Much ado is being made about the Church finally reforming the dissident nun communities in the U.S. But I say, let these spiritually dead orders bury themselves until there aren’t anymore of them left, which won’t be long now to wait.
This sounds terribly harsh because it is. Here’s the deal: 80% or so of nuns in America belong to these dying orders. Their average age is, like, 70. They are going the way of the dodo. They have focused for decades on social activism (often devoid of Christ), “living right relationship with Earth Community,” reiki, labyrinths, women’s ordination, and all manner of other falsehoods, warped priorities, and heresies. Yes, there are faithful nuns in these orders, ones who believe in Jesus Christ and are obedient to the Church, but the majority of their sisters are wonky.
I recall my first vocation discernment retreat that I went on. I was newly Catholic and thought God might be calling me to the priesthood. I was sitting down talking with a habit-less nun with some other young people on retreat, and she said something that struck me as odd. So I said, “but sister, only men can be priests…” And she gave me a condescending smile, as if that was the cutest, most naive thing she had ever heard someone say, and proceeded to inform me how things could be changing one day soon. I was too stunned to respond, and even though I knew she was wrong, I would have felt like I was being disrespectful to have challenged her on it in front of others. That was my first experience of “liberal” (read: heterodox) Catholics, and it was startling.
Since then of course I’ve learned a lot and nothing much surprises me. But this poor confused old nun was there on this retreat hoping that some women would join her order and continue the “good” fight for things that ran counter to Church teaching. How many young Catholics were led astray by these confused nuns over the decades?
That said, I do appreciate the dedication of their lives that these nuns have given. They got co-opted and subverted in their vocations, it is true, but they tried to live in a way that would increase justice on the earth. And some of the work they did was truly good in this regard.
But instead of dwelling on these poor nuns’ errors, I say let’s focus on the 20% of the nuns that are growing, that are dynamic and orthodox, that are the new growth on the tree of the Church. I need hardly list these new communities. Ones like the Dominicans, Mary Mother of the Eucharist and the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. They are relatively small but growing by leaps and bounds. It is exciting and beautiful. Young people are flocking to them. The other communities will pass away within a generation, but these new ones will be the small bits of leaven in the dough of the world, storming Heaven daily, lifting their voices to God in the liturgy of the Hours, teaching young Catholics the true faith and not heresies. These are the orders that are ushering in hope for the new springtime in the Church’s life.
I wish all the heterodox nuns well. I even give to the retired clergy/nuns collection, because of course they should be taken care of and hopefully will see at the end of their lives that the Church is guided by Christ and can be trusted and believed in. But I support the new communities, thriving because they’re orthodox, and I believe the Holy Spirit is working in them.