Nothing insults me more than hearing someone describe himself (or herself) as a "recovering Catholic." To say such a thing is to assert that Catholicism is some kind of an affliction or a disease, like alcoholism, drug addiction, or a personality disorder.
Of course I respect the right of people to leave the Catholic faith. Someone who grew up in an abusive Catholic family might leave the faith, for example; and it would be very difficult for me to argue that an abuse victim should try to differentiate between Catholicism and the personal abuse a child experienced in a Catholic home.
I myself grew up in an abusive Methodist family, and part of my larger reasons for becoming Catholic no doubt had something to do with making a complete break from the physical and psychological abuse of my childhood. But my parents just happened to be Methodists. They would have been abusive regardless of their religious affiliation.
People who were abused by priests constitute a special case, in my opinion. Without question, Satan captured the souls of these depraved priests; and the harm they did to children--mostly young boys--is simply bottomless. How could I be so presumptuous as to tell someone who was sexually abused by a Catholic priest that he should remain Catholic?
I simply could not do it. We've got to leave these innocents to the boundless mercy of God, trusting that God will have mercy on all Catholics who allowed this evil to occur. I wasn't even a Catholic when most of this abuse occurred, but this sin burdens me personally. God will charge it against my spiritual account, I am certain. And woe be unto me if I try to convince Him I have an alibi.
And of course some people leave the Catholic Church to become Protestants, a decision that Catholics must respect. Personally, I find it unfathomable why anyone would leave the richness of Catholicism and the solaces of the Eucharist to become a Methodist or an Episcopalian. Why not just chuck the whole religious enterprise?
Besides, like Chesterton, I don't think many people leave Catholicism for theological reasons. People don't leave the Catholic Church to become Episcopalians because they became convinced by Episcopal theology. As far as I can discern, the Episcopalians don't have much of a theology. They abandoned their theological groundings more than a century ago.
No, as Chesterton pointed out, most people leave Catholicism "to have a high old time." And, as Chesterton conceded, "considering what a muddle we've made of modern morality, they can hardly be blamed."
But people who abandon their childhood faith should not refer to themselves as "recovering Catholics." It's unseemly--sort of like gossiping about an ex-spouse.