Insight needed on Post Vatican ll exodus of women religious

I realize this topic has been discussed (ad naueum, possibly) in the past, but I still can’t wrap my head around why, in such a short period of time following V2, our convents were emptying at an alarming rate, vocations plummeted, and orders started dwindling and/or disbanded.
If V2 was supposed to be so “renewing”, why did so many women leave their orders? Did they NOT want the changes thrust upon them by the council ???
Was everything just too much of a 180* turn that they felt betrayed, or what ?
Did religious orders sort of unwittingly sabotage themselves with too much change in a short period of time ? Too much “freedom” ???
Thoughts ???
Any former women religious care to shed some insight here ?
In addition, why do the conservative, traditional, habited orders seem to be on the uprise and attracting vocations while other liberal ones are on the decline ?

A very devout nun-friend of mine, was asked once, why did she continue to wear her habit, when most of the others in her convent adopted street clothes? She replied, "I choose to wear my habit, not so that others will know who I am, but so that I MYSELF know who I am.

First, human beings are very complex beings so finding one explanation will be next to impossible.

Second, I am sure there have been studies done on this but I am going to give my observations based on someone who was there and lived through it.

  1. Vatican II was just ONE of the changes that occurred in our society during the 1960s. People tend to forget that it did not occur in a bubble. During the 1960s there were new opportunities for women in the workplace, education, etc. For many women the convent prior to Vatican II was the WAY OUT to pursue an education and a “career” in teaching, nursing, etc. if you did not called to be married. This is not to say that they were sincere in their vocation, I still believe many felt called to religious life, but many saw there were new options in being female and Catholic and made choices based on that.

  2. Yes, convents (and seminaries) were filled before Vatican II but quite honestly, was this quantity over quality? I had the fortunate experiences of being friends with priests and sisters who were there in the glory days of the 1950s and said there were quite a number of individuals who were in need of “professional help” and probably would not be allowed to enter today due to more stringent psychological testing. Bishops and religious leaders had the attitude “fill up the empty seats”.

  3. Also recruitment and encouragement was much different. With larger families, there was an encouragement to give a son or daughter to the Church. Also, my father would tell me how in the 8th grade, religious orders would come to speak to students and their parents about how their children could start their training as a religious NOW at the age of 13 by going off with them. For many families in the Depression and hard economic times it was pragmatic decision of not having another mouth to feed AND giving a child to the Church. I had two cousins who left home at 14. Again, people’s motives were complex.

I hope this helps

I’m neither female, nor a religious, but I do have one thing to share:

There’s a difference between correlation and causation. What I think so many of us (myself included) witnessed following Vatican II was not directly caused by Vatican II, but by dramatic changes in western culture itself. For my money, these changes also affected the dramatic decline in priestly vocations, lack of faith in the Real Presence, decline in Mass attendance, fewer Confessions, and the list goes on.

This is only my :twocents:. Thanks for reading.


Interesting. Thank you.

This book with documentation gives many insights. Here are some reviews:

Listen to the mp3 Full Hearts, Empty Heads listed on this page. Dr Coulson describes a process that he was involved in and now *deeply regrets *of going into convents as a psychologist. The results were awful and devastating. It is a very sad talk, but does illuminate some of what was going on in the 1960s…

Someone also recently posted this article in the Catholic News forum. It is a great and short overview.

A couple more book recommendations - Sisters In Crisis and Sisters In Crisis Revisited (note the latter title is forthcoming):

Read this thread. Pretty much all of the factors are discussed. Links are shared with video presentations as well as articles, etc. on the topic you are inquiring about.


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