The following is a response to the following blog: http://networkedblogs.com/tanRz
As a person who went in the opposite direction that you did, I must respectfully disagree with your assessment of Catholicism. Have you actively read the catechism? I am still going through it myself and found an aide to get me through all of it, but I fail to see how the rite of Reconciliation is set up to give the priests powers. You've surely heard the scripture that says basically "whatever you bind on heaven shall be bound on earth, who's sins you forgive are forgiven." Christ did not say this to a large group of your average believers but to his Apostles, to the twelve. That would signify that they were given a specific job to do within the Church with Peter as its figurehead. Since Peter was not going to live on this plain of existence forever he had to choose a successor. If you think that Christ was referring to other believers and not a specifically set apart caste then please explain why it is not a Protestant practice to have laypeople forgive each others sins (because they thankfully held onto the Church's Jewish roots in this).
Now, this doesn't preclude priests who would abuse their conferred gift, but you must realize that the priests do not forgive sins on their own. It is something given to them, and not something they created themselves nor earned. In any case, the purpose of it is not to have the priests lord over others, though they do serve leadership functions within the parish and general Church. Priests have to confess to one another, and our dearly departed Pope John Paul II was said to confess often. Only a priest who has become filled with pride uses his position in the Church to harm others or give himself power.
Sidenote: Missing mass intentionally is the mortal sin because it involves a direct rejection of Christ who is present at the mass. If you are sick, on the road, car breaks down etc. then you are excused. Those things can be unavoidable. Consciously making a choice not to attend is different than circumstances forcing you not to attend.
Back on subject. You can ask God directly for forgiveness and not go directly to a priest, particularly for venial sins. In fact, venial sins cannot even keep you from the Eucharist. Again circumstances can play a role here, and God is--of course--not bound by the sacraments, just those who believe. We cannot consign anyone to hell because we do not know the whole story as God does and God is merciful so there will be instances where someone we think won't make it does.
The idea that your boredom indicated that God would not punish you for not going does not follow. The excite of worship has little to do with actual worship. Keep in mind that I grew up in Baptist and Penacostal African-American churches. There was plenty of energy there and a lot of good things occurring, but I found later that a lot of meat was missing from the bone. It was like Christianity lite. Additionally, I found that I tended to try and put my own judgement of myself (which was always very harsh) above God's when I would confess just on my own. The whole process of Reconciliation really makes you examine things even if you are only imperfectly contrite. I have never had a bad experience in Reconciliation and have to note that the priests were never haughty or harsh with me. They actually quite well embodied Christ's love for me and gave me appropriate penance.
Now, not everyone is scrupulous as me--though Luther certainly was (he would have a couple bad thoughts during a confession and immediately feel compelled to confess again though it was likely something venial and would be washed away)--but I have to say that it makes no sense for someone to think that it is just about priestly power. After all, you rarely--if ever--hear about priests retaining someone's sins. There's more on this, but I want to move on.
Speaking of Luther and the Bible, Luther actually wanted to get rid of the book of James because it talks about works (thus Catholics believe in works plus faith). Like most people who branch into heresy, he placed too much emphasis on one or two things and lost the big picture. Sola Scriptura shows up no where in the Bible. It isn't in the Hebrew Scriptures nor the New Testament which the Church compiled. Keep in mind that there would be no Bible without the Church. They had several councils discussing the matter, and they didn't completely close the cannon until the Protestant Reformation. There are plenty of beliefs that do not appear directly in Scriptures. The Holy Trinity, for instance; but, we still believe in it.
As for Mary, I struggled with this initially but got a much better handle on it as time went on. It does not appear that she has a big part in the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament, but that is probably more due to the style the synoptics were written in and the fact that the focus was on Christ and the Church that was growing more than anything else. That said, in John--my favorite Gospel--it is Mary who gets Christ to do the miracle at the Wedding at Cana. That seems a bit odd despite the fact that she was whom he got his human flesh from. It can be argued that he was simply doing his duty to his mother as a good Jew would, and there is some merit in that, but he was also clearly an adult at the time. But, the real curiosity is how he responded to his mother--the God Bearer. He respond with, "Woman, my time has not yet come..." Who refers to their mother as woman? It seems unusual to me. Mainly I wanted to point out that Christ seemed to take Mary's requests seriously. In any case, she had to be revered early on simply as being Christ's mother. It only makes sense. Once one has encountered God, one cannot remain the same and seems to garner some dignity with that. So, if she had none before, she had known God in a way no one would ever or had ever known him before. She knew him as father of her Child through the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is getting long, so I may just blog this myself, but I want to end with this: your point about the Eucharist. First, let's not forget that Romans persecuted Christians partly for the Eucharist, thinking that they were cannibals. Since the first era of Christianity was marked by slaughter, it follows that people died for the belief that Christ was in the Eucharist. That said, our friend Luther never doubted this (though later he uses the term consubtantiation instead of transubstantiation). He believed Christ was fully present in the Eucharist and made a point to another Protestant Revolutionary by carving "This is my body, This is my blood" in Latin on a table they were sitting at and just pointing to it every time the man tried to say the Eucharist was a mere symbol. That said, i is silly to think that taking the Eucharist--even frequently-is going to INSTANTLY change you. Do not forget that God gave us will and we have perfect freedom to resist the Grace conferred on us. If we are serious about the Faith, eventually things will change but I have long found the ideas of "Once Saved, Always Saved" and everything changes immediately upon accepting Christ. Everyone has their own sins to handle and it only makes sense that it could take this lifetime and the next to be truly worthy of heaven (sidenote: there are scriptures in the old testament and even current Jewish belief there are prayers for the dead--the Jewish part may have stopped after WWII but I am not sure that it did. Catholics have not tossed such beliefs aside) Finally, keep in mind that Christ came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. Clearly Christ went to teh synagogue and engaged in the normal Jewish rights at his time. Considering the temple was there, it follows that there were still sacrifices at the time. That was how God chose to deal with his people and that is why Christ had to give his blood as the blameless lame. That said, it makes sense that there are striking similarities between the Jewish Faith and the Catholic/Orthodox faiths. The priesthood was not abolished, how they did things was changed. Instead of sacrifices they were given certain powers that are part of their office. I hope this finds you well.