the Bull of Boniface to get the full impact.

"Urged by faith, we are obliged to believe and to maintain that the Church is one, holy, catholic, and also apostolic. We believe in her firmly and we confess with simplicity that outside of her there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins,"

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

Unam Sanctum. Papal Bull of His Holiness Pope Boniface VIII, promulgated November 18, 1302

Also, in order to get a better contrast between the Papal Bull and Vatican II it is best to read further into Lumen Gentium. Shea has only given a small tip of the iceberg in his comparison. He cannot afford to set the two official statements of Rome too severely opposite. To do so would ruin his scheme of reconciliation. Yet, the two are utterly opposite and cannot be spun together so easily when each position is presented clearly. Here is Lumen Gentium minus the soft selection of Shea.

"16. Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God.(18*) In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh.(125) On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues.(126); But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohamedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things,(127) and as Saviour wills that all men be saved.(128) Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience." (Emphasis mine)

Shea has a monumental task to spin the data so that there is no contradiction between the Bull of Boniface VIII and Lumen Gentium. As one can readily read, Rome has come from proclaiming that outside of the Roman Catholic religion there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins to the position that the plan of salvation includes the Muslim religion. Rome has also come from declaring that it is absolutely necessary for salvation to be in subjection to the Pope at Rome to granting salvation to those who do not know the gospel! It is hard to imagine two more contrary positions.

Christians have long exposed Rome's inconsistencies and warned the Body of Christ that this sort of thing is prominent among other non-Christian religions as well. Nonetheless, Christians can be well served to take note how to defend against the twistings of the up to date Roman Catholic apologists. Mark P. Shea is a modern defender of Rome. Christians can learn a lot about how Rome thinks by examining the efforts of Shea to reconcile these contradictory proclamations.

In the first place he does not distance himself from the Bull of Boniface. In fact, he insists that the Bull is still effective.

"The fact is, then, Boniface VIII committed the Church to this proposition for the rest of her history. We cannot dodge this with a convenient that was then, this is now. If it was dogma once, it still is."

Now comes the spin. Or shall we say the dodge? Shea points out that, according to his research, the Roman Catholic religion "regarded Orthodox [religion] sacraments as valid" centuries before Vatican II. And also, the Roman Catholic religion "has always regarded the baptism of non-Catholics as valid- and a valid baptism means you are, in some sense, in union with Christ." [1]

Evidently, the inherent contradictions in all of this is completely lost on Mr. Shea. Let us point them out.

The Bull of Boniface plainly states that there is no remission of sin outside of the Roman Catholic religion. A valid baptism, according to Rome, forgives original sin. Hence, how can a non Roman baptism be valid since the only valid baptism is one that forgives sin and there is no remission of sin outside of Rome?

How can Othodox sacraments be valid if those in the Orthodox religion do not place themselves under the authority of the Pope at Rome? The Bull of Boniface clearly states that submission to the Pope is necessary for salvation. Orthodox sacraments are for salvation. How can they be regarded as valid for salvation by Rome when there is no salvation apart from capitulation to the Pope at Rome? The Orthodox do not submit to the Pope at Rome!
It is bewildering how anyone can think that the perfectly unambiguous decree of Unam Sanctum can be both affirmed but then alleviated by giving examples of non-compliance. Mr. Shea actually avows the hard cold facts of Unam Sanctum and thinks he protects the integrity of Unam Sanctum by showing instances where Rome has disregarded it!

In the real world, any historical denial of Unam Sanctum only adds to the already lucid contradictions between Unam Sanctum and Lumen Gentium!

The remainder of Shea's article is devoted to a defense of Roman Catholic sophistry [clever but fallacious reasoning]. Ignoring the crystal clear and hard line of Unam Sanctum, Shea attempts an end run. He labors to convince us that Unam Sanctum (We believe in her firmly and we confess with simplicity that outside of her there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins) is still in full force if understood correctly.

The right way to understand it is to realize that virtually everyone and anyone who is positively related to or involved in one single truth affirmed by the Roman Catholic religion is by default a part of the Roman Catholic religion. If you are an animist, who lives in the jungle but believe in God, you are part of Rome because Rome believes in God. If you are a Christian who does not believe that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ on earth you are nonetheless a part of Rome because you are subject to the teaching of Peter in the New Testament. By extension you become subject to the alleged office of Peter whether you know it, like it or believe it. In short, Shea says there is salvation only in the Roman Catholic religion but not to worry because everyone is (in some sense) in imperfect communion with Rome. If you have a religious bone in your body you are somehow a part of Rome.

In all this rhetoric, Shea anticipates that someone might like to know if they can count on Heaven in this alleged partial and imperfect union with Rome. This is, of course, the correct question. Exactly how close to the Roman religion must one get to be assured of Heaven? Mr. Shea calls this "the exact wrong question for somebody who is serious about a discipleship to Christ."

In dodging this question, Shea falls back onto the same old same old. He is convinced that the Roman Catholic religion is the bull's eye on the target of Christianity. All other so-called expressions of Christianity must come to the bull's eye to find complete communion with Jesus Christ. They may be on the target but they are rings away from Rome. Rome is at the center of the concentric reasoning of Rome. In Rome, salvation is a process and to be in Rome is to be closer to the cutting edge of the process. So, naturally Shea cannot say that there is finished salvation either in Rome or outside of Rome. The best he can say is that to be in Rome is to be closer to salvation than to be outside of Rome. Yet, he can applaud those outside as they use the things of Rome to aid their spiritual walk. Here Shea is at his Roman Catholic condescending best. He likens all other attempts at Christianity to a mere borrowing from Roman Catholicism. Like a novice using medicine out of a real doctor's bag to cure himself; so are all those who use bits and pieces of Rome without going to the great earthly physicians in Rome who know best how to use all spiritual medicine.

Shea also, for good measure, throws into his article a big heap of Roman Catholic heterodoxy. Roman Catholics do not believe in "once saved always saved." Roman Catholics "retain the radical freedom to reject the grace of God and end up among the damned." Roman Catholics at the evening of life "shall be judged on our love." Shea is convinced that the Lord says "that some of the saved are going to be astonished at their salvation."

All of this is common Roman Catholic schooling that has been refuted over and over again by Christian writers. What needs to be seen from this latest article is the willingness of a modern Roman Catholic apologist to spin the data and labor in vain to hide the inherent contradictions and obvious incongruity of his own religion. Let the reader decide. Let us place side by side Unam Sanctum and the spin of the modern Roman Catholic spin doctor.

"Urged by faith, we are obliged to believe and to maintain that the Church is one, holy, catholic, and also apostolic. We believe in her firmly and we confess with simplicity that outside of her there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins..,"

Unam Sanctum Boniface VIII

"Rather the Church [sic] teaches that because validly baptized non-Catholics are real members of the Body of Christ, they share in the life of the Blessed Trinity and therefore share with Catholics the hope of salvation." Mark P. Shea

Hopefully one can see from setting these quotes side by side that Shea contradicts Unam Sanctum. One can also see from Shea's quote that he trusts in baptismal regeneration. Also, and beware of this, the assumption here is that a valid baptism is the one that agrees with Rome. In addition, Shea is only willing to give Roman Catholics, and the validly baptized non-Catholics, a hope of eternal life despite giving to them life in the Blessed Trinity and granting them membership into the Body of Christ. Obviously, this is not Christianity.

There is not another religion on the face of the earth so far away from Christianity. Mr. Shea entitled his article, Just Exactly Where is the Church? The Christian response is that it certainly is not in the Roman Catholic religion. RMZ

[1] It needs to be pointed out that in his attempts to be as inclusive as Vatican II and as exclusive as Unam Sanctum, Shea cuts off enough rope to hang his position. He quotes from Romans 2:14-16 to illustrate Gentiles, who do by nature what the law requires, are going to be saved because of their obedience. Aside from the faulty soteriology, Shea misses the point that the entire Roman Catholic religion, including Boniface VII, had these verses at their disposal. Why did they not see that it was entirely against the Word of God to declare that there is no salvation outside the Roman Catholic religion in the light of their understanding of Paul's teaching in Romans Two? It appears Mark Shea needs to school the Pope and the Magisterium on the real meaning of Romans Two. Evidently they missed it!

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