The Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches were the only established churches prior to all other Christian denominations. For comparison purposes, we will look at the main differences between the beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic faith and most other Protestant denominations:
- Authority Within the Church - Catholics believe the authority of the church lies within the hierarchy of the church; Protestants believe the authority of the church lies within the believer.
- Baptism - Catholics (as well as Lutherans, Episcopalians/Anglicans and some other Protestants) believe that Baptism is a sacrament that regenerates and justifies, and is usually done in infancy; Most Protestants believe Baptism is an outward testimony of a prior inward regeneration, usually done after a person confesses Jesus as Savior and obtains an understanding of the significance of Baptism. Visit About.com's Catholicism site to understand more about the Catholic Sacrament of Baptism.
- The Bible - Catholics believe that truth is found in the Bible, as interpreted by the church, but also found in church tradition. Protestants believe that truth is found in Scripture, as interpreted by the individual, and that the original writings of the authors of the Bible are without error.
- Books of the Bible - The Catholic Church includes the same 66 books of the Bible as do Protestants, as well as the books of the Apocrypha. Protestants accept only the 66 books of the Old and New Testament.
- Clergy Selection - The Roman Catholic Church appoints all male, and almost all unmarried clergy. Protestants elect mostly male, single or married clergy.
- Forgiveness of Sin - Catholics believe forgiveness of sin is achieved through church ritual, with the assistance of a priest in confession. Protestants believe forgiveness of sin is received through repentance and confession to God directly without any human intercessor.
- Hell - The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia defines hell in the strict sense, as "the place of punishment for the damned" including limbo of infants, limbo of the Fathers, and purgatory. Similarly, Protestants believe hell is a real physical place of punishment which lasts for all eternity, but reject the concepts of limbo and purgatory.