As a Catholic, I have become quite familiar with the many misinterpretations of my faith, and the many assumptions associated with it, and I want to clarify a few things.
1. We do NOT worship the Virgin Mary or the saints. Rather, our church venerates them. This means we have respect for them and honor their courage, holiness and example in faith and love towards others with humility. We look up to them for strength. Like role models and reminders of the power of God.
2. The Eucharist is not just a symbol. In the Rite of the Mass, the priest, with the Holy Spirit, acts in the person of Christ, and the Eucharist becomes the body and blood of Christ. It's a transformation.
St. Cyril of Jerusalem said this in AD 350: "Do not, therefore, regard the bread and wine as simply that, for they are, according to the Master's declaration, the Body and Blood of Christ. Even though the senses suggest to you the other, let faith make you firm. Do not judge in this matter by taste, but be fully assured by faith, not doubting that you have been deemed worthy of the Body and Blood of Christ."
3. The crucifix does not disrespect or blaspheme the life of Christ or 'crucify Him again'. Instead, it is a reminder of the sacrifice He made for you and I. The sacrifice that He continues to make, as we all crucify Him again and again with our sins. It's a reminder of just how much He loves us, despite how much we do not deserve it.
4. Why do we confess to a priest? Remember in John 20:23 where Christ says to His disciples, 'whatever sins you loose shall be loosed in Heaven. Whatever sins you retain shall be retained in Heaven.' ? Jesus Christ gave the authority to His disciples to forgive sins. That tradition is passed down through the priesthood, wherein the priest, with the Holy Spirit, acts in the person of Christ during the Rite of Confession.
5. And here's the big one. Homosexuality. The church is NOT homophobic nor does it condemn gay people. There's a huge misunderstanding there. What the church does not support is homosexual behavior. Just as it does not support sex outside of marriage or promiscuity. But we do not condemn a person for being gay. That would go against everything Jesus Christ came for. And who are we to judge or condemn a man or woman simply because he or she is gay? We must not forget that it is not our job to judge or condemn others. That is up to God. Remember the verse where Jesus points out 'Do not point out the speck in your brother's eye, and neglect to see the log in your own eye'? In order to truly become one with God, we must turn away from judging and condemning others and take a moment to clean up the mess we have within ourselves. Only then can we truly believe and understand our faith.
Please comment respectfully and with regard for others. I am simply trying to clear up a few things for friends. I hope my thoughts have been helpful.