Originally Posted by Edward.
The problem is with the Catholic Church's tone. Social issues are almost an obsession with the hierarchy and by constantly involving itself in these debates and coming out with inflammatory, caustic comments about gays and contraception and abortion and the other stuff, it serves to turn more and more people off the church.
Look at the Dalai Lama in comparison. He himself does not support gay marriage or abortion (though he does in certain circumstances), and shares largely the same views as the Church on these issues. The difference is that he very rarely gets involved in these matters, because he is smart enough to realise that people have differing views and knows that involving himself in the culture wars does neither himself or other buddhists any favours.
Hence, he focuses solely on a positive, upbeat message, supporting the poor and speaking out in favour of peace and reconciliation and he is a widely loved and beloved figure as a result. Hindus are much the same. You very rarely see people attacking Buddhists or Hindus for their views on marriage or abortion, despite them being very widely practiced religions in their own right.
Why can't the Church learn some lessons from them?
Excellent post. This problem of the tone has been noticed and commented on even by people within the Catholic hierarchy:
(near the end of Cardinal Dolan's answer, c. 12:50) - "shrill scold".
The Catholic Church persists in being prescriptive w/r/t social issues, and always tries, through the pervasive power of its structure and its social and even political influence in many countries, to impose those views on others. It criticizes and excludes anyone who doesn't conform to its own perceptions on family issues and it criticizes organizations and politicians who are willing to give people the freedom not to follow the social/moral rules and perceptions the Catholic Church preaches.
Deep down, you can feel that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church still feels entitled to dictate moral rules to, and pass judgment on, every person within any society, and that it regrets no longer having the power it once had to enforce those rules and judgments.