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Our readers asked:

What is the difference in belief between Roman Catholics and Episcopalians?

Thomas Ryan, CSP Answers:

Question: What is the difference in belief between Roman Catholics and Episcopalians? I was once told, “All the ceremony and half the guilt” but there must be more to it than that.

Indeed, there is more to it than that, though your pithy line has some validity to it as far as it goes. A large part of the Episcopal Church (its styles vary from the simple to the elaborate, from Evangelical to Catholic) has retained rich and reverent ceremony as part of its catholic heritage. And since the locus of authoritative teaching authority is less clear in the Episcopal Church than in the Roman Catholic Church, there may well be less guilt around not following church teachings.

Belief-wise, Episcopalians (Anglicans) uphold and proclaim the Catholic and Apostolic faith, based on the creeds and scripture, interpreted in the light of Christian tradition, scholarship, and reason. They recognize seven sacraments and hold the same moral values.

Differences relate to recognition of the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome (the pope) as holding an authoritative teaching office for the whole church; the ordination of women as deacons, priests, and bishops; contraception, divorce and remarriage.

Fr. Thomas Ryan, C.S.P. is the director for the Paulist Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs

The Author : Thomas Ryan, CSP
Thomas Ryan, CSP, directs the Paulist North American Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations in Washington, DC.
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  • mary

    Growing up Episcopalian, my father was a preist, and converting to Catholicism much later in life, I find this a fascinating question. I love my chosen faith but I am finding it difficult, as a women, to freely express myself as a leader in the church. The difference in these two faiths, as far as there acceptance of women ,can not be understateded. Although our new Pope has made some liberal friends, especially in the homosexual community ,his stance on women is insulting.

  • Daniel

    Regardless of whether an Episcopal priest believes in transubstantiation, he (or she) cannot offer a valid Eucharist. The only priests who can celebrate communion and effect transubstantiation — bread and wine becomes the real presence of Jesus in his body and blood — are Catholic priests. Because only Catholic priests are part of the true Apostolic succession. FYI, Orthodox Catholic priests ordinations are just as valid as Roman Catholic priests because their ordinations occur within the Apostolic succession.

    • cerenatee

      The last time I checked, and I just checked, the word Catholic is not in the bible. The fact that you believe only Catholic priests are recognized in the Apostolic succession speaks to the Catholic limitation. God does not abide by Catholic creed. Catholics abide by His. Thus I will take communion and be glad for it. Peace.

  • Mike Hayes

    Charles and KJ…

    Charles rightly pinpoints the primary difference between Episcopalians and Catholics, as Father Ryan also did.

    KJ your point is a bit more complicated. Some High Anglicans do in fact share our belief in transubstantiation, while others do not. Regardless, because of our first point we do not take communion in one another’s church because that would be a sign of Church unity which still does not exist between these denominations despite some agreement in certain sects of Anglicanism on a Eucharistic theology.

  • KJ

    So do Episcopalians believe in transubstantiation? 2nd paragraph makes me think so, but I’m not sure. And if they do, does that mean they can take communion if they come to our mass — or ours at theirs?

  • Charles J Mcallistr MD

    so do you consider them valid Catholics-the Orthodox do not recognize the sole authority of the Pope as well

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