Posted by Chriss Rainey on MONDAY, JANUARY 23, 2017
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.
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.”