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Vatican Orders Review of Women's Religious Orders
Source: The Associated Press

02/02/2009 10:20 am

The Vatican has begun a first-ever comprehensive study of women's religious orders in the United States, four decades into a steep decline in the number of Roman Catholic sisters and nuns in the country.

The study, ordered by a Vatican congregation in December and announced Friday in Washington, will examine ''the quality of the life'' of 59,000 members in more than 400 Catholic women's religious institutes, said Sister Eva-Maria Ackerman, a spokeswoman for the study, which is called an apostolic visitation.

Read more below the fold:

Wow!  An "apostolic visitation!"  That sounds serious.  But 40 years later?  Seems like the Vatican has been like Little Boy Blue who failed to blow his horn even though the sheep were in the meadow and the cows were in the corn.  Have the Holy Fathers been under the haycock fast asleep?  Or do they just not give a damn about the women in their midst.  Personal opinion, I think they have been too busy trying to make it OK for priests to rape and pillage their flocks even as they rape the sons and daughters and wives of the faithful.  Just my humble opinion.

"The study is really to encourage the communities, to strengthen them, to help them grow in their vitality,'' she said, adding that ''women's religious communities have played such a significant part in building up the church and society in this country.''

I think the "Holy" Fathers are simply worried about losing their second class citizen maid servants and "girl fridays."  Again, just my humble opinion.

The Vatican released results of a similar canvass of U.S. seminaries earlier this month in light of the clergy sexual abuse crisis. That review gave special attention to chastity and celibacy, and the Vatican found seminaries had largely been successful in rooting out ''homosexual behavior.''

Or maybe they just changed their seminarian's public sexual orientation for the duration of their seminary careers.  Once more, just my humble opinion.

The reasoning behind the Vatican's focus on women's religious orders is less clear. A Web site on the visitation said the church wanted ''to safeguard and promote consecrated life in the United States.''

It also said ''many new congregations have emerged in the United States, while many others have decreased in membership or have an increased median age.''

The number of Catholic sisters in the U.S. declined from 173,865 in 1965 to 79,876 in 2000, according to Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. The average age of a member of a women's religious community was between 65 and 70 in 1999, the center says

''The numbers tell you everything one needs to know why they're undertaking an effort like this,'' said Russell Shaw, a former spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops who called the church's interest ''very late in the game.''

''For many of these communities, the handwriting is on the wall. They're disappearing,'' he said..

Ah,now we get to the nub.  I wonder if this has anything to do with the RCCs total lack of respect for the women in both their "orders" and their congregations?  Do you suppose?  Poor, stupid, irresponsible little women need to be "protected and directed" by the "Holy Fathers" whose total life experience as an adult is frequently being subservient to their "betters" until they achieve the status of being one of the "betters," served hand and mouth by the women in their congregations and "orders."  Never actually having to earn a living but being totally supported by the church so long as they are "good little boys" and follow the orders of their "betters."  Cast out of that environment, most of these "good little boys" would have a difficult time making a living, and the older one gets and the higher into the ranks one goes, the tougher it becomes to "speak truth to athority."  Don't get me wrong.  I know that being a true servant to their flocks for the priests and pastors who are those true servants, is as difficult as being a fine teacher or a good parent.  But in my humble opinion these are few and far between. Most of the "good little boys" having become martinets totally devoted to maintaining their status quo and advancing in the ranks.

Historically, Catholic sisters concentrated on teaching and health care. Since the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, many sisters have become activists of social causes ranging from protesting nuclear weapons to marching with migrant farmworkers. Some also advocate for women to be ordained as priests or challenge church teaching against abortion rights or gay marriage.

In recent years, newly formed traditional orders -- whose members dress in habits, show fidelity to Rome and focus on education, health care and social work -- have reported growth. More established orders that tend to take more progressive social stances have seen their members' ages and numbers of vocations dwindle.

''The Vatican may be asking the question, 'Why is this happening, and is there something these more traditional orders offer that the more progressive orders can learn from?''' said the Rev. Jim Martin, editor of the Jesuit magazine America.

As the young people around me say when they hear a particularly stupid remark, "Well, DUH!!!"  Sure, they could learn how wonderful it is to be obedient to "good little boys" after the sisters have learned a little or a lot about life in the real world.  Who, may I ask, wants to "learn" that?!!

Well, I won't bore you who have read this far with anymore of my rant.  But as for me, I am amazed that the RCC has any self respecting female members in their congregations or "orders."  I could understand if girls were once again being told "to get thine self to a nunnary!"  But girls and women today have a choice.  And few that are intelligent and mature women make these choices, just as few mature and intelligent young men choose to go into the priesthood or... wait for it, wait for it, a... "monkery!"  :-))  

Originally posted to william f harrison on Thu Mar 05, 2009 at 03:44 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I hate having to wait for the pun. n/t (2+ / 0-)
    •  What i would like to know (6+ / 0-)

      (and I don't know if they've released figures) is the size of this uptick in membership of 'traditional" orders, given that it seems like "traditional" orders have virtually vanished (unless they are invisible?) and that so-called "more established orders" who have modernized likely form the overwhelming majority of orders in existence. If these "traditional" orders feature a handful of extremists while the bulk of orders are vanishing, all that teaches is, as the diarist implies, that you can always find a certain number of women into masochism and subservience who may think this is in some way "glamourous," especially since young Catholic girls these days have little exposure to these more "traditional" nuns.

      If there are no figures on this, I have to suspect it's the Vatican again, trying to whip up enthusiasm for the older, more rigid ways that have long since been abandoned and aren't coming back. The fact that their study of priesthood and the seminary focused on "chastity and celibacy" lads me to believe this is the case. They really don't get that the priesthood is dying because 99% of their flock is ineligible: women, married men (any man not interested in lifelong celibacy which is fairly abnormal) and now, their one last remaining group, closeted gays (The non-closeted gays have all become Episcopalians. They are all over my church, even serving on our vestry and church council. They landed here because they are sick of being told something's wrong with them.)

      The Catholic church is in deep denial and lying to itself.

      Rob Portman: He sent your job to China.

      by anastasia p on Thu Mar 05, 2009 at 04:09:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  You won't hear me object (14+ / 0-)

    to bashing the men who run the institution that is the Catholic Church. After all, it wasn't that long ago that they finally got around to admitting Galileo actually was right on that earth around the sun thing.

    But there are a lot of really good people who are nuns and priests and they do really good work, many times in spite of the policies of their head office. Maybe you should rethink bashing them as a group, ok?

    •  I think that the vigin Monica Goodling is the (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DaleA, william f harrison

      only rethuglican enabler soo far to enter the nunhood..There goes the nunhood

      "Better a little late, than a little never"..Julian Winston

      by Johnny Rapture on Thu Mar 05, 2009 at 03:53:44 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I think I mentioned that, at least for priests (8+ / 0-)

      when I said, " Don't get me wrong.  I know that being a true servant to their flocks for the priests and pastors who are those true servants, is as difficult as being a fine teacher or a good parent.  But in my humble opinion these are few and far between. Most of the "good little boys" having become martinets totally devoted to maintaining their status quo and advancing in the ranks."

      I think the wonderful work many nuns and sisters do was mentioned in the text of the news report: "Historically, Catholic sisters concentrated on teaching and health care. Since the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, many sisters have become activists of social causes ranging from protesting nuclear weapons to marching with migrant farmworkers. Some also advocate for women to be ordained as priests or challenge church teaching against abortion rights or gay marriage."

      A private gyn office offering full gyn services including abortion care to 18 weeks.

      by william f harrison on Thu Mar 05, 2009 at 03:59:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You could never prove (5+ / 0-)

        the "wonderful work" done by teaching nuns by my classmates or me. The Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament that we were forced to deal with were nasty creatures who never had a kind word for any child. The one who scared us most was the principal, who was almost as unpleasant to our parents, to whom the rest of the nuns sucked up, as she was to us.
          They produced fine crops of former Catholics, year after year.

        I could have been a soldier... I had got part of it learned; I knew more about retreating than the man that invented retreating. --Mark Twain

        by NogodsnomastersMary on Thu Mar 05, 2009 at 04:30:19 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I hear about this (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Bronx59, Rachel Q

          and I can relate to some extent, but my experience a lot different.  I think a lot depended on what order the nuns came from, who their "mother" was, and such.  The nuns in my grammar school were really very liberal, looking back now.  They were young, and all of them came here straight from Ireland.  Also, they lived in a convent that was about a half mile from the parish (school and rectory).  I don't remember them being subservient to the priests either.

          Of course there were a few nasty ones, and as the years went by, a couple that were going senile or a little bit nutty.  They became the librarians or stayed in the convent most of the time.  But for the most part, these women were good teachers and not abusive.  They weren't stupid or masochistic.  They were dedicated to what they did, and they had their "family" at the convent, which was a nice place on a nice piece of ground.  They had some level of autonomy over their world, which was their convent and the school.  The priests didn't get involved and we didn't see much of them at school.  

          When my mother passed away last spring, one of the nuns who taught at the school came to the funeral, which was held at our old parish that we left decades ago.  This nun, who I think I had in second grade, took the time to come to the funeral, and remembered our names (myself and siblings).  I couldn't believe it.  She didn't have to do that.  

          My great aunt was also a nun who spent her adult life at Holy Angels in Belmont, NC caring for special needs babies.  This was her passion and life's work, and for her, the lifelong support for all her needs was a fair exchange.  She gave her life to this work but she also never had to worry for one moment about supporting herself, medical care, etc.  I knew her well and this woman was no pushover.  

          Holy Angels is a private, nonprofit corporation dedicated to providing a home of unconditional love and unlimited possibilities for children and adults with mental retardation and physical disabilities. Many of our residents are medically fragile and require specialized medical care.

          Founded in 1956 in Belmont, NC, by the Sisters of Mercy, Holy Angels offers innovative programs and services for our residents. They include residential services, special education, medical services, creative arts therapy, social work, habilitation services, nutrition, recreation, vocational training, horticulture therapy and opportunities for spiritual growth.
          http://www.holyangelsnc.org/...

          So, while I have no affection for the priests of the Catholic Church, and while I no longer practice, I object to stereotyping of the nuns.

          "The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good." --Samuel Johnson

          by joanneleon on Thu Mar 05, 2009 at 06:03:49 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I wish the nuns (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            samddobermann, joanneleon, corvo

            at my school had been stereotypes. They weren't. They were spirit-killers, real, all too real. We children were abused by them, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, every day that school was in session.
               I'll never forget picking up my father's copy of Yeats's collected poems when I was a child. I was entranced by a couple of them, but then I hit "Among School Children," with its line, "A kind old nun replies,..." I put the book down, knowing Yeats as a liar, because I had never encountered such a being as a kind nun and could not believe that one existed. (I was a young adult before I gave Yeats another try.)

            I could have been a soldier... I had got part of it learned; I knew more about retreating than the man that invented retreating. --Mark Twain

            by NogodsnomastersMary on Thu Mar 05, 2009 at 06:45:01 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  Heh, So The Catholic Church is Modern After All.. (4+ / 0-)

        Most of the "good little boys" having become martinets totally devoted to maintaining their status quo and advancing in the ranks.

        Gee, sounds like any corporate or government enterprise in America.  Damn the mission of those enterprises, let's just all get ahead!

    •  110 Trillion Light Years Behind (0+ / 0-)

      It's hard to get much safer back from the cutting edge than they were on gravity.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Thu Mar 05, 2009 at 06:12:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  A friend of mine from high school (2+ / 0-)

      is one of those really good people who happens to be a priest.

      And he's scared shitless of most of his clerical colleagues.

  •  tip jar (15+ / 0-)

    I know this maybe old news for some, but I just received it today.  If someone has already commented and posted a diary about this, I am truly sorry and will smit myself with switches.  

    A private gyn office offering full gyn services including abortion care to 18 weeks.

    by william f harrison on Thu Mar 05, 2009 at 03:52:35 PM PST

  •  Too Little,Too Late and Not Much (4+ / 0-)

    Photobucket

    "Attempting to debate with a person who has abandoned reason is like giving medicine to the dead." - Thomas Paine

    by liberalconservative on Thu Mar 05, 2009 at 04:01:28 PM PST

  •  You do know, don't you (5+ / 0-)

    that when Hamlet told Ophelia to get thyself to a nunnery, he was calling her a whore, because convents were the brothels of the clergy.

    You fell victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is "Never get involved in a land war in Asia".

    by yellowdog on Thu Mar 05, 2009 at 04:07:16 PM PST

  •  I don't take any position on what the Vatican may (7+ / 0-)

    wish to do here, but don't fool yourself about the nunnies.  My own experience is that they were some of the most liberated women I ever met - long before anyone talked about women's liberation.  

    The ones I came up with were deeply committed, highly educated women - and they could be because they were free of family obligations, the community shared the tasks associated with daily living, and during the summers when the schools were closed, many went off to pursue advanced degrees.  There were any number of PhDs teaching high school.  One of the nuns at my grammar school was regarded as a national expert on mainstreaming blind children into classrooms with the sighted - and this was in the 50's.  Nuns were the first people I heard locally calling for civil rights or protesting the war.  One who was an English teacher at my high school today runs a large and well respected shelter for homeless women.  And I assure you, they are self respecting.

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Thu Mar 05, 2009 at 04:14:55 PM PST

    •  I think this was contained in the text (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sc kitty

      of the story, marykk.  But the nuns you are writting about are not the new and younger traditional nuns that the older "progressives", the ones of whom you speak, should learn from according to the Vatican's spokesman.

      A private gyn office offering full gyn services including abortion care to 18 weeks.

      by william f harrison on Thu Mar 05, 2009 at 04:27:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The experience of the Discalced Carmelites, (6+ / 0-)

    one of the strictest cloistered orders, under John Paul II should scare the hell out of any order of nuns facing "apostolic visitation." The Discalced Carmelites had made certain common-sense changes in their rule of life after Vatican II, but they had by no means turned into slackers. JP II imposed a male cleric to re-write their re-write, according to the independent National Catholic Reporter.

    I could have been a soldier... I had got part of it learned; I knew more about retreating than the man that invented retreating. --Mark Twain

    by NogodsnomastersMary on Thu Mar 05, 2009 at 04:33:58 PM PST

  •  Much bigger, more shocking, story today (12+ / 0-)

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/...

    In brief, the Church today excommunicated the mother of a 9 year old rape victim in Brazil for allowing her child to have an abortion which was medically necessary to protect her own health.

  •  There are nuns and nunnerys good and bad (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    william f harrison

    just like other people/groups. The problem is the extremes get amplified by group protection.

    The RCC is going backwards as fast as it can through this pope and the last one, although he was so genial and good at PR that it was hardly noticed. Look at the whole handling of the sex abuse situation.

    Fundamentalism is fear of change deified by the various "People of the Book." They cause most of the ills in this world. Monotheist religions are sanctified evils, especially those with missions to convert. Those are also the groups most responsible for overpopulation, poverty, ignorance and the misery of being subjected to control freaks.

    William, you quoted:

    Historically, Catholic sisters concentrated on teaching and health care. Since the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, many sisters have become activists of social causes ranging from protesting nuclear weapons to marching with migrant farmworkers. Some also advocate for women to be ordained as priests or challenge church teaching against abortion rights or gay marriage.

    There is your nub right there. They don't want those activist, empowering nuns. Not for their worker bees and not for their flocks.

    Especially not the flocks. They may learn to think for themselves then confront or even leave the church.

    Where do you practice, William? I need a gynecologist.

    We are in a time where it is risky NOT to change. Barack Obama 7-30-08

    by samddobermann on Fri Mar 06, 2009 at 10:30:09 AM PST

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