"Come to think of it, I've never actually read or heard of a Taiwanese Buddhist author or master criticizing the Catholic Church or even directly calling them externalists. Like I said, they advertise their meetings like it was some great exchange of minds. I don't think the Daoists get the same treatment, but I might be wrong."
"The Korean scandal with monks gambling was of course shameful, but even in strict and rigid hierarchies the same thing occurs."
I would think that:
1. Accepting influences from other faiths or systems is not inherently evil or un-Buddhist. In the case of these big organizations, there is the added benefit of having a close-at-hand community (which I think is precisely one of the main reaons the Buddha established the organized Sangha) to have a sense of checks-and-balance; whereas it IS true that individual monks and practitioners may get away with breaking the Vinaya, etc, having an ogranization would at least foster an environment where this is discouraged, and when committed, corrected. (No system is perfect, but that doesn't mean we should abandon order altogether.)
Certainly, Tzu Chi has been more effective in bringing aid to my country (Philippines) by coordinating with local Catholic charities. (Even the local Nyingma centers work with Mother Teresa's Sisters of Charity). If they avoid taking on Catholic influences or meeting with Catholic leaders just to be "more Chinese/not contrary to Chinese tradition," that wouldn't be so compassionate, would it?
2. A very important and distinct difference between big Catholic and Buddhist organizations: The Four Mountains have not (and hopefully will not) instigated bloody, violent inquisitions to "destroy the old pagan gods." They do NOT explicitly ban the worship of these deities nor do they advocate scorn for these religions (take note than in materials written by these groups regarding folk deities, they always prescribe respect; NOT to burn or destroy these "idols"--they don't even use the term idolatry, which in itself is a Christian term!--but to treat them precisely the same way the Sutras record them: sentient beings with great virtue and power, but not totally enlightened.)
"Keeping a respectful distance" is quite different from "casting out the old Gods." From my conversations with monks from all four groups on the subject of folk worship, the strongest answer I've gotten was "there are different methods of cultivation, but worshiping Mazu/Tu Di GOng/etc isn't one of them." Far from the "burn the heretic!" attitude Catholics espouse :p
It was likewise mentioned:
" They cast out all the pagan gods of old in an attempt to foster their vision of orthodoxy, though in reality this was probably just an unconscious emulation of Christian habits where strong religious identity is promoted as a means of competing with other religions and Buddhist sects."
"It is another example of modern Chinese culture disdaining their native traditions while glorifying and emulating western models."
I highly disagree with this. From personal experience, the Four Mountains and other Buddhist groups are VERY careful to criticize other monks or institutions. THis is markedly different from Christian groups' hack-and-slash treatment of competing sects. Likewise, these institutions are instrumental in preserving traditional Chinese culture, especially for overseas Chinese communities! In fact, they advocate thorough study of Chinese history, classics, Confucius etc.
But I think the most interesting point is this:
"Much of the Catholic Church is in decline in the First World at least. I don't think they are a good model to learn from (they also can't control their clergy any better just because of their administration)."
Voila! I am of the opinion that, ironically, most who question the use of organizations in religion are from the West. Precisely because of Western history and personal experience. Asians, on the other hand, are more flexible than that; historically, we have adapted many a Western idea to suit local situations and needs. Would it too impossible to think that perhaps Buddhism can benefit from secular/Western influences? :p