WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - A recent study reveals the majority of religious orders in the United States have no new members making perpetual vows.
The study, New Sisters and Brothers Professing Perpetual Vows in Religious Life: The Profession Class of 2016, is the result of a survey of religious in 2016. It was researched by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) for the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops (USCCB) and released on February 2 for World Day for Consecrated Life.
Researchers contacted 759 superiors of religious institutes and 610 or 80 percent responded. Out of that number, 80 percent told CARA they had no members making their final profession. Twelve percent or about 72 religious institutes had one making final profession while 49 or eight percent had two or more.
The USCCB has commissioned reports on professions from CARA since 2010. Since then the numbers have not changed much. The percentages have shifted slightly between 2010–2016, but overall over 83 percent of U.S. religious institutes have not had any religious making final profession.
An average of 12 percent of religious institutes between 2010–2016 have had only one member move on to final profession with about 5 percent having two or more during the same time frame.
It also notes the average age is 39-years old. The youngest is 19-years old and the oldest is 86-years old.
The study reported the majority of those making their final profession are Caucasian and born in the United States, while 16 percent are Asian — mostly from Vietnam — and 11 percent are Hispanic.
CARA's statistics, however, illuminate a dramatic overall decline in the Catholic faith in the United States and not just in vocations since 1965 — the time when the American Catholic Church had it's highest positive numbers.
Religious orders, once a mainstay in American Catholic life have dwindled. In 1965 there were over 192,000 men and women religious in the United States compared to about 51,000 in 2016. This is a loss of over 141,000 religious in just over 50 years.
Although the Catholic population has increased since 1965, only 25 percent attend Mass on Sunday. Among that percentage, the number of Catholics who disagree with Church doctrine is shockingly high.
A 2013 Pew Research Poll indicated that three-quarters of U.S. Catholics are in favor of artificial contraception and 50 percent favor same-sex marriage. The legality of abortion is also advocated by at least half of all Catholics.
More than 50 percent believe — despite Church teaching — that using contraceptives, having sexual relationships outside of marriage and civilly remarrying after a divorce are not sinful.
Research further shows the number of unaffiliated Americans ("nones") has been steadily rising since 2000. In 1991, only six percent identified as "nones" while the amount jumped to 14 percent by the end of the decade, with the number increasing to 20 percent by 2012. That percentage has jumped higher just over three years later to 25 percent.
Nearly 40 percent of young adults aged 18–29 say they left their religion because of "negative" teachings against LGBT people. Of those who were raised Catholic, nearly 40 percent left the Church because of its teaching on homosexuality.