Why are the nations with people committed to the Catholic church the most poor?
TRM: Because in the past 500 years, historically Catholic nations have persecuted the Church and weakened their cultures and economic strength (e.g. Spanish Civil War, Mexican Revolution, French Revolution, etc.).
Why do most of my Catholic friends have such a poor knowledge of the Bible?
TRM: The best Bible scholars of the world are Catholics. Some monks have the entire book of Psalms memorized. How's that for Scripture memorization?!
Are they prevented from reading it?
TRM: No, we are encouraged to read the Bible. Saint Jerome once said: "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." We are discouraged from reading false translations. The story about Catholics being forbidden to read the Bible comes from the middle ages where Catholics were forbidden to read the false translation of the Bible created by the heretical and gnostic Albigensians. Every Catholic Mass has as many as three Scripture readings and four on Sundays.
Is not Jesus our mediator now, sitting at the right hand of God, interceding for us?
TRM: Every time we pray the Rosary we say that Jesus Christ "ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty". We also recite this every Sunday in Holy Mass. Moreover, Jesus Christ is the sole mediator between God and men. The Catholic Church teaches that Christ is the one mediator between God and men. However, human being may pray for one another, so long as they pray through Jesus Christ (since he's the mediator). Mary and the saints are human and they can pray for us just as we pray for one another one earth. Saints don't bypass Christ in their prayers. They pray through Christ, just as we pray through Christ. Christ remains the me
Jesus died once and for all. We cannot hold people hostage with indulgences.
TRM: Jesus did die once for all. The Catholic Church also teaches this. Indulgences do not pertain to remitting the eternal punishment of sin. Christ's death on the cross remitted the eternal guilt and punishment of sin.
Indulgences do not pertain to this act of justification. Rather, indulgences are acts of piety that move us along the path of sanctification. For example, the Pope has said that if you read the Bible for 30 minutes, you can receive an indulgence. The idea is that this act of piety will bring you closer to Christ so that you heart will be conformed to Christ. As a result, you will need less purification in the after life (i.e. Purgatory).
I appreciate your affection for the Catholic church in principal. However, all the trappings make me very uncomfortable.
TRM: I once felt the same way. I used to be a vigorous Protestant who was revolted by the trappings of the Catholic Church. However, I was once challenged to actually investigate the teaching of the Catholic Church by reading Catholic theologians. I had acquired my impression of Catholicism from anti-Catholic Protestants and so I didn't actually know what Catholic Church taught for herself. Once I saw how Scriptural Catholicism was, I had to convert. It is the true Bible Church.