Why do liberals try to make religious life so … small?

Since there is a great deal of liberal hooting at the latest women religious, LCWR, Bus-Nun type goat rodeo, let’s turn the clock back a bit and look at something at Religion and Politics about the Nashville Dominicans.

The article is longish, and at times it drifts over to the lefty-LCWR-secular religion line, but here are some good quotes.  The title itself say a lot:

The Nuns Not on the Bus
By Mark Oppenheimer | October 26, 2012

[...]

“There’s no recruiting,” Sister Catherine Marie told me. Curious women, including many college students, stay with the Dominicans for short retreats; otherwise, the sisters’ outreach is just existing, publicly. “It’s about being visible and available,” she said. “We usually get two master’s degrees, one in theology and one in the field of education. So we have a lot of contact with young people.”

[...]

They resisted my insinuation that they cared only about the church’s “conservative” positions. “If you don’t care about the dignity of the human person, it makes no sense to talk about education or war in Iraq,” said Sister Hannah, an African-American woman who majored in philosophy at Notre Dame. “So pro-life is foundational that way. But we do care about other issues.”
They got animated when I asked about the habit. “At the hospital, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been approached,” said Sister Catherine Marie. “A woman once asked me, ‘My mother just died. Will you pray over her body?’ They unzipped the body bag right there. If I weren’t wearing the habit, that wouldn’t happen.”
But what of their cloistered existence, their regimented prayer life, their periods of mandatory silence, their jobs chosen for them?
“Kids today have a thousand friends on Facebook, and they feel totally isolated,” said Sister Ann Dominic, who was completing her second, or novice, year, a year spent of no interaction with outsiders. “I’ve been cloistered all year, and I’ve never felt freer.”

[...]

THE SAME WEEK I WENT to Nashville, I visited the Sisters of St. Joseph, in Holyoke, Mass., a congregation that belongs to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. They had arranged for me a program almost identical to the Dominican treatment: a tour, lunch, casual chats. These women were as articulate as the Dominicans, as mirthful, as indifferent to worldly goods. Their simple, sensible-shoe, old-lady garb was, in its way, more modest than the bright white habits of the Dominicans. Many of these sisters were teachers, too, although they were permitted other careers, and some worked in parish houses, in charities, or as social workers. There are 257 Sisters of St. Joseph, about as many sisters as in Nashville.
But the Sisters of St. Joseph were old: they range in age from 53 to 100. This summer brought one new member, a once-divorced, once-widowed woman of 54. The halls of their home, Mont Marie, are filled with walkers, wheelchairs and canes, congregating in loose formation outside the chapel, the living rooms, the dining hall.

[...]

The Vatican looks at Sister Anna, the Dominican, and sees the future; it looks at Sister Jane, and her fellow Sisters of St. Joseph, and figures their only hope is to emulate the Dominicans. The Vatican is right, up to a point: the liberal, more elderly congregations are dying. But then again, so are the vast majority of conservative groups. [Ehem.... they are?  The "vast majority of conservative groups"? Whom does the writer consider "conservative"?  It seems from this piece that the "conservative" groups like the Nashville Dominicans are doing pretty well.] Five or ten youthful, growing congregations will not reverse the geriatric, and ultimately mortal, trend. And forcing some liberal groups to become more conservative won’t necessarily increase the number of women interested in being nuns[It won't?  Who says?  On one side, traditional groups are growing in numbers of young women.  On the other side, liberal groups are shrinking and getting the occasion late vocation.  It stands to reason that if more women were out there with a strong and faithful Catholic identity, all the groups with a strong, faithful identity would benefit.  Don't believe for a moment that God is not calling women to religious life.  It's just that they have fewer good groups to turn to.  They get frustrated, distracted, side-tracked.] Church conservatives “want to give you the sense that if all groups went back into the habit, they’d all have the success the Nashville Dominicans are having,” Patricia Wittberg, a nun who teaches sociology at Purdue University, in Indianapolis, told me. “Not true!” A few young women “would just all be flowing into more orders. It’s a very small pie.”

[...]

See what I mean? That last point is interesting in itself. “It’s a very small pie.” Spoken like a liberal, no?

Liberals tend to see the pie as static. That means that if you get some of the pie, there is less for me. We are, therefore, in unhealthy competition which ultimately produces haves and have-nots.

Instead, perhaps the pie isn’t static. Perhaps the pie itself can be expanded. Just because I get some, you can still have as much as you want.  This isn’t a zero sum game.

When religious orders or bishops in diocese start thinking that there are only so many vocations out there, so it really doesn’t pay to work any harder than we already are… that’s the day we start to starve for vocations.

My old pastor, Msgr. Schuler, use to talk about the priestly vocations crisis in light of the ridiculous discussions going on in the diocese at that time.  They were just making plans about how to starve to death instead of actually getting out and planting crops and doing some fishing.  In his 33 years as pastor, there were 30 First Masses at his parish.  The secret? Strong identity Catholicism, superior traditional liturgical worship, an open door.

Were some of those older dying orders to undergo true reforms and get back to what they are supposed to be, not necessary giving up everything they have taken on over the decades, but reintegrate a real religious sense in light of the charism of the group and the founder’s vision, as well as taking on a more visible role in society – yes with habits – I suspect their numbers would grow in a way that the more traditional groups are growing. They could make the pie bigger. In other words, everyone, even more people could benefit.

In the article, above (read the whole thing) there is a paragraph which describes what some of the older, liberal-group sisters are reading:

 In the small, cushion-filled room on the third floor of her group home in Springfield, where she and four other sisters pray every morning, I saw copies of “The Te of Piglet” and works by the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Han, in addition to Francis of Assisi.

Wow.  That’ll inspire a young idealist to join up!  ”Isn’t that great?  Sr. Randi is reading Buddhists! I think I’ll join.”

Look.  I think we should be widely read.  But … that stuff in their “prayer room”?  Fail.

I suspect that young women are like young men in that they want to give themselves over to something that has a goal, defined edges, a clear mission and identity.  They are ready to set aside cushions in favor of a kneeler.

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Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Brick by Brick, Liberals, Magisterium of Nuns, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity, The Drill, The future and our choices, Vocations, Women Religious and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to Why do liberals try to make religious life so … small?

  1. JacobWall says:

    Father, I think you forgot to add a title. Wonderful story about the nun’s “not on the bus” – too bad it’s framed in the liberal “it’s not going to make a difference anyway” point of view. We have a local “not on the bus” monastery of Carmelite nuns, and we’re delighted to have them here.

  2. McCall1981 says:

    There’s a wonderful Carmelite monestary near where I live as well. They are a new community that had to form because the one they came from got too big. And there will be a second new community forming as well. They’re doing great, and are deeply faithful.

  3. Imrahil says:

    If I weren’t wearing the habit, that wouldn’t happen.

    I’m glad again that, for all its faults and problems, my country has at least been spared this problem.

    And I fail to see what the point of a sister without habit is. Seems like a priest who does not say Mass, to me.

    [Hang on! Some fine institutes of women religious, from their very foundation, did not have habits.]

  4. Imrahil says:

    By which I mean no disrespect for the consecrated virgins and secular institutes, who perhaps have no habit, nor the Emmanuel Community members [of I do not know which degree of engagement] and the like, whose habit is probably thought normal clothes by those who haven’t yet seen that they all dress alike. But all of them are not called sisters, nor nuns, after all.

  5. Jack Hughes says:

    I just came back from Prague and for a VERY secular city it sure has lots of Religious Sisters in habit, God Bless them

  6. McCall1981,

    Would that Carmelite community be in PA or Canyon CA? I have the privilege of doing Mass supply for the latter.

  7. wmeyer says:

    To the liberals, everything is a zero sum game, hence the small pie. But they contort their philosophy to the notion that only the rich must lose, and everyone else will win. Their grip on economic reality is as weak as their appreciation that the “pie” is not of fixed size.

  8. McCall1981 says:

    @ Fr. Augustine Thompson O.P.
    Its in Canyon, CA. I volunteer there helping around the grounds.

  9. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Jack Hughes,

    as I said, the idea of a religious sister without habit is foreign to Continental Europe.

    [Except, for example, the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, founded in the 18th century, in Paris... very much on the continent.]

  10. Philangelus says:

    It just never made sense to me to have religious orders that look exactly like living in the world with everyone else. What’s the appeal to “I’ll have what everyone else is having, just not being married”?

    In my experience, when someone finds their vocation, the thing they really, really feel called to do, no sacrifice is too big to get in the way. In fact, the greater the good they’re after, the more they’re willing to sacrifice or even want to sacrifice, just because it’s so important to them.

    So overall, it makes sense that the orders that look more like the world are going to be calling fewer people out of the world, whereas the ones asking the greater sacrifices are going to draw people who are willing to sacrifice everything to follow Jesus.

  11. Pio12 says:

    Fr Thompson- And don’t forget the original one in NE! They built the monastery for 21 and can’t seem to keep their numbers below 30, so they keep making new foundations. These sisters also don’t recruit and aren’t even visible in the public square as they are strictly cloistered. They don’t have a website and the only way to find out about them is basically through word of mouth and contacting the Mother Prioress through snail mail. But young women flock there! A beautiful group of sisters, and God is rewarding their faithfulness with many vocations.

  12. I guess one can say when one is faithful to their original charism, the orders grow…The habit is most certainly important, but I think the charism for the order is even more important.

  13. In my diocese there is one monastery of nuns. They have long since kicked the habit and embraced nutty New Age and Eastern mysticism-type stuff (most of which they cleaned off their website during the visitation). They have had exactly two (2) postulants in the last twenty (20) years; both were middle-aged. The youngest ones are probably in their mid to late 50s. Undeterred by these grim statistics, they continue on their present course.

    It’s not as if there are no vocations within the diocese. There are. I have met some of the women who aspire to the religious life. But they are all going elsewhere. Because they don’t want to walk around in labyrinths, or be glorified social workers, they have no home here. Thus we forfeit vital spiritual support that would otherwise be provided by more cloistered nuns.

  14. oldaltarboy says:

    I live in the Diocese of Nashville. One of the first things that our Bishop did after his ordination as Bishop of Nashville was to reach out to the St Cecilia (Nashville) Dominicans. They took over the formation of catechists and made it something of great value. Then they introduced the Aquinas Forum, weekends filled with inspiring and challenging theology and philosophy. The local chapter of the Catholic Medical Association has greatly benefited from the Sisters. Back to habits, there is one sister whose name is followed by O.P, M.D. who easily talks about the impact that the habit has in her medical practice.

    Every year the local Serra clubs host a dinner for seminarians, and sister postulants and second year “black veils.” A high point of the evening is the competition between the Bishop and the Sister in charge of vocations to see who has done the best in bringing on new vocations. Every year it is a slam dunk for the Sister. To his credit though, the Bishop has increased the number of seminarians in the diocese by around 500% since he became the Bishop of Nashville.

    The influence of the Nashville Dominicans extends even to the Vatican. On a pilgrimage to Rome, I met a transitional deacon from the North American College. I asked him if took classes at the Angelicum. When he answered yes, I asked him if he knew a particular Nashville Sister who was studying theology there. He responded with and emphatic yes and said that everybody knew Sister __.

    Conservative, traditional, or any other attempt to categorize the Nashville Dominicans falls way short in my opinion. Call them holy Catholic women in the pattern of Sts. Cecilia and Catherine of Siena.

  15. Margaret says:

    The static, fixed pie is a very telling viewpoint. I don’t think those sisters appreciate the contribution they could be making in expanding the pie… If you have a large Catholic family, there’s “enough to go around” for a few priestly/religious vocations, a few that sadly fall away, and a few that go on to marry and raise their own large families. The aunts/uncles in religious/priestly life help grow the next generation of vocations in their nieces and nephews, parishioners, students, patients, etc. even without being biological parents themselves. The LCWRs have forgotten the Lord’s parables about reaping thirty- and sixty- and a hundred-fold.

  16. Long-Skirts says:

    Philangelus says:

    “In my experience, when someone finds their vocation, the thing they really, really feel called to do, no sacrifice is too big to get in the way. In fact, the greater the good they’re after, the more they’re willing to sacrifice or even want to sacrifice, just because it’s so important to them.”

    A
    NUN’S
    MOM

    My daughter smoked
    Her cigarettes
    My daughter drank
    Her wine

    But suddenly
    She stopped it all
    For something
    More Divine

    Some say she fell
    Into a hole
    Where went the
    Alice rabbit

    By putting on
    That churchy veil
    And brown
    Franciscan habit

    “Oh, my, poor thing
    A modern girl
    How could she make
    That choice?

    Of course you know
    It is the Church
    They give their girls
    No voice.”

    When I repeat
    Their words to her
    She smiles and says,
    “All’s well.”

    But moms of ten
    Oppressed, no voice
    Shouts…

    “They can go to H*ll!” (Amen)

  17. LarryW2LJ says:

    I know a Sister of St. Joseph, and we’ll just leave it like that. I desire to not be uncharitable.

  18. StWinefride says:

    Father Z says:[Except, for example, the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, founded in the 18th century, in Paris... very much on the continent.]

    Pas tout à fait exact, Monsieur l’Abbé!! Voici une image de la Fondatrice:

    http://www.societe-fcm.cef.fr/local/cache-vignettes/L600xH924/adelaide2-3-ffa6c.jpg

    [Au contraire. That's not a habit. The Daughters lived without a distinctive habit. And I close this trou de lapin, ce garenne!]

  19. UncleBlobb says:

    I think part of the answer to your question, Father Z., is found in the view of everything through a ‘hermeneutic of politics’, evidenced by the use of the terms ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ or even ‘traditional’. This would be different than say a use of orthodox vs. heterodox. The former is a purely human power lens, where might makes right, and where ‘we’ say what’s right, where the tyranny of the majority wins. There is no divine absolute in this viewpoint, so power decides all. It seems to me that many ‘liberals’ at least hold this viewpoint. It’s the flame in which they burn.

  20. Rich says:

    In addition to wanting to give themselves to something clearly defined, I think the young women in the article also feel that if they are going to give themselves to God as a consecrated religious, then they want to go all the way, as opposed to being a glorified social worker as would be the case with other congregations or orders.

  21. CharlesG says:

    I would like to make a plug here for the All Saints Sisters of the Poor, whose website is the following:

    http://allsaintssisters.org/

    They are an Anglo-Catholic religious order in Catonsville, MD near Baltimore that converted en masse to the Catholic Church a few years back. While they are currently under the Diocese of Baltimore and not the Ordinariate, and I am not sure to what extent they use the Anglican Use liturgy, I think it would be wonderful to have a women’s religious order that would be able to live out and offer to the broader Church the spiritual treasures of the Anglican Patrimony as its special charism. They’ve also got a beautiful building and grounds by the look of things. However, they need younger vocations. According to their website, Catholic women 21 or older can apply. Please spread the word among young Catholic women who might be interested in the religious life, or even young Episcopalian or Protestant women who might be interested in becoming Catholic and pursuing the consecrated religious life.

  22. Athelstan says:

    When religious orders or bishops in diocese start thinking that there are only so many vocations out there, so it really doesn’t pay to work any harder than we already are… that’s the day we start to starve for vocations.

    Hole in one.

    This kind of thinking is a self-justifying enabling of spiritual surrender. It allows progressive religious to justify the dismal failure of their order or diocese to get anything significant in the way of new vocations. Which is usually followed by more radical theological steps: “The Holy Spirit is moving us toward a lay-led Church!” Or something like that.

    Of course, if these religious had their way (and don’t let them fool you with talk that they respect the “different journey” that these habited sisters are taking), there would be no Nashville or Ann Arbor Dominicans. And this “small pool” of women religious vocations wouldn’t even have these places to go.

  23. pmullane says:

    I know Journalism doesnt lend itself to any great depth, but the reporter seems to assume that there are no fundamental differences between ‘Conservative’ and ‘liberal’ groups of nuns beyond a superficial and stylistic one, and then draws the conclusion that making ‘liberal’ nuns a little bit more ‘conservative’ (perhaps by making them wear bow tyes and cummerbunds rather than tye dye and birkenstocks) wont make any difference.

    What the writer doesnt engage with is the differences between what he terms ‘Conservative’ (better described as ‘Traditional’ or ‘Orthodox’) nuns and ‘Liberal’ (better termed as ‘new styled’ ‘unorthodox’, perhaps ‘heterodox’ and occasionally ‘perfidious’ (joke!)). The biggest difference, for me at least, is that a Traditional nun knows what she is doing and her place in the world, believes in the supernatural and is preparing herself for heaven by sanctifying herself and the world; wheras your ‘unorthodox’ nun doesnt really have a place in the world or know what she is doing (are you an academic? a social worker? a polititian? a spinster? do you live in community? alone? what are the rules on what you wear? what is your interior life?). They just appear to be ‘do-gooders’ with know discernable difference between them and the well meaning spinster who helps at Church. Most of all there is no real sense that these people belive in the supernatural in any kind of concrete way. They dont seem very interested God or the sacraments or prayer or anything, so focus incessently on Jesus the social worker, trying to ‘challenge authorty’ or change the world or ban the bomb or one of a million other earthly concerns. These concers may be good in and of themselves, but if they dont spring from the love of Christ they are jsut scattergun feel good isses, unanchored from any underlying principle of good or of love. So anti-poverty becomes ‘ban the bomb’ becomes ‘pro choice’ becomes a ‘nun’ escourting women to an abortion clinic. Other new style nuns may have a vague opaque sense of ‘the supernatural’, the ‘otherness’, the ‘mystic’, but they either dont know anything spiritual (in the sense of a personal relationship) or they think you cant know anything spiritual, in any concrete sense. So you end up reading buddhist nonsesnse and ‘the chi of tigger’ or ‘the pentagram of noddy’ or whatever else these silly women get up to because they dont centre their lives on knowing Christ.

    These women wont get more vocations just because they start wearing habits etc etc, they will gain vocations by becoming Catholic, and by becoming Catholic all the other things will follow.

  24. Imrahil says:

    Reverend dear @Fr. Z,

    if you will allow this short comment before the rabbit hole is closed: of course you’re right.

    Oh, to be able to simplify and not care about correctness in detail!

    But seems that whenever I do that (not that I wouldn’t correct others who do that), I put my foot into something.

  25. Imrahil says:

    Not that I’d be correct when I do care about correctness.

  26. HeatherPA says:

    Just want to say that I admire very much the Sisters of Life in NYC. They have a convent in the most urban area in the country and wear their habits 24/7, tending to the “least of these”- especially poor pregnant and/or abused women and their babies. My kids admire them too, and I pray that their lively, young dynamic faith will be the tipping point for one of my daughters to choose the religious life. They are so happy and spiritual- real spirituality centered on Christ.

  27. PA mom says:

    Liberals in the Church are always trying to “bring God down to size”. If God were really no more than a super hero, one step bigger than human with an extra power or two, then there is a limit to what one should expect from Him. Since God is indeed true God, then He can accomplish things larger and well outside of the scope of understanding and human expectation, including flooding your convent with vocations from all over the world.
    So maybe I am trying to suggest that He is actually working within each group’s respective expectations and comfort levels?

  28. Fr AJ says:

    I just don’t understand these people, they’d rather watch their order die than admit that liberalism is a mistake.

  29. Cafea Fruor says:

    “I suspect that young women are like young men in that they want to give themselves over to something that has a goal, defined edges, a clear mission and identity.”

    With all due respect Father Z., as a young woman discerning whether I’m called to the religious life, I’d have to amend what you said slightly. There is no ‘something’ that could ever draw my heart enough to give my life over to it. Rather, it’s a Someone that draws me to give my life over to Him. [With due respect, though your distinction is accurate, you are picking at a nit.]

    The problem with these dying liberal communities is that they’ve lost sight of the Someone who is the purpose of their life and have put something ahead of Him. All the somethings proper to the religious life are merely what orders your life to the Someone. Lose track of that Someone and all the somethings proper to religious life, and in their place come all the somethings that are disordered and meaningless and have nothing to do with religious life. If the Sisters really gave Jesus — the raison d’etre of the religious life — a place in their life, “The Te of Piglet” would have no place in their chapel. [They are also losing sight of the fact that that Someone calls them into a relationship with Him through His Church. Their vocations are ecclesial.]

  30. Ignatius_P says:

    Great post!

    Thank God for the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia! Back when I was a Protestant doing my undergrad at CUA I was taught philosophy by one of their sisters who always wore a big smile AND a habit!

    We studied St. Augustine/St. Thomas Aquinas and not new age/eastern trash.

    Encounters like this lead me to full communion with the Catholic Church last year.

    New evangelization anyone?

  31. papaefidelis says:

    Does anyone know of any congregation/order of women religious that “went off the deep end” but came back? I don’t mean groups which broke off in order to re-found their institutes but an entire group that rediscovered their way and returned to a more “traditional form” of religious life after spending their time wandering in the desert. I know of a group of Carmelites in Pennsylvania that went to the “Dark Side” in the late 60s but, in time, returned to their traditional way of life. Sadly, it seems that religious congregations, like the angels, have an irreformable will and once they have set down the path of self-destruction, they are unlikely to return to anything resembling a traditional mode of life.

  32. anilwang says:

    Why do liberals try make religious life so small?

    Because they see religion as something so small.

    If they truly understood who God was, who we are, and how much God is our only hope (John 6:68) and only true source of life (Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee) and how fleeting life is (Isaiah 40:6-8), they would either be so devoted to their vocation that nothing else existed, or they would abandon eternity and focus on making joy in this life worth the pain of separation from God in the next life. The middle ground of “the Church is just a charity social club” is only believable if you don’t see religion as being that important.

  33. Long-Skirts says:

    Fr AJ says:

    “I just don’t understand these people, they’d rather watch their order die than admit that liberalism is a mistake.”

    “Know thine enemy.” Not only would they like to watch their Order die but the Whole Catholic Faith. They could care less about their religious Orders.

  34. Kypapist says:

    The “Bones” had a good article on this issue as well as a fun puzzle. See how well you do on it. (I hope the link works, I’ve not done this before.)
    http://thatthebonesyouhavecrushedmaythrill.blogspot.com/2013/04/spot-difference-competition.html

  35. Neil Addison says:

    I agree that Religious Sisters should wear Habits but I accept that some of the old style habits were simply copies of 19th century clothing which look “odd” today. In England almost all the Orders dropped the habit and their membership has declined. However a small but interesting community of religious sisters is bucking the trend, “The Community of Our Lady of Walsingham” http://www.walsinghamcommunity.org who follow the Carmellite tradition and are young, dynamic and attracting vocations.

    They have adopted what I think is one of the most interesting habits worn by any order since it manages to be both traditional and modern at the same time being similar to a Monks outfit but cut in a feminine way. The Habits are actually made of Denim so the Community got the nickname “The Wrangler Sisters”.

    You can see examples at http://www.walsinghamcommunity.org/wp-content/gallery/community-life_1/DSCN3203.jpg and http://www.walsinghamcommunity.org/wp-content/gallery/community-life_1/DSC00098.jpg

    I appreciate that religious habits are not a fashion competition but certainly I think the cut of the habits this community have adopted could be copied by other orders who want to look like nuns but don’t want to go back to completely nineteenth century habits. The important point is that anyone seeing them knows they are religious sisters and that is important

  36. Pingback: The Modesty Discussion: Nuns Edition | Altar Kitchen and Arcade

  37. cl00bie says:

    forcing some liberal groups to become more conservative won’t necessarily increase the number of women interested in being nuns. [It won't? Who says? On one side, traditional groups are growing in numbers of young women. On the other side, liberal groups are shrinking and getting the occasion late vocation. It stands to reason that if more women were out there with a strong and faithful Catholic identity, all the groups with a strong, faithful identity would benefit. Don't believe for a moment that God is not calling women to religious life. It's just that they have fewer good groups to turn to. They get frustrated, distracted, side-tracked.]

    I don’t think that forcing liberal groups to become more conservative will help. What you’re effectively doing is forcing a religious conversion on someone who is practicing a different religion. I took a formation class from one of these pantsuited sisters, and at the end of the class, I realized that I religiously had more in common with my friend the Baptist minister than I did with her.

    They will not be on fire with a sharp focused love of Jesus which is what is attracting younger girls to the order. They will be social workers in pantsuits who have been forced not to talk publicly about the things they really believe.

  38. Bruce Wayne says:

    I read the article and want to argue with two points the author makes not yet addressed here.

    First, he suffers from poor math or logic unless he is being intentionally misleading when he says “The conservative convents are not getting more new members than their liberal counterparts: each wing of American sisterhood counts about 500 women in the multi-year process of becoming nuns.” He intends this to indicate that both “wings” are in the same shape yet in the paragraph just above he defined these wings as a conservative branch of 20% of U.S. nuns and a liberal of 80%. If 20% of the total number of nuns in the U.S. belong to a group which is getting the same number of new vocations asthe wing which has 80% of the total number then it is readily and logically evident which of these two wings is in better shape and shows real growth. He gives a total for U.S. nuns as at 56,000 in 2010. Based on that number it means the conservative wing is growing about four times as fast as the liberal wing, if I have done my math correctly.

    Secondly, I found this comment comparing the dress of the liberal nuns to the Dominicans very annoying: “Their simple, sensible-shoe, old-lady garb was, in its way, more modest than the bright white habits of the Dominicans.” He is making a really common mistake of the secular and modernist minded of confusing modesty with invisibility or self-abnegation. That is, the suggestion is that since the Dominican sisters garb draws more attention to them than that of the liberal nuns that must mean the clothing is less modest. Modesty in dress is in part about coverage and fit but also about context, particularly when it comes to the frequent necessity (given vocation or state of life) to BE noticed and recognized (generally the point with all “uniforms,” to express belonging to a group and be recognized as such).

    Anyway, this comparison he makes trades on an underlying critique of the conservative woman as a “shrinking violet” or just generally misunderstanding modesty to mean various things like “wallflower, doormat, shy, introverted, hiding behind clothes, resigning, lacking confidence” etc. This is related to the feminist praise for the “uppity woman” being “confrontational,” “outspoken,” and “in-your-face” as positive personality traits. Liberals often identify the vice incorrectly and so celebrate a corresponding opposed virtue which is equally distorted.

  39. wmeyer says:

    “They will be social workers in pantsuits who have been forced not to talk publicly about the things they really believe.”

    That would be a huge benefit! Time will take care of the rest of it.

  40. majuscule says:

    @ Neil Addison

    Those habits look comfortable! I would wear something like that in everyday life–except then I might be mistaken for a nun, which I am not.