Median Age of US Nuns: Mid- to Late 70s

Vatican report praises their work
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 16, 2014 2:40 PM CST
Median Age of US Nuns: Mid- to Late 70s
File photo of Catholic nuns crossing a street in New York City.   (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

A Vatican investigation of American nuns that many sisters feared would be highly critical ended up being "generally appreciative" instead, reports the New York Times. But it still laid out some stark numbers: The US now has about 50,000 Catholic nuns, down from the peak of 125,000 in the 1960s, and their median age is mid- to late 70s. The Vatican launched the investigation, formally called an "apostolic visitation," in 2008 under Pope Benedict, and most figured it would end up criticizing US nuns for becoming too political or for straying from church doctrine.

But as the AP writes, "There was no critique of the nuns, no demands that they shift their focus from social justice issues to emphasize Catholic teaching on abortion, no condemnation that a feminist, secular mentality had taken hold in their ranks." Instead, it praised them for "selflessly" serving the poor and asked the nuns themselves to assess their own challenges amid declining numbers, reports the Catholic News Service. The Vatican also promised to value their "feminine genius" more. (Maybe the supportive tone is a reflection of Pope Francis, who thinks that a smart nun once saved his life.)

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