Vatican II’s decree Perfectae Caritatis called for Catholic Religious to renew their vocations in accord with the Gospel, the spirit of their founders, and to adapt them to better meet contemporary needs. What happened after the council, however, was a mass exodus from religious life, accompanied by a general weakening of its fervor. This essay argues that the weakening of religious life in the post-conciliar period is tied, in particular, to a misreading of PC, and, above all, Lumen Gentium 5–6, on four key points. These are (1) that the council subsumed religious life under the general call to holiness of the baptised; (2) that it diminished the value of the religious life’s distinctive character; (3) that it re-ordered the evangelical counsels; and (4) that it cleared the way for the redefinition of religious life, by linking it with societies of apostolic life. This essay challenges all of these misconstruals.
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