I'm all for people expressing opinions, but I don't think that saying that your narrow view is an opinion should excuse your prejudice. I mean, how is it less offensive to say, "I think _________ people are stupid, but that's only my opinion," than to say simply, "I think _________ people are stupid."
I'm not out to convert the whole world to Catholicism. I am a Catholic. That is the vision of the world and of the universe and of the unknowable with which I am the most comfortable, which makes the most sense to me. Other people have other philosophies that make more sense to them. Fine. As long that they don't use those philosophies to hurt me or the people I love, I have no problem with any of that.
But some of the ideas that people have about Catholicism...it's nothing more than lazy ignorance. I won't deny that it was not the most respectable organization through much of the Middles Ages. I won't deny that it has made mistakes, and I am willing to admit that it continues to make mistakes to this day. But people seem determined to believe that the Church has changed very little over the past 1500 years or so. It's as though they can't be bothered to find out what the Church has been up to more recently, particularly in the last hundred years or so. News flash: the Second Vatican Council enacted sweeping changes and reforms in dogma, rituals, and philosophy.
Yes, these changes and reforms happen slowly, and I'd be lying if I denied that sometimes I wish that reform happened a little more quickly. However, for the most part I am glad that the Church and its officials take their time in deliberating these changes, making sure that they are in accordance with our interpretation of God's Word and God's Will, and that it's not just the agenda of some corrupt clergy manipulating the entire organization in an attempt to gain power.
I resent the idea that the Church is too "Victorian." Yes, we have some strict taboos, particularly when it comes to sex and reproduction, but as far as I can tell they're no stricter (or at least not much stricter) than those of other Christian denominations. Is there a denomination that largely condones, or at least doesn't expressly disapprove of, abortion and pre-marital sex? If there is, I'd be fascinated to learn more about it. I don't mind if you disagree with the Church's stance on these issues, nor do I mind if you criticize these strict guidelines as "Victorian," but if you do, please phrase your criticisms so that they apply to the WHOLE of Christianity; don't single out Catholicism.
I also resent the implication that we as a church are too focused on "sin." That's another prime example of a medieval stereotype that won't leave us alone. The focus of the Catholic Church is on forgiveness, not sin. I even had a priest once who would say, "I don't want to talk about sin. Sin is boring." Yes, we require (or at least strongly encourage) our members to participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (often known as Confession), but it is not to make people feel bad or to point them out and say, "Ha ha, you're a sinner; I'm so superior to you." We know that we don't need to confess our sins aloud to a priest in order to gain God's forgiveness, but we do so in order to make ourselves feel better. From a secular point of view, it's a way to get things off our chest and to hear someone say, "It's okay. It's in the past. It doesn't matter anymore. You can stop worrying about it." If anything, I would say we're actually less focused on sin than some other denominations, based on my observations of and interactions with members of said denominations.
Yes, there are issues on which I disagree with the Church, most particularly gay marriage and women priests. Both are currently forbidden, and it deeply concerns me that our organization, which otherwise places such an emphasis on human rights and social justice, would continue to practice these vestigial forms of discrimination. Frankly, it's embarrassing. But I've been reflecting on it, and I'm come to the conclusion that the vast majority of Church members know that the practices of forbidding gays to marry and women to be priests are discriminatory. Some of them may not care. Some of them (like myself) might not be in a position to do much about it other than pray. But the Church allows for its members to disagree with some of its teachings as a matter of conscience. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. 'He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters.'"
I'm not saying that I always succeed in being tolerant or accepting of other religions, but I do make the effort and I'd appreciate it if everyone else would do the same.