M.C. Tapia, Beyond The Threshold - A Life in Opus Dei, New York, Continuum, 1997.
This book seems to be the main source of The Unofficial Homepage, the latter transposing
its tone and interpretative content to a point it looks like a paraphrase. I consider important to look at the facts reported
by Tapia, and mostly their interpretation, since interpretation is the base for her conclusions. Still more, I think it is
possible to show by internal criticism that interpretations come first in Tapia's book when she describes what she presents
as facts. Everything in that book points out that she is against some aspects of Opus Dei spirituality, and that it began
to be the case when she was still a member, so in the end the facts will not prove much, since their interpretation by Tapia
will simply reflect hertheological-spiritual disagreement. In other words, it is not the facts that convinced her to disagree,
but her disagreement that explains her seeing the facts as she sees them.Consequently, part of her case based on facts against
Opus fails. That is to say I will argue ad hominem in the following criticism; I'll try to show, simply by quoting her text:
-that her outlook is less disciplinarian and ascetic than that of Opus, which explains why she uses the concepts of indoctrination
and sect in her descriptions.
-that it is very likely that she was guilty of insubordination to Opus rules
conflicts took place
-that her attitude caused Opus suspicions against her to run very high, rightly although erroneously
-that Opus probably made some errors in good faith about her
The last 4 points are about facts that happened,
the first is about her spirituality. I suggest that spiritual disagreement drove her slowly into disobedience to Opus orders,
that she didn't accept the punishment for this, and that to justify her innocence she simply decided to attack the rules themselves,
something she does again and again. This doesn't show she is wrong, but the problem is that the facts she uses to prove her
case about her spiritual outlook are interpreted in the light of that very outlook itself. Arguing ad hominem I can say: She
is less Jesuitic-disciplinarian than Opus and want to prove that Jesuitism-discipline is wrong by saying: look how Jesuitic-disciplinarian
they are. Well, this will prove only one thing: that she disagree. The validity of that disagreement will remain gratuitous.
I emphasize that this ad hominem internal criticism doesn't target the character of the author, but only the point of view
from which she interprets the facts.
As a general presentation, I will quote a review by Mr Robert Royal, written
in better English than mine:
"Maria del Carmen Tapia, on the other hand, joined the Work in Spain at an
early age in
1948 and rose through the ranks over eighteen years. She spent six years working in
Rome with Opus Dei’s founder, Monsignor Escrivá, who then appointed her to direct the
women’s branch in
Venezuela, where she stayed for ten years, from 1955 to 1965. There
the story becomes complicated. Opus
Dei claims she had created a cult of personality of
her own in Caracas and has hinted that some sexual scandal
also took place. Tapia claims
that she was lured back to Rome on false pretenses, held incommunicado against
and forced to resign though never directly charged with anything or given a chance to
reply to allegations. Shocked in particular at what she describes as Monsignor Escrivá’s
harshness and lack
of charity toward her, she says that it was only after she returned to
her family that she realized she
had over the years been turned into a "fanatic" by classic
brainwashing techniques. She admits
to writing this memoir partly for its therapeutic value.
And though she states that there are no lurid financial,
sexual, or other scandals to be
revealed, the main thrust of her book is to argue that the now beatified
founder "was not
an example of holiness, nor was he a model to be imitated by the women and men of
time." Indeed, she goes so far as to claim that the elderly leader was mentally ill at the time
she returned to Rome from Venezuela.
It is difficult for an outsider to know what
to make of these charges. Tapia does seem to
have suffered some unfair treatment, and the Work has not helped
itself by its subsequent
explanations. For example, when Tapia resigned and went home to Spain, the government
of Opus Dei in Rome refused to give her back her Venezuelan identity card and driver’s
license. (Tapia had become a Venezuelan citizen during her time in that country.) Opus
Dei claimed, in a
statement in reply to Tapia’s book, that it took this "extraordinary" step
because it could not
in good conscience allow Tapia to return to Venezuela and cause
more mischief. Perhaps so, but it is hard
to see how a religious institute may legally and
morally refuse an adult member her own official documents.
Opus Dei also seems to have
refused to acknowledge the truth that Tapia had studied philosophy and theology
Venezuela when she requested records in order to be able to continue graduate work in
the United States. Those items, combined with threats to reveal personal behavior if Tapia
the Work, do not paint a flattering portrait of some leaders in the central
government in Rome at the time,
perhaps including Monsignor Escrivá.
But Tapia weakens her case against the abuses that occurred from
October 1965 to May
1966, the period between her return from Venezuela and her resignation from the Work,
by retrospectively recasting her nearly twenty previous years as participation in a
sect." Those who have seen real sects at work would find it hard to place Opus
Dei among them. Tapia’s
own latter-day fanaticism shows through here. She criticizes
rigorous practices in the 1940s and 1950s,
then concedes that many have been changed
since her period of formation. In fact, the various reasonable
adjustments that took place
in ways of dress, practice, and policy—some at Tapia’s own suggestion—would
likely have occurred were Opus Dei only a band of rigid sectarians. Tapia cites—rather
woodenly—from some of the literature on sects to argue that this or that aspect of the
reveals its sectarian nature. Of course, a great deal of religious practice,
whether Catholic, Protestant,
or non-Christian, can be categorized in that way as well.
Tapia’s angry debunking of Escrivá seems
to assume that truly holy people must be
without flaws, this despite the history of the saints from Peter
and Paul down to the
present. Her anger also leads her to turn every detail about Opus Dei in a sinister
direction. Young members may be told, for example, that parents can become an obstacle
to a vocation. In the normal course of things, one hopes they will not be. But the history of
no less a
figure than Saint Thomas Aquinas suggests that parental interference may
sometimes have to be vigorously
resisted for a true vocation. Even Jesus himself warned
us we need to "hate" father and mother
to become disciples. Tapia’s animus toward Opus
Dei is so extreme as to lead her to suggest, quite absurdly,
that Amnesty International
should turn its attention to the work of the Work.
description of her own experience contains several anomalies. By her telling, she was
held a virtual prisoner—without
money or access to the outside world—in the Opus Dei
residence in Rome over several months before she resigned.
Yet she managed—by using
Opus Dei servants, she says—to rent a post-office box and send and receive letters
Venezuela. It is difficult to see how both these elements in her story could be true. The
charges against her originated in Venezuela, yet other than the "misogyny" of the priest in
charge there and the envy of other female members of the Work, Tapia seems to have no
for why she found herself in hot water. Since the charges would have had to
be confirmed by several people,
one is left with competing explanations for her plight: a
broad conspiracy against her or a serious problem
on her side to which she is blind."
Link to source of review
There is one sentence that strucked me in this interesting review by Mr. Royal: "She admits to writing this memoir
partly for its therapeutic value". The exact references for this are p. xii, p. 339: "as a healthy way of putting
the pieces of my life together, I began to make notes...", "almost as an exercice in mental health". I believe
the therapeutic idea can explain a lot of things, especially the tone of this book: along with facts, heavy autojustification
is everywhere, along with pejorative interpretations: the author has something to prove at all costs and is clearly at war.
Again, this is not a criticism about her character, but about the point of view from which she is interpreting things; a point
of view which cannot be other than heavily subjective, since one of the motives of the book is "therapeutic", that
is, for her own good rather than intellectually detached. For instance, she repeats endlessly that she was an indoctrinated
fanatic, as if her descriptions of the facts were not enough to convince us, or as if we were not able to reach this conclusion
by ourselves. She really feels the need to insist... And it doesn't seem so clear to me that it is without bitterness, as
a reviewer wrote, or not out of rancor, as she wrote (p.239).
She says also (p.xii) that she doesn't want to talk too much about her post-Opus life for fear of personal attacks, but
I feel this life would be very interesting to know- from a purely internal criticism point of view - because it would perhaps
give some clues about the particular outlook from which she interprets what happened.
This brings me to the text itself. First, I will look at quotes around the topic of discipline; second, about ascetism;
third about the facts that happened.
1) FREEDOM, INDOCTRINATION, SECT, DISCIPLINE
1.1) Defensive and voluntaristic spirituality
25 indoctrination board
28 retrograde and sectarian wing of the Church... a sect
31 the indoctrination (education, studies, personal work) that an Opus Dei numerary undertakes from the very first day
74 <much later, as Maria was not working as physician any more> Maria, don't you realize that Opus Dei is using you
to proselytize... her stereotyped responses were the same that I too would have given years earlier.... I reflected on Opus
Dei sectarian character
94 complete fanatic...sectarian fanaticism
176 the blindfold of fanaticism
208 recruitment of members...a Catholic sect
209 gentle, slow , subtle indoctrination... in all kinds of clubs
free to leave, leaving, however, would submit the girl to intense psychological pressure
211 proselytism is forbidden in these <Opus> schools; what is not forbidden is the creation of an environment that
strongly encourages vocations
219 nothing is spontaneous in the ordinary life of an Opus Dei residence
259 most obviously sectarian characteristic of Opus Dei is precisely the absence of self-criticism
321 Opus Dei silences critical minds
--So far, we have here the main terms in Tapia's interpretation. Before looking at what they possibly mean, let's note
that there are "exceptions" in Opus:
53 Guzman, the vice-directress, ...was not an Opus Dei fanatic
88 the directress...received me....her wisdom was so obvious that you followed her blindly. We had a natural relationship.
179 Julia Martinez changed and matured astonishingly during the years I was in Venezuela....she became a very successful
economist...I was very fond of her and came to admire her
180 Carmen...intelligent and rational, she was unable to accept anything she did not understand...She was not at all a
<so Tapia is strict, obvious by anecdotes>
200 Moles was kind and open...excellent listener, patient, well-balanced and direct. Unlike some Opus Dei priests...
202 Trina...optimistic, good-humored, and occasionally sarcastic
222 These girls, who were from modest families, had great esteem for him < Fr Genty> and knew that he liked them
171 <Fernando said> " People can say no! ...You can't leave, this is crazy!" He was furious and said he
would speak to the Father
175 <assistant to the superior general said to Tapia's father> "that if he did not want yo to go to Venezuela,
you should not go"
179...<me and Maria> had different points of view, perhaps because I was more fanatic
--And that these "exceptions" sometimes included Tapia, even long before the end:
69 in any city where I lived as an Opus Dei member, the girls with whom I dealt became true friends
160 in spite of being such a fanatic...I was rather indignant at his <Escriva> comments
87 more than once I repeated in my confidence to the directress that our lack of real contact with what went on in the
city...not even reading the local newspaper, made us live..."in a bubble"
170 I don't want to go to South America
193 I was worried that her notion of good spirit meant yielding to the slightiest hint from...Rome
263 continue with the...work. I went down, swallowing my rage <near the end, though>
--Again, about people who left:
204 Opus Dei policy is to treat anyone who leaves her vocation or is dismissed as a non person
319 Even greater care is taken not to mention priests who leave Opus Dei. Opus Dei silences them all.
319 To squelch discussion inside the Work about the many people who quit...they never try to offer a straightforward
explanation as to why they have left
--...There are some "exceptions":
166 Fr Manuel Moreno was one of the many Opus Dei priests who left the priesthood...Eventually he married and became a
--So a non person was back after all. Still worse, a priest who left the orders.
One should take note that the defensive attitude towards those who left was rather traditional in religious orders, long
before any such modern practices among sects. This was only psychological good sense, as anyone who quits can cause trouble
and spiritual doubts among those who remain. The flock protects itself, in the context of a defensive system.
310 ...numeraries who...abandon Opus Dei may not seek any compensation for the work they have done... This injustice...
--This indicates a rather bizarre conception of religious life, although it remains true that members of the Prelature
are lay people. It looks like as if religious life was a job, with compensation and social benefits, instead of, even in Opus,
the total giving up of oneself. Could we imagine religious commitments of solemn vows with a separation clause?
--About those who stay:
320 there are...excellent human beings inside Opus Dei. Some are still blinded by their own good faith and credulity.
Others... do not dare to say what they think... A range of circumstances could be described which retain such individuals
within Opus Dei <e.g. age>
--In Opus history there has been close to 100,000 numerarii. Those who stayed were credule or fearful. Only Tapia and
some who quitted saw the truth. This is a logical conclusion for her, assuming Opus is a fanatic sect. But this very logical
link can cast suspicion about the premisse, if the minority who saw the truth showed the slightest semantic distorsions or
incomprehension of Jesuitism. We have a right to be more demanding with those who see themselves as more intelligent.
--Now, a first detail about spirituality:
30 what I am about to describe might be familiar to persons who belonged to religious orders before...Vatican II
--Do we have to conclude that religious orders were sects? If so, it would explain a lot of things, because there would
have been a tremendous semantic shift concerning "sectarianism and fanatism"...
This is not all:
9 contradiction in this book <The Way>...military language was combined with passages from the Gospel
--Of course, if one sees a contradiction here, any Jesuitic spirituality involving oblation of the will and spiritual
warfare is going to look sectarian.
Nevertheless she admits:
212 Escriva wanted to lead a reorientation of intellectual Spain, which has been dominated by anti-clerical liberals
--So she must understand part of the historical circumstances.
48 criticism was totally forbidden...The absence of criticism in Opus Dei was the very first point about which we were
clearly indoctrinated...justified by the spirit of unity...fanaticism...banish from thier minds, under the pretense of formation,
the slightest hint of criticism...of its doctrine, customs, spirit
76 the slightest criticism within the institution was forbidden - another sectarian trait
146 No divergence from his opinion <Escriva> was allowed. Dialogue does not exist in Opus Dei
--Again, it seems that classical Ignatian Jesuitic discipline and obedience are at stake, as well as asceticism of the
will. "Sect" has a new meaning. Nevertheless:
228 ...provoked great arguments with the counselor...finally, after months of disagreement, he allowed us to send the
proposal to Rome, where it was approved
--So after all, there was some discussions and criticism. Strangely, this is even admitted by Tapia when she discuss
the oath every member is taking:
166 the oaths involve: ...avoid anything...against the spiritual, moral or legal unity of the institute;...to exercice
fraternal correction with our immediate superior. If after a prudent lapse of time, such correction has been in vain, the
matter should be fully communicated to the next higher major superior or to the Father and left fully in their hands...
Freedom is always diminished by these oaths
--Indeed a certain kind of freedom is diminished by an oath! What is interesting here is the description of Ignatian obedience;
presumably the sectarian character of Opus comes from "left fully in their hands" and the superior state grace .
If it's the case, it means that, to avoid sectarianism, fraternal correction should not take "no" for answer from
a superior. A recipe for disintegration that was followed by a lot or religious orders in the postconciliar period. "Absence
of criticism" means criticisms that were refused by the authorities in last resort, or which were not considered for
having been already treated in precedent cases. Most important, "sect" and "fanaticism" underwent the
same semantic displacement in Tapia's book than "fascism" in The Unofficial Homepage, since they apply to Jesuitic
1.2) Indoctrination, discipline, practices
35 they are not free at all...choosing is limited to the options offered by Opus Dei...subordinated to indoctrination
of a "formative" kind...one example: confession <to OD priest>
43 first part of Opus Dei indoctrination <to talk about vocation with OD members only>
43 first step toward fanaticism <that OD knows better than parents>
121 I thought then I was free, because we were allowed a freedom within well defined limits. But it was not genuine Christian
freedom which allows ...free choice...without the bride of good and bad spirit
--This may explain the meaning of sectarian fanaticism according to Tapia. It implies some strictly defined limits to
freedom. Of course, jesuitic obedience must be included. And it is no doubt different from basic christian freedom since
it is a particular spirituality for people who have a particular vocation in the context of which there is particular notion
of "good spirit". There is even no need of a militarization of religious obedience to make a commitment reduce
freedom: in a way poverty vow reduce christian freedom, even "genuine" I guess.
The same way, "fanaticism" means: use of a defensive system, protecting vocations, considering natural families
as potential obstacles, like a lot of orders were doing in the last millenium.
60 Opus Dei has not yet come to terms with criticism, especially self-criticism within the institution, or criticism of
sayings by Mgr. Escriva or of customs established by him, which is precisely what makes Opus Dei a sect....their indoctrination
was to make me surrender entirely to God's supposed will...They made of me a perfect fanatic
96 confidence exercises control over the members and is a very real kind of brain washing under cover of "good spirit"
...many other superiors had manipulated my conscience and my soul
88 my new point of dedication to Opus Dei and toward fanaticism...:I would be ready to change residence as often as the
good of the Work and the apostolate would require it without considering my inner feelings.
...a fanatic...a puppet
--The fanaticism here is pure jesuitic spirituality (see "Opus and Jesuits" above), a thing Tapia seems to have
rediscovered through her experience without knowing it: surrender of the will to God through the superior, account of conscience
(confidence), positive ascetism of the will and rationalistic full control of emotions. The more surprising is that Tapia
is certainly sensing a part of it
( and only 7 pages below):
95 the directress would make me see clearly how "feeling" was not important. The advice was ascetically sound
and directed to form an iron will, like a suit of armor that would completely banish sentimentality. Strictly speaking, everything
so far is correct Christian asceticism
--Again, about very traditional religious orders' policies:
47 major silence means, as in a religious order, that you may not speak...The intention was to spend the time in prayer.
As always our minds were controlled by Opus Dei rules, regulating how our silence should be used. In other words , we were
not free to think on our own.
58 at Los Rosales,we were totally isolated from the external world...characteristics of a sect
58 <policy about letters> this is how they manipulate the minds of the members for the sake of indoctrination and
acquisition of "good spirit"
--Well, monks are isolated; for a long time a lot of religious orders rules of monastic inspiration were stating how silence
must be used, so were "mind controlling" (an important concept here); the policy about letters was that of some
religious orders for centuries. Nobody thought it was manipulation or mind control in a pathological or excessive sense.
Is it conceivable that religious orders were sects for centuries and that truth has been suddenly discovered now? What about
the reverse point of view?
73 authentic friendship...were not allowed...for two reasons... The first is the sexual obsession enunciated in the prohibition
of "particular friendship". The second is the typical discipline within a sect.
--Precautions against particular friendship was totally classical. If this is sexual obsession, we have another semantic
97 faith is cultivated through piety...so that members do not formulate any kind of question whose resolution would take
them toward true faith....people are made childish, not more mature
--True faith is equated here with intellectualized faith. It may be good but has nothing to do with maturity. It can very
well be outside Opus charisma.
59 one facet of Opus Dei brainwashing was to make its members believe that Opus Dei is perfect because it came from God
and that every pronouncement by its founder was by God's divine inspiration
82 respect for the founder amounted to a personality cult
95 veneration for him <Escriva> similar to worship
213 as in any sect, the leader...comes to believe that he is the only one able to communicate the message received from
149 During all the years...Opus Dei government, it was officially collegial...but in practice <it> was a "directed
151 the government was not authentically collegial
--Of course! Classical Jesuit government is monarchic. Brainwashing means here that Opus was founded by divine inspiration
and will. In principle , I don't see any difference with Jesuits on that score, or with cult for St. Ignatius Loyola. Excesses
are possible, but we don't have enough details on that. A good guess is that Opus sees things more supernaturally than Tapia,
especially if we consider her concept of maturity.
P.S. "Collegiality" is the great buzzword for those who don't want to obey superiors and a cause of terrible
disintegration among religious orders in the postconciliar period.
2) ASCETISM, SEXUALITY, FRIENDSHIP
xii my profound concern about human rights and freedom
--This is noble concern, but is likely in some instances to clash with Ignatian asceticism of the will. If such a clash
occured in Tapia's case, it could explain a lot of things, both about interpretations and facts.
250 Mercedes...telling me...my will should force my intellect not to ask, which meant to put the will on a higher level
than the intellect
--Pure classical Jesuitism.
62 <travelling in 3rd class instead of 1st> In the stupidity of my brand new indoctrination, I replied... we have
to live in poverty and offer all this unpleasantness for souls
--Here, indoctrination is explicitly equated with asceticism of the will (the "little things" in Mgr Escriva's
34 <cilice and discipline> my parents would have been outraged to discover them in my room
55 Needless to say, when leaving Opus Dei, you throw away these instruments of torture. Life brings enough mortification
by itself without the need for this additional flagellation
--Of course, if mortification means torture, it makes no sense. What is interesting here is the total incomprehension
the author is showing about this concept. No doubt it comes from zeitgeist and it may be a clue about the distance Tapia gradually
took with Opus: it seems likely that there has been a fight between the World and Opus spirituality in her soul.
One must take notice that Tapia's argument applies to all mortification, e.g. to fasting.
Another point: it is interesting that voluntary mortification was more and more discredited at the very moment when mortifications
brought by life, thought to be sufficient "enough", became less and less numerous and intense... True, life brings
difficulties that can be offered as sacrificial mortification, if the will accepts the situation in a proper way. But it
is a very bizarre thing to say that this is enough, as if it was an evil to be avoided as much as possible: this is quite
the contrary of mortification, which should be an act of will, and not passive. Another aspect is that life may not bring
mortification in areas where it is needed, e.g. food or sensuality.
Above all, ascetical pain has nothing to do with torture, since its relation to the will is exactly the reverse: in torture,
pain is used to force the will; in ascetical fighting, will is used to put pressure on undue pleasure or potential undue pleasure.
Besides, it is not even the pleasure or pain themselves that are important, but their influence on the will: ascetism is
not concerned first with skin or stomach, but with the will seeking this or that pleasure and its capacity to resist this
attraction; inflicting some pain exercices the will to go in the opposite direction and thus strengthens it. Fighting the
attractiveness of pleasure by pain is very classical and this applies not only to temperance (refraining from -bad - pleasant
activities) but also to courage (engaging in - good - painful activities), the 2 virtues concerned with pain and pleasure
according to Aristotle.
The ascetical aspect is not even the only one; as a symbol of renouncement to give oneself to God, it has a penitential
value in repairing for sins.
The anti-ascetic zeitgeist is so powerful that even alledgedly intelligent people fall in the trap: in her articles on
Opus in the Tablet (Nov. 2001), A. Miller said she expected "sessions of self-torture", "a masochistic set
of beliefs". To be fair, these expectations were refuted, but she was inclined toward believing them.
Again, on the net we can read somewhere about Opus:
"Though it is a fact that corporal mortification was once more widely practiced within the church, modern psychology
has long since brought an end to those practices since such behavior is now deemed sado-masochistic and inappropriate
as an aid to spiritual development
This is really unbelievable delirium and incompetence, since sadomasochism is the opposed of ascetism. It is rather a
very sophisticated way of obtaining immediate pleasure, sensual or psychological, whereas ascetism is a matter of cold-minded
control by the will. The fact that a member could buy a good quality whip in a sex shop (HiHiHi) is only a material coincidence!!
"Modern psychology" is nothing but crass rationalization from the 60s. First, psychology is a young science,
and I can very well find strong arguments supporting physical ascetism in the behaviourist school. Second, it is a soft science
easily influenced by the zeitgeist which will no doubt pile up layers upon layers of rationalizations against physical ascetism.
Third, being an empirical science, it can barely reach a supernatural point of view and so understand penance, consequences
of original sin, and other concepts linked to ascetism and its ground.
24 separation between men and women members is total. ...particularly stressed between Opus Dei priests and women members;
to my understanding, this is a reflection of Mgr Escriva's sexual repression
34 The reason why confidential conversations among numeraries are forbidden is to avoid the possibility of "special
73 the sexual obsession enunciated in the prohibition of "particular friendship"
217 if....a priest has to speak to a woman in a parlor, the door must remain wide open. This is an example of the constant
sexual obsession within Opus Dei
--All this is absolutely classical and followed abuses that were taking place in the Middle Ages; it is not at all peculiar
to Opus or Mgr Escriva. So repression and obsession means only precaution involved by a defensive-ascetic system that was
common in the Tridentine era.
3.1) There seems to always have been latent conflicts with Opus spirit
48 all of us... told the directress about our surprise at the use of Gregorian chant...
the recitation of prime provoked general criticism by all of us... we were severely reprimanded... this antagonism to
criticism is justified by the spirit of unity
71 I told her of my frustrations...we read no newspapers and were kept from the real world <in Spain>
139 I was extraordinarily irritated, and so angry...I wrote a letter to Mgr Escriva seeking authorization to leave Opus
Dei <1952, before Venezuela>
160 in spite of being such a fanatic... I was rather indignant at his <Father> comments
170 "I'm not going. I don't want to go to South America"
176 my inner conflict returned <about going to Venezuela>
176 a striking contrast to the cold asceticism... in Rome
3.2) There has been personal conflicts, mostly about matters related to obedience
40 Maria...was...literal-minded regarding the application of Opus Dei doctrine...she discounted anything I said...she
asked..to give up my confessor, Father Pannikar... I simply refused
115 over the years I came to realize that Encarnita tended to be jealous of anyone who could overshadow her in relation
to the Father
122 Encarnita... had a morbid love for the Father
166 all the advisors except Maria...and me had been named electors... I am certain that Encarnita had an important part
in the decision, because she never fully trusted me
192 Uzcategui as a superior...an easily manipulated person... I was worried that her notion of "good spirit"
229 His attitude was servile...and he was prejudiced against women, especially against me as regional directress
234 the counselor's attitude was always critical of...me
237 Only with great effort was I able to refrain from calling Eva Josefina a hypocrite. In my soul I was convinced she
had organized the whole thing
261 Maribel...always seemed somewhat of an opportunist
40 Pilar... left Opus dei after I did. We have kept a warm friendship but I do not understand why, being a journalist,
she has remained silent about facts...about Opus Dei
--About the last quote: the answer may be that Pilar doesn't interpret the facts like Tapia.
3.3) She played with the rules
169 I never told anyone about it, because I knew she would be scolded <before Venezuela>
181 this was the first and last pejorative report that I sent to Rome regarding a member
--This can cause distrust from the superiors.
193 I tried to have everyone see the news each night and often pretended I did not notice when the alloted half hour had
gone by if a good picture or a ballet was on. I wanted these periods to be occasions when everyone could be at ease, feeling
that exact observance of regulation was of less importance than genuinely Christian spirit
--Regulation of less importance? One can imagine the reaction of a Jesuitic superior who has a cult for militarized religious
obedience - "like a corpse" said St Ignatius.
194 we had the newspaper delivered every day... I did not want our people to live in the limbo in which I dwelled for
so many years in the Work... we agreed that we had to begin to read books. We decided to start with the best sellers... Our
people began to get out of the dark tunnel in which we had lived for years
--Newspapers...the best sellers...out the dark tunnel! Anyone who knows about monachism or defensive-ascetic spirituality
will be amazed by the enormous , surrealist gap between the 2 attitudes. Either Tapia was incredibly naive or not so much
a fanatic after all. She clearly took her distances with Opus spirit.
233 in late 1964 and early 1965, we received an avalanche of notes, rescripts, indications, letters. I could not quite
see the relevance of many of them in our country, and there was no way of putting them immediately into practice, as we were
ordered to do
237 Opus Dei's judgment was that I should not devote so much time to her...I ignore the indication...
--This was giving very good ground to those who would accused her of formal disobedience.
3.4) The accusation
236 I suspected that the counselor and the delegate did not like my approach to certain instructions coming from Rome,
and that, instead of making me a fraternal correction...they had informed Rome on the matter to get me removed from the country...I
had the sense of receiving a beating over the head organized with the connivance of the delegate
243 they always added that "I exhibited enormous individualism and tried to squelch others"
259 in order to repent I needed to know the specifics of my sins
--There was no unanimity against her:
293 Cecilia...replied that I had a strong and straightforward character and that she had not seen anything in my attitude
against the spirit of Opus Dei
244 he repeated...a very sophisticated pride...
insinuations that I had done terrible things in Venezuela, letting me understand that they went against the Father and
the spirit of The Work. But again I pressed and requested specifics so that I might amend... the only answer I got was: how
was it possible that I didn't realize?
...<they said it> showed my lamentable critical spirit
--The answer given to her gives the impression that to Opus her disobedience was obvious; worst, her arguing convinced
even more the superior that she was a bad soldier, trying to make an officier justify himself instead of obeying. In one instance
she got the very Ignatian remark:
250 Mercedes...responded... my will should force my intellect not to ask
252 Vives told me...I had personally hurt the Work by trying to rise above it
276 Alonzo said I had caused incalculable damage, whose extent he could not even foresee
289 the only specific charge I had heard was that I had "murmured"... The uninitiated may find it difficult
to believe that for Opus Dei this is of capital importance
244...things I found disturbing ...in Rome...the directors lacked warmth, and there was servility...for the Father along
with a cultic worship...people were not free to come and go. Above all, there was such a sense of discretion...
--The last detail is interesting in that it seems to show Rome and Venezuela had a different conception of obedience.
This can explain a lot of things. Anyway, everything seems to indicate that there was some apparent evidence supporting the
There was still another suspicion, that can explain what happened later:
249 <about a misunderstood telegram> Encarnita... told me ...that I had declared my love to an Opus Dei priest....nothing
was further from the truth
3.5) The decision
248 <Mgr escriva> You are not going back to Venezuela, because your work has been individualistic and bad! And you
have murmured against my documents!
250 the Father had decided....that I would not write to Venezuela again
--But she went directly against the order:
251 the telegram reached Venezuela
257 I wrote my directress in Venezuela...I also managed to arrange to open a post office box...and received a few brief
notes...from some...in the Venezuelan ...advisory
--Again, she gave the impression of rebellion, and of playing with the rules:
254 Kucking ordered me not to speak to any Venezuelans. One day when she saw me speak to one of them...
254 She said...how could such a question occur to you? don't you understand?
256 Marlies... continued...What you have done is intolerable! you have broken a firm order not to leave the house
264 I knew where the duplicates of keys were...I...grabbed the duplicate
--Instead of obedience and reform of herself, she went for hopes of reforming the institution. This is very common among
post conciliar ex-members of religious orders. It reflects simply a deep conflict, nothig more:
265 the only thing I wanted was to be left alone until the general congress so that there could be changes
269 the congress filled me with hope, because I thought that the leadership would change
--She suffered from the harshness of Ignatian obedience and it seems likely that her superiors didn't realize at the moment
that she was already away from it. She interpreted it as a lack of humanity:
266 I said...You have managed to break me and I began to cry
245 I was speaking to "living rules", not human beings
250 Mercedes...responded... my will should force my intellect not to ask
--At the moment of expulsion Escriva's temper exploded and old allegations about sexual misconduct surfaced. Slanders,
personal conflicts and misinterpretation of a letter and of some past behavior have had a role here, but it seems likely
that on one hand Opus at its highest echelon received convergent if not always reliable testimonies, and that on the other
hand Tapia had become totally untrustworthy in Rome.
277 <Mgr Escriva, losing control of himself and heavily insulting her> Leave my priests alone
278 Mercedes...said to me...you have done all sorts of things, all sorts
288 <Vives> if we permit the truth to be known, it would be most painful to her <Tapia>
289 Pannikar told...Vives' letter was blackmail
299 they did not hesitate to attack with low, disgraceful slander about sexual conduct... "attempted to pervert
--Maybe, but on the other hand her conduct and reaction in Rome - trying to send secret messages to Venezuela at all costs
- makes the following remark by Opus very believable, even if misunderstandings were involved:
299...<Roman process> "<Escriva> announced to her that she would not return to that country, and from
her reaction deduced that there were more important matters than those already known "
--On her part, she had the opposite impression, not realizing that Ignatian obedience implied accepting the superior's
mistake - if not a sin - after fraternal correction has been done, presumably out of her strong desire to return to Venezuela
and of her trying to justify it. She had not acquired the Ignatian "indifference":
249 it was a trial with no defense but only prosecution
310 There was never a shadow of a doubt that I might be innocent; he passed judgment and sentence without hearing me,
based on assessments of other people
254 she repeated the interrogation altering the order of the questions...again, the Opus Dei system is identical to that
of any sect
--In the end: yes, she was treated harshly, but no, she was not innocent;
yes, Opus may have made errors about her, but no, it was not necessarily in bad faith;
yes, Mgr Escriva lost control of himself, but following a conduct by which she didn't help herself at all.
3.6) How it all happened
189 I also learned in Venezuela to control my explosive temper. I can truly say that the person who arrived in Venezuela
and the person who left that country ten years later were two different individuals. Venezuela changed me.
245 I thought that the open, warm temperament of Venezuela had changed me, and that coming back to this house of the central
advisory, I felt asphyxiated
322 life in Venezuela freed me, it brought back my real self, and helped overcome my fanaticism. My experience there aroused
my conscience, reminding me first to look to God and to consider everything else secondary
xii I...became a fanatic, and was brutally disillusioned
--I find all this very believable: she changed and the changes were not to the taste of Opus. To Opus it was a change
from Ignatian (and monastic) discipline to indiscipline; to her, from fanaticism to christian freedom. Everything can be understood
from that, and primarily the precise meaning of "sectarian fanaticism".
Opus was too disciplined-ascetic for her. She went for autojustification in attempting to prove that Opus was too
disciplined-ascetic per se. That's why she often don't understand those who have stayed and facts are systematically interpreted,
and part of them selected.
Of course, a selection of facts is necessary if one want to prove that some are overauthoritarian or that abuses occured.
With such a selection, how could one be wrong? This is extremely common among those who say their disobedience is a good one:
they disobey but it is still Christian spirit. Perhaps. But not in the context of some spiritualities, where obedience is
at the center.
So in the end, all what Tapia has to say is that she disagree with Opus spirituality. She thinks it is bad. Well, outside
Opus perhaps, not inside. That means she was outside; so she was expelled.