What is the Difference



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  • What is the Difference

    How are Catholics different from Christians? Do Catholics believe in Jesus?

  • #2
    A Basic Outline of Differences

    I believe you mean to ask the difference between a Catholic and a Protestant, where both are idealized as “Christian.” That’s a difficult question to answer because it is requires considerable knowledge of the Catholic tradition. I have some knowledge and have written on the differences since the 1980’s, but am far from an authority on the subject. I will try to sum it up in an outline, but it would take a large book to address the question adequately, and more time that I have in the next 10 years.

    Before I start, I must be clear in my own position, that I see as many errors in one faith as the other, however I choose to be Protestant for some very distinct reasons—critical ones. The below took me four hours to recompile from old notes and other necessary updates.

    Catholicism and Protestants are divergent faiths. They are built on different foundations, and they propose different ways of salvation, although the person of Christ is the theme of both systems. Until 1054 CE all Christians were called “Catholics” save for small number that were either regional or confined to a particular nation. In 1054, a group of Christians soon identified as the Orthodox separated from the Roman Church over a dispute largely attributed to the interpretation of hierarchical authority. Protestantism, dated at 1517 CE from Martin Luther's Reformation turned institutional revolution is what most all modern Christians save the Catholics and Orthodox trace their heritage back to, though most modern Christians do not strictly adhere to early Protestant practices save in general beliefs and loose practices. Catholics would therefore claim that they are the true Christian identity having preserved intact Christian belief, practices, morals, traditions, doctrine and leadership since the time of Christ. Protestants would dispute this, claiming the Catholic Church deviated from the Christian Church and hence the necessity of Protestantism to restore the Church.

    In principle, the Protestant faith as a whole is built solely on the authority of Scriptures or "Sola Scriptura" (sola being Latin for “alone”), the written Word of God. The Bible is the only definitive outline of faith, being sufficient to give Protestants the sure knowledge of the Gospel for their salvation and righteousness. However, the Protestant church allowed those within their own ranks to interpret scripture, thus creating a division of more than 32,000 denominations that exist today. This is a grievous error that was never intended by Christ, a position that the Vatican is fully correct on when reviewing the plight of the Protestant denomination. For example, the Anglican Church was created by King Henry 8th because the Catholic Church would not grant him yet another divorce. Many other Protestant denominations were founded in the same manner, based on some contention. It is this departure that the Catholic Church will surmise that Protestant's are apostate, quoting 1John 2:19 "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us."

    Catholics on the other hand reject the doctrine of “Sola Scriptura” and do not believe that the Bible alone is sufficient. They believe that both the Bible and sacred Roman Catholic tradition are equally binding upon the Christian. Many Roman Catholics doctrines, such as purgatory, praying to the saints, worship or veneration of Mary, etc. have little or no basis at all in Scripture, but are based solely on Roman Catholic traditions, whose origins can be traced to pageantry. Essentially the Roman Catholic Church’s denial of “Sola Scriptura” and their insistence that both the Bible and their “Sacred Tradition” are equal in authority undermines the sufficiency, authority and completeness of the Bible. The view of Scripture is at the root of many of, if not all, the differences between Catholics and Protestants. The Scriptures are deemed inaccessible to the lay people because only the Roman magisterium (the Pope and bishops) are able to interpret the authentic meaning. Similarly the contents of Sacred Tradition can only be known through the magisterium.

    Another major but closely related difference between Catholicism and Protestantism is over the office and authority of the Pope. According to Catholicism the Pope is the “Vicar of Christ” (a vicar is a substitute), and takes the place of Jesus as the visible head of the Church. As such he has the ability to speak “ex cathedra” (with authority on matters of faith and practice), and when he does so his teachings are considered infallible and binding upon all Christians. On the other hand, Protestants believe that no human being is infallible, and that Christ alone is the head of the church.

    Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the man who founded the Jesuit sect of The Church of Rome, wrote the following quoted from “The Spiritual Exercises Of St. Ignatius Of Loyola. "Thirteenth Rule. To be right in everything, we ought always to hold that the white which I see, is black, if the [Pope and the] Hierarchical Church so decide it,…" This is a call to blind allegiance, acceptance of all the hierarchy says without question. Even today, the Catholic Statement of Faith requires that one must pledge on their membership: "Furthermore, I affirm that the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, is the sole Vicar of Christ on earth, that he is the supreme visible head of the whole Church, that he teaches infallibly in matters of faith and morals, and therefore I pledge my loyalty to him, and to the bishops in communion with him..." (Catechism of the Catholic Church 816, 862, 869, 870, 880-884, 889-892, 895, 896)

    Catholics rely on apostolic succession (the line of bishops stretching back to the apostles) as a way of trying to establishing the Pope’s authority. But Protestants believe that the church’s authority does not come from apostolic succession, but instead is derived from the Word of God. Spiritual power and authority does not rest in the hands of a mere man, but in the very Word of God recorded in Scripture. While Catholicism teach that only the Catholic Church can properly and correctly interpret the Bible, Protestants believe that the Bible teaches that God sent the Holy Spirit to indwell all born again believers, enabling all believers to understand the message of the Bible. Protestantism acknowledges the biblical doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, and that individual Christians can trust the Holy Spirit for guidance in reading and interpreting the Bible among themselves without dependence on clergy.

    Another way in which Catholicism and Protestantism differs is how one is saved. One of the “Five Solas” of the reformation was “Sola Fide” (faith alone), which affirms the biblical doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-10). However, according to Roman Catholicism, man cannot be saved by faith alone in Christ alone. They teach that the Christian must rely on faith plus “meritorious works” in order to be saved. Essential to the Roman Catholic doctrine of salvation are the Seven Sacraments, which are: baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, anointing of the sick, Holy Orders, and matrimony. Protestants believe that on the basis of faith in Christ alone, believers are justified by God as all their sins are paid for by Christ on the cross and His righteousness is imputed to them. Catholics on the other hand believe that Christ’s righteousness is imparted to the believer by “grace through faith,” but in itself is not sufficient to justify the believer. The believer must “supplement” the righteousness of Christ imparted to him with meritorious works.

    Another contention that separates the Catholics and Protestants has to do with what happens after men die. While both believe that unbelievers will spend eternity in hell, there is significant and important difference as to what happens to believers. From their church traditions and their reliance of non-canonical books, the Catholics have developed the doctrine of purgatory (de fide doctrine). Purgatory (Latinate word meaning “burned up with fire”), according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, is a “place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.” They interpret 1 Corinthians 3:14–15 as a proof scripture to support this. Also 2 Maccabees 12:40–45, when Judas prays and has sacrifices offered for soldiers who died in battle. On the other hand, Protestants believe that because we are justified by faith in Christ alone, and that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us – when we die we will go straight to heaven to be in the presence of the Lord (Corinthians 5:6-10 and Philippians 1:23).

    Yet even more disturbing about the Catholic doctrine of purgatory is the fact that they believe that man must or even can pay or make satisfaction for his own sins. This along with their misunderstanding of what the Bible teaches about how man is justified before God, results in a low view of the sufficiency and efficiency of Christ’s atonement on the cross. Simply put, the Roman Catholic viewpoint on salvation implies that Christ’s atonement on the cross was not sufficient payment for the sins of those who believe in Him, and that even a believer must atone or pay for his own sins, either through acts of penance, or time in purgatory. Yet the Scriptures teaches over and over again that it is Christ’s death alone that can satisfy or propitiate God’s wrath against sinners (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10). Our works of righteousness cannot add to what Christ has already accomplished.

    In Catholicism, the Virgin Mary is prayed to as an intercessor for the faithful, superior to Jesus. The Popes address her as the Queen of the Universe, Queen of Heaven, Seat of Wisdom, and even the Spouse of the Holy Spirit. This exoneration is also reflected in the Islamic Koran, where Jesus is referred to as "Jesus son of Mary" rather than “Son of God.” A Catholic does not have hope to enter before the throne of Grace by means of the finished work of Christ as the Protestant does, but can only endlessly petition the Mother to beg for mercy.

    This interpretive systemology can be traced back to a Babylonian pagan form of worship developed by Assyrian Queen Semiramis, after the passing of King Nimrod of Babel (Genesis 10). After Nimrods death, the queen soon was with another man and conceived. Her position did not allow such behavior, so she lied to the Babylonian people and told them her husband Nimrod had ascended to the Sun and is now called Baal and gave her his seed supernaturally. She later gave birth to a son whom she named Tammuz. In Egypt, Semiramis took the name of Isis or Orisis, and Tammuz became Horus or Astarte. In China Semiramis is called Shingmoo. One only has to read the prayer books published by the Catholic Church to perceive the ancient chants to the Queen of Heaven, also called Dionysus or Shiva under Islam.

    Quoted from the Vatican Pius IX, Ubi Primum, 1849: "For God has committed to Mary the treasury of all good things, in order that everyone may know that through her are obtained every hope, every grace, and all salvation. For this is his will, that we obtain everything through Mary." Pope John Paul II said, "Membership in the Militia means complete dedication to the Kingdom of God and to the salvation of souls through Mary Immaculate." His personal motto was, "Totus tuus sum, Maria," or "I am all yours, Mary."

    Roman Catholics also believe in the Communion of Saints, which means they can petition, not only those on earth to pray, but also those who have died and are in heaven. Therefore, they ask Mary or other the other Saints to pray for them, so that we can attain eternal life. The Catholic System of patron Saints is nothing more nor less than a continuation of ancient heathen beliefs in gods devoted to days, occupations, and the various needs of human life. The Roman magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church substituted Christian-sounding names that were similar to original pagan names. For example, the pagan god Osiris was renamed St. Onuphris. Apollo was renamed St. Apollinaris, and the heathen god Mars became St. Martine. Just as the pagan’s worshipped idols or statues of their gods, so does the Roman Catholic Church utilize statues in their worship. In many cases the same statue that was worshipped as a pagan god was rechristened with the name of a Christian Saint and worship continued. The statue of Jupiter, for example, was slightly changed and re-titled “Peter.” Through the centuries more and more statues have been crafted (and venerated) until today there are Churches in Europe that contain as many as several thousand statues to Saints where were previously pagan gods.

    As expected, since the foundations are different, so also are the edifices built upon them. Protestants stand on the Gospel of God's sovereign grace. In love, God predestines His chosen ones to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ, their sole mediator. The Son became man and gave His life as a ransom to secure their freedom from sin. Being dead in sin, they are completely unable to convert ourselves or merit God's favor. Therefore God graciously grants His chosen repentance and faith to turn to Him and trust in Christ Jesus for salvation. Believers are accepted in Christ, solely on the finished work of His righteousness and blood, and not because of any goodness or human works. God also resides in His faithful by the Holy Spirit, enabling them to obey and glorify the Father, and to guarantee their inheritance in heaven forever.

    The Roman Catholic institution, calling itself "The Church" universal, usurps Christ's mediatorial office, proclaiming herself as the "sacrament of salvation." The "Church" dispenses salvation to her faithful in small portions, starting at baptism and continuing throughout life. Forgiveness can only be obtained through the sacrament of penance. The benefits of Christ's sacrifice are accessible through the sacraments of the Mass. Instead of teaching their followers to rest in Christ by faith, Catholics are taught to perform religious works to "merit grace" and to participate in penance to make satisfaction. Even after death, Catholics remains dependent on the "Church" to relieve their suffering in Purgatory by masses and indulgences.

    Much, much more could be written on this subject, but this will have to suffice for now. Sorry if I was too in-depth, albeit my personal hearsay is not sufficient when discussing such matters. I believe extensive commentary should be provided for personal study if one is motivated.


    • #3
      Disagree Without Conflict

      Dear fellow child of Christ,

      I am a simple woman, I speak only simply, and hope you won't mind me saying you err greatly in your interpretation of Catholic beliefs, I only know this because I am one, and wish to mention only two points though there are many more. The first is that we do not place Mary in a superior position to Christ but adore her as His mother and remember that she is one with him as when she said yes to God and carried our blessed baby Jesus in her womb. Also we do not worship or pray to statues, they merely serve (as a photo would today) to remind us of someone we have loved (like a brother or sister) who have gone before us to our father and are therefore nearer to him to intercede for us and let their good lives be a reminder to us to ever try to be Christ-like as they were.

      I say all of this, my friend, without conflict or anything but love in my heart. I know you mean no wrong but mean to speak the truth for Christ. So I want you to know what you wrote, though well intentioned, is not the truth. I read and agreed with much that you wrote on other topics but I think both faiths would be so much closer if we did not err so much in our thinking we know instead of truly knowing what the other believes and I mean that from both sides. Go and may God Bless you and the Holy Spirit breathe knowledge of the truth into you as you are clearly making a good effort to make it known. Forgive my boldness i don't mean it as criticism, and i pray your hear this with your heart and not your ears, God has done great things for me and i love Him and unite myself fully to Him.

      Thank you for not being afraid of today's society and risking unpopularity in this world which most are guided by, but instead trying to walk your path by the light of Christ.

      Yours Sincerely,
      Anne Marie Cheasty


      • #4
        Reformed Catholic Church

        Thank you graciously Annie, for your comments and insights. I think multiple perspectives are important from readers. I have several people dear to me that are Catholic, intimately so. I do understand the belief system and its merits and problems, in as much as the Protestants have many good precepts and others not so well fashioned.

        Your experience sounds to be more the Reformed Catholic Church, not so much the Roman Catholic Church which tends to hold to the more ritualistic acts as the spiritual elation to the person of Christ, verses the heart being brought closer through piety and the Holy Spirit. It is very, very easy for a person in a religious system that has monstrance’s and other external edifices, to become yoked to the symbolisms and rituals, verses the true purpose of worship of God through Christ.

        There are Catholics who accept the universal jurisdiction of the Pope, the Bishop of Rome. Often in consequence they are called Roman Catholics. But there are other Catholics who do not accept the Pope's jurisdiction or certain doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. Some are called Protestant or Reformed Catholics. Among them are members of the Church of Ireland and the other Churches of the Anglican Communion. I gather this is your case.

        The Church of Ireland is Catholic because it is in possession of a continuous tradition of faith and practice, based on Scripture and early traditions, enshrined in the Catholic Creeds, together with the sacraments and apostolic ministry. The Church of Ireland is Protestant, or Reformed, because it affirms 'its constant witness against all those innovations in doctrine and worship, whereby the Primitive Faith hath been from time to time defaced or overlaid.' (Preamble and Declaration to the Constitution of the Church of Ireland of 1870, 1.3)

        The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the Pope has, by divine right, jurisdiction over the universal Church, and that in certain circumstances his utterances are infallible. The Church of Ireland does not accept either of these teachings, and resists the claim of the Pope to rule over and speak for the universal Church.

        Furthermore the Roman Catholic Church teaches that belief in the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and in her Corporal assumption, are necessary for salvation. These beliefs had for a long time been widespread in Catholic Christendom, but were regarded with varying degrees of certainty. However, within the last hundred and fifty years, the Roman catholic Church has pronounced them to be necessary for salvation. The Church of Ireland teaches that neither Holy Scripture, nor the understanding of the Scriptures by the early Fathers of the Church, support these doctrines.

        In general, both Catholics and conservative Protestants generally agree on some major theological matters, like the existence of angels, Mary's virgin conception; Jesus' sinless life, incarnation, crucifixion, bodily resurrection, and his imminent return of Jesus to Earth in the second coming; Heaven, Hell; the Trinity, and the deity of Jesus. They agree that his execution brought about atonement -- the potential to bridge the gulf between humanity and God caused by sin. However they disagree on how this was achieved. They partly agree about the significance of baptism, but disagree about the timing when it is normally performed. They do not agree on which books are included in the official canon of the Bible.

        Therefore, I do make an effort at every juncture, to point out that I do not reject Catholicism. However, let’s say I have been involved with many souls bound by a religious system while fully neglecting the inner spirit. Never-the-less, I have been known to attend Mass (not partaking obviously) because I do gain spiritual edification in the liturgy.

        Blessings in Christ Jesus!


        • #5
          More Thoughts On Catholicism...

          I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for hearing me and taking the time to reply so graciously. I am not a theologian and fear i would become lost in discussion and be inadequate at explaining what is in my heart properly.

          I do believe in purgatory but not as a place of suffering in the sense so many think, rather as a great act of mercy from our Compassionate Father as some have come to the knowledge of Christ in their lives but not lived sincerely by the light Christ gave them.

          I believe we access the mercy of God in the certain knowledge that Christ paid the price of our salvation, (sadly some turn their backs and refuse freedom). Once a soul loves with all his heart, hopes with all his heart, trusts with all his heart, mind and soul in our good God, to the level of light, the Lord has illuminated him with, then I believe Our Good Merciful Father will bring him straight home to heaven.

          Souls end up in purgatory because of the countless times they turned their back on God in this life and ignored his outstretched hand, yet called out to to him at some point. God hears all and loves all and rejects none who are sincere of heart. Souls in Purgatory still need to resolve issues and perfect understanding and this is where God teaches them gently what they did not learn but could have during their lifetime. Purgatory is not a bad place it is an overwhelming longing for God and souls there are assured of Heaven.

          In the stations of the cross, as I visit each one, I contemplate what Jesus did for me and express sorrow for mine and all sins against him. It deepens my sorrow, respect and gratitude for the huge price he paid for my soul, increasing my love for Him.

          In reciting the Rosary to our lady I contemplate each event depicted in it of Christ's life (it is like a summary of all the gospels) and pray for deeper understanding and grace through her who knew Christ best. I believe she is gifted by Jesus to us and is our Mother too.

          This is my humble sharing of part of my concept of Our Loving God. I don't seem to be able to speak head to head only heart to heart, and pray i have not done Him an injustice in my poor wording of it.

          Above all our God is Love not fear... thank you for being humble enough to listen to me.

          Yours in Christ,
          Anne Marie


          • #6
            not the reformed church

            I am in actual fact a Roman Catholic and accept the universal jurisdiction of the Pope, the Bishop of Rome I obey and agree with the Church on all matters.


            • #7
              What are the similarities?

              Perhaps all to often, we tend to focus on the differences rather than the similarities. The first thread asked "What is the Difference"? Please consider how much alike we all are. In the beginning, there was order, God's order. Man (sic hoc) considered the time before as chaos, but we believe that God established order from the chaos. He created structure from chaos by establishing boundries for us, not him. Jesus then said he came not to bring peace but to divide. He also told us that he is the way. It is in our human nature to question, the result of the first sin. God did not create the labels we put on things, he loved us so much that he allowed us to name the birds on the air, etc. We should not persist in looking only for the difference, but building on the love breathed into each of us, man and woman created in the image of God. The image of God is then the first point we should consider before we begin a discussion about how different we are. It is precisely that life long quest for union with God that leads us all closer together and should not seperate us.

              As a Catholic Christian I attend Liturgy more than once a week. I was Baptized as an infant, confessed my sins at 7, then received First Holy Communion, Confirmed my faith at 13, entered into the covenant of Holy Matrimony and have received the Annointing of the Sick. I have not been called to receive Holy Orders. I pray the rosary daily always reflecting on the twenty mysteries of our Lord and Saviour. I pray the Divine Office at least twice a day and so pray all 150 Psalms in a month, actively read the lives of the Saints and try to always improve my life. I confess my sins to a priest at least once a month, tithe plus to charities and do works of mercy and service to others in need. I continue a plan of life and study Scripture, spiritual writers, theologians, the Doctors and Fathers/Mothers of the church, reading of church documents and current events. I read Scripture and Lectionary daily, actively participate in Liturgy, practice daily reflection, meditation and when God allows, contemplation. I see a spiritual director monthly and I am a guide for other souls seeking the face of God.

              This is my faith, sinner that I am I;

              believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen. I believe in one Lord, Jesus the Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us men and our salvation, he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered, died and was buried. On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son, he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Phropets. I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the forgivness of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen

              We are all blessed from time to time to hear the voice of God in our hearts. He is in all things, not just the strong and heavy wind rending the mountains, he is not just in the earthquake, or the fire. Most often we simply hear the voice of God in a tiny whispering of that life giving breath of God. Be still then and listen. We do have to continue to be vigiliant, waiting with stout hearts for the coming of the Lord. We cannot sit idly by and be less than good stewards of this world. We must all work together to build a better place here so that we will hear him say, "Well done good and faithful servant!"

              We all hope for the same thing, just take a slightly different path there. Begin with prayer, look at the goodnes in all, and continue praying for all God's people! Blessed be the name of the Lord!

              Also known historically as St. Clair Glass


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