Tuesday, August 03, 2021

The Nuns That Quit

 A few months ago I was strolling through an antique store when I caught sight of an old edition of Ladies Home Journal. The magazine grabbed my attention because of the large image of a nun on the cover, juxtaposed with a more "modern" looking woman⁠—modern meaning from 1967, when the issue was published. The feature article was about the exodus of religious sisters from the convents, then in full swing. 

I took the magazine from its sleeve and browsed through it. The article was extremely long and thorough, about ten printed pages in small type. Authored by columnist Robert Blair Kaiser, the article—entitled "The Nuns That Quit"—consisted of candid interviews with women in various stages of stepping away from religious life. It attempts to get to the bottom of why nuns were leaving their vocations in record numbers.

This sort of information is very important to preserve. We write so much about what happened in the chaotic years after the Council, but seldom do we take the time to study the contemporary sources to understand what was really going on and why. I thought this an invaluable resource for further study of the post-Conciliar zeitgeist. So I decided to get ahold of it and make it available to all of you.

Being the cheapo that I am, instead of buying the magazine I sat there for twenty minutes meticulously taking photographs of every page. I sent them over to a student volunteer for transcription. The final article is linked below, 13 full pages of text. I hope all persons who care about what happened after the Council will take great interest in this article, which provides an example of the mindset that was sweeping the Church in the immediate aftermath of the Council.



Karl said...

A sickening read of platitudes and banalities. One can really tell that the rot was deep already at this point, since such a weak gust caused it to crumble.

Alexander Verbum said...

Looks like there's confusion over "sister" and "nun"?

Here's a few gems:

"Miss Carswell feels that the superiors do not really understand what is involved in the changes called for by the Vatican Council. 'They want tidiness and predictability,' she says, 'while the new spirit will bring a certain amount of confusion along with the creativity.'"

Boy, doesn't that sound familiar huh?


"Nancy found that they did not have the courage to withstand the pressure of parents who wanted to control the curriculum. Some parents objected when Nancy read Winnie-the-Pooh to her charges, and her superiors would not support her when Nancy insisted that Pooh Bear is not subversive."

I'm sorry, what???

Anyway, there seems to be a common theme that they desired to do corporeal works of mercy or social justice here. It reads as if a life praying is worthless. This also sounds familiar, doesn't it? Didn’t Pope Francis talk about/do something about convents recently?

Also, why does it feel like a lot of information is missing? What happens to you when you join some sisters (or nuns) that you know do specific things, then a decade later you want to do something differently. Why?

I still maintain that sometime after World War II a lot of grace was taken away from the world as a continuation of a punishment. That would be at least one major factor in the sudden collapse and dramatic change in attitudes.

And with certain religious groups eventually going the way that these former sisters wished, it still did not help encourage or retain vocations.

M. Prodigal said...

Within 5 years of the Council, every Catholic high school in my town closed and there were about 8 of them. Just one sign of the sort of fruit the Council gave us.

Unknown said...

If you haven't seen this before. i kept thinking of this as i was reading it.
The nuns did not just happen to all decide they weren't happy.


Marissa said...

The article mentions how a lot of women who left in the 60s had already been nuns for a long time. It makes me wonder at the initial timing of their entrance into religious life: shortly after the end of the war. Was the shortage of men rather than a true vocation the reason many of these women became nuns in the first place?

Anonymous said...

Having been in religious life during those days, I will say that the article Boniface posted does not reflect my experience in the particular community I was in. I truly believe that there was so much emphasis on externals and petty rules that the spiritual life was neglected. That is not to say we didn't pray. We did. We had community recitation of the Office, the Rosary, and other community prayers. But we were not taught how to develop a truly deep spiritual life. For many, it was a house built on sand. Also, many of us entered religious life when we were very young -- in our late teens. We were emotionally immature and when the changes came, they were overwhelming. I have come to believe that most of us did not have religious vocations. We entered because we were told as children that religious life was the best place to save one's soul. I hope that is not true, because God blessed me with a wonderful husband, children, and now grandchildren. Thank you, Boniface, for the article, though. It is always interesting to read another perspective of those days.

latinmass1983 said...

Must be a much older article than 1967 --- on the first page, reference is made to Paul IV!

English Catholic said...

@Anonymous 8/13 5.20pm, that's my impression of those days: much focus on externals, little on nourishing the Divine Life of the Trinity within one's soul. And obedience had supplanted Faith as the primary virtue. See John Lamont's essay "A Jesuit Tragedy". I think all this is one reason everything collapsed so thoroughly after Vatican 2.

One of the 'good' motivations behind Vatican 2, there being many bad ones, was to remedy this focus on externals. Obviously it failed, since this problem and a thousand others are now far worse.

Anonymous said...

Kaiser worked for TIME magazine and was an important propagandist for his boss Henry Luce who made it his mission in life to subvert the traditional moral teachings of the Catholic church. Luce and his magazine were the tools of the Catholic hating American deep state a Satanic octupus that is persecuting the entire planet. The nuns left the convents when convents ceased being Catholic after the deforms of V2.