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Sisters in Crisis: The Tragic Unraveling of Women's Religious Communities Hardcover – Apr 1997


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor (April 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879736550
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879736552
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 703 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #54,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 8 2003
Format: Hardcover
After I read Carey's work, I finally understood why the majority of nun's communities were marching toward extinction. Whenever there is an article in a periodical about the decline in vocations, religious are quick to claim that their numbers are declining because "society has changed and there are more opportunities for women" or "young people are more materialistic and do not want to make sacrifices." At no time does one hear them admit that the reason they no longer attract new members is because they have lost their communal and distinctive identities and life style. Surprisingly, there are orders of nuns in 2003 who have retained the essentials of religious life (communal prayer, religious garb, community life and a corporate apostolate) and they are thriving. These are the women who will lead the people of God into the next century.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 20 reviews
41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
Thorough history of the decay of womens' religious orders. Oct. 16 1998
By John P. Rooney - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ann Carey has expended a great deal of effort in writing a book that is a fair history of the "unraveling of women's religious communities" in the United States. Her attempts at fairness leads her to use "change oriented" in place of 'liberal" and "traditonal" in place of "conservative". (p. 9). Further, Ann Carey does not describe as a catastrophe (as I would!) the "88% drop in just 30 years" of the number of teaching sisters in Catholic Schools, nor does she attribute it to a change in vocation from "selflessnes: to selfishness", but she does quote, "Many sisters flet that their time would be better spent working with adults or children who were not enrolled in Catholic schools". (p. 33) The women's religious institutes "...lost their corporate identity" when they opted for "...occupational diversity". (p. 167) In another example of understatement, Ms Carey wonders if these institutes could be taxed on their profits. Selling of convents bought by the donations of the laity, competing with the laity in the work forces, not wearing habits despite the express wishes of the Pope and a collection of other incidents are recorded. Finally, Ms. Carey writes a prescription for dealing with Religious who are "procceding down the path of self-destruciton": "... the best way to deal with these sisters is simply to allow them and their institutes to die out quietly..." p. 324. I purchsed this book... for use in my MA Thesis in History, and Ms. Carey has filled a large hole in recent history, which is so often writen about the bishops, presidents and large scale events, rather than how these events affect the daily routine of the sisters and of the laity. In rejecting their vows, in not wearing their habits, in competing in the work force and in the political arena, the "new nuns" have become just like the rest of the lay people. The "new nuns" are off their pedestals and are no better, and perhaps worse, than the remainder of the laity. Ann Carey's book, "Sisters in Criisis", goes a long way towards explaining what happened and how it happened. I would recommend it to both the general reader and to the Historian.
John Peter Rooney, Plymouth, Massachusetts (For the record,I have had sixteen years of Catholic education, from grammar school through the only Catholic Engineering college in NYC.)
50 of 58 people found the following review helpful
Painful Truths Sept. 9 2000
By Amanda McCoy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is by far the finest and best-documented study of the collapse of the Catholic orders of religious women in the postconciliar period. The author provides immense documentation (much taken from original archival sources) to illustrate how these orders collapsed when they pursued a path of renewal that clearly contradicted the documents of Vatican II and the postconciliar directions indicated by the Vatican. It may seem superficial, but the decision to abandon the habit, communal prayer, corporate apostolate, and the convent has spelled death for many of these orders. And the bitter New Age theology (often tinged by anti-Catholicism) adopted by some of these groups only indicates the spiritual depth of this suicide.
The story is painful to read, but Carey documents how one once-vigorous order after another chose the path of self-destruction. And the treatment of nuns who wanted to follow the authentic path of renewal remains a scandal.
The book is weaker when it tries to get at the causes of the decadence of religious orders. I'm not so sure that the "elites" of LCWR were really that much different from the average nun back in the school or the hospital. I also don't think that the key Church documents on reform of religious life were somehow hidden from nuns. Most of these documents were published in the local diocesan paper or could be easily picked up (at modest cost) from a Catholic bookstore. Many nuns simply chose to move in a different direction---and they and the church are immensely poorer for it.
39 of 45 people found the following review helpful
What Happened to the Good Sisters July 8 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
After I read Carey's work, I finally understood why the majority of nun's communities were marching toward extinction. Whenever there is an article in a periodical about the decline in vocations, religious are quick to claim that their numbers are declining because "society has changed and there are more opportunities for women" or "young people are more materialistic and do not want to make sacrifices." At no time does one hear them admit that the reason they no longer attract new members is because they have lost their communal and distinctive identities and life style. Surprisingly, there are orders of nuns in 2003 who have retained the essentials of religious life (communal prayer, religious garb, community life and a corporate apostolate) and they are thriving. These are the women who will lead the people of God into the next century.
20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
sobering statistics June 9 2005
By Robert L. Fastiggi - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Ann Carey deserves much credit for this carefully researched work on the crisis in female religious life in the USA. The statistics presented are sobering. The dramatic decline of teaching sisters from 104,000 in 1965 to fewer than 13,000 in 1995 is a major turn of events in US Catholic history. With the skill of a seasoned journalist, Ann Carey explores the reasons behind this 88% drop in just 30 years. While Vatican II called for an appropriate renewal of religious life, many religious congregations embraced forms of experimentation that were sincere but ill-conceived. Some went even farther and began to manifest open resistance to ecclesiatic authority. For those who are trying to understand the sources of conflict in the post-Vatican II Church, this book is highly recommended.
12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Ann Carey - ahead of her time Oct. 17 2009
By Joseph P. Tevington - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Last evening (10/16/09), I caught several minutes of a Raymond Arroyo interview on my car radio. I recognized Ann Carey as the interviewee, long before I heard her name. Now 12 years old, "Sisters in Crisis" remains a scholarly, fascinating, and disturbing work. Even those who disagree with Ms. Carey's interpretations will have to be impressed by her scholarship.

As per a 2/15/09 piece by Ms. Carey, "The Vatican has launched an unprecedented examination of 'quality of [religious] life' in women's orders in the United States....The visitation's website cites the changes in apostolic works of U.S. women Religious, as well as their aging population and declining membership -- down to 59,000 from a high of about 180,000 in 1965. The visitation does not include cloistered, contemplative orders....The news came just weeks after the release of a report on an unrelated apostolic visitation of U.S. seminaries that had been prompted by the clerical sex abuse scandal....Cardinal Franc Rode, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, talked about the Vatican's concerns for U.S. religious life last fall....'The history of the Church in the United States of America is rich with the contributions of consecrated men and women who have left an indelible mark on the culture'....'Despite this past greatness and present vitality'....'we know -- and it is one of the major reasons we are gathered here today -- that all is not well with religious life in America'" (Ann Carey, Vatican launches assessment of U.S. women's religious orders, Our Sunday Visitor, 2/15/09).

As to why there would be questioning of this Vatican examination - particularly in the secular press - I am at a loss. Aren't there secular management emphases on evaluations, re-evaluations, and improvement?

4/23/12 ADDENDUM: Ann Carey was certainly prophetic! "Carey told CNA on April 20 that ever since the LCWR revised its statutes in 1971, it has had a rocky relationship with the Vatican....On April 18, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith announced that it had appointed Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle to lead reform efforts within the conference....Carey said that members of the LCWR have 'definitely' exhibited doctrinal problems and have also 'made it quite clear that they are intent on changing the nature of religious life'....Carey explained that many of the problems illuminated in the Vatican's assessment are the result of a 'misinterpretation of Vatican II documents'....while the council called for renewal by returning to the orders' original founding ideas & adapting them to modern times, many people misinterpreted this call and instead proceeded to 'totally throw off some of the essentials of religious life,' she said....'For vowed religious to be embracing teachings that are dramatically opposed to the official Church teaching is very scandalous and damaging,' she said" (Michelle Bauman, Author says women's conference should return to authentic religious life [...], 4/22/12).


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