What is the difference between the Roman Catholic and Episcopal Churches?

I have a very close friend who really seems to have a strong faith and a good, close, prayerful relationship with God. She grew up as a Presbyterian and seems more non-denominational now, but attends an Episcopal church and seems to like it very much. I attended one of their services yesterday and almost felt like I was at a Catholic High mass. 90% of everything was the same and the differences that there were were nuanced and seemed subtle, though I’m sure there are major differences. I didn’t go to communion there because I am not ‘in communion with them’ and waited until mass last night.

So here are the questions: 1) What are the differences between the Catholic Church and the Episcopal church now? 2) They say they believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but does the Catholic church believe that Christ becomes really present in the Eucharist at an Episcopal “service”? Not that I want to receive communion there, but I want to understand their theology so as to, perhaps help this friend of mine find the fullness of the faith in the Catholic church.

By the way, her words for the Episcopal church is that it’s “Catholic Light”.

Dear friend,

Your friend obviously doesn’t realize what a put down calling the Episcopal Church “Catholic Light” really is. People ordinarily use this term because Anglican churches (Episcopalians are considered one of the many Anglican communions in the world) resemble the Catholic Church on the surface.

SOME Anglicans believe in the real presence and some do not. Both are considered to be Anglicans in good standing. The lack of such unity in teaching would be intolerable in the Catholic Church. But actually, very early on, during the reign of King Edward VI, the Church of England dropped the belief in the sacrifice of the Mass. From then on, the Catholic Church was no longer able to recognize the validity of their priestly ordinations. So when the Anglican priests of the time died, they no longer had validly ordained clergy and therefore, valid eucharist. There are some exceptions today in that some of their clergy are former Catholic priests and some are men who were validly ordained by one of the eastern Orthodox churches. But these are a minority.

Fortunately of late, some entire Anglican parishes have returned to the Catholic Church. Let us pray that more do as well.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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