Catholic religious orders are probably the longest-lived voluntary institution in Western society. This book is the first single-volume history and interpretation of the lives of those who have lived in such ordersas monks, sisters, brothers, and priestssince their earliest beginnings in the First Century A.D. It is also an analysis of the organizational and intellectual structures that have given such institutions their remarkable vitality.
These religious communities have appeared, persisted, mutated, merged, and expired. The author shows us that despite these rich variations, there has been a noteworthy consistency in important themes, including living in community, and maintenance of the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. He asks: How did human beings go about living lives dedicated to these aims? To what degree were they attained, and how did they do it? Did they tend to be warped and neurotic persons? And, if their lives frequently projected a tone of wholesome purpose, what implications do such patterns have for our era?
Wynne also examines the many ways traditional Catholic orders have participated in educational and welfare efforts, Europe, America, and elsewhere. This remarkable account of the rich and complex patterns of institutional religious development furthers our understanding of the nature of human beings and their social organizations.
Edward A. Wynne is a professor of education at the University of Illinois, Chicago Circle. He is a sociologist specializing in the analysis of institutions that shape human values and conduct. He is the author and editor of six books including Character Policy: An Emerging Issue; Social Security: A Reciprocity System Under Stress; Looking at Schools: Good, Bad, and Indifferent; and Growing Up Suburban.