Pentecostalism and Catholicism are both belief systems in the Christian religion, but the similarities between the two do not extend much beyond that. Pentecostalism and Catholicism differ from each other in several ways. These differences are what make each of these religious systems unique and suitable to their respective followers.
The organizational structures of the Catholic Church and the Pentecostal Movement are quite different. The Catholic Church has a very well-defined hierarchy of officials, with the Pope being its head official serving from the Holy See in Rome, with the archbishops, bishops and priests -- in that order -- all serving under him in various parts of the world. All Catholic churches are answerable to the Pope and the archbishops. The Pentecostal Movement does not have any true hierarchical organisation. It is, rather, a method of describing several groups of Christian churches that follow the Pentecostal view of Christianity. However, there is a Pentecostal World Conference that meets every three years. Many Pentecostal churches participate in the PWC, though it is not required.
The Catholic Church is considerably older than the Pentecostal churches. According to Catholic teachings, the official Roman Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ and Saints Peter and Paul in the early first century. Because so few written records from that period exist, scholars cannot be certain this is true. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church has existed for over two millennia. The origin of the Pentecostal Movement, which began the United States, is also somewhat uncertain because it had no official leader. Most religious scholars agree generally that there is no evidence that the Movement existed earlier than 1875.
Catholicism and Pentecostalism also differ in several particular beliefs. The Catholic Church considers the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, to have been immaculately conceived or born without sin, whereas Pentecostal churches do not hold this belief. The Catholic Church believes in the Trinity -- God is one being existing in three forms -- whereas some Pentecostal churches are non-Trinitarian and believe the three entities are separate beings. There are many other differences in belief, but both share one key belief. Both believe in the Pentecost, the event in which the apostles received the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Differences in Religious Practice and Participation
The two belief systems honour different religious practices. A key feature of Pentecostal belief is the idea of spiritual gifts. Pentecostals believe that the spiritual gifts that were passed on to the apostles are still accessible to modern believers. Among these gifts are the practice of glossolalia, or speaking in tongues, prophecy and miracle healing. Pentecostal regularly practice these spiritual gifts. The Catholic Church generally does not embrace spiritual gifts as much, so speaking in tongues and prophecy are rare practices for most Catholics. Lastly, the Catholic Church has more than 1 billion members, many more than the 500 million in all of the churches that follow Pentecostalism.
- Spreading Fires: The Missionary Nature of Early Pentecostalism;" Allan Anderson; 2007
- "The Catholic Church Through The Ages: A History;" John Vidmar; 2005
- "An Introduction to Pentecostalism: Global Charismatic Christianity (Introduction to Religion);" Allan Anderson; 2004
- "Catechism of the Catholic Church: Second Edition;" U.S. Catholic Church, 2003