Catholicism vs. Protestantism

December 19, 2009
Catholicism and Protestantism are two of the largest religions in the world. One rich in tradition and unwaveringness, the other in diversity and modernity. Both have the same basis, but at the same time are vastly different.

Both Catholicism and Protestantism are based on the belief that Jesus Christ, Son of God, was born of the Virgin Mary, died on the cross, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven where He is now with God the Father. They also believe in the Holy Trinity, that is three persons in one, God the Father, Jesus the Son, and The Holy Spirit.

The first, and maybe the most radical, difference between the two religions is the beliefs of the afterlife, or more simply put, “who’s going to heaven.” Both Protestants and Catholics believe that Jesus died on the cross to enable us to have the chance at eternal life-“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” John 3:16. However, Protestants believe that all one must do is believe in Jesus and he/she will receive eternal life. Good deeds are not considered meritorious; rather, they are a result of divine grace. This is because, they say, humans are free to do only evil, and good acts are inspired by God. In contrast, Catholics believe that one must also act according to Gods word and his or her good deeds, along with Jesus’ sacrifice, will ensure them eternal life in heaven. Good acts are meritorious because man has freewill to choose good or evil.

A second difference between Catholicism and Protestantism is the structure of the churches. Catholicism is comprised of one holy, Catholic, and apostolic church. Roman Catholicism is considered by most people to be the only Catholic church, but some other churches, such as the Eastern and Russian Orthodox Churches, consider themselves to be Catholic, however, the respective church’s origins and belief systems suggest otherwise. The Roman Catholic Church is headed by the Pope, currently Pope Benedict XVI. The church has a set order of leaders, from priests to deacons, bishops and cardinals. On the other hand, the Protestant church is not one church, but many denominations. These denominations have come about from splits within the Protestant church, and have resulted in over 34,000 separate denominations that are still considered Protestant. The church has no overarching leader. Instead, each individual church has its own pastor, and the congregation under the guidance of the pastor makes the decisions within the church. In the Catholic Church, the church’s Archdiocese makes the decisions.

Another difference between the two faiths is the authority of beliefs. Catholics look to both the Bible and to tradition, tradition such as a Pope, sets of rules and guidelines handed down through the ages. Protestants believe in “Sola Scriptura”, or the Bible alone, as the basis of their beliefs.

In Catholicism, the Bible contains the Apocrypha, a set of books that were added by the Church after the completion of the Scriptures because it believed that they would help better guide members of the Church to leading a holy life. Protestants disavow the Apocrypha because they believe it was not divinely inspired, and therefore does not have a place in the totally-divinely inspired Bible.

A major difference between Catholicism and Protestantism concerns Saints and Mary, mother of Jesus. Many people mistakenly think that Catholics worship Saints and the Mother Mary the same way they worship Jesus. This is simply not true. Catholics ask the Saints in heaven as well as the Virgin Mary to pray to God for them, to intercede on there behalf. Catholics also believe that Mary, mother of Jesus, is higher up than any other saint in heaven and is also ever virgin. In contrast, Protestants do not believe in having saints, but that only God and Jesus should be asked for help. They also believe that Mary was not ever-virgin, but only virgin before the birth of Jesus.

Transubstantiation means the change of the substance of bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Catholics believe in transubstantiation; Protestants believe that the change from bread to body is only figurative and not literal.

The priesthood is a major difference between the Catholic and Protestant religions. Protestantism teaches that the faithful are a “priesthood of believers”, and therefore each congregation is lead by a pastor, or spiritual guider of the people. In Catholicism, Priests are selected members of the faith who must go through 8+ years of schooling and dedicate their lives solely to God and His Church. The other members, or lay people, are just as important to the church as clergy, or ordained members, but have different roles.

In conclusion, Protestantism and Catholicism are based around the same, monotheistic beliefs. They both worship Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and worship him fully and truly. However, since the split in the Church and the creation of the two religions, both faiths have been fighting over their differences and ignoring their similarities. These differences we must learn to put aside and worship together, as one. “Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.” Luke 9:50

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lizmaria140This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 28, 2016 at 12:06 pm
Awesome! And I agree with fireandrain. Thanks for the accurate information! :)
fireandrain This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 6, 2013 at 7:15 pm
thank you so much for the bit about us not worshiping Mary! God bless you!
Joelle said...
Jun. 19, 2013 at 12:09 pm
This is by far the most accurate and non-biased description of Catholics and Protestants. I am so grateful that this article clarified that Catholics don't worship the saints and Mother Mary but rather ask them to intercede for our prayers. Thanks and please continue writing!
Isabelle S. said...
Nov. 3, 2012 at 5:58 pm
This answered a LOT of my questions! You are awesome! This side-by-side style of writing helps a lot! I like how you ended it! Amazing, amazing job! You really helped my out. I had said that I was a Catholic at school once and some kid yelled at me for believing in saints and being "cray cray." I now see how different and similar we are! <3 :)
.Dimples said...
Jul. 16, 2012 at 10:39 pm
† Your article was interesting. However, in your last paragraph, yu say that the two religions should forget about there differences and join together. Well, if you really knew so much about Catholics you would know that we believe in the Virgin Mary have no sins -  the Immaculate Conception. Catholics believe in the Holy Eucharist; The Body and Blood of the dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you for taking the time to read this paragraph. I hope you understand tha... (more »)
.Dimples replied...
Jul. 16, 2012 at 10:46 pm
Opps, I ment that the Virgin Mary has no sin and she is our mother {:
contemplator said...
Apr. 19, 2012 at 11:56 am
Pretty good article. You explained the differences clearly and appropriately. However, as a protestant, you missed an improtant point on salvation. Even though we beleive in salvation by grace, we also beleive that faith without works is a dead faith. If your a christian and you don't do any good works, you have no reason to stay on the earth.
Roy123 said...
Feb. 21, 2012 at 3:37 am

Jesus Christ founded His church upon Peter and the apostles, giving Peter (the first Pope) the full authority to lead the Church, as we see in the bible:

"Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in Heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the powers of Hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be boun... (more »)

Mtizzle said...
Jan. 13, 2012 at 1:50 pm
i liked this i wished that all christians could come together and end the branch things that we have today
conversegirl23 said...
Jul. 21, 2010 at 11:50 am

From A Protestants Side

Protestants do have an "overarching leader". His name is God. And we don't follow the Apocrypha because we believe we are supposed to follow God's law, not man's. We don't pray to Saints because we believe we can have a personal relationship with God and can talk to him ourselves. However I really liked your article. I've always wondered what Catholics were like and now I know.

BalletGirl98 replied...
Jul. 22, 2011 at 2:38 pm

I am Catholic and will always be Catholic. It is the way I was brought up and the way I intend to bring my children up. Here are some commonly asked question my friends(Protestants) ask.

Why do you pray to Saints?

Don't you ask the people around you to pray for you? That is what Catholics do.

Don't you worship Mary?

No, we do not worship Mary. She is the mother of God. Wouldn't you consider her pretty important?

Anyway, you did an amazing job o... (more »)

LoudDreamer replied...
Nov. 17, 2011 at 11:45 am
Yes, I am another Catholic who agrees  with Ballet Girl, this was an extremely professional and respectful article. Although I do feel that to set aside our diffences is wrong. One of us is right and with differnces as monumental as this the both of us must confronted by people who belive the opposite so they have a chance to decide for themselves which it is. I suspect however that what the author intended (remember, this w... (more »)
audeosperoidare2hope said...
May 16, 2010 at 2:51 am
Really good article but Orthodox don't believe themselves Catholic. Sorry. :)
LoudDreamer replied...
Nov. 17, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Your right, but the Catholic Heirachy considers some of them to be a seperte but valid branch of the Church, it is merely a way of saying that they posses the same Apostolic Athority that Catholics have. Unless their bishops and priests as a whole seriouly distort the faith and abuse their preistly power they will continue to be considered a valid branch of the church. To deprive hundreds of thousands of people from valid sacraments by ex... (more »)

CSJS! said...
Jan. 28, 2010 at 3:17 pm
Great article! I know I learned a lot about Catholics that I never really thought about before. I know a lot of people just sorta group Catholics and Protestants together as the same religion, when in reality this is untrue. Keep writing!
lizzykittylover replied...
Mar. 19, 2012 at 9:27 am

Did you read my article titled "A Different Jesus"? You might be interested. =)

You can find it here:

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