OPUS DEI: CRITICISM #1
I think your vision of OD is much more hostile and without balance than you think and it is something strangely common
about the most vocal critics of the Work (I exclude, for instance, Hans urs von Balthasar). I'm not a member, -only what I
would call a semi-cooperator-, and will probably never be, because I do not agree with the concept of
"sanctification through work".
interesting. tell me about that. i have some problems with that concept as well, but that are only minor annoyances and
compared to the other big problems i did not found it worth mentioning on my page..
I must say that
at first I was skeptical about OD, but in the end my experience has
largely discredited the critics. Before saying why, I would like to say,
without doing any character assassination, that I found very often that
the critics had had some "problems" with the Catholic Church, however
sincere they may be: they were ex-priest, ex-nuns, sometimes priests
having left , if not the priesthood, their religious communities, often
their faith is not orthodox, etc...
so you are one of those persons who see them self as being "orthodox" and who
think that is a good thing? read here what i have written to an other person
about that orthodoxy thing:
well, you will not find a place in my FAQ where i claim that
the opus dei has a monopoly on trying to mix bad ideology into christian
teaching. not at all. opus dei is not even the worst among those groups.
there are much worse, e.g. that levebrian/SSPX and such.. but then the evil
in these more extreme groups is much more visible to people so they do not
represent such danger. while with opus dei the evil is mixed with good ideas
and mostly spread by idealistic (but naive) people. so there is the
possibility that good people like my friend get attracted by opus dei
realizing what it is all about..
usually these groups and people have deviated very much from the original
message of jesus. but the people claim that their ideas are in the best
tradition of the catholic church. they search for ideas that have been
expressed in the past by some people and build up their own ideology
out ofthis elements as they fit into their view of the world. people call this
of course, in the almost 2000 years of history of christianity the have
been a lot of people expressing their ideas. some of these where good ideas
some bad. some where quite obscure and some where simply wrong. some where
even evil. given that it would be able to take almost any ideology and say
that it is "orthodox" or "based on tradition".. yet, usually the people who
nowadays like to label them self as "orthodox" have a lot of things in
generally i would say, that it is a good idea to be based on tradition. it
would be stupid to easily throw away what has been accept for a long time..
one should carefully consider his mind before doing so but on the other hand
it would be wrong to simply accept everything just because it is
"traditional". if we would do that we would still believe that the sun
revolves around the earth and not vice versa and we would still be burning
witches and heretics on the stake. i hope that you agree with me that it is
necessary to question this traditions. otherwise some simple errors of some
individuals could sneak into the official teachings of our church. you think
that could never happen? just one example:
That it is against the will of the Spirit to burn heretics at the stake
is condemned as false. (Pope Leo X, "Exsurge Domino," 1520)
That the Church does not have the power of using force is hereby
condemned as error. (Pope Pius IX, Syllabus of Modern Errors, Section V,no.24)
while not an official teaching but only expressed in a private letter:
Even if my own father were a heretic, I would gather the wood to burn
him at the stake. (Pope Paul IV, JAMES LAYNEZ, JESUIT, Fr. Joseph
Fichter, SJ, St. Louis: B. Herder, 1944, p.179)
yes. the catholic church promoted murder. and not only promoted but even
committed murder using the rules above.. i hope this is enough to explain to
you that it is a very bad idea to simply accept something for good just
because it popped up in the history of the church for some time..
moreover these "orthodoxy" thing is also running contrary to the
definition of the church: saint augstinus, the person who formed the church
as an "institution", idea of the church was that while not being perfect at
least it is the closest approximation. with the immediate consequence that
there is a need to constantly try to make things better. to come closer tothe truth.
this is a mission for the church as a whole and for each of her
members in particular. it is inevitable that in the process of finding
closer to the truth we sometimes make errors and go into the wrong
direction. but with confidence in the holy spirit that dwells in the church
we hope that she comes closer to the truth.
but if way decide to stay where we are and if we do not move we have no
chance of getting closer to the truth. like someone has heard an opus dei
"why do we always search for the truth? why don't we simply say we have
already found it?"
with such an attitude we do not have a chance to get anywhere. if we do not
risk to step into the wrong direction we can never reach the right way
neither. this is the danger with that so called "orthodoxy" that it is not
willing to question the tradition. it can cement good things along with
or like it is expressed in the bible with the parable of the man
man who gave 5, 2 and 1 talents to 3 of his servants (mat 25:14-30). one of
them was afraid he could do something wrong and so he decided to dig the
talent so he could give it back to the lord when he returned.. while the
others risked something and tried to make something useful out of what they
had received... and the lord was not very happy with the one who risked
24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I
knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown,
and gathering where thou hast not strawed: 25 And I was afraid, and
went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is
thine. 26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and
slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and
gather where I have not strawed: 27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put
my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have
received mine own with usury. 28 Take therefore the talent from him,
and give it unto him which hath ten talents. 29 For unto every one
that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him
that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. 30 And cast
ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping
and gnashing of teeth.
the concept of the church that should be steadily improved was also
reaffirmed by the vatican II council. (think of how many teachings it
also think about the opening words:
The Council now beginning rises in the Church like daybreak, a
forerunner of most splendid light. It is now only dawn. And already at
this first announcement of the rising day, how much sweetness fills our
heart. Everything here breathes sanctity and arouses great joy. Let us
contemplate the stars, which with their brightness augment the majesty
of this temple.
so much for the "orthodoxy".
Plus, they usually don't have a first hand knowledge.
agreed: i have never been a member of opus dei. the evil ideology was way to
obvious when reading the "way" so.. but: reading the books of mister escriva
and is first hand knowledge.. after all he founded opus dei and formed it
after his ideas. you might argue that maybe the opus dei has some other
interpretations of his ideas. but from all the (second hand) knowledge) we
have from members and ex-members we say that they interpret it just the way
i do. read McCloskey, carmen tapia, the transcript of the TV-documentation,
the letters people have written to me...
I must sincerely confess that I think you're no
exception: I find it bizarre, and certainly not in the spirit of Vatican
II, to read in your pages "rules of the Church are not to be taken too
seriously", which has nothing to do with being critical, since a
catholic can be critical only inside the church, that is, with a good
deal of doctrinal and dogmatic discipline.
see above. at some times it was teaching of the pope that it is legal to
kill heretics. popes called for the crusades and promoted the burning of
witches. i mean: would you have applauded to the burning of heretics just
because the pope told you that its ok?
Someone who criticise Christ is not christian, because faith is not
philosophy, it is trust.
i do not criticise christ. christ has not said that killing is good. quite
The same thing could be said about your usage of "fascism" and
"fundamentalism", which I find a little bit manipulative. There are
several kinds of democracy, some more authoritarian; that is not
i have explained in detail why i think esciva's ideology is "fascist". if
you do not like the word then replace it with "ultra reactionary". but you
can not wipe away the facts of his teachings..
There is monarchy. Were the Hapsburg fascists?
monarchy is kind of feudalism. that was not a good thing neither. sure, if
you had a wise and friendly king then it was not that bad but there was no
guarantee that there would be a wise and friendly king..
Escriva has nothing to do with fascism in itself(which is
hyper-nationalism, not at all the case of OD, which is rather the
opposite, internationalist) ,
escriva's flavor of fascism is "fascism transposed from the state into the
church". where of course he can not be too nationalised. (despite the fact
that he does not get tired to praise nationalism). in escirva's flavor of
fascism the hyper-nationalism is replaces with hyper-religious-intolerance.
def: nationalism => the own country or "nation" and nothing else.
def: religious-intolerance => the own religions and nothing else.
criticism of OD would be a lot stronger without refering to "fascism", a
rather precise and specialized political term. It destroy a lot of your
credibility (at high school, guys were saying the smoking ban was
"fascist"!). How could you write that someone who doesn't like Voltaire
must have some fascism in him??? What a bizarre idea!!
the definition of fascism varies a lot between people. but in the ontology
of political science, fascism is a reaction to the moderne. it loathes the
ideals of the french revolution.
I could as well had called you a communist or leftist;
that doesn't lead us anywhere,
some of your friends from opus dei have done just that. i have been calles a
"real austrian marxist". hehe..
a stated goal of opus dei is it to influence society, by bringing opus dei
people into important positions (in the workplace...politics..media..). i
think it is legitime and necessary to analyze the political goals of a group
who wants to transform society according to their ideas. don't you think so?
it is a matter of public interest where the opus dei stands. to be able to
understand my criticism, it is also important to know where i stand. such
things as politics and religion are always rather subjective. but i do not
try to hide my personal position. often in my FAQ i write things like "i
think.." or "i believe that.." to tell people about my subjective point of
view. so if you want to categorize me as a "leftist" then you can do so,
but then i would ask you to show me where my position is more "leftist" then
more than your saying that you want to "help" them, because they reply
the same: they want to help you too, by joining!!
The same with fundamentalism: they are not at all from that biblical
> > school. My perception was that their preaching was simply the best in
town: spiritual, vertical, intelligent, with a sense of sacredness which
is lacking elsewhere-apart from the traditionalists.
spiritual and with a sense of sacredness. yes. after all i do not say that
everything in opus dei is bad. i think their spirituality is good, but that
is also the problem: the evil ideology is hidden much better behind these
spirituality and "sense of sacredness" then with the other traditionalists
where evil and hate are much more obvious.. so there is a high danger
that good people (like my friend and like most of the opus dei members) get
mislead by the opus dei.
I never heard a word
about money. I made a gift because I was ashamed to use their spiritual
direction without giving something. They were, half of them, Ph.D.'s ,
with good sense and some brains, and believe me they were allowed to
read books, though not all books.
thank you for proving my point. btw: it would be nice if you could try to
get a complete list of books that they are not allowed to read. that would
be very nice..
This brings me to what I consider is a
misunderstanding, or clash of point of view about them.
Put simply, and apart from the fact that they don't put censorship on
Eternal damnation, mortal sins, penance, mortification, sacrifice,
sainthood, etc., discipline is very important to them, especially as
they are lay people in the world, unprotected by the walls of a
monastery or the common life of a religious order. They choose to
enforce a strong discipline so they can function, and after all it is
their right. True, it's a little bit like military life. I think this is
exactly where the misunderstanding comes. Like military life, opus is
not for everyone, and some persons will always be at odd with it, and
find that their identity is "pressured" by opus rules.
well, but the opus dei wants to change our society according to their rules.
"out of 100 souls we want one hundred.." (escriva). so it does matter.
Besides, everybody knows that if you yourself lack discipline, you are
likely not to like those who have it or, let's say, military personnel. I
think it is the same with opus: people who don't like them are very often
those with less doctrinal and ascetic discipline. This is not a blame; I'm
just saying that people are different.
besides the fact that i am not a person of strong discipline (but more in
the sense that i don't follow rules that don't make much sense for me, where
i have my ethical principles, i do follow them very much...)
Now, maybe you could say that a Church is not an army. Yes and no.
There is a "Legio Mariae", "Legio Christi". It is very classical to say
that sanctity of spiritual life is a fight, e.g. against evil, against
oneself etc., and all sorts of psychological techniques are used in
that touches one important point: the question whether the "enemy" that
escriva is talking about is only a metaphor of the "inner enemy" in everyone
self. from the fact that they want to infiltrate society it seems the notion
of "enemy" includes a lot of people too.. (or think about how escriva calls
some people "devils")
Part of them are physical. St Francis was whipping
himself, Christ fasted, and it is very common among classical Jesuits to
talk about the "surrender of one's own will" and to see the will of the
Father superior as the will of God, not in every instances perhaps, but as an
ascetic technique for self-detachment.
i can understand how that kind of obedience can help to increase
spirituality. but it is a dangerous thing.. especially when it becomes a
principle that they want to apply to society as a whole. maybe i cut&paste a
piece i have written about "obedience" to another person here:
obedience is a difficult topic. on order to investigate its usefulness to
society i tried to discuss it with an other person.. here is what i wrote to
when we talk about obedience than we have to distinguish between several
forms of obedience.
first we can distinguish it by the target that is subject of the obedience.
*) outward obedience. that is obedience in how you spend your day. if you
are going to work in the garden or in the kitchen. if you are allowed to
smoke etc..etc. but you would still have your free will and would be able
to think what you want...
*) intellectual & spiritual obedience. you would be obedient in what you
believe and think. you would be obedient even if you know something is
wrong because you do not have to "know" something yourself. you accept
that your leader knows better than you..
than we can distinguish between a temporary obedience and a permanent
obedience. (like e.g. when you work in a fire brigade and you have an
emergency you can not make discussions with the leader there on whether you
want to put the water here or there.. but later when the fire is out
you can go to your chef and discuss the topic of what could be organised
better in case the same situation happens again.)
than we can distinguish between normal obedience and blind obedience. blind
obedience is when you either thrust your leader so much that you do not
question his commandments or if you are in a position where you have not
enough information so that you could judge about a commandment.
finally it is important to also see by whom the obedience is demanded: a
leader, a spiritual director, God, your conscience, the law, etc..
well, so much for the definition of terminology. the obedience that the opus
dei demands in in this diction an obedience that is both outward and
intellectual & spiritual side (with an emphasis on the i& s side). it is a
permanent and most of all a blind obedience. they tell people that the
obedience is demanded by God, but the leaders of the opus dei take out the
right for themselves to decide what the will of God is and to demand
in his name. so the primary leader is the opus dei and not God.
now for the big questions: is obedience founded in the scripture? founded in
the gospel? in catholic teaching? in other catholic orders? if yes: what
type of obedience? (according to the above terminology) to whom is the
obedience directed? does the scripture tell us what kind of obedience should
be avoided? etc..etc.. well i hope you people have answers to some of it. i
would especially be interested in how you think about the kind of obedience
the opus dei demands.
my own view about that topic goes like this:
in general obedience is a bad thing. there are some single cases of
obedience (in the above classification) that i will admit have some
justification. (e.g. the fire brigade case). when we look at the kind of
obedience that is demanded by other orders than i think (i am not an expert
here) it is mostly outward obedience. (you have a strict plan on how you
have to spend your day in the monastery, are not allowed to talk at certain
hours etc etc.. but you are completely free in your mind). i guess this kind
of outward obedience might help some people to develop more freedom on their
inside and help them in spiritual growth.
my main reason on why i am against obedience in general is because i think
it is too dangerous for society. (where the most dangerous forms of
obedience are is the "blind obedience") the obedience that has been planted
into the heart of people is a prerequisite for any authoritarian regime and
it is also responsible for the big crimes of mankind.
to quote myself from a previous post:
the ovens of auschwitz and the gas chambers have only been possible because
there where people who where blindly following orders. when people from
germany and austria where asked why they did this evil things the most heard
excuse was: "ich hab nur meine pflicht getan" (i was only doing my duty).
well maybe it was more than just an excuse. they had this very fatal idea
that obedience is a good thing. in school they have been taught to be
obedient. in the army they have been taught to be obedient. in the church
they have been taught to be obedient. but now is the time when mankind
should have learned from all this. that simply following the rules is not
enough. that when we want to make this world a better place it is necessary
to questions the rules of the games.
you may argue that this obedience was a worldly one and that obedience to
the church is different. well, if people would have been disobedient to the
pope than maybe we would not have had the crusades or the burning of
the only "permanent blind intellectual & spiritual obedience" that you can
sell me is if it is obedience to God. as long as there is no one that has
the right to tell me what God wants from me but scripture and most of all
so much for obedience.
is nothing but normal in that context; as it is in the army. Every
religious order has a rule, and opus has a right to have its own.
Nevertheless, it is simply not true they are puppets: they accept the
rules, that's all, like Benedictines accept the St Benedict Rule. I find
simply counter factual and unrealistic to think that those numerarii,
often Ph.D. s and M.D., would be manipulated so easily.
well i have almost completed my academic education and i know quite a lot of
"ph.d."'s etc.. not all of them are really super bright people. the fact
that a lot of them have academic education is because of 2 things: first,
they concentrate their recruiting on that people, because they know that
they are important to influence society. second, i think that opus dei
especially attracts people who have some responsibility. responsibility, for
good people is always a heavy load. and people want to get rid of that
responsibility so these people feel attracted towards an organisation that
recommends them that they do not trouble their own little head with the
problems.. (compare #777 of the "way"). giving away responsibility, becoming
children again. isn't that what we all desire?
True, you have to be invited. Again, like all religious order, they have
to keep an inside and outside in order to be functional, all the more
since they are lay people. We can criticize this, but I don't see why it
would be so different than the years (novitiate etc.) the religious
orders take to put their candidates to test.
see above: what i have to say about orthodoxy & obedience..
Separation of men and women is a part of the same classical prudence and
realism: numerarii do not marry.
I fail to understand how OD could be and "unreal world", anymore than
the monastic world. It is simply different.
I have nothing to say about tolerance and conservatism as those are
relative concepts: everything is a matter of reasonable limits. It would
be incoherent to tolerate uncatholic doctrine in catholic doctrine. And
marxists in the USSR were always saying they where the revolution party;
but they were there for so long a time that in the end they were
conservatives (of the revolution) !! I do not see why opus would not be
the new vangard, as nobody knows where history goes.
knowing that the world becomes a smaller place every day (improved methods of
transportations, telecommunications, ..), i think that mutual understanding
of different cultures and religions might be one of the prime necessities
for the peaceful progress of mankind. vatican II has recognised that and
religious tolerance and ecumenism is the most important topic there.
The last thing is about discretion. They consider it as part of
humility. They never make a show and they work in silence. For the same
reason, explicitly written in the Way, they never really defend
themselves when attacked. They take all the shit with what I found was
an admirable self-discipline, simply because It was the rule of the
nice try of explanation. but then escriva sees his discretion as a weapon:
#655. he also knows how intelligent words could help to attract more people.
the reason why they do not want to defend them self is probably the same as
with censorship: while "defending" them self against arguments such as those
shown on my page they would have to carefully think about that. and that
would bring them faster into troubles (#777) then any of the books they are
not allowed to read. a few members of opus dei have written to me and wanted
to tell me all the reasons why my pages are so very wrong. i appreciated
that but they did not come up with anything. after explaining them a little
bit they usually got very uncomfortable and decided that further conversation
with me would take away the peace from their soul.. so they decided to
remain in the state of self deception... never heard what was wrong with my
That attitude may be bad for them in the short term but very
powerful in the long run. I think you must think about it, because it
may be the main reason why your view is so unbalanced. We hear mostly
one side of the story, from those who were unfit for OD and who had
problems. The other side remain silent.
i am playing with the idea to write an "open letter" to the opus dei.
directly challenging them to respond to my concerns. but that needs a bit of
time and thinking.. and i am rather busy these days..
Maybe I'm wrong, but among the
200,000 or so members since 1928, it seems to me that only a very little
minority had serious problems.
or let's say: we only have knowledge of a minority of the problems. and i do
not say that someone can not have a happy live inside opus dei: yes it is
very tempting to give away responsibility. to become a child. careless and
without burden.. the big trouble would only start where they could start to
bring these principles into society at large..
The only thing with which I would have hesitation is the use of
friendship for recruiting. But again, one cannot conclude that those
frienships are false or manipulative. One must judge case by case, and
OD is not responsible for individual misuse of its way of doing things.
well, i would not call it individual misuse. according to what ex-members
say, these misuse is the norm there. and: in an hierarchical organisation: if
someone high up in the ranks decides to misuse that, it would affect a whole
branch of the organisation. (you have read carmen tapia's book, have you?)
I also saw in some cases what I could call a kind of lack of natural in some characters; but
I must say that this was the case of young numerarii only, perhaps
lacking maturity in the Way. After 25-30th birthday, everybody seemed to
me perfectly normal.
I hope you've learn something and trust you'll publish this to put some
balance on your site!
>i think i will publish it. after all you are confirming a lot of the
critical points i have about them..