What is the difference between Christianity and Catholicism?

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jennifer-taubenheim eNotes educator| Certified Educator
What is the difference between Christianity and Catholicism?

What is the difference between Christianity and Catholicism? 

Catholicism is a form of Christianity in that Catholics believe that Christ was the son of God and died for our sins. However, Catholics traditionally have different views on a few pieces of the faith. One of these differences is in the way that a person's sins are forgiven. In the Catholic church, the person who wants to be forgiven for a sin goes to mass and the priest intercedes for him or her with God.

Protestant Christians, however, do not believe that they need an intermidiary between them and God. Romans 8 vs 39-39 says "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Other evidence for the Protestant side lies in the fact that, in Biblical times in Solomons temple, there was a curtain that divided the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. It was huge, heavy, and very well made, and it kept the common people from going in to where the spirit of God was. Going behind the curtain meant entering the presence of God, and the Lord says in Leviticus 16:2 "Tell your brother Aaron not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place ... or else he will die".

As Christ was crucified, this curtain tore, top to bottom. According to many, the tearing of the curtain was the end of man's separation from God as the Holy Spirit came to dwell in the hearts of man. 

If you are looking for differences between Catholicism and Protestantism, see the website below for a very simplified chart with links to more complete information.


mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Catholic Church with its interpretation of Matthew 16:18 marks Peter as the first Pope in the first Christian Church.  The First Council of Nicea in 325 A. D. brought about division in the Catholic Church: the Roman Catholic is the division known to Western Europe and the United States.  From the Nicean Council, the Greek Orthodox also was formed; this Church is no longer recognized as Catholic.

German Roman Catholic monk and theologian, Martin Luther, challenged the authority of the papacy, the buying and selling of indulgences, payment for contributions to the Church. Greatly disturbed by the corruption in the Catholic Church, Luther contended that salvation is only attained through repentance, not by means of indulgences.  In 1546 Luther nailed a copy of his 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, an event perceived as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

After this the beginning of many Christian Protestant churches came about with major differences established between the Protestants and the Catholics.  Two such differences are in the belief in purgatory and the transubstantion in the Catholic Mass in which Catholics believe that the host and wine are changed to the body and blood of Christ. Other differences between Catholics and Protestants lie in the interpretation of the Bible, as do differences among Protestant sects.  Nevertheless, all Protestants and all Catholics are all Christians.

ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are three major forms of Christianity. One is Protestantism, one is Catholicism and one is Eastern Orthodox. The separation of the three main branches occurred centuries ago but all three faiths share a common belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that he died and was resurrected from the dead, and that He is the Savior of the World. Your question, I believe, deals with the difference between Catholicism and Protestantism. Protestants broke away from the Catholic Church during the 1500's over issues like the of the Bible over the supremacy of the Pope, corruption in the Catholic Church and issues over methods of worship,the mass, communion, and salvation ( faith vs. works. For more information, see the links below for a more through discussion.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We can categorize Christianity into two major groups - Catholics and Protestants.  All Protestant religions were once Catholic but broke away from their religious doctrine and the ideas central control by the Pope and formed their own Christian religions.  Lutherans, Episcopalians, Baptists all fall into this category, among others.

All of the Protestant religions believe that, unlike the Catholic religion, a religious leader, pastor or priest us unable to grant forgiveness, that it must be asked for and obtained only through God.  Catholicism is practiced all over the world and is more widespread than other Christian religions, and you will find quite different variations of the doctrine and how it is observed in Latin America and Europe.

besure77 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A Christian is a general term for a person who believes in God and Jesus Christ. There are many different denominations of Christianity. Catholicism is just one of those denominations, but there are many more. Roman Catholics do make up the largest denomination in the world. They have over one billion members worldwide. It is a very organized religion with many very specific creeds and doctrines.

Some different examples of christian denominations are Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, etc. There are many churches these days that are of no particular denomination. These are usually called something along the lines of "Church of Christ."


pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is not a difference between Catholicism and Christianity any more than there is a difference between men and people.  Men are people, Catholics are Christian.

There are some major differences, however, between Catholics and other Christians.

  • Catholics believe in their church's hierarchy and the authority of the Pope.
  • Catholics revere saints and the Virgin Mary more than most Protestants do.
  • Catholics believe that the bread and wine at communion literally turn into the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
  • Catholics do not allow priests or other "religious" to be married.
linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is no difference. The Catholic Church (both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox) is a Christian church. For centuries, it was the only Christian church. During the Reformation, many different groups grew dissatisfied with the corruption and hypocrisy within the church and broke off to form the various denominations known today as Protestant. Nowadays, Catholicism is another denomination within Christianity.

higgins221 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Christianity has many different sects.  Lutheranism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Baptist and Unitarian are all examples of Christian sects.  Catholicism and Christianity is like asking what is the difference between a dog and a labrador retriever.  A labrador retriever is a type of dog like Catholicism is a type Christianity. 

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Christianity is an umbrella term used to refer to all Christian denominations. The Catholic Church is one of the churches under the term Christianity. There are other Protestant churches. However, there are many different types of Christians. Catholics are just one type.
krishna-agrawala | Student

Christianity is the name given to faith or religion that developed based on faith in and teachings of Jesus Christ. Catholicism is one among many different sects or versions of Christianity that developed over a time.

Catholics are the people who accept the authority of the Roman Catholic Church in all religious matters. With membership of over one billion people, Catholicism is the largest sect within Christianity.The pope, governing the Church of Rome from the Vatican City, is the spiritual head of all Catholics. The Pope is assisted in his work of direction and guidance of the worldwide church by a group of departments called the Roman Curia.

clyoon | Student

The biggest difference I know between Christianity and Catholicism is that Catholics also believe in the holiness of Mary, the virgin mother. They call their services mass. And they pray differently. 

Christians do not believe in Mary although they believe Mary was a virgin and did give birth to Jesus. But Christians see Mary just as they see any other bible character like Moses or Noah or Esther. She was a woman of God that did His will. 

Many say Catholics are Christian and that they're pretty much the same thing. Many Catholics call themselves Christian. But there are Christians who do not consider Catholics Christian. This is also another topic of debate. 

Chantelm | Student

Catholics believe in 

  • Saints and praying to them
  • confessing your sins to a person in the church 
  • following the pope an. Looking at him as a head figure
  • completing first communions and confirmations 
mkcapen1 | Student

Christianity and Catholicism are both part of the same thing.  Catholics believe that Christ is the son of God and follow his doctrine.  Christians believe that Christ is the son of God and follow his doctrines.

The problem arises between Catholics and Protestants.  They are both different groups in terms of their extended beliefs in relation to Christ.  The Catholic faith honors the Blessed Virgin Mary and Joseph.  In addition, homage is paid to various people who have been appointed as saints.

Catholics have specific prayers and rituals that are expected to be said.  In addition they believe that by confessing one's sins to a priest one is absolved of the sins after one does penance.

vnessawong21 | Student

Christianity has many denominations underneath it. Catholicism is just one of the branches that have grown from Christianity. What binds all these factions under Christianity is their common belief in the existence of Jesus Christ and his teachings. However, the reason for these divisions are the specifics within their beliefs. 

One of the core beliefs of Catholicism is the role of Mother Mary and how she is special and holy. However, another popular sect, Protestantism, believes Mother Mary is not holy and only chosen by God for that one task. As you can see these differing beliefs are the cause of the many different sects within Christianity. 

vikhose | Student

The difference between Christianity and Catholicism, if any, is that whereas Christianity is the name of one of the world's major religions (others are Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.) Catholicism pertains to a group within Christianity that functions under the headship of the Pope who is believed to be the successor of Simon Peter, supposedly the first Pope. Like any other religions, Christianity has many different groups differentiated mostly by certain beliefs and practices. Broadly speaking, there are three major groups: the Roman Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox, and the Protestants.

Otherwise, they both pertain to the same group of people. People belonging to Christianity are called Christians. The term "Christian" simply means followers of Jesus Christ. Therefore, anyone who professes to follow Christ and worship Him as God is a Christian, including the Catholics.

However, some so-called evangelical and conservative Christians refuse to identify the Catholics as Christians because of certain beliefs and practices within Catholicism such as praying to Mary and the saints (instead of praying directly to Christ/God), revering the Pope as the vicar of Christ, having extra books in their Bible (these books are considered not authoritative especially by the Protestants), etc.

The majority however consider them as Christians and so do the Catholics themselves. Hence, to simply put, one is the name of the religion and the other the name of a group within that religion, otherwise, both are made up by the same group of people, Christians.

camby16 | Student

Christianity and Catholicism have different roots, different "rules" and paths to heaven. According to www.justforcatholics.org, Christianity was built from the Bible alone. Christians believe that this book is the Word of God and follow the rules within to achieve holiness and salvation.

Catholicism, on the other hand, is based on the doctrines taught by the Pope and bishops. These doctrines cannot be verified from the original sources, however, because only the Pope and bishops are allowed to establish the authentic meaning of these texts.

While Catholicism is a sort of mental and spiritual slavery to the Vatican, Christianity stands on the Gospel and love. Salvation is found through Jesus Christ dying for our sins on the cross. Catholics find salvation through good deeds and devotion to their religion.

In Catholicism, forgiveness can only be achieved through baptism and repentance of sins. The Church is the sacrament of salvation, not Jesus.