Your Choice: Museum, Do-It-Yourself, or The Church
"If you are trying to be Catholic by defining your religious identity according to the correctness of your beliefs and the way you worship, instead of simply belonging to the plain ol' Roman Catholic Church, then you may have a difficult reevaluation before you. "
Three Models of the Church
Practically speaking, there are three models of the Church.
Toss in the Pharisees and add "right practice" to "right belief" as an illustration.
Toss in pagans, new-agers, and anyone of the DIY religious persuasion by way of illustration.
Then there is the Roman Catholic Church, to which the Bear sincerely hopes you safely belong. It has dogmas and other teachings that must believed, but unlike Orthodoxy, that is not what defines it. As we all know, Jesus did something very interesting, even bold, that is recorded in Matthew 16:18. "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."
How Jesus Founded the Roman Catholic Church
First of all, against the Protestants, He founded a Church. And against the Orthodox, he founded it on a leader, a pope. At least that is how the Roman Catholic Church has understood this passage from the beginning.
Jesus is God, and He had complete knowledge of the future when he built His house on the rock: weak, impulsive, changeable Simon, whose name he changed to Peter, "Rock." Perhaps Our Lord was being ironic, or perhaps He was giving Simon a name to live up to. He knew one of those Peters would be John XXIII, and foresaw Vatican II. Our own Year of Our Lord 2015 was not beyond Him, and He knew every breath Pope Francis takes and every thought in his head. We don't know what God thinks of Pope Francis, at least the Bear doesn't. We do know Jesus didn't provide a "Francis Exception" in Matthew.
Did Jesus Mess Up Founding His Church?
We may not think that Jesus did a very good job founding his Church. One might even say that obviously Jesus made a huge mistake giving the vast responsibilities of the keys to mere mortals. Clearly, Jesus should have done what the Father did back in Moses' day: give a list of rules and right beliefs to follow and adhere to! Details of worship! With all due respect, let's face it: the Gospel is a bit light on the details.
The "man-rock on the rock" plan was a disaster from the beginning and has made a wreck of the Church in our day.
Peter proved unworthy his whole career. One minute lopping the ear off a slave, the next so scared of a girl he's cursing like a fisherman. Then he's afraid of the Jews and gives the cold shoulder to Gentile Christians. Paul has to set him straight. In fact, Paul winds up doing all the heavy lifting. While Paul practically writes the New Testament, producing long, carefully reasoned theological monographs, Peter -- the first Pope -- writes two short letters. Peter was an underachiever.
And who knew but that someone even worse might be chosen as pope in the future? The Orthodox seem to get along fine without a pope. They tenaciously cling to the ancient faith without too many distractions.
And Protestants, with their own "great Pope, Self" enlightened by the Holy Spirit (they believe), at least have the liberty to make up their own minds when Pastor obviously goes off the rails.
Clinging to right belief, or relying on one's own enlightened personal judgment. Either one is far better than the ridiculous idea of old men choosing other old men according to the politics of the day, don't you think?
If You Want to Be on the Rock, Look for the Fisherman
If we want to be on the rock, we must find where Peter is standing.
Whenever you see some apocalypic comment that the house built on the rock is falling down and we must look elsewhere, you should know immediately that nothing could be further from the truth. We have Jesus' guarantee that the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. The same Church that taught all the doctrines approved of by people who make such comments also taught that it was indefectible. That means it cannot depart from sound teaching or morals, no matter what we fear might happen, or seems to be happening.
If correct doctrine is how a person defines his religion, then the Orthodox have proved you don't need a pope to hold onto the past. Those people who define their religion by correct doctrine of the past would be infinitely happier in the Orthodox Church. In practice, however, the Bear can state from experience that it feels a bit like a museum.
If the visible Roman Catholic Church just isn't to your taste, and you want to reserve the personal freedom to pass judgment on everything that is said, done, taught or decreed, then Protestantism would seem to be the best choice.
But if you trust Jesus' plan for building his Church, and believed the Church when it taught that it is indefectible, you define your religious identity not by correct doctrine (Orthodox) and not by personal opinions (Protestants), but by belonging to the plain ol' Roman Catholic Church. Period. And then you take it from there. Within the Church.
If you are trying to be Catholic by defining your religious identity according to the correctness of your beliefs and the way you worship, instead of simply belonging to the plain ol' Roman Catholic Church, then you may have a difficult reevaluation before you.
Be Catholic. Listen to the Church. If you don't understand something, or something seems wrong, put it on hold. Then try to do your best with everything else until it's clarified in some fashion. That doesn't sound like the best option to you? There is one option we know is wrong. Leaving the Roman Catholic Church in any way, shape or form. The Bear would include in "leaving" developing a "schismatic mind-set:" recognizing any other body as the chief spiritual authority of God's Church on matters of doctrine and liturgy.
Above all, recognize that obedience and humility are precious virtues. Pride has a habit of lurking in the best of intentions. This isn't a contest over who's "more correct," or preserves the "pure Church" of some particular period in the past. It's not about winning an argument. Even if you conclude something is bad, it is still your choice to "bad-stay," and not "bad-leave."