The Anglican Church came from the Roman Catholic Church about the same time as the Reformation was starting, but that doesn't answer how they are different on a practical level. How is the Anglican Church different from the Catholic Church in practice? What doctine(s) distinguish them as a separate denomination from Catholicism?

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    Note: this question is in the same format as this one, so it should be answered in much the same way: with a comprehensive and thorough answer that touches on the main differences. Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 2:25
  • The political background might also be interesting when understanding the split (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_VIII_of_England)
    – Ian
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 17:23

2 Answers 2


The 39 Articles are the foundational document of Anglicanism (though not all Anglicans accept them now). The major points of difference with Catholicism which are explained in the Articles are:

  1. Anglicanism does not accept the books of the Apocrypha as inspired. (Article 6)
  2. Anglicanism says that our righteousness before God is based only on the merit of Christ, and not on the basis of our works. (Article 11)
  3. Anglicanism rejects the Catholic idea of supererogation, that we can perform works above and beyond what God requires. (Article 14)
  4. Article 20 essentially states that the Church is subservient to scripture, rather than its traditions being of equal authority to scripture.
  5. Article 22 rejects purgatory.
  6. Article 24 says that the liturgy of a church must be in the language of the people. Catholicism has varied about this over the years, but there have been many times when the mass must be performed in Latin.
  7. Anglicans believe in only 2 of the 7 sacraments which Catholicism recognises (though this isn't universal, and Anglo-Catholics recognise all 7.) (Article 25)
  8. Anglicans reject the concept of transubstantiation, that communion is in any way a sacrifice, or that the cup can be denied to the laity. (Articles 28, 30, 31)
  9. Anglican ministers are allowed to be married. (Article 32)
  10. And for what really started the English reformation off, Anglicans say that the Bishop of Rome has no authority in England. (Article 37)

In addition, I would add that

  1. Devotion to Mary is generally uncommon in Anglicanism, at least compared to the extent of Catholocism.
  2. Many dioceses ordain women as deacons, priests and even bishops.
  3. As a result of the distributed authority structures of Anglicanism, there is a much greater diversity of beliefs than in Catholicism. Some dioceses for example endorse homosexuality, while others do not. This is a major issue in the Anglican Communion today, and will most likely result in a broken communion in the next few years.
  • Another major difference might be the lack of a strong monastic tradition (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dissolution_of_the_Monasteries). I understand that there are some religious orders in Anglicanism, but I don't think monasticism in England ever got back to where it was before the split. This mostly outflows from rejecting all but 2 sacraments, as monastic life is one of the 7 RC sacraments that got tossed.
    – Ian
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 17:22
  • @Ian It was more than that, and I don't think it was really dependent on their rejection of the other sacraments. When Henry VIII disbanded the English monasteries, those monasteries controlled a quarter of English land wealth. Disbanding them both gave that wealth back to the crown, but also, perhaps more importantly, removed that much of the pope's influence in England. It's worth noting that at that time many Catholics such as Erasmus were also unhappy with the monasteries' great wealth.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 1:08
  • perhaps monasticism was corrupt in that particular time and place, but Anglicanism not having a large monastic tradition is definitely a difference between the two churches (good or bad). It was my mistake about the sacraments, I conflated the sacrament of Holy Orders with a monk's tonsuring. Lots of anti-Catholic rhetoric condemn the sacramental vows of celibacy taken by Priests, which are part of a sacrament, and the vows taken by a monk, which are not officially a sacrament. In the Eastern Orthodox church some folks consider monastic tonsure as a sacrament.
    – Ian
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 14:10
  • Those reasons are the same reasons why a majority of the protestants broke free from the RCC Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 23:20
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    @Yters No Anglican churches are in communion with Rome, rather some formerly Anglican priests joined the Catholic Church. I didn't think whole churches could do that, just priests (and obviously other members too). And Eastern Catholic churches have married priests, not the western/Roman rite.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Sep 26, 2023 at 22:08

There is so much that the two faiths have in common but I would simply state the 3 most important differences are:

  1. Anglicans put Scriptural Authority as ultimate authority. Roman Catholics put the Pope's authority as the ultimate authority
  2. Anglicans believe that the Eucharist is a precious memorial to Christ and, at it's heart, a mystery. The Roman Catholics believe the Eucharist is the actual flesh and blood of Christ (Transubstantiation).
  3. Anglicans revere Mary as a great example of servitude and that she did give birth to Christ as a virgin. Roman Catholics believe that her mother Anne was a virgin, that Mary gave birth to Christ as a virgin, and that Mary remained a virgin her entire life.
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    I disagree that Roman Catholics put the Pope's authority as the ultimate authority rather than Scripture. Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium (the teaching authority of the bishops of the Church in union with the Pope) are equal and complementary ways that the deposit of faith comes to us from Jesus and the Apostles. Also, the Catholic Church does not teach the virginal conception of Mary, but the immaculate conception of Mary. Her mother was not a virgin, but Mary was saved by grace from the effects of original sin at the moment of her conception. Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 21:01
  • The tricky thing is that scripture didn't fall out of heaven. It was written by a bunch of people. So, Catholicism sees scripture as a written continuation of tradition and magisterium. That means the Catholic positions isn't in opposition to the Anglican position, it is a superset of the Anglican position. For instance, the Anglicans still have to decide what counts as scripture, and to do that they are going to look at church tradition and councils, which is not very far at all from the Catholic position.
    – yters
    Commented Sep 26, 2023 at 18:21

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