• There are a lot of misunderstandings between both Catholics and Protestants.  Truth is, we’re not that much different.
  • Both Churches have their roots in the original Apostolic Church established by Jesus Christ.  Both groups still believe that Jesus Christ is our Lord and savior sent by God, the Father.  Hence, we are all Christians.
  • Jesus made it clear on no uncertain terms that we are to love one another and be united, not divided.  Our mission is simply to “make disciples of all nations” as we spread the good news to others.  We can be much more effective in this by working together.
  • The main issues that once divided us have since been resolved, yet these deep divisions still exist.
  • We need to overcome these divisions, gain a better mutual understanding of each other, and work together to fulfill God’s single purpose for us. We can do all this while still maintaining our separate identities and traditions.

When I read the news, go to religious events, and talk to people, I often get the impression there is more fission and hate within the Christian community than between Christians and non-Christians.  I believe the primary cause of this angst is twofold:

  1. Although the original root cause of the deep division between both denominations has been resolved, the emotional polarization continues.
  2. Modern-day Catholics and Protestants don’t seem to understand each other very well. 

I find this to be a very sad, avoidable, yet understandable situation.  Despite the fact that some of these divisions run very deep, I still see both tremendous need and tremendous opportunity to bring both groups together.  I don’t necessarily mean to reunite us as one Church per se (although I would be elated if it ever happens).  However, I do believe we should partner with each other in fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission for us to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and that we establish a mutual understanding of each other.

Getting back to the root causes, I view the first as a tough one to crack, as it has become so engrained in both cultures.  However, I believe that, if we could just find and focus on common ground, and then leverage that common ground to embark on joint efforts to execute the Great Commission, it would set up a dynamic that would start to slowly and eventually break down these emotional barriers.  To that end, I believe the best place is to start would be with the common ground and understanding piece.  From there, we could tackle the more deeply-rooted cultural elements that separate us.

As such, we need to first clarify to all parties what we have in common and what our true differences are.  I believe I’m in a good position to help with this because I grew up Protestant, was a member of several Protestant Churches, then converted to Catholicism, and was confirmed in the Catholic Church at age 54.  I have been active in my parish for over 6 years since then.  I believe am very familiar with what is behind the faiths of both denominations and many of the misunderstandings they have regarding each other.

Hence, I’ll start with a brief history of Catholicism and the Protestant movement, followed by insight into “fact versus fiction” regarding each denomination that should help with the mutual understanding piece, and will finish with some thoughts on a constructive path forward.

History of Both Denominations

In short, Both the Catholic Church and most/all Protestant Churches have their roots in the original Apostolic Church established by Jesus Christ.  Both groups still believe that Jesus Christ is our Lord and savior sent by God, the Father.  Hence, we are all Christians.  However, over time, the Catholic Church became corrupt.  A German priest/monk, named Martin Luther, tried relentlessly to reform it, but his efforts only led to his excommunication from the Catholic Church by Pope Leo X.

Upon his excommunication, he started the Protestant Church.  Luther never intended to leave the Catholic Church and stand up his own Church.  However, since he was forced out, I’m sure he felt that was his only option.

Since that time, the issues that Martin Luther tried to address in the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages have since been rectified by others since his time.  Hence, both denominations are now much more aligned, approaching the “one Church” that they were prior to the Middle Ages.

For a much more in depth information on the history of both denominations, please see my prior article “History of the Catholic and Protestant Churches”.  I believe this background would be helpful in following the remainder of this article.

What Are Our Differences Today?

Although the vast majority of issues that once divided the two denominations have been since resolved, the polarization – and sometimes downright hatred – that started with the 95 Theses continues to this day. Hence, there’s no reason for this animosity to continue going forward.  However, this doesn’t seem to be widely understood nor accepted, as there are many false impressions that Protestants have toward Catholics and vice versa.  On the upside, the Ecumenical movement that started with Vatical II offers a beacon of hope that, someday, we’ll overcome our contempt toward one another, understand each other, and work together to achieve Jesus’ initial purpose of His Church more effectively, which is to continue the work of His salvation.

As a big advocate of Ecumenism, I would like to dedicate my last and final section to dispelling false believes Protestants have toward today’s Catholics and vice versa.  My intent is not to “sell” one denomination or claim one is better than another, but to help break down the barriers that separate us and to promote the love and unity that God so wants all of us Christians to have toward one another.

Understanding Each Other

Now that it should be reasonably clear to the reader that the issues that originally divided the Church into two denominations in the Middle Ages have since been rectified, let’s take a look at the differences that remain today.  I’ll start by clarifying some common misunderstandings.  Then, I’ll articulate the major differences in our believes today and put that into perspective of the Great Commission.

Fact Versus Fiction

Following are the major misunderstandings between Catholicism and Protestantism: click here

Major Differences Between Catholicism and Protestantism

I’m sure many have written books on this subject, as there are a lot of minor differences in our rituals/practices.  However, most boil down to these key things:

  1. Protestants believe one is saved by faith alone whereas Catholics believe it is a combination of faith, baptism, and good works.  Catholics also believe salvation can be lost via an unrepented mortal sin.
  2. Catholics believe the bread and wine presented during the Holy Eucharist are truly the body and blood of Jesus Christ.  Protestants believe the bread and wine are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
  3. Catholics and Protestants believe we go to either heaven or hell when we die.  Catholics also believe in purgatory, which is a third interim state between life on earth and heaven.  Those in Purgatory will go to heaven on the final judgment day or once they are purified.
  4. Catholic scripture includes the 7 Deuterocanonical Books that were removed by the Protestants during Reformation: Tobit, Judith, Baruch, Sirach, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, and Wisdom.
  5. Protestants believe the bible is the one and only government document.  Catholics believe the bible, CCC, and papal decrees & orders (formal proclamations issued by the pope) are the governing documents.
  6. Catholics believe the pope is the head of the Church.  Protestants have varying beliefs concerning the Church government construct.

Aside from these fairly minor differences, our beliefs are fundamentally the same!  Can you think of anything above that would cause us to not work together in executing Jesus’ Great Commission?  I sure can’t. I also believe that, once we set aside these differences, there is a huge amount of common ground onto which we could/should base our mutual respect, friendship, and working together.


I sincerely hope this helps with your understanding of:

  1. The history of the Catholic and Protestant Churches
  2. The major misconceptions Protestants have of Catholics and vice versa
  3. The similarities and differences in our faiths today.
  4. We are all Christians, as the word is originally defined: “a person who believes in Jesus Christ and follows His teachings”.

My sincere hope is that this writing will do its part to bring Catholics and Protestants together as a federation of Churches that will focus on fulfilling Jesus’ mission for us and spreading God’s true love. And please stay tuned for more articles and updates on this subject.

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