We have the Mass. No matter what the personal preferences of a Bishop may be, the Mass is celebrated throughout the world virtually the same way. The Catholic church also has a hierarchy that ensures standards. Case in point: acquiring and keeping pastoral leadership.
Last night, I spoke with a friend who shared some ups and downs with her non-Catholic church. The pastor had left (details weren't discussed but she said he left "honorably") and the church was without a pastor while they searched for a new one. They had several pastors come to preach and the congregation voted for the one they liked best. At this time, they have a pastor. But who knows what the future will hold? The congregation may well be looking at another vote within five years.
Coming back to the Catholic church has been eye-opening in many ways. When I was involved with Evangelical churches, almost anything regarding church government was up for grabs. It all depended upon the pastor and his preferences. Then there was the situation of firing pastors if the congregation didn't like how he was doing his job. To be sure, there are some pastors out there who have no business leading a congregation. But there have also been some very good pastors who have tried to faithfully lead their flock and were shown the door for their efforts.
One church I was involved with favored those who gave large sums of money in the collection basket. This is oftentimes the reason why many pastors stay away from preaching on sin. They're afraid of "offending" people and thus, losing tithes. (Some Catholic parishes experience this same dismal approach with their Sunday homilies.)
Some may say the Catholic church is too large and too cumbersome to get anything done. Although I understand that viewpoint, I would also submit that the Catholic church takes great pains to ensure that both parishioners and religious leadership are both treated fairly.
My previous years with non-Catholic churches included many years spent with the prophetic ministry. Sometimes we sensed that God gave us a picture to communicate a specific message of encouragement or exhortation to a person. For weeks now, I've continued to receive the same picture of the Catholic church.
I see a battleship. A very large battleship that has seen many wars and attempts to destroy it. But no matter how many come against it, it has withstood all attempts to thwart its mission, which is bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost world. There are many "manning" the ship - the captain, of course, is Peter's successor, then Rome, the priesthood, the laity, and all the saints throughout the ages. But I have sensed a very deep and ancient stability to the Catholic church that I didn't see when I was a young girl.
Perhaps all these years away were God's way of allowing me to experience how other non-Catholic churches operate and how the Catholic church is truly on the right path. I know it's un-PC to say that the Catholic church is the one, true church (Pope Benedict XVI made a huge splash when he declared this last year), but the more I'm researching Catholic doctrine and reflect on my experience with other churches, the more I'm beginning to see the validity of that statement.
I know I can't run out and tell everyone who is attending other churches to join the Roman Catholic church. But I have a feeling by the end of the year, I'll be very, very close to doing just that. ;-)