Meanwhile, traditional Protestantism is everywhere on the decline. The historic Protestant Churches and their derivative denominations sold out to modernism. Of all the "Mainline" denominations, only The United Methodist Church shows any real resistance to embracing the progressive agenda (thank you, African brothers and sisters!) and we are constantly embroiled in one exhausting fracas after another with those who want us to join hands and march off a cliff.
And what of the Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, Restorationists, and independent Churches? Modernism has crept in there, too. The bellwethers of today's Evangelicals are the mega-churches and the up-to-date charismatics: the Willow Creeks, Saddlebacks, Vineyard Community Churches, et al. But despite all their talk about Scripture and their salvationist fervor, the dominant model amongst these churches is the supermarket. They are in the business of selling Jesus by the pound, and they can only sell what the customers want. What the customers want these days is an emotionally satisfying religious experience that validates what they already believe -- including the parts that are actually incompatible with the Scriptures. The bellwethers don't have the courage to let customers get away, so little by little they water down their product.
Back home, it distresses me that the sign out front that says, "United Methodist Church" doesn't really communicate anything. The doctrine being taught inside could literally be anything. That is not true of the local Catholic church. There, the sign outside tells you exactly what you're going to find inside. It was not always clear that this would be so. But John Paul II and his chief doctrinal enforcer (Cardinal Ratzinger, who is now Benedict XVI) reined in the crazier varieties of Catholic thought and practice. There is still some variation among Catholics, but the dogma and the values taught and practiced today are remarkably uniform.
It is this teaching authority, boldly exercised by the last two popes in the face of much resistance, that has kept Catholicism a credible Church for the 21st Century. Sometimes, the RCC agrees with the surrounding culture, and sometimes it disagrees, and you can understand the reasons why. The same cannot be said of any of the Mainline denominations or the Evangelicals who are the other alternative.
I wonder if the much-vaunted "freedom of the pulpit" is simply the freedom to be irrelevant. When every preacher in the denomination can preach anything he or she wants, what you wind up with is incoherence. And while some preachers might be willing to confront the corruption of the culture, that preacher will be followed by one that thinks the culture (or some major part of it) is just fine. And then by another who thinks that some other part of the culture is just fine. And so on. In the end, unless the whole Church faces the same way and teaches the same doctrine, you get a recipe for mush. Whether you agree with Catholic doctrine or not, they at least have the mechanisms and the leadership to get their whole Church to do that.