What were the differences between Puritans and Catholics in the 17th century?

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beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There were major differences between the Puritans and the Catholic Church during the 17th century. Although the Church of England separated from the Roman Catholic Church, it maintained many of the same rituals. The Puritans went even further and left the Church of England. They were generally followers of John Calvin, whose preaching included the idea of "predestination." This belief directed the simple, often stringent, lifestyle the Puritans chose as they strove to be included in God’s salvation.

The Puritans held simple services, which were led by educated men who were chosen from their congregations. Puritans considered many of the Catholic Church's traditions to be pomp and circumstance and false idolatry. While the Catholic Church was “ruled” by a hierarchy that included the Pope, the Puritans were sovereign within each congregation.  They practiced a form of democracy by choosing the leaders of their congregations.

The Puritans learned and lived their faith by studying the Bible, not by participating in repetitive, ritualistic ceremonies, which is how Puritans perceived a lot of Catholic services. Simplicity was imperative to the Puritans, who did not even allow musical accompaniment to their singing.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Puritan church and the Catholic Church were very different during this time.  In fact, the Puritan church was called by that name because it wanted to purify the Church of England from all Catholic influences.  A few of the major differences include:

  • The Catholic Church was very hierarchical while the Puritans were not.  Each Puritan congregation was sovereign; there were no bishops or cardinals or popes to tell them what to do.
  • The Puritan church believed in very plain services.  They did not believe in all of the rituals of the Catholic Mass or in having impressive clothing for their clerics.
  • The Puritans believed that individuals should be able to read for themselves.  Catholics believed that laypeople needed guidance from the clergy to understand the Bible.

All in all, the Puritans were more democratic and less given to display and pageantry than the Catholics.