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June 3rd, 2014
What are the differences between Catholics and Episcopalians?

What is the difference 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. Because Roman Catholics have a pope and bishops it’s often pretty clear who has teaching authority in the church. The Episcopalians’ hierarchy is less clear as they don’t have a figure like the pope at the head of their church.

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

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; the use of contraception, divorce, and remarriage.

from Fr. Tom Ryan, CSP, and the Busted Halo Question Box


Today’s homework assignment: Think of someone of another faith who has helped you along your faith journey. Send him/her a handwritten note thanking them for their guidance.

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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • nancy evans

    “catholic” with a small c means universal as the original church was meant for all. God’s blessings

  • Stacy Alan

    Thank you for a wonderfully balanced and pithy description of what we share and what differs. I was nourished in my faith at a Jesuit university (Seattle U) and credit what I learned about theology and the lived spirituality of the sacraments for making me the (Episcopal) priest that I am today.

  • Vanetta Wallace

    where is the link? I have gone through every lesson for this week but cannot find the link for my question.

  • USAF1956

    The article failed to mention that Catholics believe the the bread and wine in the communion is actually transformed into the body and blood of Christ, the Eucharist is not just a commemoration event. This is perhaps the #1 difference, children are allowed to receive communion as early as one in the Episcopal church. If you have seen how Catholics genuflect towards the altar, it is because the consecrated bread is locked up in a tabernacle (a box) near the altar and they believe the body of Christ is present in physical form. A catholic should be in the state of grace to receive communion, albeit this is commonly violated by many Catholics in practice.

    • Stacy Alan

      The Anglican tradition (of which Episcopalians are a part) believes in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and you will find most Episcopal Churches have the Blessed Sacrament reserved in a tabernacle. In those congregations that are considered Anglo-Catholic (a term that describes a very “high” piety and liturgical practice), you will even find the celebration of Benediction and devotion to the Virgin Mary.

  • avnrulz

    And one was started by Christ, and one wasn’t.

    • Lainey Lawn

      God don’t like ugly and you just called a group of His followers illegitimate because they don’t practice like you. I hope other Christians don’t treat you the same way.

      • avnrulz

        So, stating a fact is now ‘calling someone ugly’? Read your history and get back to me.

      • Lainey Lawn

        The issue is not what you stated but why you stated it. The article already described the differences between the two–why add the info about who started anything? Anyone reading this website pretty much understands the origin story…so there’s no need for a history lesson.

        Your facts aren’t facts–they’re value judgements and the mention of them only serves as a dividing line between Christians and ignores the teachings of Jesus Christ–love thy neighbor as thyself.

    • Stacy Alan

      The Episcopal Church has its roots in the Anglican Church, which is continuous with the Church as it was originally founded in England. We could argue whether we have gone astray from Catholic teaching (I would argue that we have not, at least in essential matters), but the roots of the church (and the ability to trace our Episcopal succession back to Peter, just as the Roman Catholics do, are the same.

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