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Monday, January 23, 2017

What Should We Know About Opus Dei

The January 19-25, 2017 issue of the Arlington Catholic Herald READ HERE has brief story about the upcoming election of a new prelate for Opus Dei.  A quote from the article gives this information:  "Opus Dei has about 92,600 members worldwide; 57 percent are women and 43 percent are men, according to the Opus Dei press office."  Most people I know haven't a clue what Opus Dei is, what they do, how to join, or any of the other details about its founding, the work it does, the classes of membership or the reasons why people get in it, or what's more, why they choose to get out of it.

Many do get out and their stories are troubling.  There is a website specifically for parents of children who have been recruited into this organization from college campuses.  It is the Opus Dei Awareness Network, or ODAN.  It is a support group for parents who believe their children have been brainwashed and are actually under the influence of a sect or cult inside the Church. 

I was approached by someone who had been close to the organization, still in what they refer to as the discernment period.  According to the official webpage of OD:

...the Members join by a contractual commitment rather than by vows, and remain ordinary faithful of their dioceses.

This vocation is usually discerned after being involved in Opus Dei's activities (retreats, classes, spiritual direction) regularly over a period of time, which enables one to acquire an in-depth knowledge of Opus Dei. It is also important to acquire consistency in the Christian practices to which members commit themselves: frequent reception of the sacraments, prayer, apostolate and, in general, a humble and constant effort to acquire virtue and struggle for holiness in keeping with the spirit of Opus Dei.

This person who spoke to me had decided this was not something she wanted to commit to and had some questions about the organization she hoped I might help her sort out.  I had to admit I knew little to nothing about the organization, but I said I would try to find out.  I began with an internet search and decided to purchase the latest edition of the book, "Inside Opus Dei" by Maria del Carmen Tapia, published first in 1997 and reprinted in 2006.  Carmen Tapia was for six years the personal secretary at the organization's headquarters in Rome to St. Jose Maria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei.  If anyone would know what is and is not true about him, it would be someone in her position.  She left Opus Dei after 18 years of a life of dedicated service and returned to her family in Spain. Her departure from the organization was a painful one and the narrative of her experience in OD is eye opening, to say the least.  I will leave it to you to read her story and decide for yourself what to think about OD.  She names names, dates, and places, and gives direct quotes by her superiors including Escriva that were expressed in front of witnesses which cannot be refuted.   

This is a quote from the book which I believe is significant: 

In late 1991 and early 1992 Opus Dei stated to the press, sometimes without mentioning names, that a number of persons had not been called to testify in Monsignor Escriva's beatification process, because the Tribunal for the Process for the Cause of Beatification had decided that the persons were not suitable.  What Opus Dei never said was why those persons were not suitable, nor who supplied the Tribunal with such information. 

Popular wisdom is generally right.  The Spanish saying that 'there is nothing hidden between heaven and earth' is very true.  Sooner or later things always unravel.  The summary of the Acts of the Madrid Tribunal for Monsignor Escriva's beatification (p. 2133) declares in regard to the 'exclusion of some possible witnesses':

b) Existence of a campaign of defamation against the servant of God and Opus Dei.  In the search for other possible contrary witnesses to be cited by us, the Tribunal examined individual attitudes of several possible candidates, and after having gathered the necessary evidence, reached the conclusion that these also were to be rejected, just as Miss Moreno had been. 

..............The larger part of those persons was made up of individuals who, after having been a part of Opus Dei for some years, had abandoned their vocations and presently cultivate intense resentment...... In this regard, the Madrid Tribunal gathered a rather eloquent documentation.  Particularly significant was Miss Carmen Tapia..........  The Tribunal made the statement based on the information gathered, that the behavior of these persons made them unsuitable to testify in the Canonical Process and in fact unreliable to clarify the truth."

If a Tribunal were looking for a thorough testimony both in favor and against the Canonical Process of Escriva, one might imagine that those who left the organization after many years with an unfavorable opinion of the candidate might be the most credible.  Having spent time in his company on many occasions over a long period of time, they are more likely than anyone else to know his behavior toward others and his personal habits, as well as his temperament.  Instead these women were debunked as "unreliable" and of poor character. 

Carmen Tapia wrote,

"Moreover, obvious questions remain.  How does anything set forth in those Acts and Summary constitute an impediment to my testimony about a person I knew so well and for so long.  My sanctity is not at issue but that of Monsignor Escriva.  Are persons not in agreement with Monsignor Escriva ipso facto anathema, even though we continue to be faithful children of the Church?  Are slander and aggression the doctrine that Monsignor Escriva left as an inheritance to Opus Dei?  All this reflects badly on the charity which, as they maintain, Monsignor Escriva lived heroically but which, during the six years that I spent in Rome as a major superior in Opus Dei, I never witnessed.

Doubtless, Opus Dei feared that we who knew Monsignor Escriva so very well might tell the truth and that the likelihood of his beatification and eventual canonization would thereby be less likely.  To prevent us from testifying in the cause, Opus Dei's approach was to allege deeds which would make us unacceptable witnesses beyond a shadow of a doubt."

After I had finished reading this book by Carmen Tapia, I mentioned it to a friend I've known for several years.  She lives in another state and we correspond by email about a variety of things, mostly to do with our faith and families.  I mentioned to her that I had read the book and I said in my note to her, "There isn’t a word in this book that raised an eyebrow of doubt about her story.  I believe what she wrote is the truth."

My friend has given me permission to share with you her reply, which came as a total shock to me.  Many who leave express fear of the organization and have concern of reprisals so they frequently walk away and remain silent for years.  Here is her message:

Hi Again, Chriss.

I know all about Opus Dei.  I was a numerary for 16 months at age 19.  It is all that you have read.  My mother and father tried so hard to get me out of that “Communist” organization!  I was moved to Wisconsin from Chicago to get me away from them.  I had made a retreat in my last year of high school and felt I had a vocation of some sort but not to convent life where a good girl friend was heading.  Leaving was difficult but I got out with basically the clothes on my back.  My father, however, came back with me to get the  keys to my Chevy that I had given them when I joined.  They finally gave us the keys and the car and told me that they weren’t going to hell for a Chevy! 

An Opus Dei priest who was my confessor told me that I would never be happy again.  Wow!  What an impact that had on me most of my life.  It has plagued me for a very long time.  I reverted back to a nail-biting habit I had as a child.  Through prayer I have learned it was due to the huge guilt I was under.  I had a breakdown after our third child, a daughter, was born.  I have often thought that his comment had a lot to do with that.  Fortunately, I had a wonderful Catholic pro-life doctor who was the father of 12 children who helped me through that ordeal.  God bless John Brennan! 

The corporal mortification was not pleasant.  I didn’t mind sleeping on the floor but, I sure didn’t like the cold showers and the metal torture around my thigh.  Sometimes I was so busy with my work that I didn’t have time to remove it and paid a big price for that.  I was not good at recruitment because my friends all thought I didn’t belong there!  Ha!  They were so right! 

They put me in the kitchen to help the little maids make coffee cakes.  I was terrible at that but I befriended all the maids who were young and some not so young girls who had been given up by their parents from all kinds of Spanish-speaking countries and islands to live in Opus Dei houses and do domestic work.  They were so sweet and tried to be happy but, I knew they were desperate to get out of there.  I tried so hard to learn Spanish to be able to converse with them but,  they were terribly afraid to say too much to me.  Yet, they loved me and I loved them.  It is because of them that I finally got the courage to leave that prison. 

It happened in Chicago.  I had been brought back but, my parents didn’t know I was there.  We were at the dinner table and the conversation was very European in nature.  I had heard enough of their socialism so stood up and said loudly, “You will never make an American think like a Spaniard!”  Then I went upstairs, threw my meager belongings into a shopping bag, called my dad and he came and got me.  As I look back on all of this, I deeply regret that I was not able to do anything for those dear little maids.  I was helpless to find a way without getting all involved with the leaders again.  I could write a book about my 16 months in Opus Dei.  You are only one of a very few I have revealed this to. 

There was a kind of idol worship for the “Father,” as Escriva was called.  The formation was strict and demanding.  Nothing else was as important as doing whatever you were told to do.  No excuses.   I felt like I was in boot camp! 

I can only praise and thank my Lord for getting me away from that horrendous experience.  I shudder to think what I would be today and where I would be.  It was not God’s plan.  I have a wonderful husband and 5 wonderful children and lots of grandkids and even great grandchildren that make my life fulfilled.  If I had known what I know now about Opus Dei, I would have tried to write a book or informed people about it as the ones on that website [referring to ODAN]  but, I wanted to just wipe it away and not think about it anymore.  Life went on and it was forgotten. 

Such a lot to read.  I guess I wanted to put it to paper.  God lets us go through the dark times so we can appreciate the light of His great love for us.  What a remarkable God we serve!  Feel free to share this without my name and maybe it will help others.  We don’t know how much time we have left on this earth and only what is done for God will last.  Thanks for your friendship, Chriss.  I value it very much.

Love, ------

Opus Dei Headquarters
New York City
Final note:  I like to say frequently that we should seek the truth and live in the light.  The more we know about something, most of the time the better off we are, especially when it comes to those things that are a part of our beloved Church.  I have no doubt at all that the vast majority of the supernumerary members and the cooperators of OD have no idea what goes on inside the houses where numerary and servant class members live day to day.  Only those who have lived that life and have left it can ever tell us those things, and only they ever will because of the rules of strict discretion within the organization.  Nor do most people attached to this group even give much thought to where all the money goes and who controls it.  Nor do they ever doubt the schools run by Opus Dei, two of which are here in the Washington area, or their mission or their goals, or the governmental structure, or their treatment of women vs. men, or their channels of information gathering and distribution from the lowest member to the top.  Perhaps they should.  As we know, "All that glitters is not gold." 


TLM said...

Thanks for this! Yes, I had read about the controversies surrounding OD. OD members themselves testify to a 'communistic theme' in the organization, and have recruited actual communists in the past. 'All that glitters is not gold' fits this 'ministry' to a T.

elpine flower said...

Thank you for posting this. I too had friends who left this organization. A lovely Catholic couple with three children . After joining the family attended meetings in NJ . They confessed to a priest they thought was wonderful until their children reported to them the extensive questioning they underwent in the confessional concerning their parents . The mother was actually too afraid to tell me what she discovered about the organization but they moved out of state and she reported her mail was being opened before they received it in their new home. She said they complained over and over to the post office to no avail. I must say that raised my eyebrows however, the fact that the entire family seemed so nervous after exiting OD was enough for me to do a little more research.
what I discovered was this.
Cardinal Poletti was the Postulator for his friend Escriva's Cause.
Cardinal Poletti was a member of the P2 Lodge that was raided by the Italian equivalent of out FBI. A list of members was made available.
Cardinal Poletti garnered the Basilica of St Apollinaire for Opus Dei.A large portrait of Escriva hangs in the entrance and it is right across the street from their Rome headquarters. more recently the brother of Orlandi and other Italian Catholics staged a demonstration there projecting their message about Emmanuela's kidnapping on the doors of St Appolinaire's.
Cardinal Poletti gave secal permission for the Magliani mafia boss to interred in the Basilica's crypt which resulted in an outcry of protest from Italian Faithful.
More recently the crypt was opened and the body reburied in a local cemetery in the quest for clues to the kidnapping and disappearance of Emmanuela Orlandi , the daughter of a Vatican employee.
Cardinal Poletti's clerical secretary secretary is known as "Jessica" by Vatican prelates and employees and still runs one of the Vatican banks.

Other notes of interests. Contrast what Escriva says in "His Own Words" about his meeting with Lucia of Fatima, to what de Tapia recounts what he said about the same meeting with the Dorothean nun Lucia, in Tuy, Portugal shortly after she was ordered to write the Third Secret down and sent it onto the Pope.
Escriva alleges she arranged for all the necessary Visa's etc after urging him to open the first OD headquarters outside of Spain in Coimbre. Then after 20+ years happily a Dorothean nun ,Lucia is suddenly joining a cloistered Order in Coimbre whose nuns all have become Opus Dei Cooporators according to Mother Celine, their Mother Superior in a more recent interview after the alleged Lucia's death?

All this, after Escriva referred to Lucia in del Tapia's book as a "good but silly woman". Something does not add up.

Susan Matthiesen said...

I find some - actually most - of Elpine Flower's comments to be a tad on the weird side. Not only the above comment, but as with so many others, she seems to have the inside scoop on literally everything Catholic under the sun.

After one of those videos she lists above, a commenter says that (whoever it it that the video was about) was a lover of JPII. That is just insanity, and to pass that vicious tripe to others is, I would think, a glaring signal that someone needs to go to confession. Or perhaps she needs to go to an Opus Dei priest to discuss her animosity to the Church.

In addition, I never believe what someone says that someone else said about someone in Maria del Carmen Tapia said that Fr Josemaria said about Sr Lucy. That called gossip. Also, just for the record, I am not, nor ever have been, nor ever will be a Fr Gruner groupie.

So anyway, information from a disgruntled ex-anything, in this case, Maria del Carmen Tapia, is not my way of garnering truth. This article and EP's comments and videos have the opposite intended effect - I am now leaning more in favor of Opus Dei than before.

elpine flower said...

Susan I am sorry I offend you.
Yes I do have an inside scoop ,hundreds of inside scoops so to speak, after twenty years of Catholic home schooling and being a reference person for a wonderful Catholic home school full service provider.I was called by countless numbers of Catholics all over the country and listened to stories from parents involved in all types of Catholic groups, schools and parishes.
Apologies for the wrong link to you tube. The one I thought I pulled up concerned the actual recruitment of girls in former soviet, now independent countries.
It had nothing to do with Fr Gruner rather, it was an obvious pre scripted presentation to recruit young girls into the slave labor described so accurately by your guest writer.
If you care to research the veracity of the points I made about Cdl Poletti and his friendship with Escriva along with the horrible crime against the Orlandi family, you may just find I was correct.
I won't bother posting here again. I appreciate your letting me know how you feel about my comments.

Anonymous said...

Opus Dei has been very good for me for the past 45 years. I don't know what I would have done without it. I am not a member, but rather a cooperator which means I contribute money and pray for Opus Dei. The benefits I have received are orthodox Catholic days and evenings of recollection and retreats. Spiritual Direction by priests specially trained for that, schools for our children in Ireland when the establishment schools were way off the beam. There is a monthly talk and meeting at which I have met some wonderful people through Opus Dei.

Mano said...

A devoutly Catholic young woman we knew tried to leave OD, but she was told that she had been called to OD, that was her vocation, and to deny it meant risking eternal damnation. She left anyway but the curse caused her to have a serious nervous breakdown. My wife and I, but especially her, were both aggressively recruited over a period of what seems like years. She suddenly had a "best friend" who popped up out of nowhere and kept showing up at our parish church and would invite her to all sorts of OD activities. Around that time we separately made retreats at Featherock near Schulenburg, Texas, mine was during Lent. I was fasting and abstaining during all 40 days of Lent, but when the directors found out it was made known to me that what I was doing was wrong and evidence of pride on my part. I was not impressed by the priest's ignorance of the rubrics regarding the celebration of Mass, as the mensa of the altar was decorated at the front and side edges with large chrysanthemum blossoms laid directly on the altar cloth, which is strictly forbidden. Also, during the retreat we were encouraged to go to "spiritual direction" or whatever they called it, to their priest in a manner suggestive of confession, one-to-one, off in private on a bench outdoors, but this was before I learned that any information given under such circumstances isn't under the seal of Confession and in the case of OD is usually shared with the group to evaluate the suitability of a given prospect. I suppose my candor in revealing my youthful indiscretions was to my advantage since they stopped pursuing me immediately. Not so for my wife, unfortunately, but eventually that stopped, too, although it took a long while. Apparently the numeraries are under a lot of pressure to pull new people in. Give this group a wide berth, avoid them. said...

Opus Dei is a Catholic Institution, a Personal Prelature, and a good son or daughter of the Church would first start on what the Church says bout Opus Dei e.g. cf. "UT SIT" THE APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTION | Pope St. John Paul II - and what Opus Dei says about itself cf. About Opus Dei > Organization - and not from disaffected defectors [Opus Dei Awareness Network, or ODAN].
Or just write to Opus Dei [] with one's questions or reservations and also arrange to visit a center if near one.

Anonymous said...

RE: What is really remarkable

How many Opus Dei priests have been found guilty in either secular or Church proceedings of sexual abuse of children, teens or adults?

How many Opus Dei priests have been found credibly accused of sexual abuse - of anyone?

Indeed has any Opus Dei priest been identified, or even accused, of being gay, gay friendly, homosexual or even effeminate?

There appears to be not even a whiff of sexual abuse scandal surrounding Opus Dei.

And that is both remarkable and newsworthy.

God bless

Richard W Comerford

Susan Matthiesen said...

Well, goodness. I certainly did not mean to offend Elpine Flower and I was not offended - except for the video reference.

People - here's some advice. Posting comments is just like exhibiting artwork in an art museum. The artwork is there to be examined and people are encouraged to say, "I like that painting because..." or "I do not like that painting because..." No one is forced to like all the paintings hanging in a museum!

If people post a comment they need to not be thin skinned. Not everyone will agree. Being truly charitable is not my strong suit mainly because for some reason I don't know how to do that well - but I'm trying.

Anyway, I apologize to Elpine Flower. Apologies, EP. And I hope you will continue posting here...except...I may not always agree!

Unknown said...

29 years I have been a married member of OD and never have I seen weird things like these people reported. Do I like all of the members ? Of course not. Do you like all your cousins ? Their priests are uniformly wonderful. Dedicated to all souls. OD is a small part of the church but a gift to it nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

Another Thought:

The United States Marine Corps is not for everyone, neither is the French Foreign Legion, nor are U.S. Navy SEALS.

A reasonable person who investigates said groups with the intention of making a commitment may upon examination find that said groups are not for him; or that Almighty God has other plans for him.

The same might be said for anyone thinking of joining Opus Dei.

God bless

Richard W Comerford

Drew said...

Dear LF-TT,

I love Opus Dei. Sorry you've got a bad opinion of it. I've been in the work for 10 years, as an associate priest of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross. It's been great for me.

For one thing, the devotion which the work fosters for the prelate as "the Father" and for the Pope as the "Holy Father" has been a huge help for me to grow closer to my own bishop and to see him as my spiritual father—the earthly representation of God the Father. I'm not sure how easy this would have been for me if I hadn't known the work. Considering each one's own divine filiation is a huge thing in Opus Dei.

My experiences of the centers and other members and the priests and all been positive (my own parents have been in the work my whole life).

Saint Josemaria was a huge fan of freedom, still another thing I love about him and the work. So, by all means, knock your socks off with writing as you will. But keep seeking Jesus Christ above all things as you continue your search.

Also, since it sounds like you're close to the DC area, don't hesitate to stop by a center to get to know it for yourself, in person. Albino monks and ODAN's old website notwithstanding, I bet you'd be pleasantly surprised.

Best wishes,

AF said...

Cf. Sanctifying Ordinary Work: On the Nature and Spirit of Opus Dei (revised edition)
By Andrew Byrne -

Anonymous said...

It is the deceptive recruiting practices of Opus Dei, the dishonesty practiced in the name of the church and Christ himself- that is what bothers me the most. May God have mercy on their souls.

elpine flower said...

Opus Dei has both the money and the Vatican power elite to squelch all their opposition and smother news coverage of their abuse cases. I heartily thank Mrs Randy Engel for her "Opus Dei Watch" and her coverage of the Opus Dei pederast Numerary Case in Spain.
Netflix has made a documentary about this horror in which the poor child victim ( now adlt) was routinely removed from class under the guise of spiritual direction while being groomed for and eventually sodomized. Memeber of OD i.e. Super Numeraries and Coops, have little knowledge of the darker side which goes on in recruitment of and within the OD Houses.
The Numerary was found guilty and sentenced to eleven years in jail. Most catholic media outlets failed to cover the story because they are owned by of managed by opus dei affiliates.