It may surprise everyone to hear it, but I love the Church. It is rich with beauty and scholarship and love of God. But there are a few items that are constant irritants. I believe that some of all of these items actually drive people away from the Church, and will have to be dealt with before the Church recovers from its recent slide into irrelevance.
Here are the four, in no particular order.
1) Sexual ethics
The Church is going to have to crack this most hard of nuts before anyone takes it seriously ever again. The Rabid Right has latched onto these issues and is using them as litmus tests of who is a real Catholic. To boot, they are using spurious science to buttress their case, leading even more people to think that Catholics are half wits.
The Church will have to make up its mind about purpose of sexuality and figure out how to defend -- philosophically and theologically -- statements including the following:
Openness to children: For the good of the husband and wife, marriage as a whole needs to be open to children. But the Church must reject the idiotic notion that every sexual act be open to procreation.
Homosexual marriage: Redefining its sexual ethics must allow for sexual expression within homosexual relationships. the Church should encourage stable homosexual couples by extending marriage rights to homosexual couples and allow them to adopt children.
Stem cell research: the Church needs to distinguish between stems cells taken as the result of abortion (which should not be allowed) and stem cells obtained through other means. Stem cells should be used to grow new limbs and organs, but never complete human beings due to the ease by which such beings could be exploited and prevented from exercising their full human dignity.
Birth Control: Birth control methods that do not cause the destruction of a fertilized egg should be allowed. These include tubal ligation, vasectomy, condoms, hormones and other chemical approaches. Birth Control should be allowed to prevent disease and unwanted pregnancy. The Church's current position promotes death, disease and unwanted pregnancy and supports racist and genocidal tendencies among the faithful.
2) Divorce: The Church's teaching on divorce is punitive and wrong. Divorce is not a good. But the current annulment process is a farce, and exists mainly to allow couples to separate while keeping priests' hands clean. This is phariseeism at its finest.
3) Married men should be allowed to become ordained. There should be few limitations on whether a widowed man can remarry should his first wife die. "It is not good for man to be alone," said the Lord.
4) Women should be allowed to be ordained. The Holy Spirit has been working through other churches to demonstrate that a female priesthood is not only possible but even desirable. The Church will need to grapple with its simplistic notion that Christ ordained only men to lead his Church. This interpretation is not only out of character for Jesus, but at odds with the known history of the early Church.
By tackling these four major problem areas, the Church will go a long way toward regaining its moral muscle and taking control away from the petty hate-mongers among its children. Unfortunately, the combined college of bishops has lost its nerve. None dare to challenge the status quo -- not because they believe in it so much (though some of the dimwits do) as they are just afraid of catching hell from their brother bishops.
Like the megaliths on Easter Island, our granite-headed bishops walk in lockstep on every issue. They call this "Unity of Teaching." I call it using your head for a hat rack.