In Roman Catholicism, a lapsed Catholic is a Catholic who has ceased practicing the Catholic faith. Such a person is said to have lapsed from the faith.

According to the Catholic belief, one who is baptised as a Catholic remains a Catholic forever. (This is similar, although not identical, to nonobservance in Judaism in which the nonobservant Jew is still a Jew.) Baptism is said to "[seal] the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark of belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation."[1] If a Catholic leaves the faith but returns later, they are not required to "reconvert," but may go through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) for a refresher education in the faith.

Church terminology prefers "lapsed Catholic" over "ex-Catholic," especially in cases where the person has merely stopped practising the faith (such as going to Mass or confession) but has not actively adopted a new religion. Such people often still nominally identify their religion as Catholic. Even repudiating the entirety of Catholic faith does not make a Catholic un-baptised, but rather an apostate. Likewise, a Catholic who rejects an essential part of the Catholic religion is a heretic, and a Catholic who refuses to submit to the Roman Pontiff is a schismatic.


Many lapsed Catholics stop practising their faith after leaving their parental home, where they have gone through the paces of religious services to please a more devout relative, especially a parent. Some Catholics who still attend church services may still think of themselves as "lapsed" if they have not participated in Catholic sacraments or if they only attend special Masses like Christmas and Easter. These are colloquially referred to by such terms as Cultural Catholics, Two-Timers, Chreasters,[2] C&E Catholics,[3] Poinsettia & Lily Catholics,[4] CEO's (Christmas and Easter Only), CASE Catholics (Christmas and Sometimes Easter), or A&P Catholics[5] (for Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday) or Sunday Christian.

Sometimes a person may self-identify as a "recovering Catholic", in reference to the Alcoholics Anonymous tenet that an alcoholic is never fully recovered.

Because former Catholics no longer believe, some do not consider themselves "lapsed Catholics" in spite of the church's definition of them. These individuals may not consider themselves Catholics at all, but rather atheists, agnostics, deists or simply a non-denominational Christian.


During the 20th Century, a considerable number of Brazilians lost interest in traditional forms of religious practices. Although most of the population of the country consider themselves Catholics — more than 70%, which makes Brazil the country with the largest number of Catholics in the world — it is estimated that only around 15% to 20% of them go to Mass regularly and participate in the sacraments. According to the 2000 Census, performed by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, 40% of Catholics declare themselves as "lapsed Catholics".

Lapsed non-Catholics

The term "lapsed" is sometimes affixed to people of other religious denominations who have stopped practising (e.g. lapsed Hindus or lapsed Muslims[6]).

See also


pt:Católico não-praticante


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