What makes the Catholic Church different than other Christian denominations?

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When a lot of people are first drawn to the Catholic Faith they feel that they must totally leave behind what they were taught growing up. They feel that embracing Catholicism somehow betrays all of the good things they received in their native denomination. But this is not really so.

Anything good, and true and beautiful in your old religion is only magnified and celebrated that much more fully in Catholicism. It may not seem so on the surface because we all come with our own personal misconceptions. But once we open up and work past that, we see how we can live our faith that much more deeply and completely embracing the entirety of what Jesus left us in His Church.

Fr. Barron gives a nice, elegant answer, in the video below, as to why this is and what makes the Catholic Church different than other Christian denominations.

36 comments Add comment

Col. O. Ny April 16, 2010 at 10:29 am

The Catholic Church is not a denomination at all. As the Church that Christ founded, the Catholic Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. She is the pillar and ground of truth.

Paul April 18, 2010 at 10:19 am

Please provide Scriptural reference to your claim.

Matthew Warner April 19, 2010 at 10:20 am

Paul – you might find this info helpful: http://www.catholic.com/library/pillar.asp

Tim June 22, 2010 at 8:38 pm

Col, That is true but not applicable to the Roman Catholic church it applies to the whole church which, like the early church in Acts 8, has been scattered to complete God’s work. I do worry about Roman Catholicism because it seems to promote edicts by men over scripture and also promotes a works based doctrine for salvation. I’m afraid I’m with Luther and Calvin on this one. You can’t add things like indulgences and last rites to scripture and place a priest above God.

Matthew Warner June 22, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Tim – thanks for the thoughts! I hope you’ll learn a bit more about Catholic teaching. Your “worries” (which are misunderstandings) will probably go away! God bless ya!

Claire June 23, 2010 at 12:32 pm

We are called to be “holy” per the scriptures and likewise, “faith without works is dead.” Salvation and the gift thereof is just that and no works good, bad or indifferent make it anything but a gift none of us are worthy of, that my friend is what the Catechism teaches. We would not be doing what is commanded and expected of us if we didn’t feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, educate the ignorant, visit the imprisoned and care for the sick and dying. We have begun and stayed more hospitals, schools, orphanages and churches then any other organization since the beginning of time. Catholicism teaches you to LIVE your faith, and that you cannot be separated from it. And Meghan, you are silly and ill informed and I for one am glad you left, you need to pray for discernment, particularly if you read fiction to base your faith in,

enness January 25, 2012 at 9:07 am

There are a few things amiss there, but I can’t let this one go: “place a priest above God”?? Tim, that is not what we do at all! I mean, really, that is shockingly incorrect.

megan April 17, 2010 at 8:44 pm

Yeah, the whore that perverted Jesus’ truths by subsequent petty (male)followers decades/centuries later for their own edification reverting to Pharisee like blocking of salvation with ignorant councils editing the bible and reincluding Jewish dictums and adopting pagan imagery and holiday festivals/rituals. It’s a joke, run by clowns. Glad I got out.

Tony April 21, 2010 at 10:45 pm

Ignorant Councils? LOL!!! Like The Council of Jerusalem where Peter acting as the Leader, our first Pope, who makes a decision on Circumcision. Then there’s another Papal ruling allowing gentiles into the faith with James delivering the Pastoral ruling on the issue?
Editing the Bible? LOL!!! Are you kidding me? The Church finalized the Bible in the late 300’s to Early 400’s and it stayed that way for 1100 years until Luther start throwing out books. Luther even threw out James writings, for obvious readings, and parts of hebrews and all of Revelations before his followers urged him to put it back in.
Before you call the Catholic Church a joke you should turn on TBN with Joel Olteen, Pat Robber’son, Swaggert, Hategee, and other heretics.
Go say your so called “Sinners Prayer”, not in the Bible, and Go down to the stage and make a One time affirmation that you believe Jesus is your “Personal Lord and Savior”, not in the Bible, and play your CCM music aka Pagan Music at your child like worship services,not in the Bible.
Leave Doctrine to those in-charge of Christ’s Church, In the Bible.
BTW, Judas had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, too. enough said.

Catholic debating pro-life April 22, 2010 at 8:57 pm

You are clearly an angry person who will not allow himself to be reached. I will pray for your soul. May God bless you.

enness January 25, 2012 at 9:10 am

You can stop calling us “whore,” please, and say thank you — without us you would not have a Bible, much less a version from which 13 books have been excised. Have a nice day.

Prudence April 20, 2010 at 4:26 pm

And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18

Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Matthew 18:18

Paul April 20, 2010 at 8:10 pm

petros ? petra

Matthew Warner April 20, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Paul – actually that’s not entirely accurate. In the type of greek that was used at that time, I believe they meant the same thing.

“As Greek scholars—even non-Catholic ones—admit, the words petros and petra were synonyms in first century Greek. They meant “small stone” and “large rock” in some ancient Greek poetry, centuries before the time of Christ, but that distinction had disappeared from the language by the time Matthew’s Gospel was rendered in Greek. The difference in meaning can only be found in Attic Greek, but the New Testament was written in Koine Greek—an entirely different dialect. In Koine Greek, both petros and petra simply meant “rock.” If Jesus had wanted to call Simon a small stone, the Greek lithos would have been used. (For an Evangelical Protestant Greek scholar’s admission of this, see D. A. Carson, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984], Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., 8:368). ” – catholic.com

Also, Jesus likely said it to Peter in Aramaic. And in Aramaic he would have said “you are Kepha, and upon this Kepha I will build my church”. It would have been undeniably clear what he was saying.

The whole “petros vs petra” argument has long been dropped even by non-catholic scholars because they know it doesn’t hold water.

I would recommend reading this here if you want to understand the catholic position on that issue better: http://www.catholic.com//library/Peter_and_the_Papacy.asp

And the link I posted in the above comment to you I think you might find helpful as well.

God bless.

bethanne June 23, 2010 at 8:57 am


amen. Kepha = Kepha!! thanks for clearing that up for anyone who was not sure.

Paul April 20, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Thank you, Matthew. I want to be called “Christian” (Acts 11: 26), and nothing else. No artificial traditions, rituals, or icons, no prayers to mortals, nor anything else unsupported by Scripture distracting me from God’s and His Son’s perfect grace, mercy and love, and from my mission to share the same with fellow Christians and the lost alike, on a daily basis.

Matthew Warner April 20, 2010 at 9:15 pm

What if Jesus and his apostles through His Church started those traditions and rituals and prayers? And Jesus gave us a Church, led by men with authority, to help us be in communion with Him.

I would suggest that maybe these things you may find foreign within the Church don’t distract at all – when embraced properly. They actually enhance. They help us to experience God’s grace and mercy even more. That’s why Jesus gave us them. That’s why He gave us the sacraments and a Church made up and led by humans so we might cling to Jesus through them and share them with each other and those that come after us.

Nothing the Church teaches is contradicted by scripture. In fact, it is the Catholic Church who gave us the canon of scripture. And the idea that everything Christians believe is explicitly spelled out in scripture is an entirely un-scriptural belief.

I think you’d be surprised at how much what the Catholic Church teaches is strongly supported by scripture and at how the first Christians believed and practiced very much the same as Catholics do today.

Peace be with you, bro!

enness July 12, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Are the saints what you’re referring to as a “distraction”? Ai ai ai. How terribly sad!

enness January 25, 2012 at 9:14 am

Didn’t remember having visited this article before — oh well. In any case, I’ve since realized, you must have an awful predicament with the story of Veronica wiping the face of Jesus and receiving an image of Him on her cloth?

Catholic debating pro-life April 22, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Okay, we’ve established that if we believe Christianity then the Catholic Church is the one Holy Church of God, as Jesus founded it. But what would convince somebody of a totally different faith to become Catholic? Don’t say because their life is unfulfilled, I know that there are Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, and more who consider their religions completely fulfilling and who believe themselves to be spiritually satisfied. (Not that you would make that arguement, it’s just a very common one.) So, the question remains: What exactly is it about the Catholic Church that would convince people of other faiths to join it? And why do WE believe it’s right?

Matthew Warner April 23, 2010 at 6:57 pm

The short answer is because it is true.

Catholic debating pro-life April 23, 2010 at 9:31 pm

And why do we believe that? (Socratic method of dialogue…asking questions leads to understanhding).

Catholic debating pro-life April 23, 2010 at 9:47 pm

BTW, don’t take this as a criticism-your blog is excellent. I’m just trying to use reason to back up my faith. There has to be a good reason I’d believe Catholicism over, say, Buddhism, Judaism, or Islam. They too claim to be “true”. Why should I believe the Catholic Church over them? What does Catholicism have that makes me believe over other religions, all of which claim to be true?

Matthew Warner April 24, 2010 at 1:13 am

I don’t practice Catholicism because it “claims” to be true. I practice it because it is true.

I’m not sure I can give you the full answer to your question in a blog comment. But logically, personally, experientially and historically I find that to be the case (that Catholicism is true). I address a number of aspects to this answer in many of the posts on this blog in more detail. But overall I think that when you objectively compare Catholicism to those other religions (some of them more philosophies than religions), the historical fact, logical reasoning, the fruits (such as the miracles, saints and charity in the Church) and experiential evidence all point more strongly to Catholicism.

That doesn’t mean that these other religions don’t contain a good bit of truth in them. And that is undoubtedly why so many people do find some fulfillment in practicing them.

bethanne June 23, 2010 at 9:04 am

i think the best answer is to refer to the Church Fathers and Church history– or, all history going back to the beginning of the Church. Doing this leads us to Matthews very short answer, “because it’s true.” If we have already established the truth of God, Jesus and the Bible then it becomes obvious. So, your back up in any conversation I think is read the Church Fathers. Read the Church history.

Catholic debating pro-life April 24, 2010 at 10:35 am

All right, fair enough-it is a rather complex subject, isn’t it?

Lori June 23, 2010 at 8:58 am

@Paul: Please provide a Scriptural reference for the claim that Scripture is the only source of Truth.

glenn June 23, 2010 at 2:12 pm

There are several Scripture references that claim Scripture to be A source of truth but none that claim it to be the ONLY source of truth. Not only that but there are many kinds of truth, some of them are sourced in Math books, History books, Biology books, etc. Their ultimate source is the same God who is the source of Biblical truth.

B July 6, 2010 at 2:26 pm

With all of this squabbling, we’re missing the whole point of all of us being Christians/ Catholics. We are called to love God and love others.

Matthew 22:36-40:
36″Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'[a] 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'[b] 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

How can we live a Christ-like life when we are ripping into each other and telling people that we’re glad they left the church? Satan loves to see us tearing each other down. Matthew 12:25 – “Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.'”

enness January 25, 2012 at 9:30 am

I agree, but given the context of that statement (the very next bit being about praying for discernment) I took that to mean that some people only realize what they had when it’s gone. Mean-spirited remarks are indeed out of place, but I interpreted that differently.

Joe August 30, 2010 at 9:54 pm

You said it Tony. Just life a good life and do what you can for those in need.

Raquel Suarez January 23, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Catholicism is wrong .. and it is not part of christianity . the goverment just says it is in the same group becuase catholicism is totally from the devil .. you cannot get to God without going through jesus .” Nadien vendra al padre sino por mi ”
I am christian , i love God and i have a relashinship with God , not a religion . A RELASHONSHIP . Jesus is coming back soooooon in the rapture and anyone left behind will go to hell .. besides the Jews. becuase they are Gods chosen people . God bless .

enness January 25, 2012 at 9:26 am

We are the oldest, and the original Christian church. Our lineage comes straight from Peter, straight from the Gospel. When Jesus foretold to Peter that “the gates of Hell will not prevail against” His church, that was us. Are you saying He was wrong or He abandoned us? That would make my head explode trying to figure out. I have every reason to believe that Jesus, the perfect Son of God, is faithful.

Our God has said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” Jesus Christ said “Do this in memory of me.” Do you? Or do you find that one expendable? I don’t need an answer to these questions but do try to answer them to yourself.

Fr. Ryan Humphries January 25, 2012 at 9:24 am

A couple of things.

1) There can only be one truth.
2) If this is the case, then that one truth must account for an integration of all of the teachings of Jesus, the Old & New Testaments, Human Nature, Scientific and Philosophical truth and everything else which is true. There must be a cohesive integration of all of these things.
3) the Catholic Church is, by its nature, a cohesion of beliefs and practices which understands the scriptures to be revealed by God but interpreted through Jesus Christ (the sheepgate) and His particular teachings. The Catholic understanding of original sin (rejected by Luther, Calvin, etc) is the only way to incorporate concupiscence, “evil”, and repentance (i.e. Human Nature). Catholicism understands the world to be a (presently) imperfect creation which still reveals God’s truth by conforming – albeit imperfectly – to a clear pattern of design understood by science in the fields of math, physics, chemistry, biology, etc. Catholicism is based intellectually upon Platonic & Aristotelian philosophical premises of causality (rejected by Calvin), metaphysics (rejected by Luther and modern religious leaders) and realism (rejected by all modern fundamentalists.)

Catholicism is not a denomination – it is the authentic Church established by Christ. All other “Christian” faith traditions are merely samplings of the true faith infused with some ideology or agenda from their founder (Luther – depravity, HenryVIII – sexual immorality). It is not right to say that Catholicism is a super-duper version of the others, the others are Christianity lite. They are perversions of the Church of Jesus.

I know people will be offended, but they’ll also be utterly unable to address any of these arguments at the intellectual level. The basic problem of non-Catholic Christianity is that it fails to incorporate some essential aspect of Faith or Reason. Many will also fail to remember that THERE IS ONLY TRUTH.
Even with tons of bad priests and bishops and laity, the Church has endured and thrived, just as our founder said it would.

PacknheatP January 25, 2012 at 10:01 am

Can you update your links?…I know that the pillar link to catholic.com has been moved to archives…

lozen March 6, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Christianity is an insult to the wisdom of the nineteenth century. To place before its progress and development a leader, ruler, king, savior, god, whose knowledge was less than a modern five-year-old school girl, is an outrage upon humanity.

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