Thursday, December 10, 2009

What’s the difference between nondenominational churches and the Catholic Church?

Nondenominational churches (as their name suggests) are not affiliated with any particular denomination. This means that there is nothing distinctive about their theology or their governance that aligns them with any particular denomination. The Catholic Church, however, has a very distinctive theology and governance that separates it from other Churches or ecclesial communions. It follows from this that nondenominational churches do not have many of the things that make the Catholic Church distinctly Catholic. This includes things like:
  • The pope, bishops, or a formal hierarchy
  • Seven Sacraments
  • The Sacrifice of the Mass
  • Prayer to the saints
  • Devotion to Mary
  • The four Marian dogmas
  • Sacred Tradition
  • Apostolic Succession
  • A distinction between mortal sin and venial sin
  • A belief in Purgatory
  • The use of statues and icons
  • Veneration of relics
In virtue of being nondenominational, they vary greatly in theology from church to church, but in general, nondenominational churches tend to focus on the basic Gospel message and do not stray very far beyond that. “Jesus is God, He died for your sins, have faith in Him and you will be saved.” The Catholic Church, of course, preaches the Gospel as well, but She also preaches many other things that, while not the Gospel message per se, are still true and thus must be taught and believed. This would include many of the items listed above.

Nondenominational churches may or may not also differ with the Catholic Church on various issues of morality, such as abortion, contraception, homosexual marriage, divorce, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, capital punishment, etc. How much any nondenominational church differs with the Catholic Church on these matters basically depends on the nondenominational church in question. Some may differ greatly with the Catholic Church on these matters, while others may be perfectly aligned with us.

What makes them even more difficult to compare and contrast with Catholicism is the fact that most nondenominational churches, in their desire to remain nondenominational, usually refrain from making dogmatic statements. If it doesn’t have a direct bearing on the Gospel message or on a person’s salvation, then they usually leave it up to the believer to decide.

Pax Christi,
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