Wednesday, September 11, 2013

“What good are closed convents to the Church?” - Pope Francis

“Empty convents don’t help the Church by being turned into hotels to make money,” the Pope added.

I expect that is true.  It really makes sense to me to open old monasteries and convents to the poor and refugees.  I do not know what the laws are in Italy, or the requirements for insurance and the interference of government departments of health and human services in such endeavors, not to mention licensing requirements for such services - but in the United States these requirements usually must be addressed before a group can open the doors to provide shelter and care.

It's expensive to be poor and to serve the poor.

For instance, if I do not acquire health insurance by next year, I will be fined.  Insurance has become  a prerequisite for care. 

If my parish wanted to open the old convent for the homeless, they would probably have to rehab to bring it up to code, obtain permits, increase insurance coverage, and so on. 

Monasteries which empty out, or which retain only a few vocations, often may have to sell the facility in order to provide proper care for aging religious, or because they lack the income to maintain the property and the buildings.  A couple of years ago there was a story in the local newspaper about a group of nuns who had to sell their property, and the retired religious moved into a nursing home.

I think the Pope was speaking to the situation in Italy, especially Rome.  Maybe regulations are different there.  It's a wonderful idea - a return to what convents and monasteries were often founded for in the first place.  The founders and saints of religious institutions did exactly that initially.  They provided hospice for pilgrims and the poor in Rome.  I love the proposal.

However, in the United States even the Church is subject to governmental regulations and insurance requirements.  At least that is what parish Business Administrators tell the parishes which would like to open empty convents and rectories.  I could be wrong - but that is what I've always been told when I asked why an old convent couldn't be opened in the winter to allow homeless a place to sleep.

+ + +

The Pope "called on religious sisters whose convents are “empty” to “generously” and “courageously” open them to refugees, observing that the Church does not need “empty convents to be transformed into hotels (to) earn money.” - Vatican Radio

Now what about those 'new' religious communities building expensive new monasteries? 

What about dioceses tearing down venerable old landmark churches which immigrants in this country labored so hard to build?



  1. reminds me of the same thing Fulton Sheen wanted to do and was ridaculed into not doing. I just hope the people that will make use of the convent will respect it, otherwise all the more for it

  2. The one time I traveled in Italy I stayed in convents. The cost was modest, the locations convenient, and it offered security for a single woman traveling alone. The bathroom was usually down the hall. For many of these orders, the only thing of value that they own is real estate. I thought it was ingenious that they figured out they could use a few rooms to raise income, although it couldn't be easy to have a steady stream of visitors in your home, kind of like a bed and breakfast. Often wondered why the same isn't also done here.


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