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Presbyterian vs. Catholic: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on December 4, 2023
Presbyterianism is a Protestant Christian denomination governed by elders, focusing on individual faith and scripture interpretation, while Catholicism is a Christian denomination led by the Pope, emphasizing tradition, sacraments, and church authority.

Key Differences

Presbyterian churches are governed by a body of elders (presbytery) and emphasize democratic church governance. While, Catholic churches are under the hierarchical leadership of the Pope and bishops, emphasizing centralized authority.
Presbyterians focus on individual interpretation of the Bible and salvation through faith alone. However, Catholics emphasize tradition and teachings of the Church, with salvation through faith and good works.
In Presbyterianism, ministers are elected by the congregation and are seen as equals among other members. In Catholicism, priests and bishops have a distinct, hierarchical role, administering sacraments and guiding the faithful.
Presbyterian worship is typically simpler, with a focus on preaching and the sacraments of Baptism and Communion. Catholic worship involves a more elaborate liturgy and seven sacraments, including Confession and Eucharist.
Presbyterianism originated in the 16th-century Protestant Reformation, particularly under John Calvin. Catholicism traces its origins to the early Christian community, claiming continuity with the apostolic church.

Comparison Chart

Church Governance

Governed by a body of elders
Hierarchical, led by the Pope

Theological Emphasis

Individual faith and scripture
Tradition and church teachings

Role of Clergy

Ministers are elected, seen as equals
Hierarchical, distinct roles

Worship Style

Simpler, with focus on preaching
Elaborate liturgy with seven sacraments

Historical Origins

16th-century Protestant Reformation
Early Christian community

Presbyterian and Catholic Definitions


A Protestant denomination known for its representative form of church government.
The Presbyterian church holds regional presbytery meetings to make decisions.


A member of the Roman Catholic Church, under the leadership of the Pope.
As a Catholic, she attends Mass every Sunday.


A member of a Protestant Christian denomination governed by elders (presbyters).
The Presbyterian church elected new elders at the annual meeting.


A Christian denomination that traces its roots to the original apostolic church.
The Catholic Church maintains a direct line of succession from the apostles.


A branch of Protestant Christianity that values the individual interpretation of scripture.
Presbyterian theology encourages personal Bible study and reflection.


Pertaining to the Catholic Church, which emphasizes tradition and sacraments.
Catholic teachings include the importance of the sacraments in spiritual life.


A Christian faith tradition emphasizing predestination and the sovereignty of God.
Presbyterian teachings often focus on the concept of God's plan for humanity.


Belonging to a worldwide Christian church known for its rich liturgical worship.
Catholic cathedrals are often sites of elaborate and historic liturgical services.


Relating to or denoting a Christian church or denomination governed by elders.
The Presbyterian form of governance emphasizes democratic decision-making.


A Christian tradition characterized by a hierarchical structure of clergy.
In the Catholic Church, bishops play a key role in church governance.


Of or relating to ecclesiastical government by presbyters.


Of broad or liberal scope; comprehensive
"The 100-odd pages of formulas and constants are surely the most catholic to be found" (Scientific American).


Presbyterian Of or relating to a Presbyterian Church.


Including or concerning all humankind; universal
"what was of catholic rather than national interest" (J.A. Froude).


A member or an adherent of a Presbyterian Church.


Of or pertaining to a presbyter, or to ecclesiastical government by presbyters; relating to those who uphold church government by presbyters; also, to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of a communion so governed.


Of or pertaining to a presbyter, or to ecclesiastical government by presbyters; relating to those who uphold church government by presbyters; also, to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of a communion so governed.


One who maintains the validity of ordination and government by presbyters; a member of the Presbyterian church.


A follower of Calvinism as taught in the Presbyterian Church


How do Catholics view the Bible compared to Presbyterians?

Catholics integrate tradition with the Bible, whereas Presbyterians focus more on individual interpretation.

Can Presbyterian ministers be women?

Yes, many Presbyterian denominations ordain women.

Do Catholics and Presbyterians celebrate the same sacraments?

Both celebrate Baptism and Communion, but Catholics have seven sacraments.

What is the main difference in governance between Presbyterian and Catholic churches?

Presbyterian churches are governed by elders, while the Catholic Church is hierarchical.

Do Presbyterians recognize the Pope's authority?

No, Presbyterians do not recognize the Pope's authority.

What is the role of a Catholic priest?

A Catholic priest administers sacraments and leads the congregation.

Are there differences in worship styles between the two?

Yes, Presbyterian worship is generally simpler, while Catholic worship involves more ritual.

How do Presbyterians and Catholics view salvation?

Presbyterians emphasize faith alone, while Catholics believe in faith and good works.

How is the Presbyterian Church structured?

It's structured democratically with elected elders and ministers.

Do Presbyterians recognize saints?

They respect biblical saints but do not venerate them as Catholics do.

What is the Catholic view on the Virgin Mary compared to Presbyterians?

Catholics venerate Mary more than Presbyterians, who respect her as Jesus' mother.

Can Presbyterians be confirmed?

Yes, Presbyterians have a confirmation process.

Do Catholics have a set prayer book like Presbyterians?

Catholics use liturgical texts, but not a single prayer book like some Presbyterian groups.

Can Presbyterian clergy marry?

Yes, Presbyterian clergy can marry.

How do Presbyterians interpret the Eucharist?

They see it as a symbolic representation of Jesus' body and blood.

How do Catholics and Presbyterians view the authority of church tradition?

Catholics place high importance on tradition, whereas Presbyterians prioritize scripture.

Is the Catholic Church more centralized than the Presbyterian?

Yes, the Catholic Church has a more centralized structure.

Do Catholics believe in predestination?

Catholicism does not emphasize predestination as Presbyterians do.

Are Presbyterian services liturgical?

Some are, but they are generally less formal than Catholic liturgy.

Are there differences in the approach to social issues?

Yes, there can be differing approaches based on doctrine and theology.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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