If I am a Protestant, which I am, and have not bowed the knee to the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, can I be truly saved? Not according to Bull Unam Sanctum:
Furthermore We declare, state and define that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of all men that they submit to the Roman Pontiff. (Bull Unam Sanctum of Pope Boniface VIII, 1302. The Teaching of the Catholic Church, by Neuner and Roos, S. J., p. 204, No. 342)
If this is true, and still stands today, this really does not bode well for ecumenicism, unless of course by ecumenicism we mean that Protestants go back to Rome, and her Pope.
There is more, the Pope for Catholics is the embodiment of St. Peter, and thus he holds the keys to the kingdom. He alone decides orthodoxy, heterodoxy, and heresy. Note how high he is placed by Vatican Council I:
Hence We teach and declare that by the appointment of our Lord the Roman Church possesses a superiority of ordinary power over all other Churches, and that this power of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff, which is truly Episcopal, is immediate, to which all, of whatever rite or dignity, both pastors and faithful, both individually and collectively, are bound by their duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, to submit, not only in matters that pertain to faith and morals, but also in those that pertain to discipline and government of the Church throughout the world. (Vatican Council, pp. 224-225, No. 379)
I realize that Vatican II (1960’s) tried to “soften” the blow of such dogmatic statements, but if in fact we are going to be consistent and hold to continuity with the teaching of the Roman Pontiff’s; I don’t see how the above can be truly “softened.” If the above is true, again, any form of Ecumenicism, between Protestants and Catholics is going to have to be “one-sided.” In the sense that the Protestant side will necessarily have to recognize the “Supreme Authority” of the Pope’s office.
Any “bishop’s” authority, even Apostle’s authority, is subsidiary to his fidelity to the Gospel Message; insofar as the “Apostle” diverges from the simple Gospel message, then his “authority” is called into suspect. Of course this was the reason for the Protestant Reformation, wasn’t it? Furthermore, there is a whole complex related to the issue of assigning the label “Apostle” to anyone, post first century (i.e. those who actually saw the Resurrected Jesus). If we are to hold to an “Apostolic Succession,” of the kind that provides the basis and framework for the Pope and the Roman curia; then apart from just assuming a genetic continuum of sorts, there needs to be substantiation beyond an ad hoc self-proclamation—i.e. of the kind that Rome assumes.