Liberation Theology: Human Hope Confronts Christian History and American Power

By Rosemary Radford Ruether | Go to book overview

Chapter 3

The Vanishing Religious
Order and the Emerging
Human Community

It should come as no surprise, to those who have been watching developments in the Catholic Church recently, that we seem to have entered a time of the vanishing religious order. This poses a peculiar problem for those whose job it is to recruit new members for traditional religious structures. Even creative criticism may come to be received with much less enthusiasm, when it is no longer clearly pointing to revival and new "success" for these structures even if updated, but rather appears to be only hastening their liquidation. Many Catholics doubtless are a little dazed to discover that the Church, in its various institutional forms, once taken as so immovable, now appears to be so easy to destroy. Who would have thought, even ten years ago, that those mountains of tradition would take such a few pushes to send them sliding down toward the sea? Perhaps this simply means that the immobility concealed what was really a lack of resiliency. The facade looked impregnable, but this really meant that the power for rebirth was weak. Yet the fact is that it has been precisely those orders which have been boldest and most creative in adaptation which

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