There have been a couple of great speeches in recent days on what has happened to religious life over the last few decades and what to do about it, given at a conference going on in the US. Great because they finally acknowledge publicly what we all know: that a hermaneutic of rupture was applied to religious life after Vatican II, and some still can't seem to get past that and do what is needed for the recovery of consecrated life.
Take this brilliant analysis of the main groupings today, by Cardinal Rodé:
"First, there are many new communities, some better known than others, many of which are thriving and whose individual statistics are the reverse of the general trends. [Places like the Benedictine Le Barroux and Christ in the Desert...none of which are located in Australia one might add!]
Second, we have older communities that have taken action to preserve and reform genuine religious life in their own charism; they are also in a growth mode, contrary to the general trend, and their median age is lower than the overall average for religious. [Such as Fontgambault and its four post-Vatican II foundations, including Clear Creek, all using the TLM.]
Neither of these two groups sees “the writing on the wall” in the sense that observers of the general trends use it; on the contrary, the future looks promising if they continue to be what they are and as they are.
Third, there are those who accept the present situation of decline as, in their words, the sign of the Spirit on the Church, a sign of a new direction to be followed. Among this group there those who have simply acquiesced to the disappearance of religious life or at least of their community, and seek to do so in the most peaceful manner possible, thanking God for past benefits. [Most of the other Benedictine Congregations and other religious orders....]
Then, we must admit too, that there are those who have opted for ways that take them outside communion with Christ in the Catholic Church, although they themselves may have opted to “stay” in the Church physically. These may be individuals or groups in institutes that have a different view, or they may be entire communities. [ie ratbag new age nuns]
Finally, I would distinguish those who fervently believe in their own personal vocation and the charism of their community, and are seeking ways to reverse the trend. In other words, how to achieve authentic renewal. These may be whole institutes, or individuals, pockets of individuals or even communities within institutes." [This must surely be the hardest place to be in - an isolated member of a community who wants to recover tradition, but faces an uphill battle to influence their peers.]
The Cardinal directs his comments primarily in to those in the last group, but also to the first two...
To read more, go here. There is also some nice accompanying commentary on Whispers in the Loggia, and by Fr Blake. Roman Catholic Vocations has some nice background on the conference itself.