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Communion/Eucharist

  • Catholics: The bread and wine in the Eucharist are miraculously, and mysteriously, changed in to the Body and Blood of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Other Christians: The bread and wine in Communion is symbolic--a representation of Christ's body and blood.

Sacraments/ordinances

  • Catholics: There are seven sacraments (holy moments): Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation, Marriage, Ordination, Reconciliation/Confession and Anointing of the Sick.
  • Other Christians: Other than baptism and communion, no religious rites are necessary.

Clergy/leadership

  • Catholics: It is Christ's will that there be 3 types of minister in the Church: bishops, presbyters/priests and deacons.
  • Other Christians: There are varying levels of clergy depending on the denomination (e.g. some have bishops, others do not); for most denominations the head of the individual church is the pastor; some also have deacons and elders.

Saints

  • Catholics: The saints are worthy of both honour and respect due to their fidelity to Christ. Catholics do not pray to saints, but ask saints to pray for them just as a they would ask any Christian for prayer. For Catholics, saints' physical bodies may be dead, but they are spiritually with Christ.
  • Other Christians: All born-again believers (according to the New Testament) are saints (and can pray directly to God).

Mary, Mother of Jesus

  • Catholics: The greatest saint is Mary, Mother of Jesus. Mary was so full of love for God that she did not sin (Immaculate Conception).
  • Other Christians respect Mary as Jesus' mother but believe that she sinned like any other person.
  • Catholics: Because she did not sin, Mary's resurrected body was taken into heaven immediately after her death (the Assumption).
  • Other Christians believe Mary's body was buried.

Purgatory

  • Catholics believe that only a person perfectly open to God can enter heaven; thus, when someone dies the sinfulness left inside is purged (Purgatory) by God's love. Purgatory is not a place but an experience.
  • Other Christians do not have a doctrine of purgation. Most say that the soul goes immediately to either heaven or hell.

Tradition vs. Scripture

  • Catholics: God not only speaks to His people through Sacred Scripture, but also through the daily life of the Church over a long period of time; this is called tradition, and, although important, can never contradict Scripture.
  • Other Christians: Scripture alone is Truth, although some groups (e.g. Anglicans) do value tradition.

The Pope

  • Catholics: The Bishop of Rome (pope) is the spiritual leader of the Church (Christ is the Head), as this is Christ's will.
  • Other Christians: the pope is not the spiritual leader, although some non-Catholics (e.g. Anglicans) have their own spiritual leader.
  • Catholics: Though he is capable of making mistakes, when the pope formally speaks about morals or dogma in the name of the whole Church, he cannot make a mistake because the Holy Spirit guides the Church. (Infallibility). This has only happened twice.
  • Other Christians do not accept papal infallibility and do not believe that any one person can speak for the Church.

Note:

The above are the main doctrinal differences between Catholicism and non-Catholic Christianity. There are other differences, but these are due to human law, not divine, and may change e.g. Catholic priests of the Latin Rite may not be married, how the Church is governed and who chooses Church leaders.

And this only addresses Western Christianity. Coptic and the many versions of Orthodox Christianity (Greek, Ethiopian, etc.) are more similar to Catholic Christianity than to Protestant Christianity, but the specific differences go beyond the simple answer this question was seeking.

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Q: What are the differences between Catholics and other Christians?
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