An attempt to clear up many misunderstandings:
First, Catholics do not believe that Catholicism is a man made, organized religion. Specifically, a closer look at the teachings of the Church suggest and reveal that flawed/selfish beings who are also limited by time and do not have a bird's eye view of the world, do not have (1) the ability/foreknowledge to know absolute right from wrong, in order to know what to avoid and what to embrace to maintain peace and joy in our lives and in the lives of others, nor (2) nor do we love one another on a level that calls for us to constantly sacrifice our free will in order to make sure that we don't disrupt the peace for someone else; disrupting peace for one pers...on, as we know, has a domino effect, and disrupts the peace for others. The effects of one action travel so far beyond us that it would require a bird's eye view of the world and the ability to see inside each human being's heart in order for us to determine what is "good" and "evil" on a global level. We recognize our inability to establish peace for even ourselves, and yet, we seek it constantly. Thus, we are entirely unable to, ourselves, establish peace among 6 billion+ different people, time after time again; If this were possible, of course, we would all be filled with joy on an hourly basis.
In order to become aware of what is good and what is not, God must first reveal it to us, like a father would out of love for his children. Thus only a loving God/Creator would have the ability and the will to create ,and then reveal to us, a law that is perfect in maintaining peace and love among all, timeless in that it applies to every generation time after time again, and one which offers both external and internal peace & joy for all, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; this is the law of the Catholic Church.
Thus it follows that the teachings of the Church could have only been inspired by a loving Creator; One who loves each of us intimately as His children. This is why the law calls for much; we recognize our inability to live up to its expectations, either due to our own weaknesses, or because we do not love one another enough to sacrifice the things we want to do, even when they prove to be harmful to us in the long run.
The Sacraments in the Roman Catholic Church were designed as an avenue for us to receive grace from God as much as we choose (emphasis here on the free will we have been given). They are a physical means in our physical world to receive supernatural aid (grace) in order to be freed from whatever harmful feelings/addictions, etc, are keeping us in bondage (lust, jealousy, anger, pride, and the like), and thus, are consequentially hurting others; those created in the image and likeness of God, those who God loves.
Christ established a Church, and indicated that it is He who is building & guiding His Church in Truth - not the pope or bishops in their human nature (that is, without divine revelation), but instead, it is God Himself who inspires the documents and teachings of the Church. God, as He did in both the Old Testament and New Testaments, continues to use imperfect human beings in order to reveal Himself, guiding us all in Truth for our own sake; truth about who we are, why we are here, why life is the way it is, where we should be headed for our own sake, and how to get there -- and also how to maintain lives in peace, both internally and externally, a peace that continues on into eternity.
This is why Christ said to His apostles:
"Whoever listens to you, listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me." - Luke 10
If popes and bishops in their human nature had been guiding the Church for the last 2,000 years without God, there would be inconsistencies in Catholic teaching, as we are all different and have different personal opinions; you don't see this in the Catholic Church's teachings. It begs the question "where is all of this brilliant, consistent truth coming from?"
Jesus promised that the Church (teachings on faith, morals, the Sacraments, etc.) will be guided in Truth until the end of time, and that evil will not prevail against the Church (that is, no flawed human being will be able to twist the Truth around and teach false doctrines - whatever teachings and documents His Church approves of, were promised to be divinely inspired, and thus, can be trusted; it does not take much effort to trust flawless documents that are beyond human comprehension. The Church has also been consistent in its teachings for the last 2,000 years and offers logical answers to questions in every human being's mind and heart, free of inconsistencies and further questions; there is no trace of flawed human error in the teachings of the Catholic Church.
The Church also provides a flawless interpretation of the bible. No human being is able to recognize the parallels between the Old Testament and the New Testament the way the Catholic Church has taught it, which is why only Catholicism recognizes them and teaches them.
Further, flawed human beings such as ourselves do not have the knowledge or motive to create the laws of the Catholic Church. For example, most of us, at some point in our lives, have laughed off the Catholic Church's ban on pre-marital sex. We just don't understand what all the fuss is about - why the ban, we wonder. But a closer look reveals that if this practice is taken seriously, there would be a rapid decline in the following: jealousy, anger, broken hearts, grudges, divorce, unwanted pregnancies, STD scares, STDs, anxiety, lies, love triangles, suicides, and murder, etc., etc. We know, despite our reluctance to admit it, that these are the feelings and conduct that result from pre-marital sex -- and they don't all have to occur, obviously - but God doesn't want us to experience one bit of jealousy toward one another; and thus, the Catholic Church encourages that marriage be based on sincere love (agape), and not sexual attraction. This is why we read in the Old Testament that the same word used to describe the love Adam felt for Eve is the word used to describe the love Ruth had for Naomi (Ruth's mother in law). This is agape, and it is what God intended for couples to feel toward one another; a love that is pure, sincere and that lasts, as opposed to a lustful attraction which feels like "agape."
God the Father said, in the book of Genesis (the first book of the Bible) "Let us make man in OUR image and likeness." (Genesis 1:26).
We are made in God's image. God is: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The love between the Father + Son = the Holy Spirit. Thus this is what the family is meant to represent; the love between a father and a mother = the child.
Because the Blessed Trinity cannot ever be broken, the family bond was never meant to be broken. When we offend that of which is sacred in its nature, the results never turn out the way we hope they would.
This begs the question "Who, but a loving God (that is, One who loves those who we do not care about, and One who knows each of His children intimately, and One who is not limited by time, and thus, can foresee future mistakes and discourage the conduct in which our mistakes result from), would discourage pre-marital sex?
A human inspired institution would not create such limits on conduct that every member is naturally inclined to desire without knowledge of themselves, their Creator, and the world they are in.
Christ promised not to leave us orphans (we aren't alone in our weaknesses; He has provided an avenue where He will remain with us), and thus, the Sacraments serve as a means for us to choose (with our free will) if we are interested in creating peace for ourselves and those around us; we are not expected to grow in love for one another and have the strength to avoid conduct we may temporarily enjoy, but that prove to hurt either ourselves or those around us, without God's help; all God asks is that we use our free will and choose to use the means He makes available to receive His grace, in order to grow in peace, joy, and love... and thus, create peace among His other children.
Jesus' 12 apostles represented the leaders of the Catholic Church today (bishops, the pope). Judas, one of the 12, betrayed Jesus, which led to the most brutal and unjust death the world has ever known. The betrayal of Jesus by one of his apostles foreshadowed a small number (emphasis here) of religious leaders in the future who would betray him again; we know that we are all sinners, and some of us are worse than others. Because we were given free will to accept or reject God's grace, there will be some who reject God's grace entirely, and who commit grave acts of injustice toward others; members of the Catholic Church are not excluded from this reality. Scandal in the Roman Catholic Church is a means to draw people away from it. But Christ promised that the Church will be guided in truth until the end of time, and that its teachings on faith and morals and the Sacraments, will never be influenced by the enemy of God/us, so as to lead anyone away from God, the source of joy, goodness, and eternal life.
I hope that we will all continue to be fair, and not assume that because a small number of those who should be the most faithful to Jesus, chose instead to reject and betray Jesus as well as God's grace, and that we should thus judge the majority of priests who have given up their lives (the funny thing about life is that these men are the happiest people I have ever known, but for sake of argument, they chose God over a life that isn't entirely devoted to Him and the rest of us) and strictly/faithfully adhere to the teachings of Christ with love. These men should not only be respected, appreciated, and admired, but also loved for the sacrifices they make for all of us. I would rather not know what our world would be like without their faithfulness in prayer and charity toward all of us; thank God for them.
The Eucharist ("bread from Heaven"), is the spiritual equivalent to Manna, the "bread from Heaven" in the Old Testament, which served to sustain the flesh; the Eucharist serves to sustain the soul (that is, to keep it full of joy and to give us strength to live up to God's expectations so that we grow in joy and spread joy among others). The Eucharistic miracles coupled with the creation of Saints, who were able to remain joyful even while being tortured, support this fact. The Old Testament involves life on earth (Israel) and the New Testament involves life in eternity (Heaven; the spiritual aspect of our existence).
Because we are made up of body and spirit, this body and spirit theme that runs throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament makes sense. To name a few more:
(1) The wood from the tree in the Garden of Eden has a connection to the wood of the cross in the New Testament in that the cross redeemed the mistake surrounding the wood in the Garden of Eden in the Old Testament;
(2) The "10 commandments" and their connection to Israel (which involve life on earth) are like the "8 beatitudes" in the New Testament which have a connection to Heaven (which involves the spirit aspect of our lives);
(3) Christ, a 33 year old perfectly lived life/free of sin became the Passover lamb; since Christ was a sacrifice for the sins of the world (until the end of time), it makes sense that a 33 year old divine individual, without sin, was necessary to be sacrificed given the amount of sins he covered in order to balance the scales of justice- one pure lamb isn't sufficient for the sins of mankind. In the New Testament, we also read that the Romans pierced Christ's side while he was on the cross, to make sure he was dead, and that water followed the last drop of blood in him. This meant that he was literally, a perfect sacrifice; there was no blood left in his body. He shed every ounce of it, which is evidenced by the fact that water followed the last drop;
(4) Eve's (a non-virgin) "no" to God's will in the Old Testament became the Blessed Mother's/Mary's (a virgin) "yes" in the New Testament;
(5) The manner in which Adam (a non-virgin) used his free will in the Old Testament led to original sin... the same original sin that Christ's (a virgin) free will in the New Testament was used to redeem, etc.
(6) Brit Milah = Sacrament of Baptism
(7) In the Old Testament, when someone inadvertently touched the ark, they died on the spot; in the New Testament, when crowds of people pushed, shoved, pulled and touched Jesus, rather than drop dead on the spot, they were healed.
(8) Christ being lifted up on the cross (stating, in the bible, "If I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself" (God)) is symbolized in the book of Numbers in the Old Testament by Moses holding up the bronzed serpent.
A sacrifice was necessary due to our imperfect nature; we offend God throughout the day, but what's interesting is that offending God means offending ourselves and other people, whether our conduct results in an increase of broken hearts, hurt feelings, anger, jealousy, etc-- God wishes for us not to feel these feelings, ever, and this is why we're warned against conduct we all enjoy engaging in, but that of which ultimately proves to leave someone sad, hurt, angry, jealous, etc.
Christ said that our inclination to "sin" makes us ill/sick, because sins prevent us from spreading only love among one another; that is, love that doesn't create issues among one another. Very often we confuse genuine love with a selfish need for something.
With this in mind, it begs the following questions:
(1) Is God not great enough to give us physical means in our physical world for us (to choose) to take advantage of, to give us the strength to grow in selflessness and stay away from the things that prove to hurt us and other people?; and
(2) Is God not loving enough to give us those means, when he knows that our inclination to sin hurts us and others? No, of course not. Unfortunately, and I say this with all due love and respect, if we consider the amount of practicing Catholics we know (those who attend both regular Confession and Mass), it explains why more genuine love isn't spreading among one another; if we don't use the means God has so clearly given it's difficult for us to help contribute to the spread of selfless/sincere love among others.
We know that we can't grow to be purely lovingly selfless people on our own ("agape" is the term used for this level of love, which is the love God has for us); generally, it isn't our nature. In order to grow in "good works" built on a selfless love for one another, we need grace from God- if this weren't true, we wouldn't have as many problems among one another; problems among us begin with an individual's heart-- if we're feeling negative emotions, those feelings control our conduct in some way-- unless we've mastered the art of controlling ourselves perfectly, which isn't possible. Do we know anyone who smiles and proceeds to lend a helping hand within seconds after they've been provoked? I can't say that I do. This type of behavior doesn't seem natural for anybody.
Christ promised that he would not leave us orphans, which are what the Sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist ("bread from Heaven") are to be used for. When used together, they are designed to give us the grace to be kinder toward one another, and to give us the strength not to miss the things we all enjoy doing but that prove not to be beneficial for ourselves and for others; the more we take advantage of them, the more joyful we become; they were also designed as a physical means in our physical world that offer people a means to remain consistently joyful; they were designed out of love. If we find ourselves dreading Mass, we haven't been taught that the Mass serves as a "joy fix" for us. We do not do God a favor by attending Mass. Instead, He has done us a favor beyond measure, by providing a means to access joy, each and everyday if we choose to, and to conform to the image of Christ, which is the purpose of our lives here. Missing Mass is said to be sinful because it's a deliberate "no" to the joy God is so willing to give. While we may use our free will as we wish, it would be for the good of both ourselves and others if we use our free will in ways that will ensure we remain charitable and joyful in life.
When we feel happy and fulfilled, unfortunately, it is often short lived; bumps in the road, in some aspect of life will always follow. As CS Lewis wisely noted "If I discover within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."
Because God is perfectly good and just, when we do things that aren't perfectly good, we aren't choosing God. Because of this, coupled with the fact that God is justice itself (unjust things aren't "good," and thus, aren't coming from an all good and loving being), we don't deserve eternal joy in Heaven with God when this life is over. But God, being our savior and in order to remain who He is (a perfectly "just"/fair being), sent Christ as a sacrifice in order to balance out the scales of justice, so that our mistakes don't end up separating us from God, the source of goodness, for eternity.
It is clear that God's laws weren't designed to "burden our free will" (if that were true, we wouldn't have been given free will), or to add obligations to our already long list of them. God is not limited by time (the sciences reveal that time had a beginning), and as a result, it's safe to trust that He knows best what we should embrace and avoid in order to live in peace among one another. Because God is superior to us in nature, we can trust that there is no manipulation in our relationship with Him, but instead, only infinite love that He is always willing to give-- the problem is, we don't want His love as much as He wants to give it. We see God's love over and over again in the bible (and those who have heard that the Old Testament presents an angry God must read the context before proceeding in false belief; every emotion in connection to God was a result of His everlasting, Fatherly love for the Jewish people), but consider why God gave the Jewish people the 10 commandments. He gave them commandments out of love, to teach them how to live in peace among one another.
For those who believe God has abandoned us, we should consider that we have free will, and that He doesn't force Himself on us- we can choose to get to know Him or not-- to know Him is to adore Him, and those who seek him sincerely will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).
We live in a world we knew nothing about without first knowing God's revelation. For those who have not sincerely searched for truth in this life, I ask: Is it logical, intelligent, and/or rational to conclude without studying all the facts available to us? Imagine if science, or law, or medicine, or law enforcement, etc., operated in such a way?
When the facts available reveal a loving Creator, the only unintelligent, irrational and illogical thing to do is reject Him.