Many people know that Catholic nuns are very religious and often work as teachers. Fewer people are aware of the many varied responsibilities that Catholic nuns take on. Many nuns do teach, but they also perform numerous other types of service, including responding to modern issues. In recent times, there has been some controversy regarding how much responsibility women should take in the Catholic Church.
Traditional and Modern Vows
Before women become nuns, they take vows of faith. These vows may include commitments such as poverty, chastity and obedience. Nuns in some branches of the Catholic Church take extremely strict "solemn vows." These vows do not allow nuns to leave a strict enclosure without approval by the Bishop; they also restrict who is allowed to visit the nuns. Since the French Revolution, however, many nuns do not take solemn vows. Such nuns still take vows and devote their lives to their religion, but their churches do not require them to stay in their enclosure or follow as strict set of rules.
Prayer and Devotion
Nuns pray frequently, and congregations of nuns generally pray together several times each day. They also pray independently, and nuns who do not teach or perform community service might pray as a primary responsibility. Nuns also continue to study their spirituality and devote their lives to the Catholic religion. Within a convent, nuns might have other responsibilities, such as cooking or cleaning.
Many nuns devote themselves to service and teaching. Older and incredibly strict solemn vows generally only make it possible for nuns to teach young women because of their enclosure rules. Many modern Catholic ministries, however, have nuns who work as teachers for both genders, in charity organizations and even in health care. Some nuns work to provide spiritual direction for people, while others help provide low-cost housing and family services, feed the poor and other types of community service.
Controversy Over Roles
Historically, many roles within the Catholic Church, such as priesthood, have been reserved for men only. There has been some recent controversy, however, as some nuns have called for more inclusion for women in different roles within the Church. According to Reuters, there is now some tension between the Vatican and American nuns. The Vatican has chastised nuns who hold views that differ from Roman Catholic bishops. For example, nuns have been scolded for ministering too much to gay people and becoming actively involved in social justice issues.
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