Church, Religious Orders after Vatican II

Hello Catholics,

To get an idea of the times, after the council was there a sudden drop in attendance by members? Did a lot of people leave the Church including laymen and maybe even priests? With the changes in orders, did many brothers and sisters leave the Church too? What happened overall numbers wise? Did they suddenly drop as a result of the council or were numbers already dropping? What exactly led to the drop in priests, religious, and laymen (who are not immigrants)? The numbers are quite frightening but experiences could tell a much better story. Thanks

I witnessed all of that.
It was frightening. Before the Council, all was Truth and Dogma. The priests wore traditional clothes and nuns too. There was rigidity everywhere and you were most of the time in Hell. Mortal sin was an easy task as everything was a mortal sin. Mass was in Latin and the priest had his back to the audience. We all knew the answers in Latin and the song in Latin. Confession was done in a kind of box where you did not see the priest’s face.

Priests began making all kind of nutty experiments, some did not survive, and some were good. Paul VI suffered a lot with the storm. It was John Paul II who took the task of keeping the reins in the Church.

Many priests married without the knowledge of the Church. I know some of them who are half traumatized by it. In Saturday Night Fever of John Travolta you see a bit of the situation with a brother priest.

I myself suffered much with it but it is ok.

Many priests and nun who were pushed inside for psychological reasons left.

The traditionalist joined forces around a crazy fellow Lefevre who founded a Traditionalist Church, one of whose priests tried to kill John Paull II in Fatima when he came to thank Holy Mary for saving him from the tentative of assassination in Rome.

Some priests went to work in factories, to know what the real life of real people was.

Now the Church is recovering and it is a more balanced Church.

A crazy fellow named Lefebvre?

Reading this post, I’m not sure if you are saying things were better pre or post Vatican II.

I personally believe that the sisters left because the were given more free time and not restricted to a Superior. WE HAVE DRE, SHE WEARS LAYMEN’S CLOTHES, NOT EVEN A CRUFICIX, AND SHE LIVES IN AN APARTMENT HAS HER OWN CAR AND COME AND GO AS SHE PLEASES. WHERE IN THE COMMUNNITY? SHE DOESN’T KEEP IN CONTACT WITH HER ORDER, My statement is: why be a religious sister when you can do the same as laypeople? Their is a tremendous drop in the priesthood

Ha ha. Jim, you learned how to use the quote feature!

I think that things were better pre Vatican II. One good thing though is the Mass in English with more readings from the Bible. The reformers of the Mass should have translated the Latin Mass word for word if possible because what we have now , in my opinion, is just a shadow of the real thing.

In November there will be another revision and this should make the Mass more spiritual.

Again this is just my opinion.

[Michael Davies] gathered these statistics in the Index of Leading Catholic Indicators because the magnitude of the emergency is unknown to many. Beyond a vague understanding of a “vocations crisis,” both the faithful and the general public have no idea how bad things have been since the close of the Second Vatican Council in 1965. Here are some of the stark facts:

Priests. After skyrocketing from about 27,000 in 1930 to 58,000 in 1965, the number of priests in the United States dropped to 45,000 in 2002. By 2020,3 there will be about 31,000 priests-----and only 15,000 will be under the age of 70. Right now there are more priests aged 80 to 84 than there are aged 30 to 34.

Ordinations. In 1965 there were 1,575 ordinations to the priesthood, in 2002 there were 450, a decline of 350 percent. Taking into account ordinations, deaths and departures, in 1965 there was a net gain of 725 priests. In 1998, there was a net loss of 810.

Priestless parishes. About 1 percent of parishes, 549, were without a resident priest in 1965. In 2002 there were 2,928 priestless parishes, about 15 percent of U.S. parishes. By 2020, a quarter of all parishes, 4,656, will have no priest.

Seminarians. Between 1965 and 2002, the number of seminarians dropped from 49,000 to 4,700-----a 90 percent decrease. Without any students, seminaries across the country have been sold or shuttered. There were 596 seminaries in 1965, and only 200 in 2002.

Sisters. 180,000 sisters were the backbone of the Catholic education and health systems in 1965. In 2002, there were 75,000 sisters, with an average age of 68. By 2020, the number of sisters will drop to 40,000-----and of these, only 21,000 will be aged 70 or under. In 1965, 104,000 sisters were teaching, while in 2002 there were only 8,200 teachers.

Brothers. The number of professed brothers decreased from about 12,000 in 1965 to 5,700 in 2002, with a further drop to 3,100 projected for 2020.

Religious Orders. The religious orders will soon be virtually non-existent in the United States. For example, in 1965 there were 5,277 Jesuit priests and 3,559 seminarians; in 2000 there were 3,172 priests and 38 seminarians. There were 2,534 OFM Franciscan priests and 2,251 seminarians in 1965; in 2000 there were 1,492 priests and 60 seminarians. There were 2,434 Christian Brothers in 1965 and 912 seminarians; in 2000 there were 959 Brothers and 7 seminarians. There were 1,148 Redemptorist priests in 1965 and 1,128 seminarians; in 2000 there were 349 priests and 24 seminarians. Every major religious order in the United States mirrors these statistics.

High Schools. Between 1965 and 2002 the number of diocesan high schools fell from 1,566 to 786. At the same time the number of students dropped from almost 700,000 to 386,000.

Parochial Grade Schools. There were 10,503 parochial grade schools in 1965 and 6,623 in 2002. The number of students went from 4.5 million to 1.9 million.

Sacramental Life. In 1965 there were 1.3 million infant baptisms; in 2002 there were 1 million. (In the same period the number of Catholics in the United States rose from 45 million to 65 million.) In 1965 there were 126,000 adult baptisms-----converts-----in 2002 there were 80,000. In 1965 there were 352,000 Catholic marriages, in 2002 there were 256,000. In 1965 there were 338 annulments, in 2002 there were 50,000.

Mass attendance. A 1958 Gallup poll reported that 74 percent of Catholics went to Sunday Mass in 1958. A 1994 University of Notre Dame study found that the attendance rate was 26.6 percent. A more recent study by Fordham University professor James Lothian concluded that 65 percent of Catholics went to Sunday Mass in 1965, while the rate dropped to 25 percent in 2000.

Regarding those in Religious life, and maybe Br. JR can chime in here, as I know most of what I have learned started with him! :smiley:

One of the things that came out of VII was that all religious orders were ordered to “go back to their roots.” Here in America, at least, many men & women who were in orders, were not living the way their founders intended. There was a lot of clericalism, and a lot of drifting away from the original charisms of the order. Not sure of the name of the document, but one of the reforms was that all orders where supposed to have a “general meeting” and start going back to the living the way that their founders intended. To many, again especially here in America, the original charism of the order was a far cry from how many were living in the the US during the 20th century, and many left rather than embrace the true character of their order.

Religious Orders/Societies with a reputations for orthodox teachings and being true to their tradition and charism are seeing great numbers. The Dominican sisters of Mary for example went from 4 sisters in 1998 and are now over 100. Their average age is 28 and average age of their novices is 21. There are many other examples of this the older orders. In addition, dozens of new orders and societies have started, with the idea that they will be faithful to their charism and the magesterium.

Kenrick–Glennon Seminary in St. Louis is in the process of building more housing because they cannot accommodate the numbers they are seeing right now. Seminaries which have a reputation for holding true to the teachings of the Magesterium are doing very well with numbers.

I don’t deny that there were and remain some real problems which surfaced following VII. However, I would submit that much of that was due to religious abandoning the charisms of their order, poor general catechises of the faithful, and watering down of the formation of religious and priests.

Vatican II is still here, yet we are seeing things get better in today’s time. I read somewhere that whenever a council is held it takes a generation or two for the Church to fully integrate the decisions of the council with the rest of the living tradition of the faith. In my humble opinion, that is what we are seeing here to a large extent.

It is interesting to note that Islam has seen a large increase among native born Americans since it came into the spotlight following the attacks of 9/11. As most know, Islam requires a very strict adherence in terms of prayer, behavior, and study. It seems that people are attracted to discipline and regimen as the Catholic Church once practiced. Perhaps we had better reverse course just a bit.:crutches:

No, all of the studies show a gradual drop off in attendance; however, that drop off in attendance started before Vatican 2 was even thought of, as it started during the reign of Pious 12th. Liikewie there was a dropoff in attendance among the mainline Protestant denominations; Gallup polls and CARA polls show the same thing.

Over time, a lot of people hve left the Church’for other denominations; much of that has to do with the fact that mixed marriages were on the rise (which in turn ahs to do with the breakup of “Catholic enclaves”); in addition, divorce and remarriage has added to the loss of members to other denominations. Also, there are people who have simply stopped attending church weekly; in large part due to two factors; secularism in the world and the increased attitude that the Church has little or nothing to say,; and due to the dumbing down of catechesis, leaving Catholics knowing little or nothing of their faith. As one bishop put it recently, “We have lost two generations”.

See above.

There are a multitude of issues which have influenced priests to leave. One of the greter ones was the number of priests who left to get married. the vast majority of priests I have known in the last 45 years who have left, did so to get married. One of my seminary classmates left, quietly; never got married, and is a funeral director. One of the more recent priests to leave did so, apparently, because of the issue of homosexuality. He is now a flight attendant (which is not to say that male flight attendants are homosexuals - I don’t say that).

As to women religious, the shifts that I saw were due to a number of circumstances. When you have 50 and 60 year old nuns practicing wicca (and they were undoubtedly raised on the Baltimore Catechims), it makes no sense to say this is due to VAtican 2. It has opther sources.

One needs to understand that in the 40’s, 50’s and into the 60’s many groups of women religious would take in people who were 18 (and some of whom had been at convent schools). those people went into a life that was rigidly structured in many circumstances, and some of them were not mature, and because of the environment, never reached emotional maturity. Some of them, when the groups were instructed to go back to original charisms, went elsewhere. Radical feminism certainly had a part to play in some of the chaos.

What can =be seen today is that those groups of women religious who “lot their way” and lost the cohesiveness that comes from community life are not growing, but are simply growing older. Those groups which are true to the Magisterium, have a clear identity in terms of their charism, tend of religious garb, and have community life, are growing.

People want simplistic answers to complex questions - that is nothing new. The causes of the loss of religious and priests are numerous, complex, and could be the source of a number of PhD theses. Blaming it on “Vatican 2” is nothing more than an illiterate knee jerk reaction. Vatican 2 wanted religious communities to look inward as to their charisms, and get out of the 15th and 16th centuries. It did not want what has resulted in may communities and among priests. But what we need to keep in mind is that not everyone fell off the edge of the earth; many priests and communities of religious went through the process and have come out the other side supporting the Church and have vibrant, faith filled lives and are growing communities and we have the group called the “John Paul 2” priests, who are dynamic, faith filled, live the Church and follow the Magisterium.

Discipline without content is mindlessness. Content without discipline is chaos.

Some people want to go back to the attitude of “The [Church, pope, bishop, priest]said, it, I believe it, that ends it” attitude of simplistic formulae for living life. I can’t find that in the Gospels anywhere.

The visiting priest this morning said something that I will try to paraphrase off the psalm. We need to love God, and love Gods commandments. Not that we simply blindly follow them, but that we understand those commandments so thoroughly that we love them. And what is love? the giving up of self for another - and for Other. it is not a mechanistic, legalistic, minimalistic and negativistic approach to God’s commandments. It is rather a complete openness to God, an emptying of self desires and self direction and an opening to God’s desires and God’s directions.

I go back constantly to marriage, as it is the best gift God has given us as to what our relationship with God should be.

One can have a marriage where mere lip service is given to the other; where things are done simply to keep the peace; where giving is begrudged, done only to avoid fights, and where the whole attitude is “I am stuck here, so I will put up with it”.

Or one can have a marriage where one seeks to give to the other because one loves that isl where one puts one’s on desires below the desires of the other. Where one does not wait to see what the other wants, but seeks it out. Where one finds delight in giving of self, not in taking for oneself.

So should be our relationship with God.

Only one problem: it requires true maturity.

Sisters. 180,000 sisters were the backbone of the Catholic education and health systems in 1965. In 2002, there were 75,000 sisters, with an average age of 68. By 2020, the number of sisters will drop to 40,000-----and of these, only 21,000 will be aged 70 or under. In 1965, 104,000 sisters were teaching, while in 2002 there were only 8,200 teachers.

Nuns provided low-cost quality Catholic education. (Not to mention low-cost healthcare in Catholic hospitals.) Many of them even had class sizes which public-school teachers wouldn’t touch. I consider the drop of the number of nuns to be one of the most critical within the Church as today the only exposure most Catholic school children get today on an ongoing basis is Sunday Mass, if that much.

High Schools. Between 1965 and 2002 the number of diocesan high schools fell from 1,566 to 786. At the same time the number of students dropped from almost 700,000 to 386,000.

This then doesn’t take into account Catholic high schools which closed its doors from 1960-1965 which makes this drop even steeper. And most CHS are now co-ed.

The rest of the statistics speak for themselves.

Brother JR has touched on this.

The religious institutes were called to return to their foundations.

Many left when the religious institutes did this as what they joined was not what the order was at its foundation.

There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding religious life. The numbers did drop and they dropped dramatically after 1970, but the bottom was going to drop out of the floor anyway. The clergy, religious and laity have to take responsibility and none of them want to do so.

After Vatican I, religious were asked to do many things that they were not meant to do. They were asked to live a way of life that the founder did not intend for them to live. They got very used to it. The laity helped them to deviate. The laity just wanted priests to run their parishes and sisters and brothers to run their schools and hospitals. They could care less if the community lived its charism as long as their needs were met. Bishops took the same approach. As long as the religious met the needs of their dioceses, the charism of the community would have to wait. It became so bad that St. John Bosco had a fallout with his bishop who wanted the Salesians to become parish priests. St. John had to appeal to the pope to protect them from the bishop. The laity did not want the Salesians in their towns, because they took in homeless boys and girls, then begged from the laity to support these children. The laity wanted them to run schools for their children. The Salesians refused to do it. It was not the vision of John Bosco that they serve middle class children.

As time passed, the laity put so much pressure on the bishops that they put pressure on the religious. Religious were threatened with financial extinction if they did not take on ministries, parishes and other works that were not part of their charisms. Suddenly, we had sisters running schools and dressing as nuns. This was the farthest thing in the minds of the founders of sisters. The very reason that they founded them as sisters was to avoid living and looking like nuns. They were supposed to live in the community where they served, in apartments, houses, huts, whatever was available, but never in convents. They were to dress in a manner that was appropriate for their work and according to their custom. Their manner of dress was to be flexible. For example, St. Clare wrote in her rule that the superior should choose the manner of dress for the nuns so that it was comfortable, according to the local custom, practical for the work and suitable to the taste of the sisters. She even left room for the sisters to express their taste in habit. That’s why we have 20,000 Poor Clares around the world and they dress differently. Like Clare, other founders left this question of garb very open to the sisters and their superiors to decide. They did not lock them into a habit. Each community decided what it’s habit would be and they were free to change it according to the customs of the time.

The same thing happened with brothers. The laity started to push the brothers to the side. Eventually, brothers were welcome only to teach. Brothers like Francis of Assisi were no longer welcome by the lay faithful, because they did not say mass or hear confessions. They were no longer accepted as preachers, spiritual directors, parish administrators, theologians, seminary professors, or in any other capacity that did not involve teaching of healthcare. They were treated as subservient to priests. Everything was for Father.

In religious communities where you had ordained and lay religious, the ordained were quickly elevated to an aristocratic status. The non-ordained brothers were no longer allowed to govern the community. Superiors had to be priests. They could not eat, pray, recreate or work in the same space as the ordained, even though they were members of the same community. The laymen living in parishes, attending schools and colleges, or visiting hospitals staffed by these religious would pass by these brothers who were mopping floors and politely greet them, but paid no attention to the fact that the priests never mopped a floor, did laundry, never prepared a meal for the community or cut the grass. The priest always had money in their pocket, which they were not supposed to have and the brothers had to ask for money to buy a postage stamp. A priest read the brother’s mail before it went out and the incoming mail was read before it was handed to the brother.

The teaching sisters belittled the brothers at every opportunity. They forgot that they and the brothers shared the same vocation, to surrender their lives entirely to living the Gospel, in a family of consecrated religious who vowed to obey until death, to be as poor as Christ was poor and to love every man and woman with a pure heart, always reserving the intimacy of love for the Divine Master. They were to serve God’s people by being examples of the life that was to come in the Kingdom of heaven as well as the apostolic work of their founders.

What they did was discourage boys from becoming brothers. Whenever a boy who had good academic ability expressed a curiosity for the religious life, the sisters quickly campaigned for them to become priests. When a less talented boy expressed the same curiosity, the sisters encouraged them to be “just” a brother, because you’re not smart enough to be a priest. This created the idea that educated men were to be priests and the less talented were to be brothers. Of course, this was false. The Christian Brothers, the Alexians, the Maryknoll, the Holy Cross and other brothers were brilliant men who did great things for the Church.

By the late 1950s, many men and women religious realized that they were doomed. Their religious communities had the same name and may have worn the same habit as the founder, but its way of life and its work was different. Even the relationship between the members of the community were not the same. For example, Franciscans realized that if Francis came back, he would never be allowed to rule his order. If Bonaventure came back, he would not have been allowed to be a kitchen helper and cook, which he did for many years or Anthony would have been forced to become a priest, instead of the way that it happened, according to Providence’s plan. He became a priest just three years before he died, after 17 years as religious, preacher and theology professor.

These concerns were presented to Pope Pius XII who advised the religious to wait. When Vatican II declared that all religious orders, religious congregations, secular orders and secular institutes had to go back to their roots and begin again, the bottom fell out. Many men and women were very comfortable in the new version of religious life. They did not feel called to live the life that the founder had designed for them. Going back was hard for them. They left. In many houses, superiors pushed so hard that many men and women got angry and left. Some religious became angry, because they thought that the Church should be encouraging them to go forward, not back and they left.

None of this would have happened if the religious communities had remained faithful to their founders, if the bishops had told the laity to wait until they could meet their needs instead of pushing religious to become what they were not and if the laity had paid close attention to the religious life and noticed that they were getting services at someone’s expense. There were religious who were being treated as servants and as if the consecration of their lives had little or no value so that others could run schools, parishes, and medical facilities. The fact is that religious could have done those things, if left to do them on their terms, according to the principles left to them by their founders.

Many people still argue that religious life was being lived in these houses. However, that is not the point. The point is that the religious life that was being lived in those houses was not always the same religious life that founders had left us. You don’t just want religious. You want religious who will be as their founders wanted them to be. You don’t want Franciscans who act and pray like monks. That’s not what Francis founded. They don’t do Gregorian Chant, don’t have scholas and choirs, don’t have communion rails in their chapels, don’t distinguish the ordained friar from the lay friar. They are all consecrated men. If you get that, that’s not what Francis founded. Why would you want it in your parish?

You don’t want Christian Brothers to run schools for middle class boys. St. John Baptist de La Salle was very clear that they were to educate the poorest boys. Why would you want brothers who live and work contrary to the mission and vision of St. John de La Salle? You don’t want Sisters of St. Joseph who look and act like nuns. Their fonder deliberately made them diocesan congregations so that they would never be subject to the canons that govern nuns. They lived everywhere. You don’t want Daughters of Charity who live in convents. St. Vincent de Paul forbade convents. The sisters were not even allowed to attend a novitiate. To avoid the laws that required women religious to live in convents and attend a novitiate, Vincent de Paul and Elizabeth Ann Seton got around it by making it so that the sisters never make perpetual vows. If they don’t make perpetual vows, they are not religious. Therefore, they don’t have to live and act like nuns. This freed them to do the work of charity wherever they were needed. They simply renew their vows every year March 25. If they choose to leave, they don’t have to renew. We, the faithful, were unfaithful to the founders. We started calling them nuns and demanding that they live and look like nuns.

I say we the unfaithful, because our grandparents and their grandparents didn’t know any better and didn’t have the resources to learn. They went by what the priests told them and what the sister in school said. But we have access to a great deal of information. Before we get too rattled, we need to look at what happened between the Middle Ages and the Age of Enlightenment, what happened between then and the 1960s, that will give us a clear picture of why we have the problems today.

We are recovering. We will never have the thousands that we had in the past. This is good. As Mother Agnes of the Sisters of Life once said, we want dedicated and faithful religious who will live according to a charism. She’s right. We need to focus on recruiting men and women who can be faithful and stop focusing on increasing the numbers in the personnel roster. The religious life is not going anywhere. Some communities will become extinct. New ones are born. Others merge and many old ones return to their roots and you will not see us in your neighborhood again. But if you’re ever under a bridge, a homeless shelter, a school, college, or a dispensary in some rundown part of town, we would welcome you. Please don’t ask us to be Bring Crosby and Ingrid Bergman. That was the worse portrayal of religious life, but a beautiful movie.

We have many holy men and women, people of prayer, great charity, dedicated to their communities and devoted to their founders and the vision of their founders. They have not disappeared.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

Thank you very much Brother for those posts. You had mentioned much of that previously on other threads but this was much more in depth. I appreciate you taking the time.

God Bless!

Likewise Brother JR! Very insightful! Just curious if you believe the religious orders are making progress in returning to their roots? Would you say its going at the same pace similar to the “reform of the reform”? Thanks again for not just Brother JRs input but all of you. :slight_smile:

Thank you for these truths. I thought, for a moment, that I had opened the thread “for modernist Catholics”. On the date that Vatican II opened, my city of 75,000 people, was home to 9 parishes…each of which was completely staffed by nuns. The city had Benedictine nuns, Precious Blood, the Madames of the Sacred Heart & several other orders that I do not remember. Anyway, there were **over 90 nuns teaching the Catholic children of the area & the Christian Brothers taught our young men of high school age.

**When the council ended, we had 1 nun left…the principal of the one Catholic high school that was left.

I don’t think we can assign all the blame for a decline in vocations, to Vatican II. Many mainstream Protestant churches also declined precipitously in the same period.

It’s a chicken-and-egg thing. Did Vatican II cause the secularization of society, or did the secularization of society cause Vatican II? Personally I don’t think it was Vatican II. It happened to the Anglicans and it happened in clearly Protestant countries as well. Churches all over have emptied. Meanwhile the Evangelicals have been filing the vacuum of people thirsting for some kind of truth or guidance.

Look at it from the angle of the Benedictines, things are much better now. In the Rule of St. Benedict, there was no real distinction between the ordained and non-ordained monks. The ordained were not to use their status to the detriment of their brothers. When not carrying out their duties at the altar, their rank in the community was to be based on when they entered, just like the non-ordained monks:

Chapter 62: On the Priests of the Monastery

If an Abbot desire
to have a priest or a deacon ordained for his monastery,
let him choose one
who is worthy to exercise the priestly office.

But let the one who is ordained
beware of self-exaltation or pride;
and let him not presume to do anything
except what is commanded him by the Abbot,
knowing that he is so much the more subject
to the discipline of the Rule.
Nor should he by reason of his priesthood forget
the obedience and the discipline required by the Rule,
but make ever more and more progress towards God.

Let him always keep the place which he received
on entering the monastery,
except in his duties at the altar
or in case the choice of the community and the will of the Abbot
should promote him for the worthiness of his life.
Yet he must understand
that he is to observe the rules laid down by deans and Priors.

Should he presume to act otherwise,
let him be judged not as a priest but as a rebel.
And if he does not reform after repeated admonitions,
let even the Bishop be brought in as a witness.
If then he still fails to amend,
and his offenses are notorious,
let him be put out of the monastery,
but only if his contumacy is such
that he refuses to submit or to obey the Rule.

Yet eventually the monks became divided into “choir monks” (priests or those on their way to becoming priests), and brothers, those who did the servile work of the monastery. As was pointed out they were clearly segregated from the choir monks, and did not even get to vote in Chapter. The community I am affiliated with, after Vatican II, abolished the distinction and the brothers and priests are now equal except for service at the altar. I would argue it is a much healthier community since doing this, and interestingly it still attracts new vocations. Last year three young men took their lifetime vows.

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