Blog Post

Number of US Nuns Continues to Decline

LCWR logoEven as the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) proceeds with its annual assembly this week during which they will honor a dissenting nun, the Pew Center Research Center is reporting that the number of nuns in the U.S. is continuing its steep decline.

According to the Pew Research Center, the latest statistics on the number of nuns in the U.S. is revealing no change in numbers that have been plunging for years. Citing the work of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown,  the number of religious sisters in the U.S. now stands at about 50,000 - which represents a 72 percent decline from 1965 when they numbered 180,000.

Even though the number of priests is also declining, it is doing so at a much slower rate - from 59,000 to 38,000, a 35 percent drop, during the same time period.

The number of nuns has been declining globally, but no where near as quickly as it has been in the U.S. In 1970, U.S. nuns represented 16 percent of the world's total; they are now comprising only 7 percent of the 700,000 nuns currently serving the Lord around the world.

This revelation comes at the same time that the LCWR is holding its annual conference during which they will honor Sr. Elizabeth A. Johnson, whose 2011 book, Quest for the Living God, was found to contain language that "does not adequately express the faith of the Church".

sr elizabeth johnsonThe LCWR, which represents the leadership of over 800 religious orders, has been under investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) for almost five years for what is being described as their movement away from the Church and even from Jesus Christ. Despite warnings from the Vatican, the LCWR has persisted in its controversial behavior, even inviting a popular New Age speaker, Barbara Hubbard to last year's conference. Many believe this year's conference agenda, which included the honoring of Sr. Johnson, pushed the CDF too far, and resulted in an insistence that all future conferences will have to be approved by the bishop assigned to oversee the group.

The sisters plan to discuss these issues during this year's conference, to be held in Nashville from August 12-16, and to decide how to deal with the CDF's plans to take control of the organization after the assembly takes place.

"In the end, the point is this: The Holy See believes that the charismatic vitality of religious life can only flourish within the ecclesial life of the church," said CDF prefect, Cardinal Gerhard Muller while addressing LCWR leadership in April.

"The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See, has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life."

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