I just read a very interesting article called “Where have the nuns gone? Orders thriving despite ‘double-cross’ claim” on Catholic Online that was originally published in National Catholic Register (8/3/6). In the article the perspectives of two nuns on religious life are set in contrast.
The article centers around a new book by former New York Times religion editor Kenneth Briggs. The book is called Double Crossed: Uncovering the Catholic Church’s Betrayal of American Nuns (Doubleday). Although I have not yet seen the book, the title and description of the book lead me to conclude that it may have a provocative edge to it (just a guess). You can be assured that a review of that book will be forthcoming in this blog. The other book mentioned in the article is Joseph Varacalli’s The Catholic Experience in America (Greenwood Press) which takes a very different stance than Double Crossed. (Note: my hermeneutics of suspicion compels me to note that both authors are men … while I’m sure I will learn from their books, I’m a little suspicious of anyone “defining” or “categorizing” or making judgments about nuns who do not (and, in this case, cannot) live the lifestyle of women religious. I am surprised that the author of the article did not note this and balance the books with any of the countless books on religious life written by women religious.)
A number of observations made in the article seemed legitimate: the differing perspectives on religious life, the effects of Vatican II on religious life (especially women religious), and the dynamic tension between remaining who you are as a congregation and adjusting to meet the signs of the times (my words, not the article’s).
However, I have to say that I was very disappointed in the article because it basically pitted two contrasting perspectives (and nuns) against one another. I was left feeling like a whole dialogue on religious life was left out and that the state of religious life in the American Church (the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious and the Leadership Council of Women Religious both represent women religious in the United States) was distilled to merely two perspectives that were placed in opposition to one another. The truth of the matter is that there is far more dialogue that goes one within and between these national councils and the sisters they represent. Congregations contain a wonderful mix of sisters with varying perspectives on their call, religious life in general, the Church, ministry, prayer, etc. This is good and healthy. In addition, every congregation struggles with the question of how to remain true to their founders vision and to their own calling while at the same time adapt to what Vatican II called “the signs of the times.”
Read the article here: “Where have the nuns gone? Orders thriving despite ‘double-cross’ claim.”