Should the Next Pope Revise the Creed?
Should the next pope revise the Creed? If he takes the name John Paul III- Yes! If he takes the name Francis II- then no.
I believe the Creed is due for an update. If the successor of our current Holy Father, Francis takes the name John Paul III or Benedict XVII then perhaps he would be open to adding some lines to the Creed that we profess at Mass.
Those names would indicate that the program of the next Holy Father would be to stabilize the unsteady, divided church and clarify the doctrinal commitment that we all make when we give our assent to the teachings of the Church each Sunday.
Can a Creed be Changed?
The first creed of the Church was the Apostle’s Creed. It served as a structure for the baseline of what the Church expects its members to believe before the canon of Scripture was settled. Later, the Nicene Creed (325 AD) was promulgated as the normative statement of faith in response to the Arian heresy. This is the Creed that we say each Sunday at Mass. It did not cancel out the Apostle’s Creed, it just added important lines as a way to combat heresy. It is accepted as authoritative by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican and most Protestant groups. Similarly, a new creed would not cancel out the Nicene Creed.
The creed is a formula that expresses doctrinal truth but it is not like Scripture which can never be altered. The precedent for altering the wording has been set. It has been updated or changed several times. To combat ongoing heresy, in 381 at the Council of Constantinople, it added more lines about the Incarnation and Holy Spirit. In the eleventh century the pope officially made the filioque addition formal and this led to the Great schism between East and West. Most recently, there was a change to the first word of the Creed from ‘We believe’ to ‘I believe’.
When we compare the Nicene Creed to the Apostle’s Creed we can see how the Nicene Creed was meant to fortify the Church's doctrine against contemporary attacks and heresies. After the Arian denial of Christ’s divinity and the Eastern churches denial of the Holy Spirit’s substantive unity with the Father, it added lines which state emphatically and clearly the actual truth and the holy doctrine as it relates to the person of Christ and his divine nature as well as the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the other Persons in the Holy Trinity.
It wasn’t exactly a victory lap for team Athanasius, but it was a final nail in the coffin for the dominant heresy (Arianism) that became so pervasive that it threatened the unity of the Church. The thing is…it came after a Church council. Therefore, it had the credibility and authority behind it which the full weight of the Council of Nicea brought to bear.
Would we need a Vatican III?
Some conservatives have argued for a Vatican III, an ecumenical council which would address all of the deviation from tradition that we have seen since Vatican II. Vatican III, they argue, would not cancel out the program of Vatican II but would instead recover the connection and continuity with the Church of our past. It would once and for all stamp out the so-called, ‘spirit of Vatican II’ which became a type of Frankenstein monster which took on a life of its own fed by the ambiguity written into some of the conciliar documents.
That ambiguity seems to be the fuel of the current pontificate’s agenda and perpetuated by the new way of ‘being church’ namely ‘synodality’. I don’t think the next Holy Father must convene a Vatican III council to draft a new profession of Faith. As long as he makes it clear that in promulgating a new, revised Creed his intention is to save the Church from immediate schism and from falling into further doctrinal chaos. It would be a quicker remedy for and a defense put up against further efforts at a quasi-heretical reform. It would also be a weapon to fight the current battle rather than a flag planted in enemy territory declaring a definitive victory.
In other words, it would be a good first step that the next Holy Father could take to sending a message of hope, ‘not all is lost’ and the jaws of death will not prevail against the deposit of faith. Perhaps it would serve as an impetus to make these clarifications more formal and collegial in an ecumenical council (Vatican III) focused on reconnecting the Church to what was good and true pre-Vatican II.
Proposals for a new, revised Creed
So what would a new, revised Creed look like? It would look alot like the Nicene Creed. It would, however, have lines in it that dismantle the ticking time-bombs of the current theological heresies (Germany) that swirl around the current Church.
Realistically, it won’t settle theological controversies once and for all but it would be a prescient response to the current state of affairs.
To start with it would address the lack of belief in the Real Presence with this line…
“We believe in the Eucharist, the miracle of transubstantiation, the change of bread and wine into the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ”
Next it would address the heresy of gender ideology and the overall, spiritual attack on marriage and family.
“We believe God does not err in making us male and female. We believe that our gender is a divine gift, not a social construct’.
“We believe marriage is designed by God as the basis and foundation of family life to be a union of one man and one woman indissoluble, open to the conception of life and faithful until death”.
Finally, it will address the sanctity human life and the heretical ideologies of scientism and transhumanism as false gods.
"We believe in the sanctity of human life which must be safeguarded and respected from conception to natural death ".
“We believe that science and technology must be guided by and constrained by the limits imposed by the timeless moral law and truth of the Gospel message.”
“We believe that humanity can never save itself and that there is only one Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ”.
“We believe in one, objective truth which demands that our subjective perception of truth be aligned to it”.
I know, I know...adding these lines would mean Mass is an extra couple minutes long! I also realize that these changes would only affect the Catholics who actually attend Sunday Mass. Imagine how surprised the Easter/Christmas Catholics would be if they heard this updated version!
I realize that I am being hopeful, perhaps naive, but if we don't get a John Paul III and instead we get Francis II as the next pope (which most people expect), then all we can do is pray that this revised Creed be a miraculous and unforseen ‘surprise of the Holy Spirit’.