Anglican Vs. Catholic: What Is the Main Difference?

As a pastor who has evangelized in many parts of the world, I recognize the importance of understanding the doctrines taught in different denominations; especially when a region is dominated by a certain church. Take, for instance, England, where Anglicanism is the main faith. Since many may not know about Anglican beliefs, I thought it best to compare it against the world’s most popular Christian denomination which also happens to be the church it is most likened to. Hence my in-depth research on Catholics vs Anglicans.

Catholics and Anglicans are believed to have both similarities and differences. For example, the two churches are thought to differ on matters of priesthood, authority, the Eucharist, and doctrine but they have similar prayers, sacraments, and, beliefs.

Take a walk with me as I deep dive into Anglicanism and Catholicism. Keep reading to discover the difference and similarities between Catholic and Anglicans, which denomination came first and much more!

What Is the Difference Between Catholics And Anglican?

Anglican Vs. Catholic
Catholics vs Anglican. Image source: Pixabay

Let us begin by looking at how Catholics and Anglicans contrast. These are their notable differences:


Anglicans and Catholics have starkly different teachings and beliefs around priesthood. Although both have the Sacrament of Holy Orders, Catholicism only ordains men as clergy, while in the Anglican Church, men and women can both become priests and bishops. Additionally, priests in the Anglican faith can marry and have children, while Catholic clergymen have a strict vow to celibacy. So opposed are the churches’ beliefs on priesthood that in 1896, Pope Leo XIII declared Anglican Orders “absolutely null and utterly void”.

Leadership Structure

Another major difference between these two churches is Anglicans follow a communal style of leadership, while Catholics have a centralized form of governance with a strict hierarchy in place. In Anglicanism, the Archbishop of Canterbury is known as the “first among equals” in the Anglican communion. He does not, however, have jurisdiction over the dioceses. Alternatively, the Roman Catholic Church reveres the Bishop of Rome as the Vicar of Christ (the Pope), with authority that flows from him down and outwards to his bishops around the world.

Holy Communion Beliefs

In the Anglican faith, the Eucharist or the Sacrament of Holy Communion is seen as a symbolic act, while Catholicism, on the other hand, believes in the miracle of transubstantiation. It is the teaching that the bread and wine shared during the Eucharist literally change into the flesh and blood of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Catholics support this concept using Matthew 26:26-30, where Jesus told His Disciples that the bread and wine were his body and blood and so they must eat it. Anglicans, however, lean towards the belief of symbolic remembrance and consubstantiation. This means that the Holy Communion brings the Lord’s grace and not His actual presence.

Other Differences

Although not as paramount as the differences discussed above, here are a few minor differences between Catholicism and Anglicanism:

  • The Catholic Bible has 73 books (including Apocrypha), while the Anglican one has 66.
  • The Anglican faith is contemplating the probability of ordaining LGBTQ clergy, while the Catholic church completely opposes it
  • The Catholic faith has more believers (1.3 billion worldwide), while Anglicans are not as many (85 million).
  • Anglicanism does not advocate for divorce, but it is permissible if the marriage has completely broken down. Catholics, on the other hand, do not allow divorce. Annulments are only granted in special cases.

What Are the Similarities Between Catholic and Anglican?

Anglican Vs. Catholic - What Is the Main Difference?
Similarities Between Catholic and Anglican. Image source: Pixabay

There is a reason why many people compare these two churches. It is because they are also very similar. In fact, some argue that they have more similarities than differences. Here are some of their commonalities:


First and foremost, the Anglican and Catholic churches share a common ancient origin as they both stem from the Eastern Orthodox churches. These churches were the same until Henry VIII divorced the Catholic Church during the Reformation of the 16th century to form the Anglican Church.

Prayers & Mass

Both Roman Catholics and Anglicans recite similar prayers such as the Nicene Creed and the Apostles Creed. Some Anglicans even pray the Rosary like Catholics. As well, if one was to visit both these churches’ parishes and mass services, one would observe that their liturgies are almost identical. Lastly, priest vestments in Anglican and Catholic churches are very similar.


Sacraments are holy ceremonies and rituals that are administered as a means of imparting God’s grace. Anglicans and Catholics are believed to administer identical sacraments, namely, Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, Penance/Confession, Matrimony, Anointing of the Sick, and Holy Orders.

Sainthood and Feast Days

Additionally, both the Anglican and Roman Catholic faith revere saints, keep calendars of saints, and celebrate feast days. For instance, both Catholics and Anglicans commemorate the Ugandan martyrs of 1977 who were murdered under President Idi Amin’s orders.

Monasteries and Covenants

Religious women and men (monks and nuns) also have spaces in the Anglican and Catholic faiths. Both churches allow them to make holy vows to celibacy. Anglicanism and Catholicism also both have monasteries and convents.

Christian And Biblical Beliefs

Lastly, Catholics and Anglicans share common Christian beliefs such as the Holy Trinity, the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the Ten Commandments, and Paradise to name a few.

Which Came First Between Catholic and Anglican?

It is speculated that the Catholic Church came before the Anglican Church. Being one of the branches of early Christianity, Roman Catholicism is believed to have started around 30 CE from the teachings of Jesus Christ in Jewish Palestine. It is taught in the Catholic faith that Jesus Himself founded the church by instituting the sacraments. St. Peter the Apostle is also believed to have been the first pope, according to Matthew 16:18. Alternatively, Anglicanism first started in the 1500s during the Protestant Reforms when many protestant denominations, such as Lutherans, also broke away from the Church of Rome (Roman Catholics). The church’s birth was instigated by King Henry VIII’s wish to have an annulment since his wife was unable to bear him an heir. It is typically believed that Anglicanism came from the Roman Catholic faith, so Catholicism is older.

What Do Anglicans Think of Catholic?

Anglican Vs. Catholic
What do Anglicans think of Catholic? Image source: Pixabay

According to some Anglican believers, such as those at Anglican Compass, Roman Catholicism is a true Christian Church. They believe that Anglicans and Catholics, for the most part, have similar teachings and doctrines despite the few opposing dogma on theology and practice. Some Anglicans affirm that Catholics have correct teachings on Biblical Scripture, Jesus Christ, and the overall faith. The Anglican faith believes in communion of the churches and so, organizations such as the Anglican Communion work towards uniting Christians (regardless of denomination) in worship and celebration. Essentially, it is widely believed by many Anglicans that Christians, including Catholics, are one in the eyes of God.

Can Anglicans Attend Catholic Churches?

It is widely believed that Anglicans may attend Catholic church services, but they cannot partake in the Sacrament of Holy Communion because they do not believe in the miracle of transubstantiation. Some Anglican clergy believe that Anglicans and Catholics can partake in each other’s worship fully, including receiving the Eucharist, but a vast majority of Catholics beg to differ. This is mainly due to the belief in transubstantiation, which is a major difference between the two faiths.

With the Holy Eucharist being central to Catholic worship, non-belief in the body and blood of Christ in the Sacrament is thought to make it impermissible for non-Catholics to receive it. Proponents of this position look at John 6:53-58, where Jesus Christ explained the significance of receiving Holy Communion. He likened the bread and wine to His flesh and blood and stated that through the sacrament believers will receive life. Since Anglicans take bread and wine during the Holy Eucharist to be symbolic and not actual, it is thought that they should not receive the sacrament in Catholic churches.

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