05/13/2010 03:48 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Catholics at a Moral Crossroads: Rip the Band-Aid Off!

In what appears to be an attempt by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to muscle the Catholic Health Association's Sister Carol Keehan into silence, the bishops represent the same culture of centralized, repressive authority that let the sexual abuse crisis fester for so long.

Keehan went against the bishops in her support of Obama's health care bill. The bishops have been calling for her scalp ever since.

Now is a time to challenge the bishops head on. The definition of Catholicism -- of what it means to be Catholic -- is what is at stake. Now is a time of upheaval. Dare I say war?

I speak for this upheaval only as it takes place in the United States. If nothing comes of the cultural, ideological, and situational crossroads that Catholicism currently finds itself at, the religion as it exists in America today will disappear.

The blunt truth is that most young American Catholics are little concerned with their Catholicism. They are Catholic only in name. Whether or not growing numbers of Latino Catholics will change or uphold the Church as it currently stands is, at best, uncertain. The reality is that the sway of American cultural assimilation is uniquely powerful and that the culture of young American Catholicism is insipid and weak.

Why soft pedal any difference of opinion with the bishops? Now is not a time for diplomacy. This is painfully clear. The argument for diplomacy is the same one a child tells him or herself when deliberating whether or not to rip off a Band-Aid. "Maybe I should tug a little at it first," the child says nervously. The manly and the morally right thing to do -- given the gravity of the situation -- is to rip the Band-Aid off hard and fast. The wound needs to be exposed all at once.

The Church needs to change. If it is to change it is going to change now. And it will change only with direct challenges to authority from within its fold, not from without.

We as Catholics must be prepared to lose everything -- even risk excommunication -- in order to gain back our moral authority. As my Italian-born Catholic grandfather used to say, "You can't excommunicate me. I excommunicate you."