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Monday, February 2, 2009

America's disappearing nuns: what the apostolic visitation can and should find

by Phil Lawler

Feb. 2, 2009 ( - Responding to the announcement that the Vatican has begun an apostolic visitation of women's religious orders in the US, the Leadership Conference of Women's Religious announced:

We hope that the results of the apostolic visitation will demonstrate the vitality and depth of the life and service of women religious in the United States.

But let's be honest: A report concentrating on the "vitality" of women's religious orders in the US today would be a work of fiction. In the past 40 years the Church in America has seen a disastrous fall in the number of women religious, combined with a frightening degree of dissidence and disorientation among the members of what were once the country's largest religious orders.

The official web site of the apostolic visitation announced this past weekend acknowledges this problem-- admittedly in gentler language. "Like other vocations in the Church, religious life has passed through challenging times." But that mild phrase, "challenging times," is linked to a series of charts that illustrate the problem in hard, cold figures. (Full story at

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