Q. 1. Why is it that religious brothers and sisters no longer wear their habit?
A. 1. In 1966, Pope John Paul II released his "Post-Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata" regarding the wearing of religious habit by those who have consecrated their lives to the Church. In it, it states:
§25 … "The Church must always seek to make her presence visible in everyday life, especially in contemporary culture, which is often very secularized and yet sensitive to the language of signs. In this regard the Church has a right to expect a significant contribution from consecrated persons, called as they are in every situation to bear clear witness that they belong to Christ."
"Since the habit is a sign of consecration, poverty and membership in a particular Religious family, I join the Fathers of the Synod in strongly recommending to men and women religious that they wear their proper habit, suitably adapted to the conditions of time and place."
"Where valid reasons of their apostolate call for it, Religious, in conformity with the norms of their Institute, may also dress in a simple and modest manner, with an appropriate symbol, in such a way that their consecration is recognizable."
"Institutes which from their origin or by provision of their Constitutions do not have a specific habit should ensure that the dress of their members corresponds in dignity and simplicity to the nature of their vocation."
In many countries, the priests, brothers and sisters have taken the aforementioned to mean that they no longer have to wear anything (habit, roman collar, pin with a cross on it, etc...) that would identify them as a person who has consecrated his or her life to the Church. Consequently, you may be at a store in the presence of your Bishop, a priest or a sister from a religious Order that you will never be able to identify as a consecrated life in the Catholic Church.
It has become obvious that the Post-Apostolic Exhortation of Pope John Paul II has been grossly abused by individuals who are ashamed of being servants of Christ, individuals who do not want to be recognized as members of the Church, individuals who view their calling as a job and who do not want to be bothered by anyone regarding their religion when they consider themselves as being off duty. What was once a calling to a dedicated life in the service of the Lord Jesus has become a forty hour job with no interest in working an extra minute.
It should be noted that many of these liberal priests, brothers and sisters have left the Church to continue their lay lifestyle. Religious Orders that no longer wear habits are dying off, failing to recruit new vocations while those who have kept their habit are flourishing. It is obvious that the new generation wants nothing to do with these liberal priests, brothers and sisters who are ashamed to proclaimed the Gospel of Christ by their words, their actions and their habit.