APO resource visit counts have been improved. For more information, see our Policies & Guidelines

Discussion paper

The paradox of service: the welfare of former nuns

6 Mar 2009

Life for former Catholic Church nuns who leave their order is often a sorry story of poverty, mental and physical ill health, social isolation and emotional pain, according to this report, which examines the experiences of nuns after leaving religious life, and uncovers systemic issues of neglect by the Church. It highlights inconsistencies and inadequacies of the Church in dealing financially and in other ways with members who have left.

The report outlines some important features of the lived experience of nuns over recent decades, commencing with the decision to enter and the introduction to a life of sustained hard work on behalf of the Church as teachers, nurses, and social/welfare and pastoral workers.

The focus then shifts to those who, often after decades of service, decided to leave and return to the external world. It looks at the process of transition, especially the challenges and the negative impacts. These impacts are most commonly associated with inadequate support from their order – financial and otherwise – at the time of departure. For some women the effects persist, continuing to take a toll on their personal and social well-being.

The report goes on to highlight a range of assumptions and defensive assertions that need to be challenged for a more appropriate and just response by the Church on the issue of the welfare support of ex-nuns. It concludes by suggesting a way forward through the creation of a new mechanism for just financial support for former religious.

Publication Details
Published year only: 
Subject Areas
Geographic Coverage