From the BBC:
Catholic nuns and monks decline
Women form the majority of the “members of the consecrated life”
The Vatican has reported a further dramatic fall in the number of Roman Catholic monks and nuns worldwide.
Newly published statistics showed that the number of men and women belonging to religious orders fell by 10% to just under a million between 2005 and 2006.
With some orders falling – not failing, but their numbers are falling – and the increase of laity running the churches, mostly women at around 70-something percent (mostly locally of course), I am curious as to where the Catholic church will end up in the next twenty years. I know a few professors for who whom this trend gives them hope, for they say that eventually the base of the church will force needed changes in the hierarchy.
I have to admit that I was unsure about their hope, but if there is a serious decline in the orders, I suppose for me it is easier to see why there would be the hope. Catholicism isn’t dying, it’ll just eventually have to change to let women and married people in on a more serious level, instead of demanding celibacy of its clergy or excluding women. I think I could live with that.
Still, for other reasons, I do worry about the falling of numbers for the orders. Traditionally the orders functioned as a reforming arm of the church. It was in the orders (or at least the first few generations of the order, until the order itself needed reform) that imaginative space was made for both reforming the church and engaging culture. I know orders won’t simply disappear, but I do worry about losing the sizable presence of those seeking reform. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.