Monday, 18 May 2015

Answer of the day (a bus-load of nuns, redux)

Q: 'Why are more women choosing to become nuns? ... So what has been happening in Britain, and what makes women in the modern world choose to take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience?'

A: 'One reason may be the concerted effort by the Catholic Church here in recent years to demystify what nuns do, and to explain what life in monastic orders actually means.' A concerted effort which has resulted in only 45 women in the whole of England and Wales taking vows last year.

In other words, probably a tiny fraction of the number of people who choose to opt out of mainstream society via women’s co-ops, craft villages, communes, communities for Buddhists, or adherents of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, or Christian pacifism, or centres devoted to sustainable living, self-sufficiency and general eco-warriordom, communities of artists, hippies, New Age-y folk and so on.

What evidence do I have for this? Well, the web site Diggers and Dreamers lists over 140 "intentional communities" across the UK. And that's just the communities listed in one directory - given the nature of these things there must be quite a few idiosyncratic experiments in communal living going on that never make it onto anything as official as a directory.

It doesn't add up to a mass movement, but I bet it adds up to more than 45 recruits a year for the whole of England and Wales.

In fact, it doesn't even add up to a movement - there's not much common ground between anarcho-syndicalists, evangelists for Krishna consciousness and people trying to set up Rudolf Steiner Schools - which is why a well-funded hierarchical organisation with centralised records and a slick public relations arm can puff a pitiful take-up figure of 45 recruits a year into looking like some sort of meaningful social trend whilst the, probably larger, number of people defecting from mainstream society into diverse sorts of intentional communities doesn't generate any such headlines.

Look out for similar "renewal of faith" hype from the Church of England, as it staunches its long-term vicar hemorrhage with massive wads of cash from its property-bubble-pumped investment portfolio:
The Church of England’s investment portfolio is to spend £100m on a huge expansion of the clergy as booming property values pushed it to over £6.7bn....

...The dramatic rebound from the lows of 2008 when the Church was forced to raise the retirement age for the clergy has facilitated the “over-distribution” to allow the church to “dig in” against decline and increase numbers by up to 50 per cent.

Property was the leading component of last year’s stellar return and investments totalled just under £2bn at the end of 2014, nearly 30 per cent of the portfolio. The average return in 2014 was 27 per cent, but only 2 per cent of that came from rental income. 
The Indy