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5 Ways Roman Catholics Differ From Other Christian Denominations

By    |   Wednesday, 01 April 2015 11:16 AM

For the first thousand years of Christianity, "Roman Catholic" and "Christian" were synonymous. It wasn't until the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century that Christianity began to take different forms.

Catholicism, however, is still the largest Christian denomination, with more than 1 billion members worldwide. While Catholicism doesn't differ drastically from Protestant denominations, there are a few clear distinctions.

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Here are five ways Roman Catholics differ from other Christian denominations:

1. Papal Authority and Infallibility: Catholics believe that Jesus established the authority of the papacy when he told Peter, "You are the rock upon which I shall build my church." However, even many Catholics misunderstand the concept of papal infallibility. It doesn't mean that every word out of the pope's mouth is accurate. Rather, it's the belief that the Holy Spirit will not allow the pope to lead the Church astray. In that sense, papal infallibility only applies when the pope is speaking "ex cathedra," or "from the throne of Peter," on matters of Church doctrine. It’s been invoked only a handful of times in 2,000 years, according to Catholic Bible 101.

2. The Eucharist and Transubstantiation: While several Christian denominations celebrate the Eucharist, most see it as a symbolic remembrance of the Last Supper. Catholics, however, believe that the bread and wine truly become the body and blood of Christ. The religion teaches that, when Jesus said, at the Last Supper, that "This is My Body," he meant it literally and that the Church reenacts it at every Mass.

3. The Immaculate Conception: While even many Catholics think that the Immaculate Conception refers to Mary's conception of Jesus, that is a misunderstanding of the doctrine. In reality, the Immaculate Conception refers to the belief that, Mary, the mother of Jesus, was herself conceived without original sin and remained sinless throughout her life.

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4. Two Kinds of Sin: While Protestants are often heard to say things like, "All sin is equal," or "No sin is worse than any other," Catholics identify two kinds of sin: venial and mortal. Venial sin is ordinary sin, like speaking unkindly to a neighbor. Mortal sin, on the other hand, is sin that is serious enough to completely separate you from God.

Catholics believe that those who die with mortal sin on their soul — serious sin that hasn't been absolved through the Sacrament of Reconciliation — cannot enter heaven. This is in direct contradiction to the Protestant belief of, "Once saved, always saved." Catholics believe that mortal sin can sever an already established relationship with God. Examples of mortal sin include murder, idolatry and adultery.

5. Purgatory: Catholics believe that, while Jesus's death and resurrection opened the gates of heaven, those who die in a state of sin must still be purified before they can enter, simply due to the fact that neither sin nor its effects have a place in heaven.

The Catholic Catechism states, "All who die in God's grace, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven." The length of time in purgatory is determined by the state of the person’s soul at the time of death.

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For the first thousand years of Christianity, "Roman Catholic" and "Christian" were synonymous. It wasn't until the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century that Christianity began to take different forms.
roman catholic christian, differ, denominations
Wednesday, 01 April 2015 11:16 AM
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