Catholicism and Protestantism from Mortimer

I play ‘Mortimer’ in Mary Stuart. He is a man that has converted to Catholicism from Puritanism (an extreme form of Protestantism). During Elizabeth’s reign (she was educated as a Protestant) the country was in religious divide as it broke away from The Roman Catholic Church – which had educated Mary, Queen of Scots. So it may be useful to know some of the differences between Catholicism and Protestantism. It is easy to throw these things into one basket as they all stem from the same foundations just with the rules bent to fit people’s wants, needs and desires.

Here is a list of the 3 biggest differences:

  1. Scripture and its authority: Protestants hold the belief that The Bible holds full authority and is all you need when it comes to the word of God. In other words they believe “this is the word of God!” and The Bible is enough for teaching us how to gain salvation from sin and measure our behavior. Catholics, on the other hand, believe that their traditions are as sacred as the teachings of The Bible and that both have equal authority; basically, The Bible isn’t enough. Roman Catholic doctrines, such as the idea of purgatory, praying to the saints, and the veneration of Mary, have little or no basis in the Scripture, but are based on Roman Catholic traditions.
  2. The Pope! Although many people and Catholics may like the current chap with all the news headlines he is gathering, the Protestants do not! The current Pope’s unconventional (in fact any Pope’s) behaviour only goes to prove that no human is infallible. Protestants think that Christ alone is the head of the Church. They think that the spiritual authority of the church is based on the Word (Bible) rather than apostolic succession, and that all believers through the Holy Spirit can understand the Word. And of course to counter that, The Catholics will tell you that The Pope is ‘ The Vicar of Christ’ and stands in place of Jesus as a visible head of the church. His teachings are infallible and effective over all of us.
  3. Who will be saved and find eternal salvation? Not me, according to both parties! But that is beside the point. Protestants think all you need is your faith in Jesus Christ. No meritorious works are necessary, God has his plan of salvation and it is out of your hands – but they do like nice people. Catholics definitely think that ‘you gotta have faith’ but that you’ve also got to be a well behaved individual. Another way of putting this would be that Christ’s martyrdom wasn’t enough and that individuals must pay for their sins through penance (a problem shared is a problem halved) or by spending time in that place we all want to avoid, Purgatory.  Part of the Catholic salvation process is also the seven sacraments: baptism at birth, confirmation, the Eucharist, holy orders, anointing of the sick, matrimony and penance.

There are lots of other differences and also some similar core beliefs (the Trinity, the deity of Jesus, and the fact that he was sinless, that he died on the cross for man’s sin and rose from the dead and ascended to heaven).

Hopefully this helps you get a basic idea of what was happening at the time. See you after the show.

-Phillip Whiteman, playing Mortimer in Mary Stuart



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