12 Myths Protestants Believe About the Catholic Church

Krystal Smith

Misunderstandings about the Catholic Church are common, fueled by differing theological interpretations, historical forces, and cultural pressures. Dialogue and understanding among various Christian denominations have indeed occurred and will continue. Nevertheless, misunderstandings about the Catholic Church remain. Even among many of the more educated Protestants, many of the myths exist. It is our responsibility to express the truth as clearly and winsomely as possible to a world that thinks about these issues very differently from our own.


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Many misconceptions arise from a lack or misunderstanding of someones religion. One major misconception is the belief that Catholics worship idols. Many believe that the veneration of saints and the use of religious imagery in Catholic worship are forms of idol worship. Catholics do not worship saints or statues. They may honor or ask for the intercession of saints because, as close friends of God, they serve as role models of faith. The images and statues used in worship are not idols. They are reminders of God’s love and the sacrifices and example of the depicted one.

Salvation by Works

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Another misconception is that Catholics believe they can be saved by works alone. While the Catholic Church emphasizes the importance of good works (as taught in James 2:14-26), Catholics believe God’s grace saves us. We cannot earn salvation through good works alone; instead, our works respond to God’s grace in our lives (Eph 2:8-10).

Papal Infallibility

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Those outside the Church often misunderstand papal infallibility. It does not mean that the pope cannot sin. It does not imply that the pope is perfect or has perfect knowledge or wisdom. He may be the only person in the Church who is not a saint!

Biblical Authority

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Another issue that divides many Protestants and Catholics is the topic of biblical authority. Many Protestants accuse Catholics of raising tradition above Scripture. However, tradition and Scripture are both upheld in Catholic teaching, with the Magisterium (the teaching authority of the Church) interpreting and safeguarding both. Catholics believe very strongly in the value of tradition, as they see Scripture and Tradition being very much tied into one another: Tradition aided in Scripture being written down accurately, and Scripture helps Tradition with its knowledge of Jesus Christ and the early years of the Church’s existence.”

Mary and the Saints

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Protestants sometimes accuse Catholics of giving too much honor to Mary and the saints, thereby detracting from the worship of God alone. But the veneration of Mary and the saints is intended by Catholics to honor those who have followed the Lord faithfully and are now with him in Heaven and provide models of Christian discipleship. The veneration of Mary and the saints does not take away from the worship owed to God but rather enriches it.

Confession and Penance

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Catholics believe that the matter of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is “The acts of the penitent: contrition, confession, and satisfaction.” (Ebert, 114) Some Protestants think of Confession and Penance as meaningless. They think Catholics do not have to do Confession and Penance to the Lord since it is a work. Catholics believe that the sacrament of reconciliation is the means of liberation from sin and is the gift of God’s grace. In other words, Catholics believe that receiving the sacrament of reconciliation is how one returns to a right relationship with God and receives God’s forgiveness and healing. Need to do Penance is an aspect of feeling the need to receive forgiveness and to show humility and reveals one’s true repentance and God’s granting of His mercy whereby one is brought back to a right relationship with God and the Church.


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Transubstantiation is a word Catholics use to explain what happens at Mass when the priest consecrates the bread and wine. The bread becomes the body of Jesus, and the wine becomes the blood of Jesus. Some Protestants (and others who are not Catholic) believe that the bread and wine are only symbols of Jesus’ body and blood.


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Catholics are unique in that they do not worship Mary, meaning they do not believe that Mary is God in the flesh. That would be correct. Catholics believe that Mary was a human being who God chose to be the mother of Jesus. She was not divine but rather a fully human being. Catholics do have a reverence for Mary, which I like to call a heavy form of reverence. We are taught that Mary is the Mother of God and the Queen of Heaven.

Celibacy of Priests

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Priest’s Celibacy is often misunderstood among most people. It is misunderstood to be an unbiblical list of Catholic Priests. Many Protestants think that not being in a marital relationship leads Priests to have so many troubles, such as having unstated sexual relationships, being single, and yet trying to counsel people who are married, which leads to tragic failures and also failure to have the sexual needs since they are not in association with marriage.


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The doctrine of purgatory is one of the distinctive features between Catholicism and Protestantism. Some Protestants charge that purgatory amounts to a “second chance” of salvation, which undermines the sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ. Catholicism has consistently raised the distinction between initial justification (being first brought into a right relationship with God through the Prayers of Jesus Christ) and subsequent justification (the process of actually growing in holiness). Catholicism has consistently held that only those in a state of grace can enter heaven. For those who have died in a state of grace but still have to be made pure, purgatory is that process of purification. Again, as with the other doctrines, it is rooted in God’s mercy and justice.

The Reformation

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In discussing the history of Christianity, it is essential to recognize that Protestant history is a part of Christian history. Many Protestants think Reformation history is dirty and that they should be ashamed of present theological, cultural, and institutional divisions in Christianity. While it is true that 16th-century issues drove the Reformation, many of the concerns of the reformers were very much like those of the early Christians and the fathers of the early church.

Works of Mercy

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There is a big misconception that Catholics believe that they can earn their salvation through works of mercy. While Catholics believe that works of mercy are significant as a sign of love for God and neighbor, they feel that they do not earn them anything. Instead, they are considered the fruit of a living faith. Catholics believe that faith and works are inseparable and that faith works through love in our everyday lives.

Truths About Christianity That No One Is Ready To Hear

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Christianity has a long and complex history and many different ways to understand and practice it exist. As with any religion, some aspects of Christianity can be challenging. Here are harsh truths about Christianity that some people may not be ready to hear: Truths About Christianity That No One Is Ready To Hear

Things People Say All the Time That Are Actually Taken from the Bible

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Did you know that many commonly used (while outdated) sayings that people say all the time actually have origins in scripture, specifically the Bible? Here is a list of outdated things people say all the time that are actually taken from scripture: Things People Say All the Time That Are Act

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