Roman Catholicism and Protestantism are sects of Christianity. Roman Catholicism is based upon the teachings of early Christianity. Conversely, Protestantism is a reformed sect of Christianity that is based on reformed teachings rather than those of the early Christian Church. As the Roman Catholic vs. Protestant debate continues to rage, what most people want to understand is, are they really different?
Roman Catholicism and Protestantism share much in common but still differ in many areas-beliefs, values, and traditions. One of the significant differences between the two denominations is the Bible used. The Roman Catholic Church uses the Greek Bible, while Protestant churches use the Hebrew Bible. Also, the Roman Catholic Church affirms seven sacraments. Conversely, Protestants affirm only two of the seven. One of the similarities between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism is that they both believe in hell- a place where non-believers will live for eternity.
Do Roman Catholicism and Protestantism differ? What are the similarities between Roman Catholic and protestant, and is there a difference between Roman Catholic and protestant? Keep reading to learn more about the differences and similarities between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism!
Differences between Roman Catholic and Protestant
Roman Catholicism and Protestantism were one denomination. However, in the early 16th century, Martin Luther instigated a Protestant Reformation that led to the emergence of the Protestant churches. Luther cited contradictory doctrines and malpractices in the Roman Catholic Church as the motive behind the need for reforms in the church. Therefore, there are many differences between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. The table below summarizes the differences between the Protestant movement and Roman Catholicism.
|Belief, Value, or Practice||Roman Catholicism||Protestantism|
|Name||The name Catholic is derived from the Latin term catholicus, which means universal. The Roman Catholic is considered the first Christian Church. It is from Roman Catholicism that other churches were born.||The name Protestant is derived from the Latin term Protestari which means to bear witness, or the English term protest.|
|Founding||The church was founded during the 1st century by Apostle Peter, other apostles, and other followers of Christ.||The Protestant churches were born during the 16th-century Reformation. Founders of the Protestant movement were protesting certain practices and doctrines in the Roman Catholic Church they deemed contradictory to the Christianity faith.|
|Early contributors||Early influencers of the Roman Catholic Church include Peter, Paul, and other Apostles of Christ, 1st Bishops of Rome, early Roman Catholic fathers, including Irenaeus and Ignatius of Antioch.||Early influences of Protestantism are the Apostles of Christ, early Church fathers, including Augustine. 16th-century reformists, including Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Ulrich Zwingli.|
|Membership||The Roman Catholic Church is the largest Christian faith worldwide, with approximately 1.3 billion followers.||Protestantism is the second-largest Christian movement, with between 900 million to 1 billion followers worldwide.|
|Authority||The final authority is the Roman Catholic Pope/Bishop of Rome and the Magisterium.||The final authority is the word of God- the Bible/Scripture.|
|Bible||The Roman Catholic Church uses the Greek Bible, which contains 73 books-includes deuterocanonical books.||Protestants use the Hebrew Bible-it contains sixty-six books-excluding the deuterocanonical books.|
|Tradition||Roman Catholic followers believe tradition and the Holy Scripture must be accepted and taken with the same devotion and reverence.||Protestants do not view tradition as equal in authority to the Holy Scripture. They believe that the Bible is the only source of divine inspiration.|
|Celibacy||Celibacy is required to be a member of the clergy.||Celibacy is not mandatory to be a member of the clergy in Protestantism.|
|Salvation||In Roman Catholicism, salvation comes through meritorious works and faith. The seven sacraments are essential elements of salvation in this church.||Protestants believe that salvation is by faith alone, through grace, in Jesus Christ alone. In accordance with this line of thought, justification is a specific point where God declares you righteous after you become a born-again Christian.|
|Justification||According to Roman Catholicism, to be justified before God, one has to be made righteous and holy. Faith in Jesus Christ is only the start of being a saved person. You must build on your faith by being an active member of the Church/good works.||Protestants distinguish between sanctification (an ongoing journey of seeking salvation) and the one-time act of justification (being declared as a righteous person by God based on your faith).|
|The Eucharist||In Roman Catholicism, the edible ritual elements distributed to followers during Holy Masses become the blood and body of Jesus Christ. This is known as the doctrine of transubstantiation.||Protestants do not affirm the doctrine of transubstantiation. To them, the bread and wine shared during masses is a way of commemorating Jesus Christ, but the elements do not change into the blood and body of Christ.|
|Hierarchy||Roman Catholicism embraces a vertical structure that runs from the Pope (Bishop of Rome), Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, to Roman Catholic Followers.||Protestantism embraces a horizontal structure. Protestants believe in the priesthood of all believers; all baptized followers are accorded the same power in Protestant Churches.|
|Veneration of Mary and the Saints||Roman Catholicism embraces the veneration of Mary and the Saints. They believe veneration is praying through Mary and the Saints but not Praying to them.||Protestantism that not affirm veneration of Mary or Saints.|
|Purgatory||Roman Catholicism affirms purgatory, a place between heaven and earth where dead people are purified of their sins before entering heaven.||Does not affirm the existence of purgatory. To go to heaven, one has to seek forgiveness here on earth.|
|Sacraments||Affirms seven sacraments; Baptism, the Holy Communion, Confirmation, Confession, Marriage, Anointing of the Sick, and Holy Orders.||Affirms only two of the seven sacraments; Baptism and the Holy Communion.|
|Distribution of the Holy Communion||Practices closed Communion. Non-members are not allowed to partake in the Holy Communion.||Practices open Communion. Non-members can take the Holy Communion if they have been baptized and confirmed.|
|Infallibility of the Pope||Affirms the infallibility of the Pope.||Rejects the infallibility of the Pope|
|Who qualifies to be called a Saint||Persons who have contributed immensely to the church and who do not have to pass through purgatory. The church deems these individuals holy.||Any Christian can qualify to be a Saint.|
Similarities between Roman Catholic and protestant
Although Roman Catholicism and Protestantism differ in many areas, they have similarities. These similarities exist because Roman Catholicism and Protestantism are Christianity sects, meaning they have to share something in common. The table below summarizes the similarities.
|Belief, Value, or Practice||Roman Catholicism||Protestantism|
|Hell||The Roman Catholic Church affirms the existence of hell. Non-believers will spend their time in hell for eternity.||Protestants affirm the existence of hell. Non-believers will spend their time in hell for eternity.|
|God||The Roman Catholic Church teaches that God exists in three forms (the Holy Trinity); God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.||Protestants believe in the Holy Trinity; God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.|
|Bible||Roman Catholicism acknowledges the Bible as a source of divine inspiration/authority.||Protestants believe the Bible is the sole source of divine inspiration/authority.|
|Jesus Christ||Roman Catholicism teaches that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Second in the Holy Trinity), that he was pure, died for our sins, and rose from the dead on the third day and ascended into heaven.||Protestantism affirms that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Second in the Holy Trinity), was pure, died for our sins, and rose from the dead on the third day and ascended into heaven.|
|Apostles Creed||Accepted and used in mass||Accepted and used in services|
|Nicene Creed||Accepted and used in mass||Accepted and used in services|
|View of end of times||Affirms the second coming of Jesus Christ during the end of times.||Affirms the second coming of Jesus Christ during the end of times.|
|New Testament||The Roman Catholic’s Bible has twenty seven books in the New Testament.||The Bible used in Protestant churches has twenty-seven books in the New Testament.|
|Place of worship||Cathedral, church, chapel||Cathedral, church, chapel|
|Birth of Jesus||Birth by Virgin Mary||Birth by Virgin Mary|
|Death of Christ||Crucifixion||Crucifixion|
|Savior||Jesus Christ||Jesus Christ|
Verdict: Is there really a difference between Roman Catholic and protestant?
The differences between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism outweigh their similarity. For instance, Roman Catholic churches use the Greek Bible, which has seventy-three books, while Protestant churches use the Hebrew Bible, which has sixty-six books. Also, Roman Catholicism views the Holy Scriptures and traditions as equals in authority. Conversely, Protestantism views the Holy Scriptures as the only sole source of authority/divine inspiration. One of the similarities between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism is that they both affirm that God exists in three forms (the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit).
carm.org. (2021). What is the difference between Protestantism and Catholicism? Retrieved December 16, 2022
Cssphl.org. (2022). What is the difference between Catholic and Protestant? – CSS Philadelphia. Retrieved December 16, 2022
GotQuestions.org. (2013). What are the differences between Catholics and Protestants? Retrieved December 16, 2022
thegospelcoalition.org. (2017). Protestant and Catholic: What’s the difference? Retrieved December 16, 2022
voice.dts.edu. (2020). 7 key differences between Protestant and Catholic doctrine. Retrieved December 16, 2022
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