31 October 2013

3,000 a year!

These numbers are a bit unsettling!

The secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life said in an October 29 address that over 3,000 men and women religious leave the consecrated life each year. 

In the address – a portion of which was reprinted in L’Osservatore Romano – Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo said that statistics from his Congregation, as well as the Congregation for the Clergy, indicate that over the past five years, 2,624 religious have left the religious life annually. When one takes into account additional cases handled by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the number tops 3,000. 

The prelate, who led the Order of Friars Minor from 2003 until his April 2013 curial appointment, said that the majority of cases occur at a “relatively young age.” The causes, he said, include “absence of spiritual life,” “loss of a sense of community,” and a “loss of sense of belonging to the Church” – a loss manifest in dissent from Catholic teaching on “women priests and sexual morality.

The article goes on to explain the difficulties caused by the cultural shift from modernity to post-modernity in the West, specifically, the current emphasis on radical individuality.

Post-modernity is best described as the cultural manifestation of a prolonged adolescence brought on by the failure of the Baby Boomers to hand on our family's philosophical, spiritual, and theological traditions.

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->


  1. But I think that not all moves bode ill to religious life or even to the Church.

    I know of a particular case with a religious community I'm familiar with where one man left because he was called to be a priest, but his order was unlikely to have him ordained, so he discerned his vocation towards the diocesan priesthood now.

    In another religious order, there were two cases in the last few years which I think were due to heterodoxy not of those who left the order, but of most members of the province. I think that it's one of those cases when a centuries-old order disregarded that the charism of its founder bore fruit in the bosom of the Church and is now voluntarily deprived of her life-giving care.

    1. You're quite right. . .there are as many motives for leaving religious life as there are for entering.

      The saddest thing for me right now is how many well-established Orders, congregations, etc., are living in Deep Denial about the demographic future of religious life. Among many religious orders there is this almost petulant, foot-stomping refusal to look around and see that their comfy, upper-middle, well-educated secularized lives are failing (utterly failing!) to attract young vocations. This sort of denial is mostly lodged in the LCWR-type groups but it can be found among the men as well. The "reforms" of religious life postVC2 managed to give thousands of religious a reason to abandon their convents and monasteries and never return. Now, we see young men and women wanting to return to the religious life and actually live religious lives. . .but a lot of them won't be allowed to b/c the Remnants of the Revolution refuse to read the signs of the times. . .it's always 1973 to these religious.

    2. In the order that's veered into heterodoxy, I've heard its Father General acknowledge that within the decade their numbers will be halved by death in old age and provinces will be consolidated. Be he was fine with that and said that the charism of the order would survive in the third order. Except that the third order is subject to the first order, so, without a first and a second orders, there's no more third order; the order is no more. I believe that the Holy Spirit granted a charism to the order as a religious order first; the third order came about centuries later. It would probably require a new movement by the Holy Spirit to bestow the same charism in a secular order.

      BTW, not a hint of self-criticism about why they don't attract vocations. The usual cop out is sadly what this article proposes: the world is different, the Church is out of sync, etc. Of course, historically it's always been like that. That martyrs couldn't agree more that the world is different, that the Church is out of sync, but what they did was the opposite of what most religious do nowadays. All Christians, but, in a special way, all religious are called to be a sign of contradiction before the world, some heroically, but no one apathetically.

    3. The OP's can't survive on the OP Laity alone. . .the Order of Preachers is a clerical order, founded by Dominic as a clerical order. Some of the Spirit of V2 types in the Order go to bed at night dreaming about the demise of an 800 yr old religious institution. But that's just a projection of their failure to live the life according to the Constitutions. There's something morbidly suicidal about that. We've survived worse: lefty suppression, modernist revolutions, etc. We'll survive this. . .

  2. When radical individuality invades a group, be it a business or religious order, it would seem its time of being effective is coming to a close. Our office is "patient-focused." One of my continual questions is "why are we here" as a business? If we lose our focus, and begin to focus on my comfort, my ideas, me, me, me, then we will have lost the race. I would think this would be the same, if not even more so, in the religious life. There has to be someone, probably several someones, who are idealistic enough to remember and remind others where the focus is - where it always is. Surely each group has its own externally visible way of life, but shouldn't all religious orders have as their primary goal the salvation of souls? If "I" become more important than that, then the group is doomed.

    I have heard priests say, sure, I'll do what I can but I have to take care of myself, too. Ok, fine. But if that is important enough that you say that out loud to parishioners? Really? The whole psychology of "I can take care of others only to the extent that it doesn't get in the way of me" has infected modern society - you can take this and apply it to families as well. As a society we have been taught, and it is being reinforced, that we shouldn't sacrifice ourselves, our comfort, our personal ambitions, for anyone. What we are seeing, and what is discussed in this article, is one logical conclusion of radical individualism - we are infected. What is the cure?

    Of course, this is only one aspect, but it's Fr. Philip's blog, not mine :-).

    1. Shelly, the Wonded Healer mentality is a disease among some Baby Boomer religious. Basically, it gives them permission to be the upper-class professionals they couldn't be outside religious life.

  3. Anonymous9:15 AM

    I believe needs to be more education about the Religious life. Parishes should teach more to the youth and parents, through more retreats. There is not enough maturity in people anymore. All feel they are to do as they please. Not enough discipline. It is sad to see so many Religious leaving their calling

    1. A big percentage of those leaving do so before they take final vows. . .the novitiate and simple vows are meant to be something of a discernment period. It's not unusual for a novice class of OP's to lose half their number. My class started with 14. Six professed final vows.