The current turmoil involving the stripping of religious freedoms in this nation; namely, and more specifically, the religious freedoms of Catholics, has caused an influx of email, articles, sermons, editorials, and conversations/debates in parishes, families, and communities, everywhere. That much is good. It is always good to think, discuss, and share.

However, what makes me so sad is a common phrase that I keep reading and hearing with regard to "why" things are the way they are and what we (American Catholics) can do about them.

The phrase is this: "The problem is that Catholics are not Catholic. Otherwise, this would never be able to happen".

In various genres, this phrase has been re-worded with the essence of the meaning remaining the same.

We have "Catholics" in administrative/legislative positions in our government who are working to act against the Teachings of our Church under a false pretense of "choice" and/or "freedom".

We have lay Catholics and citizen Catholics who are voting and living in ways contrary to the Teachings of our Church under the same false pretense.

Catholics are using birth control. Catholics are funding Planned Parenthood (and, more disturbingly, using their "services"!), Catholics are getting divorced and remarried, Catholics are marrying outside the Church, Catholics are using pornography. The list goes on and on.

True, we (Catholics) are included in the "fallen" portion of "we are a fallen people" by nature. However, it is also true that we are supposed to be different; radically different from mainstream, secular/pagan society.

I wonder. If we participated in an experiment where we watched groups of people "live" for a month or so, without benefit of knowing their faith-background, would be able to identify the "Catholics" in the group; or would they be so close, in appearance and action to the non-Catholics in our study that we would fail to see a difference?

My pastor often says that if satan is hounding you, it's only because you're "doing it right".

Everyone knows that there are generations of Catholics in this country who were not properly "catechized"...and I mean, "properly" catechized; not some watered-down-inclusive-let's-not-chase-anyone-away version of the Faith, but the official Teaching of the One, True, Holy, and Apostolic Church.

This, to me, is no excuse. I say this, because as adults, (or, even teens who are old enough to research and study independently) we are free to learn on our own.

If we know that what is being taught in the classrooms is less-than-complete, or worse yet, less-than-true, then we are not only permitted, but obligated to go the extra mile and study the Faith on our own time.

In this day of technology, when the Bible, the Papal Encyclicals, and the Code of Canon Law, itself, is readily accessible, for free, online, there really is no excuse of not being properly catechized.

I am a sinner. All Catholics are sinners. The difference is supposed to be that we are not "comfortable" (or shouldn't be) in our sin...we are supposed to be seeking to amend our lives and turn away from sin.

When active lesbians have the audacity to enter the Sacristy before the holy Mass and "inform" the priest that they will be receiving Communion and are attending Mass with their "lover", we must question the sincerity and desire of a person as far as wanting to live a Christ-like life and turn away from sin.

When the poor priest, who is put in such a burdensome position, has the courage to uphold the True Teaching of the Church, and withhold the Blessed Sacrament from someone who is flaunting their mortal sin in public, without contrition or a desire for Reconciliation, is not only not supported, but persecuted and reprimanded, then the problem intensifies and the state of our country and our Church is brought to light; in sadness.

I agree with my teenage daughter, who lamented recently, that the main part of the problem is that "Catholics are not living Catholic lives".

I challenge our CatholicMom readers today. (And, I challenge myself, as well.)

Let us make sure that we know and understand the Teachings of our Church.
Let us ensure that we are passing the Truth onto our children.
Let us pray for the courage and grace to live according to those Teachings; even when that means that we must repent and take drastic steps to amend our life in order to turn away from our current sins and seek Reconciliation.

It takes courage to stop using birth control. It takes courage to admit a same-sex attraction but to refuse to act on that and instead live a consecrated life. It takes courage to stay in a troubled marriage and let "no man put asunder" what God has joined. It takes courage to turn away from popular media and entertainment and make choices that better-reflect the convictions and beliefs of our beautiful Faith.

It takes courage to be radically different.

The time has come for Catholics to be Catholic.

The face of politics, the environment of religious education classes, marriages, seminaries, communities, families, parishes, and society, as a whole, will begin to heal and be restored in Christ if His flock will find the courage to "take up their crosses" and follow Him.

Copyright 2012 Judy Dudich