Opus Dei - Sectarians in disguise?

By Ian Smith

Blessed Josemaria Escriva founded the Prelature of the Holy Cross and opus Dei in Madrid on October 2, 1928. It is a "Personal Prelature", which is a Kind of juridical structure invented by the Second Vatican Council. The founder was beatified only 17 years after his death. To treat them fairly it seems best to first see what they say about themselves before consulting others, so I begin with their own Internet site.

The Official Opus Dei Internet site http://www.opusdei.org has a "frequently asked questions" page (FAQ), which appears to raise more questions than it answers. It states that opus Dei "… helps ordinary lay people seek holiness in and through their everyday activities, especially through work." Opus Dei therefore defines itself as a path to sanctification by means of work. The name of Opus Dei", Work of God", is a bit of a worry. I hop they don't mean that their work is the perfect way, and that all others are less than they should be. Their writings seem to imply that God wants every one to be sanctified primarily by means of work, which is a liberation theology vision and a path to communism. Their "About Us" page says of their missions ".. it is to spread the message that all the baptized are called to seek holiness and to make the Gospel known. This same message was at the core of the Second Vatican Council (cf. Constitution on the Church, 32,33)."Opus Dei therefore declare themselves to be inspired by Vatican II. That alone speaks volumes to those who have ears to hear. Their FAQ page further claims that it "promotes an awareness to the universal call to holiness - the radical idea that every person is called by God to be a saint - especially holiness is and by means of one's ordinary work and daily routine."

By "radical" do they mean extreme? Or do they mean original - originating with them? In fact "tthe idea that every person is called by God to be a saint" is not original - the leaders of Catholicism have been preaching it continuously since the beginning. Our Lord told us to be perfect. Will Opus Dei dare to claim that no one took that seriously until they came along?

So what does membership require of the members? According to the FAQ: "The primary apostolic work of Opus Dei is that carried out by each of its members, as free and responsible individuals acting on their own initiative. There are also corporate undertakings in which Opus Dei oversees the spiritual and doctrinal aspects. These are always not-for-profit ventures that provide an educational, charitable or similar social service, and include conference centers, schools and universities, student residences, youth clubs, farm schools and medical clinics." Again, they say of their members: "For the most part they do their job and live their family and social lives like everyone else, doing exactly what they would do if they were not in Opus Dei". Is this saying that "the primary apostolic work of Opus Dei" is to do exactly what they did before joining the Opus? Is this "Primary apostolic work" nothing more than a realization that the normal duty of state can be sanctifying - or that we must live our faith 24 hours a day? We could learn that from listening to any faithful priest - so we are left unsure what, primarily, the Opus is actually doing. They have almost said in this passage that all their visible works - humanitarian works that the Freemasons would probably like to be invited to - are secondary.

The questions and answers clearly show that the Opus is very sensitive to the fact that its critics have called it freemasonry: Is membership secret? No. Any Kind of secrecy is expressly forbidden by the statues governing Opus Dei". Are members involved in politics? Members can be involved in any honest activity they like." "Do members tend to have a common view on political or social matters? No." In the answer to the political question the web page also says: "As lay persons, their vocation is to ensure that their secular activities conform to the natural moral order." That is really weird. Where is the influence of the supernatural order in this "vocation"? "Those who become involved in politics do so without in any way representing Opus Dei, but as free and responsible individuals, following their own lights and answerable in exactly the same way and to exactly the same degree as anyone else." What? Are they all so enlightened by God that they can each follow their own lights? We Catholics prefer to submit our politics to the judgment of our Holy Mother the Church in those matters where religion and politics overlap. If Opus Dei is too zealous in refusing to offer such guidance, then it can only fuel speculation that they really do have a political agenda. A secret one. "Opus Dei takes no interest in any member's political actions, nor assumes any responsibility for them." Is this "work of God" as it calls itself, not at all interested in the many and major political issues that have an impact on the faith - like abortion, contraception, and sodomy?

After clearly stating that there are no vows in Opus Dei. The only commitment mentioned is to seek holiness - which does nothing to define the Opus, because everyone has always been obliged to do good and avoid evil. The Opus states that it does things that are new, including ä deep respect for the autonomy of lay people in the laity's proper environment (the vast panorama of secular society), seeing them not as some kind of agents of the clergy, but as full members of the Church, acting in response to a called received at Baptism". This is slandering most of the clergy of 2000 years by implying that they unjustly repressed the laity.

Their web site further states: "When it was founded, many aspects of Opus Dei's spirit, though based on the Gospel, were considered revolutionary for the time, to the point where some called them heretical: aspects such as the radical vision of the role of the laity in the Church and in the world; the role of women; the view of marriage as a way to become a saint; the idea of the world as a place where one can pursue holiness; and that the demands and joys of ordinary, everyday life could be a path or means to holiness. Many of these ideas later became part of the Church's official teaching, especially during the Second Vatican Council." So Opus Dei boasts of Vatican II being their revolution, and a successful reversal of tradition. They slander the traditional faith by these insinuations that our religion is sexist, arrogant, elitist, scornful of marriage and generally out of date; they almost deny the catechisms teaching that the world is an enemy of our souls, and they claim that sanctification by means of duty of state is their own original idea. They seem to be full of talk about sanctification, spirituality, apostolate, and even conversion, but they say little to nothing about catechism, heaven, hell, how to form virtue and destroy vice, the malice of sin, or the urgent necessity of doing penance and converting non-Catholics.

Is this the work of God? I get this from their own web page - when I look further afield it gets worse. The Angelus in September 1995 carried a translation of an article taken from the (Italian) magazine Si Si No No#11, about Opus Dei. With the usual depth and wisdom we have come to expect from tis Roman publication, it reviews the book L' Opus Dei written originally in French by Dominique Le Tourneau, with imprimatur and nihil obstat from the Archdiocese of Paris. Le Tourneau flatly states that founder "Knew" the will of God, and he describes the "total newness" of idea that everyone is called to holiness. He then proceeds to summarize Church history, judging each age according to the measure of whether it glorified work or it did not.

The great religious orders have rules. The Legion of Mary has its handbook, and Opus Dei has "constitutions". These commanded (in articles 189,190 and 191) that membership must be hidden - a purely Masonic characteristic. The membership is unknown, the work is unknown. They call it "discretion".

Other sources make increasingly mre serious complaints against Opus Dei. I found several, but I'll just mention two: http://www.odan.org/questionp.html This site lists their complaints as : "Aggressive recruitment using teams and staged activities. Recruitment through the use of front groups. Members must report regularly on the progress of their personal recruiting efforts. Lack of informed consent. Some controls, like opening all personal mail, corporal mortification, and donation for entire salaries are not revealed until after the initial commitment has been made. Members are often discouraged from telling their parents of the lifetime commitment to Opus Dei "because they will not understand." The display of pictures of loved ones is discouraged, not by rule but by subtle example. Some members have been told that if they leave Opus Dei they may be damned and will surely live life without God's grace.

Dominique le Tourneau insists, with all the Opus, that this is not a religious order, membership does not involve a change of one's state of life, and the Opus does not demand vows of members. Vows, "commitments", what is the difference?

A more aggressive book is titled Opus Judei (The work of the Jews) published in 1994 by Orion Publications, Santa Fe Bogota, Columbia (246 pages). This is written in Castellana Spanish. I have with me an English translation of the contents and part of chapter one. It digs up some very nasty dirt - effectively stating that the Opus is aa cult, as mad as the maddest of cults, which follows a very Masonic style - including weird handshakes, aggressive demands of exclusive loyalty to the sect, which are harshly enforced, blind adoration of the founder, and so on.

In summary my own objections to Opus Dei are:

1) They admit non-Catholics as members. They will point out that non-Catholics are only admitted as "co-operators". So what? "Co-operators" are part of Opus Dei. All that Pope Pius XII has said about ecumenism equaling religious indifference is therefore publicly despised by them.

2) They are extremely secretive, really excessively so. They call it discretion. So where is the right balance? If they hide their light under a bushel, maybe they are not even of the light.

3) A Quote from Escriva: Pluralism is not to be feared but loved as a legitimate consequence of personal freedom." Is he saying that people have a positive right to choose false religions? Is freedom about Truth?

4) Quote from the Opus Die theologian Dominique Le Tourneau: "For the Founder, the Catholic solution to various solutions in the world does not exist. All solutions will be Christian if they respect natural Law and Gospel teaching." Connect this to the previous remark on pluralism and we can see modernism, "the synthesis of al heresies" (Pope St. Pius X) i.e, a very real and strong unbelief which pretends to be Catholic .

5) The Si Si, No No article accuses the Opus of contributing to changing Spain from Catholic to socialist. The official response from the Opus talked around this point, and did not say that the article had got it wrong.

6) If their "sanctification through work" ideal simply means that people should be sanctified by the means of doing their duty of state, then good, I love it, that's exactly what Sister Lucy of Fatima and many other saints have been saying. But if that is not exactly and exclusively what they mean by "sanctification through work" then they need to clarify just what they do mean by it if they are to be allowed the name Catholic. We know that the communist glorification of work as a means to the worship of Man has infiltrated the Church through "liberation theology" (which is at the essence of the Opus claim).

7) We still don't know what they actually do, they just seem to exist and recruit.

8) Their attitude to the crisis of the past four decades is truly in the spirit of Vatican II and that of the Post concilar Popes - that is an adamant determination to be neither black nor white, but gray; (fence sitters) in other words, a strong commitment to Luke warmness. Our Blessed Lord has said something about that, as we all know very well (Apoc 3:16).