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Credo: What I believe, not just what an institution teaches

July 15, 2011

Father James Schall, SJ, writing for Crisis, makes a fascinating point on the translation of the Nicene Creed in the new English-language edition of the Roman Missal. The new translation properly renders the opening word Credo as "I believe." The translation currently in use has "We believe."

The problem with the formula “we believe” is that the one who recites it may not in fact be affirming what is in the Creed. Instead of saying “I believe” as a public expression of what he holds, he means rather, “We believe” — that is, this is what this organization holds, though not necessarily what I hold myself. The unity of belief is broken.

Father Schall's argument has implications for dissident Catholics, who might honestly say that "we"--the community of Catholics--believe all the teachings of the Church. But the dissident may find it more difficult to say "I believe."


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  • Posted by: Cornelius - Jul. 17, 2011 3:42 PM ET USA

    I think the proposition that "We believe", though undeniably NOT the original Nicene Creed, is a cover for dissidents is a bit of a stretch. If anything, "We believe" mitigates AGAINST the elevation of the individual and emphasizes the whole Church.

  • Posted by: GabrielAustin9013 - Jul. 16, 2011 12:52 PM ET USA

    And so we also say "I confess".

  • Posted by: marttywinston6762 - Jul. 16, 2011 12:28 AM ET USA

    So if "We believe" is a statement made by the leader for the whole community, what about when we pray the "Our Father" together?

  • Posted by: Steve214 - Jul. 15, 2011 10:10 PM ET USA

    But there is another critical issue: truth! God is truth! Falsehood is from the lower realm. "Credo" is the word being translated from the official Latin version of the Novus Ordo Mass. "Credo" means "I believe." Translating it as "We believe" is being deliberately untruthful: and it is a dynamic equivalent only for the pantheist. The mass is the highest form of worship: when we are closest to God--it is here where we have been deliberately untruthful for over 40 years.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 15, 2011 9:35 PM ET USA

    Fr. Schall is an invaluable treasure of Catholic orthodoxy, and one of the great political philosophers of the past fifty years. The mis-translation he refers to begs the question as to the intentions of the post-Vatican II translators. "We believe" not only provides cover for dissidents, it betrays an elevation of personal conscience relative to orthodoxy and folds seamlessly into the "ecumenical" nature of post-Vatican II liturgical "reforms" (so might say abuses).

  • Posted by: Basil - Jul. 15, 2011 7:05 PM ET USA

    The original Nicene Creed from the First Ecumenical Council was promulgated in Greek. It begins with the word "Pistevo" which means "I believe" not "we". The new translation is the correct one historically regardless of other academic intellectualizations.

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Jul. 15, 2011 6:18 PM ET USA

    This is well said. The new translation is what we need in order to challenge (at least in theory) each of us to examine our consciences and see if we are truly Catholic. And we'll need to do it every solemnity and Sunday.