Monday, June 09, 2008

Running laps around "lapsed"

Are Catholics the only denomination ever referred to as lapsed?

Lapsed + Catholic is so pervasive that when I searched "define: lapsed" in Google, this is the first definition/example that came up. Merriam-Webster was in on the act too. And look at the articles that accompany the definition in MSN Encarta.

To borrow a phrase from fellow sons of Abraham -- oy vey. How did we end up in this state? I rarely, if ever, hear of lapsed Muslims, lapsed Jews, lapsed Hindis. It begs the question: Are they not lapsing? Or are lapsed Catholics simply more newsworthy -- or more expected?

I can't help but wonder how Catholic guilt might play a role in this. Our emphasis on ritual and adherence to catechism can make others' finger-wagging all the more satisfying when someone isn't following the "rules" anymore. Maybe if we were more pragmatic in our approach to helping others grow in and develop their faith, we wouldn't get the reputation of whip-cracking, and it would put these perceived "lapses" in their proper context: as a natural, even essential part of spiritual maturation.

However, the bigger, more important question is why Catholics are lapsing in large enough numbers that their religious activity has become the standard for non-practitioners. Without a doubt, more significant issues than definitions and common turns of phrase are afoot here. (Abuse scandals, anyone? No chance of female ordination? etc.)

So, church leaders, riddle me this: Are you going to take the time to look up the answers -- and then take the right steps to change the entry?

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