Women in the Vanishing Cloister: Organizational Decline in Catholic Religious Orders in the United States

Women in the Vanishing Cloister: Organizational Decline in Catholic Religious Orders in the United States

Women in the Vanishing Cloister: Organizational Decline in Catholic Religious Orders in the United States

Women in the Vanishing Cloister: Organizational Decline in Catholic Religious Orders in the United States

Synopsis

Women In The Vanishing Cloister is an organizational decline in Catholic religious orders in the United States. It includes bibliographical references and index.

Excerpt

I begin this book with some fear and trepidation. I am about to sound the death knell for religious orders of women in the United States and argue that they are a dying institution in our society. I feel like the doctor facing the challenge of telling a patient that she has terminal cancer and needs to prepare for the end.

This would be a formidable task if it were not for the inspiration I received in the course of my interviewing with the order that constitutes the case study in this book. By the time I began my formal interviews, the order was well aware that it was in trouble in terms of a declining membership and a high median age of members. I was both amazed and edified at the honesty with which the order was facing its problems. Even though members were talking about the demise of their order, they maintained an optimistic and positive attitude about the order and the richness of life they continued to experience in it. the honesty and courage with which these religious women are accepting their future makes it easier for me to describe the past, present, and future of religious orders as honestly as I can from a sociological perspective.

This book is intended primarily for a sociological audience, most of whom know virtually nothing about Catholic nuns. One reason I am writing the book is to update sociologists on what has happened within religious orders of women in the fifteen years since I wrote Out of the Cloister (Ebaugh, 1977). I am constantly taken aback by the stereotypes most sociologists have of nuns, ideas that are at least twenty to twenty-five years outdated. a major purpose of the book, therefore, is to update the sociological literature on religious orders.

Because the book is about an institution in decline, I also hope to contribute to the growing literature on organizational decline. Unlike most declining organizations being studied, religious orders have been around for fifteen centuries and are embedded in the even longer history of the Catholic Church. the fact that this decline in religious orders does not fit the pattern of organizational decline described in the literature raises interesting questions regarding the conditions and responses to decline on the part of different kinds of organizations.

Throughout the book I maintain a sociological perspective. From that stance, the future of religious orders is not very optimistic in terms of . . .

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