The history of the Paul VI’s Credo of the People of God is rather unusual.  Jacques Maritain was praying one day and had the idea that what the Church needed in its post-conciliar turmoil was for the pope to make a profession of his faith, but without condemning any errors. He told Charles Journet, newly a cardinal, about his idea, and Journet was enthusiastic, as he always was about Maritain’s ideas.  A bit later, Paul VI said to Journet, ‘What do you think we should do to mark the end of the Year of Faith?’  Journet said, ‘Why don’t you make a profession of your faith, suited for the times?’ The pope said, ‘Not a bad idea, can you draft something for me?’  Journet went away and told Maritain, and Maritain drafted it.  Journet then went back to the pope, and said, ‘Here it is.  I didn’t know what to put, so I got our friend Jacques to do it’ (the discerning reader may see that I am paraphrasing a bit).  Whether the Supreme Pontiff was at all embarrassed at having a profession of faith written for him by a lay man, history does not relate.  But he obviously liked it, since almost all of the Credo that he pronounced on 29th June 1968 in St Peter’s Square is taken from what Maritain had written, even word for word.  Yet there are some things which Maritain wrote which didn’t get in.  Here are some of the main differences:

The pope said: “We give thanks, however, to the divine goodness that very many believers can testify with us before men to the unity of God, even though they know not the mystery of the most holy Trinity”.  Maritain had mentioned the Jews and Muslims explicitly; the pope took this out.

Speaking of our Lord, Maritain had written ‘this man was aware from on high of his divinity’.  Paul took this out, presumably because it had not been defined as dogma.

Maritain got in a plug for Journet’s book at one point by using the phrase “the Church of Word incarnate”; Paul changed this to ‘the Church’.

Speaking of our Lady’s perpetual virginity, Maritain said that Muslims believe in this, and that this fact is a sign of hope amid the sadness of our world.  Paul took this out, and it does seem a bit out of place in a creed.

Speaking of the Assumption, Maritain said that Jesus and Mary are ‘this centre of world of the beyond (ce monde de l’au-delà) that we metaphorically call heaven’. Paul took this out, perhaps because he didn’t quite know what it meant.  On the other hand, he added: “The Blessed Mother of God, the New Eve, Mother of the Church continues in heaven her maternal role with regard to Christ’s members, cooperating with the birth and growth of divine life in the souls of the redeemed.”

Maritain mentioned the fall of the angels, and the fact that they tempt us.  Paul took this out.  I don’t know why.  Perhaps he thought it would provoke ridicule; or perhaps it was because no other creed has mentioned this.

Maritain said some things which didn’t quite teach the evolution of men from apes but suggest it, especially about how Adam and Eve ‘appear at the summit of animality’.  Paul took these things out.

Maritain had a lot of anonymous Christianity, about how people who didn’t know Christ could still be living in grace and charity and were invisibly members of the Church.  He even wanted the pope to say of the phrase ‘out of the Church no salvation’ that “it is true in itself but has often been badly understood in the past”.  Paul made sure that he didn’t say anything that went beyond Lumen gentium.

Talking of the Blessed Sacrament, Maritain wanted him first to use the language of substance and accidents, then to say that the doctrine of transubstantiation was expressly taught by the Council of Trent, and then (inadequately, as far as I can see) to say that if to-day any misguided philosophers refused the concept of substance, they still have to maintain that the bread and wine which exist independently of our minds cease to exist after the consecration.  The Pope removed the mention of people denying the notion of substance, saying that all philosophical accounts of the mystery must maintain that the bread and wine which exist independently of our minds cease to exist after the consecration.

Maritain, which I didn’t realise, used the rather beautiful phrase about the Blessed Sacrament being the living heart of each of our churches.  Paul kept this, though for some reason he removed another phrase, about Christ’s presence being a mysterious sign of His love for each person.  Perhaps he thought that this was too personal an addition of Maritain’s, rather than a simple repetition of past teaching.

Where the difference is really apparent is toward the end.  Maritain went into full throttle integral humanism mode about three-quarters of the way through his draft, saying that the Church passes through different historic ages in which she frees herself from everything which obscures her true countenance, and that “the second council of the Vatican has inaugurated one of these new ages of the Church”, and that the Church has “definitively renounced all claim of authority (apart from moral and spiritual) over the governance of the things of the world”, so as to “manifest henceforth her own freedom in its fulness”.  He also says that parallel with this new historic age of the Church, there is also a new historic age of the world and of culture going on.   This must have all appealed to Papa Montini, but none of it appears in the Credo.  I suspect that Ottaviani told him that it wouldn’t do.  One imagines Paul looking on rather wistfully as the cardinal scrunched up that particular sheet of paper and dropped it calmly into the nearest bin.