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Catholic Dictionary




The system of faith, worship, and practice derived from the principles of the Reformation in the sixteenth century. As a name, it comes from the Protestation of the Reformers at the Diet of Speyer (1529) against the decisions of the Catholic majority that no further religious innovations were to be introduced. Although now divided into hundreds of denominations, the original families of Protestantism were only five: The Lutheran, Calvinists, and Zwinglian on the Continent, and the Anglican and Free Church or Congregational in Great Britain. Three premises of Protestantism have remained fairly constant, namely, the Bible as the only rule of faith, excluding tradition and Church authority; justification by faith alone, excluding supernatural merit and good works; and the universal priesthood of believers, excluding a distinct episcopacy or priesthood divinely empowered through ordination to teach, govern, and sanctify the people of God. (Etym. Latin protestari, to profess one's belief in or against something, to witness to.)