Compare Catholic vs. Protestant

Catholics and Protestants have a lot in common, yet the differences between them are not insignificant. The chart below provides a quick-reference guide to the major differences between Catholic and Protestant beliefs. As with all our charts, the data in this comparison chart is oversimplified for the sake of brevity and should be a starting point for further study.

origins development of the offical western church from the first centuries to the present Protestant Reformation (1500s)
authority after Scripture Church fathers, papal decrees, bishops; Seven Ecumenial Councils; Trent, Vatican, and other Catholic councils Scripture alone
Bible Old Testament, Apocrypha, and New Testament Old Testament and New Testament
the Church The Catholic Church is "the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation." (Catech 845) "The sole Church of Christ which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him." (Catech 870) God saves anyone he chooses, or anyone with proper faith, regardless of church membership
priests priesthood is a special vocation for some believers; are mediators between God and man priesthood of all believers
transubstantiation affirmed denied
intercession of the saints affirmed denied
veneration of the saints practiced not practiced; considered idolatry
results of the Fall Corruption and tendency to sin. "Luther and Calvin taught as their fundamental error that no free will properly so called remained in man after the fall of our first parents... and that man in all his actions sins." (CE) Total depravity and guilt
free will Free to do good or evil. "God has endowed us with reason and free-will, and a sense of responsibility." (CE) Free only to do evil
predestination Predestination to heaven only; related to God's foreknowledge only. "God predestines no one to go to hell." (Catech 1037) related to God's decrees
salvation Received at baptism; may be lost by mortal sin; regained by confession and penance. Result of divine grace; unconditional.
those who have never heard of Christ may be saved may be saved
purgatory affirmed; "All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified. after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven." (Catech 1030) denied
grace Prevenient grace helps one believe; efficacious grace cooperates with the human will to do good Common grace enabling good works given to all; sufficient grace for salvation given to elect only
sacraments convey grace by their operation (ex opere operato) are a means of grace only if received with faith
good works meritorious Results of divine grace and unworthy of merit

  • Christian Beliefs

    Christianity has historically taken correct doctrine very seriously. The early fathers and church councils carefully distinguished between "orthodoxy" from "heresy" in an effort to preserve what they saw as the true Christian message...