Puritans who ruled England during the period 1640-60 and New England in the colonial period were much more worried about blasphemy and illegitimacy than about sodomy.
Catholic women as well as Protestant were active in the church in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and their contributions were similarly opposed, ridiculed, or minimized. During the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, several women, including Isabel Roser in Italy and Mary Ward in England, had attempted to establish a female order of Jesuits, or at least a women's order similarly dedicated to work out in the world. The leaders of the Jesuit order and the popes were horrified at the thought of religious women in constant contact with lay people, and the Council of Trent reaffirmed the necessity of cloister for all women religious. Enforcement of this decree came slowly, but gradually even groups set up to educate girls, such as the Ursulines, were ordered to accept claustration. Later, on the Continent, Mary Ward attempted to circumvent this ruling by having the women in her group - termed the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary - take no formal vows. But her independence and popularity aroused the suspicions of the Catholic hierarchy, which in 1631 ordered the schools and houses run by the Institute to be closed, while Ward herself was imprisoned. Similar uncloistered communities of women, such as the Visitation - begun by Saint Francis de Sales and the lay woman Jeanne de Chantal to serve the poor - were also ordered to accept claustration or be closed. Most of the communities accepted the cloister, and the founders of the Visitation were eventually both canonized.
The separation of women's religious communities from the world lessened their ability to solicit funds, and the post-Tridentine emphasis on the sacraments meant that most benefactors preferred to give donations to male houses whose residents could say Mass. Many female houses grew increasingly impoverished, and more interested in the size of the dowry of a prospective entrant than in the depth of her religious vocation. By the seventeenth century, convents in many parts of Europe were both shrinking and becoming increasingly aristocratic. In Venice, for example, nearly 60 per cent of all women of the upper class joined convents. The long-range effect of claustration was not an increase but a decrease in spiritual vigour.
Beginning in the later seventeenth century, lay women in some parts of Europe were slowly able to create what had been so forcibly forbidden to religious women - a community with an active mission in the world. Leadership
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