Women Religious (nuns) in the Church

 NCR (National Catholic Reporter) ran a brief piece about nuns, officially known as “women religious.” It was largely drawn from a story in Philadelphia Magazine (here), which is more informative.

Nuns in America are nearly extinct. 90% are over the age of 60. The relevant religious organizations are using their assets for retirement funds for today’s generation of nuns, with no apparent concern for future generations. In 1965 there were about 180,000 nuns in America, Less than 50,000 exist today.

While priests have also been in decline, their loss is nothing like the falloff in nuns. Part of this reflects the greater opportunities for women in America since the 70’s. But much of the loss reflects the fact that the Church is increasingly an old boys club, with barely concealed disdain for women. Pope Benedict in 2012 cracked down on American nuns for their support of social justice, something neither he nor his predecessor had much interest in. Catholic schools no longer rely on nuns as teachers, nor do Catholic hospitals rely on nuns as nurses. Women are barred from priesthood, and there is no well-defined role for them in the Church, which ignores the potential of women, while managing to recruit a diminishing, and highly deviant population of men. As always, the Church claims the Holy Spirit is behind this.