According to a news report today, a group of elderly women living in a residence for lower income seniors are being forced out of their homes to make way for younger, more affluent residents by the religious order that has owned the place since the 1940s.
Let’s stipulate that news reports don’t always get the whole story and that this particular one doesn’t have a response from the religious order in it. Here’s the deal: Our Lady’s Guild in Boston has been run by the Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception, whose mother house is in New Britain, Connecticut, since 1947. Its founding charitable aim was to provide safe and affordable housing for single, working, retired, or student women. That last one is key here. And while the order now claims the housing was supposed to be temporary or transitional, they have allowed residents to stay for decades at a time.
In 2012, the order hired a new realty management firm, which began to raise the modest rents. In 2014, long-time residents were informed they would have to move out by the summer of 2018. The property management company also began to advertise higher rents aimed at younger women, prominently international students. The residents have filed a complaint with the city’s fair housing agency that the order is engaged in age discrimination, noting that an ad for renters said it was a residence for women 18 to 50. In 2011, three-quarters of the residents were over 50.
Why would the order suddenly turn like this? They aren’t saying, but I’m going to guess that they’re like a lot of American religious orders for women that have been shrinking over the years and what members they have left are primarily elderly and in need of expensive nursing care. That leaves the orders scrambling to find ways to fund themselves even as there are fewer young women joining those orders to shoulder the burden. So these charitable foundations created decades ago are now expected to return enough money to meet the need. Rather than provide charitable aid to the needy, these orders are now the needy seeking charitable aid. I can’t say for sure this is happening in this case, but it bears all the marks of it.
It’s a natural consequence of the boom and bust cycle of the American Church. In the first half of the 20th century, the Church grew so fast and so many hospitals and nursing homes and schools and other charities were setup, staffed by the innumerable religious brothers and sisters. Then the Sixties hit and Vatican II and the abandonment by the religious of their orders and then the laity of the pews and what we have left is a shell of a Church desperately holding on to the last vestiges.
These Catholic institutions that were once bastions of the faith and shining examples of the power and glory of the faith are now often shells of what they were, run by secular businessmen with secular value under the veil of Catholicism and giving the Church a black eye when the business strategy departs from Catholic moral norms and doctrine. The reality is that we need to bring these charities back to what they were or we should divest ourselves of them.
Because heartlessly throwing little old ladies out of their homes is not a good look for the Church, whether that’s what’s intended or not.