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May 29, 2016

Ter Apel Monastery, Netherlands, Author Gouwenaar at nl.wikipedia (PD)

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles has sold a hilltop convent to singer, Katy Perry for $14.5 million [1].  The few remaining Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary occupying the convent had initially arranged another sale, expecting to use the proceeds for their living expenses.  As of this writing, they are yet to receive any moneys from the Archdiocese for the sale.

There is an open secret in the Catholic Church.  Other than the limited funds put aside by individual diocese and religious orders, no reserve exists for the care of elderly priests, nuns, and sisters who devoted their lives to prayer and service to others.

According to the National Religious Retirement Office, many of America’s religious will spend their retirement years without 401(k)s, pensions, or even, in some cases, Social Security benefits [2].

The Retirement Fund for Religious (the largest of several such appeals) raises $28 million annually.  However, the unfunded portion exceeds $4 billion [3].  As of 2011, over 500 religious communities reported inadequate funding for retirement purposes.  In Philadelphia, funds are so tight that retired priests living in church-owned housing have been asked to cede a percentage of their pensions to the Archdiocese.

Which begs the question, why should such appeals be necessary?

Several factors have come into play:

  • Longer life expectancy has increased the number of elderly in need of care.
  • This has been coupled with a decrease in vocations so severe that by 2022 there will be four times as many religious over the age of 70 as under [4][5].
  • The church’s investments have not been immune to economic reversal.
  • Although insurance has covered some claims relative to the clergy sex abuse scandal, the church has, also, contributed from its own coffers.

The question remains:  Why has this not been viewed as a global problem, and addressed as such?

The Catholic Church as an institution owns valuable properties worldwide, not to mention priceless works of art.  Surely, some small provision could be made for those who – under a vow of poverty – served Christ, the organized church, and its members faithfully for decades.

If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5: 8).

[1]  The Christian Post, CP Entertainment, “Katy Perry Defeats Nuns in Court Battle over $15 M Catholic Convent” by Jeannie Law, 4/14/16,

[2]  House of Friendship Foundation, “Support for Retired Priests and Sisters”,

[3]  National Catholic Register, “Retired Priests and Religious Struggle to Cope Financially” by Judy Roberts, 7/10/13,

[4], 22 News, “Elderly Catholic Nuns Getting Care at Jewish Nursing Home” by Jim Fitzgerald of the Associated Press,  5/24/15,

[5]  Roman Catholic Vocations, “Nuns Facing Grim Retirement” by Matthew Sweeney of, 4/20/08,


  1. Truly a sad state of affairs when even
    the church fails to take care of their own… sigh… 😦 ♥ ❤

    • I went to parochial school. Strict as the nuns were, they managed to instill timeless values. It is a travesty to me that they should want in their latter years. Thanks for caring. ❤

  2. I never even thought about these things. I totally agree with you. Thank you for such a thought provoking article. With your permission, I would like to reblog this. 🙂 Debbie from

  3. tabitha59reachingout permalink

    Reblogged this on sistersreachout and commented:
    This is a post with a new idea, at least to my mind. I think you’ll find it interesting.

  4. Goodness, had no idea. What in the world are the retirees going to do?? What have they been doing, practically?

    • It varies from one religious order to another. In large measure, the problem has not yet been addressed. Evidently, the religious poor cope in much the same way as the lay poor. One article I cite describes elderly nuns cared for at a Jewish nursing home, and grateful to be there.

  5. The Catholic church is also in need of healing. I am a Catholic and I have seen what you have written many times over. I hope the healing is taking place and I am always praying that we may be a part of this process. Thank you for this post 🙂

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