From The New Republic’s puff piece on a radical gay rights nun, Jeanine Gramick, who has come under fire from the Vatican:
Gramick, for her part, is eager for the rest of her sisters to join her. “If we comply, if we submit to what is being asked by the Vatican, it would be a repudiation of all the renewal that we’ve done in religious life,” she told me. “I don’t believe that nuns will say we can do that.”
As the reader who passed that link on to me said:
I mean she may be right that the Church hasn’t ministered well to homosexuals — though her approach is the wrong one — but to describe with a straight face in 2012 what has happened in the last 50 years to religious life as a renewal, turns the word renewal on its head, no? How can someone take her seriously. How can renewal be synonymous with the collapse of religious life?
The number of sisters in the majority of religious communities of women in the United States has been in fairly rapid decline over the past five years, dropping from 60,642 in 2007 to 46,451 today.
That loss of 14,191 sisters was reported by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious [Ed. note: LCWR is the liberal nuns group — RD] during its annual assembly in Garden Grove, Calif., last month. The conference, whose members lead 95 percent of the sisters in communities in the U.S., projects the loss of another 2,787 sisters in 2012.
This dramatic diminishment is the result of the death of women who joined the communities during the heyday of vocations in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, as well as fewer new members over the past 30 years.
The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate reported in 2009 that 91 percent of women religious with final vows were at least 60 years old and that a majority of those under the age of 60 were in their 50s. Additionally, CARA reported that more than half of the women in initial formation in LCWR institutes are 40 or older.
Know how many American nuns there were in 1965, when the Second Vatican Council concluded? Something like 185,000. If that’s what “renewal” looks like…