"I'm a Catholic."
You might use one of those titles to describe yourself or you might've heard someone identify as either one or the other.
But what does that mean?
What does it mean to be a Catholic or a Protestant and what's the difference between the two?
Some of the most common examples of heated exchanges between the two Christian denominations include the tensions between the two communities in Northern Ireland, the Thirty Years' War in the 17th century, the French Wars of Religion in the 16th century and even the intense football rivalry between Glasgow-based teams Celtic and Rangers.
But many people may be unfamiliar with the theological differences between the two denominations.
Catholics believe its church is the continuation of the early Christian community established by Jesus around 30 AD, with Peter the Apostle traditionally viewed as the first Bishop of Rome, or pope. It also holds that it is the one, true church.
Protestants trace their history back to 1517, when Martin Luther, a former Catholic monk, nailed his Ninety-five Theses on the door of the All Saints' Church in Wittenburg, Germany. Luther views include criticism of purgatory, the pope, the devotion of saints and clerical celibacy.
Luther's biggest teaching was that salvation or redemption is a gift of God's grace, attainable only through faith in Jesus. Luther stressed that being a good person was not good enough to receive salvation - something he thought was different to the Catholic Church's teachings. Luther believed that having faith in Jesus only, or Sola fide, is the one and only way to receive salvation. He based his views on Ephesians 2:8-10.
Luther's thoughts and ideas on the church sparked the Reformation and eventually lead to different denominations such as Anglicanism, Calvinism, Lutheranism and Presbyterianism.
To find out where Catholics and Protestants differ in terms of theology, the Western Advocate sat down with Catholic Diocese of Bathurst Bishop Michael McKenna and Bathurst Presbyterian Church pastor Tristan Merkel.
They were asked the same questions and they explained their church's views on certain topics and theological differences.
What makes someone a Catholic/Protestant?
Michael: If you're baptised into the Catholic Church or baptised into another denomination and decide at some point to become a Catholic, that's what makes you a Catholic. If you're baptised as an infant, but might not believe or practice as a Catholic, you still essentially are. If you're baptised in another denomination and when you're older you decide you want to be a Catholic, it's a process where you have to understand what it means and go through a ceremony that makes that the case.
Tristan: There are lots of churches that are Protestant. The Protestant label is one rooted in history. Around 500 years ago some Christians (Martin Luther and John Calvin are the most well-known) challenged the Catholic Church on the question of how people are saved. The question of how people are saved is a big deal for a Christian. Luther and Calvin and others believed the Bible taught that people are saved only by trusting in Jesus' goodness, and that we're never, not even a little bit, saved by our own goodness. This, and a few other disagreements on the Bible's teaching, lead eventually to the formation of the Protestant church.
What is salvation and grace and how do we receive it?
Michael: Salvation is being saved from sin and death and it's brought about by Jesus Christ. We receive [salvation] when we accept it.
Tristan: Salvation, or being saved, is having our relationship with God repaired. Our sin - which is everything we do that's contrary to God's way of living in his world - means that relationship is broken. We deserve nothing good from God. In fact we deserve punishment. But that's where grace comes in. Grace is undeserved favour from God. Even though we certainly don't deserve it, God sent Jesus to save all who trust him.
What is the significance of the Eucharist or communion?
Michael: It goes back to the Last Supper and we believe, like most Christian churches believe, is that we believe Jesus' words, "Do this in memory of me." The repetition of the Last Supper of the "this is my body" and "this is my blood" makes Christ's redemption present again. In the Catholic Church and not just the Catholic Church, we believe the bread and wine do become the body and blood of the risen Lord. In fact the celebration of the sacrament of the Mass is making present again the mystery of Calvary.
Tristan: The Lord's supper is a symbolic meal where bread signifies Jesus' body, and wine or juice symbolises Jesus' blood. It's something we do every now and then as a way of remembering it's Jesus' death that pays the price that saves us. You can read all about it in the Bible in the book of Luke, chapters 22, 23, and 24.
Who is the head of the Catholic/Protestant church and what is their role?
Michael: The Pope is the Bishop of Rome and therefore the successor of Peter, the first Bishop of Rome. You go back to the New Testament and see the special place of Peter amongst the apostles. At the heart of it, the pope is the successor of Peter and his main ministry is to keep the churches together in the common faith.
Tristan: Jesus is the head of the church. He's the king and ruler and leader of his church, and he's also the saviour of his church. There's no other leader needed. Under Jesus, we all help and and encourage each other to live for Jesus.
What role do saints play in Catholic/Protestant churches?
Michael: Basically saint means 'saved'. We hope and expect there's a lot of saints, like the book of Revelation says, a number impossible to count. In the church over thousands of year, we've known people that are full of the love of Christ, with their lives worth imitating. They are with God in heaven now, so we can ask for their prayers in heaven, just as we ask for their prayers on earth.
Tristan: Anyone who's saved by Jesus is a saint. As saints we all help and encourage each other to live for Jesus.
Do Catholic/Protestant clergy practice celibacy and why or why not?
Michael: In the Catholic Church, before you've been ordained, if you're married, you have to stay married. However, if you're not, you have to make a promise of celibacy for life. At the heart of it (the celibacy promise) is when people make the choice of celibacy, they are devoting themselves 100 per cent to Christ and the church. It's really to give freedom to serve the church.
Tristan: Pastors in Protestant churches aren't under any compulsion to practice celibacy. The Bible teaches that God made both singleness and marriage, and they're both good and authentic ways to live.
If you still have questions about the Catholic and Protestant denominations,