Presbyterian vs. Roman Catholic Churches: What is the big difference?

Presbyterian and Roman Catholic churches share much in common. However, they differ in beliefs, values, and practices. Roman Catholicism vs. Presbyterian churches is one of the most debated topics in Christianity. Most people want to understand whether there is a big difference between Presbyterian and Roman Catholic churches.

The major difference between Presbyterian and Roman Catholic churches is where they locate their authority. Presbyterian churches view the Holy Scripture (Hebrew Bible) as the sole source of authority and divine inspiration. Conversely, Roman Catholic churches view the Pope and the Magisterium as the final sources of authority. In Roman Catholicism, the Holy Scripture (Greek Bible) is the same in authority as the church traditions. 

What is the difference between Presbyterian and Roman Catholicism? What are the similarities between Presbyterian and Roman Catholicism? What do Catholics think of Presbyterian? Are Catholic and Presbyterian the same? Do Presbyterians and Catholics use the same Bible? Keep reading to learn more!

What is the difference between Presbyterian and Roman Catholicism?

Presbyterianism and Roman Catholicism differ in beliefs, ideologies, values, and practices. The table below shows the major differences between the two denominations.

Belief, Value, or Practice Presbyterianism Roman Catholicism
NameThe name Presbyterian comes from the Greek term presbyteros which means “elder.” Therefore, the Presbyterian Church embraces an elder-led form of governance.The name Catholic comes from the Latin term catholicus, which means universal. The Roman Catholic Church was the first Christian Church. It was from the Roman Catholic Church that other denominations were born.
OriginThe Presbyterian Church was one of the churches born during the Protestant Reformation, started in 1517 by Martin Luther. Luther felt that some of the doctrines and practices taught in the Roman Catholic Church went against the Scripture. An example is the doctrine of purgatory, which teaches that there is a place where Christian believers go for purification before entering Heaven.The Roman Catholic Church was founded in the 1st century by Peter, the first Bishop of Rome. Other early influencers include other apostles/disciples of Christ and fathers, including Irenaeus and Ignatius of Antioch.
AuthorityPresbyterians believe that the Bible is the sole source of authority and divine inspiration.Roman Catholic churches view the Pope and the Magisterium as the final sources of authority. In Roman Catholicism, the Holy Scripture (Greek Bible) is the same in authority as the church traditions.
HeadThe Presbytery is the governing body in Presbyterianism. Church elders are in charge of the Presbytery.The Roman Catholic Church is ruled by a hierarchy of ordained priests, with the highest rank being that of the Pope (Bishop of Rome). He is considered to be the head of the Roman Catholic Church worldwide.
PurgatoryPresbyterianism does not affirm the existence of purgatory.Roman Catholicism affirms the existence of purgatory, which is the space between Heaven and earth where people go after physical death to be purified of their sins before entering Heaven.
BaptismPresbyterians baptize children when they are old enough to understand what it means to be baptized fully.Roman Catholics baptize infants.
Sacraments/ordinanceThere are only two sacraments in Presbyterianism; Holy Communion (Lord’s Supper) and Baptism. Unlike Roman Catholic followers, Presbyterians do not believe sacraments are a pathway to receiving God’s grace.There are seven sacraments in Presbyterianism; Baptism, the Eucharist (Holy Communion), conformation, ordination, anointing, and marriage. Their sacraments are a pathway to receiving God’s grace.
Holy CommunionPresbyterians call it the Lord’s Supper (Communion) and do not embrace the belief that the elements become the blood and body of Christ. However, the belief is that Christ is spiritually present in the cup and bread.Roman Catholic followers refer to it as the Eucharist and firmly believe that the elements become the blood and body of Christ. This is called the doctrine of transubstantiation.
SaintsPresbyterians believe that the term Saint, used in the New Testament, refers to Christians in general.In Roman Catholicism, a Saint is a person who has lived with great honor and virtue, prompting the church to consider them for canonization after death.
MaryPresbyterians consider Mary to have been a sinner like all of us. The belief is that she was not a perpetual virgin. Therefore, it is not right to pray through her as Catholics do.Catholics consider Mary to have lived a life without sin. The belief is that she was a perpetual virgin. Therefore, it is right to pray through her.
CelibacyPresbyterians believe that celibate priesthood is non-biblical. Therefore, in Presbyterianism, celibacy is not a requirement for those seeking to qualify for the priesthood.In Roman Catholicism, celibacy is a requirement for those wishing to become priests, Bishops, and popes.
MembershipThe Presbyterian Church has approximately 75 million followers worldwide.The Roman Catholic Church has around 1.3 billion followers worldwide and is the largest Christian denomination.
BibleThe Presbyterian Church uses the Hebrew Bible. The Bible has sixty books; it does not include the deuterocanonical books.The Roman Catholic Church uses the Greek Bible. This Bible has seventy-three books, including the seven deuterocanonical books.
Veneration of Mary and the SaintsPresbyterianism teaches that praying through Mary and the Saints is not correct. One should only pray to or through Jesus Christ.The Roman Catholic Church affirms veneration of Mary and Saints. The belief is that Mary and the Saints are closer to God. Therefore, they act as mediators between Christian believers and God.
Infallibility of the PopePresbyterians do not affirm the infallibility of the Bishop of Rome, who Catholics call the Pope.Roman Catholicism affirms the infallibility of the Pope. The belief is that the Pope is trustworthy and incapable of committing errors when pronouncing dogma.

What are the similarities between Presbyterian and Roman Catholicism?

Although different, Presbyterianism and Roman Catholicism share much in common. The two churches have similar beliefs, values, and practices. The table below summarizes the similarities between Presbyterianism and Roman Catholicism.

Belief, Value, or Practice Presbyterianism Roman Catholicism
Early Church influencersPresbyterianism teaches that the original Bishop was Peter-the disciple of Jesus.Roman Catholicism teaches that the original Bishop was Peter, the Disciple of Jesus.
Days of WorshipIn Presbyterianism, Church services are held on Sundays.Roman Catholic Churches hold masses on Sundays.
Nature of GodPresbyterianism teaches that God exists in three forms; the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.Roman Catholicism teaches that God exists in three forms; the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Jesus ChristHe, the Son of GodHe is the Son of God
Early foundersApostles/Disciples of ChristApostles/Disciples of Christ
Apostles CreedAccepted and used in massAccepted and used in services
Nicene CreedAccepted and used in massAccepted and used in services
View of end of timesAffirms the second coming of Jesus Christ during the end of times.Affirms the second coming of Jesus Christ during the end of times.
HellPresbyterianism agrees that hell exists. It is the place where all non-believers and unrepentant sinners will have eternity.Roman Catholicism agrees that hell exists. It is the place where all non-believers and unrepentant sinners will have eternity.
HeavenPresbyterians agree with the notion of Heaven, which is the place where believers will spend eternity.Roman Catholicism affirms that Heaven exists and teaches that it is where believers will spend eternity.
View of end of timesPresbyterians acknowledge the second coming of Messiah during the end of times.Roman Catholic followers acknowledge Messiah’s second coming during the end of times.

What do Catholics think of Presbyterian?

Catholics see Presbyterians as heretics because they are part of the Protestant Reformation movement. However, Presbyterians are still welcome to Roman Catholic masses. Those that seek to become members of the Catholic Church are welcome.

Is Catholic and Presbyterian the same?

Catholic and Presbyterian churches have much in common. For instance, both believe that the Holy Scriptures are a source of authority and divine inspiration. They also believe that God exists in three forms: the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. The churches owe their origin to the early Christian church, which was started by the followers of Jesus, including Peter and Paul.

However, although these churches have much in common such as a common origin, they differ in beliefs, values, and practices. For instance, Roman Catholic followers are ruled by a hierarchy of priests headed by the Pope. On the other hand, the Presbyterian Church is led by elders.

What is the big difference between Presbyterian and Roman Catholic Churches
Do Presbyterians and Catholics use the same Bible? See below

Do Presbyterians and Catholics use the same Bible?

Presbyterians and Catholics use different Bibles. Presbyterians use the Hebrew Bible-66 books; on the other hand, Catholics use the Greek Bible-73 texts. The Catholic Bible includes the seven books that leaders of the Protestant movement, which Presbyterianism belongs to, decide to omit from their version of the Bible, citing contradictory doctrines such as purgatory.

References

abujacatholicarchdiocese.org. (2022). What does the Reformed Presbyterian Church believe? Retrieved December 16, 2022

centralpres.org. (2019, August 13). Weekly Commentary: Some things Presbyterians do not believe. Retrieved December 16, 2022

Cssphl.org. (2022). What is the difference between Catholic and Protestant? – CSS Philadelphia. Retrieved December 16, 2022

pclawrenceville.org. (2021). What are the differences between Presbyterianism and Catholicism? Retrieved December 16, 2022

scfaith.org. (n.d.). History and beliefs of the Presbyterian Church. Retrieved December 16, 2022

Christian Faith Guide exists to help you learn more about the Christian faith. It focuses on not only Christians but also those interested in receiving Christ as their savior. Christian Faith Guide aims to provide trustworthy information that is easy to understand. We offer tools that are grounded in the Christian faith. Our guide serves to answer questions about Christianity, including questions about the Bible, The Church, and Christian life. Our joy is to help people get through the challenges that they face as Christians. Our mission is to share resources covering different books of the Bible to give you more knowledge of the Holy Book.

Leave a Comment