Why the Puritans Didn't Like the Roman Catholic Church

Puritans followed the teachings of John Calvin.
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To Puritans in 16th and 17th century England, Catholicism represented idolatry, materialism and excess in violation of God's will. After formally separating from the Roman Catholic Church, the Puritans still felt the Church of England had retained too many remnants of Catholicism and needed to be reformed.

1 Rigid Hierarchy

The Puritans believed the Catholic Church's approach to knowledge was against the word of God, and considered the Pope a false idol. For the Puritans, scripture was the only supreme religious authority. Their churches were described as "congregational" – that is, the authority to choose anyone who spoke or led the church resided with the common people of the church, not with a pope or a king. Puritans typically chose energetic, educated young men to lead their churches rather than those who had been officially ordained.

2 Pomp and Circumstance

Despite its official split with the Catholic Church, the Church of England's worship services followed the same patterns as Catholic masses, using many of the same rituals and prayers. For the Puritans, this meant the Church of England had separated from the Roman Catholic Church in name only. The Puritan services were plain, without elaborate ceremony. Focus was placed directly on learning and studying the Bible, rather than repetition and rhetoric. Puritan preachers were more like teachers: scholars who led lecture-like services rather than presiding over ritual.

3 All that Glitters

The Church of England duplicated the ornate richness of Catholic cathedrals, and its wealthy bishops lived like kings. For the Puritans, however, the Bible dictated Christians live a simple, unadorned life free of materialism and debauchery. Accordingly, Puritan churches had no decoration and services reflected simplicity and the centrality of the Bible. Organs and other musical instruments were forbidden in the Puritan church, and if hymns were sung, they were sung by the congregation as a whole without accompaniment.

4 Doctrinal Division

The Puritans' main disagreement with the Catholic Church, and the Church of England, concerned how people are saved. Puritans largely followed the teachings of John Calvin, who believed in predestination, that God had chosen in advance a select few people for salvation. Puritans studied the Bible and led simple lives in the hopes they were among those God had chosen.

Jennifer Mueller began writing and editing professionally in 1995, when she became sports editor of her university's newspaper while also writing a bi-monthly general interest column for an independent tourist publication. Mueller holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and a Juris Doctor from Indiana University Maurer School of Law.