I have commented in previous posts about the Roe Effect.  That phenomenon is the inevitable effect of pro-abortion women not having children while pro-life women do have children.  Eventually, eventually, the pro-life children of pro-life women will outnumber the pro-abortion people because those people do not reproduce themselves.  I know, you will say that not all children born of pro-life mothers will necessarily themselves be pro-life.  I agree.  But I am confident that the ratio will change in favor of life and not death.

Something similar is happening with regard to the communities of religious women who fell into dissent from the discipline of the Holy See.  Many of them are dying out.  Father George P. Rutler evidently agrees with this proposition.  Here is his thought:

His Eminence Paul Augustine Cardinal Mayer has died in his ninety-ninth year, after a saintly life. He was a longtime friend of the Holy Father, a Benedictine abbot in Bavaria and eventually a venerable figure in the Vatican. I remember assisting him at Mass when I was a deacon in Rome and giving Holy Communion to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. He worked closely with Mother Teresa in encouraging Religious sisters whose own communities had lapsed into some of the follies of the social chaos of the 1960s and ‘70s.  Some of those communities sadly never recovered from that confusion. Many became disoriented in their theology and spirituality, keeping at best a tenuous relationship to Catholicism.

One recent consequence was the ill-advised decision of some Religious to ignore our bishops by endorsing the present government’s health-care legislation. Groups such as Network and the Catholic Health Care Association preferred Caesar’s coin to maintaining a prophetic witness to the dignity of life according to Catholic principles. Thirty pieces of silver in inflation-adjusted dollars are still thirty pieces of silver. That great reformer of conventual life, St. Teresa of Avila, once prayed, “How is it, Lord, that we are cowards in everything, save in opposing Thee?” Actually, the number of Religious who lost their way is not as great as some publicity has claimed, and the orthodox Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, established in 1992, has said that they “believe the bishops’ position is the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church.”

The closing of St. Vincent’s Hospital, the last Catholic hospital in our city, reminded me of how that great institution impressed me when I visited there as a child in the 1950s, with the Sisters of Charity in their distinctive habits like ministering angels, and the Angelus and Rosary broadcast on the intercoms in all the sick rooms. The closing of the hospital doors, for many reasons including the high cost of contracts for staff, was also the closing of a priceless witness of consecrated Religious life in our urban culture.

Happily, if there is a natural selection in biology, there is certainly a supernatural selection in Religious life.  While communities of Religious who opted for some vague New Age spirituality are aging and looking more like decaying infirmaries themselves, new Orders are forming with young and vibrant vocations.  The cycle of decadence and renewal is part of the organic life of the Church and, while exacting a sad cost to souls, is also the engine of great hope.  The saint of Avila said,”

“Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
No hands but yours, no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion
Is to look out to the earth.
Yours are the feet with which He is to go about
Doing good.
Yours are the hands with which He is to bless men now.”

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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