DIALOGUE WITH AN EX-MEMBER #1
I've cut this from your mails in order to introduce my introduction:
I also want to repeat my intention here. It is to seek the truth, for myself as well as for others. --I am going to
express critical views about Opus Dei because I have seen enough problems and I want them to end. I want the problems
that I have encountered to be reduced or eliminated, if this is at all possible. Sounds utopian, though.
My own intention and desire is to hold and express views within the legitimate range allowed by the Catholic Church.
If my opinions do not fall within this range, I am more than ready to repudiate and abandon them. But I have not yet been
adequately convinced that my views are not acceptable in the Church.
--OUTLINE OF ARGUMENTATION
After reading all of the messages you've sent me I'm going to briefly outline the kind of conclusions I will try to reach
in that dialogue. To me, your point of view is close to that of ODAN, but more theoretical: my replies will be along the same
line as with ODAN, that is, about interpretations of facts.
If I may use a comparison:
-The Unofficial Homepage argue from outside the Church to criticise Opus;
-Tapia argue from inside the Church, but is against Opus ideas and clearly disobeyed Opus orders, in my opinion, so was
guilty before Opus rules; if we use a military metaphor (not a perfect one, I know, although the council of Trent said in
On Priesthood, ch.4: "...ecclesiastical hierarchy is like an army ready to fight - castrorum acies ordinata"), she
didn't commit any crime against civil law (Church), but she acted contrary to military law and was rightly brought before
martial court. At that moment she made terrible errors in judgment which caused suspicions to rise to an extent that she was
kicked out - after enduring too severe a punishment. She was no innocent, from an Opus point of view, even if she was so from
other points of view;
-You argue from inside the Church while criticising some Opus practices and ideas. (although I think that some of your
vocabulary remains open to criticism).
I admit that you have a much better direct knowledge of Opus than me; but at the same time you're likely to be less impartial
(are you a critic because you're against some things or against Opus because you're a critic?). For instance: you seem not
to see that the Unofficial Homepage is in part delirious, that there is someting suspect in Tapia's book if we read between
So I'll try to show that there may be some bias in the interpretation of the facts you know. As an ex-member, you`re against
Opus for yourself - no problem there, it`s not your vocation, but it is likely that in a process of rationalisation you go
from being against Opus for you to being against per se, from something not being good for you to something not being good
in itself. Take a metaphor - an excessive one, I know: to a disciple of, let`s say, Marcuse, any discipline whatsoever amount
to excessive mind control (Western freedoms where repressive to him and he used the concept of ``repressive tolerance`` ).
To an antimilitarist, military exercises and conduct will be easily considered stupid or fascist, etc., even without having
lived military life and known the facts by direct experience. So to him direct knowledge of the facts would change nothing,
so coloured they would be by interpretation: the conclusions would be the same, with or without the facts. That will be
my main line of argumentation.
ARGUING AD HOMINEM
I also do not think it is persuasive for you to say that the views of those who criticize Opus Dei are prima facie dubious
because they are or probably are lapsed Catholics. Classical rhetoric--Aristotle, to be precise--differentiates three modes
logos, ethos, and pathos. What you refer to is ethos, the persuasive power that flows from the character of a person.
Certainly, the character of a person plays an important role in persuasion. But I believe in evaluating the truth of an opinion
or view, logos or, roughly translated, the logic of the person's opinions or views are more important. Even if a person is
of dubious character, his views may ultimately prove to be true if the logic is unassailable. This is true, for example,
of truth as it is constructed in the so-called "hard" sciences.
Analogically, I believe it is also true of some of the teachings of our faith. The touchstone of our faith is not logic,
although all the truths of our faith are compatible with logic. The touchstone of our faith is the magisterium, which interprets
tradition and scripture. Yet historically, persons of less than stellar virtue have contributed to the truths of our faith
because some of their views have been ratified by the magisterium--for example, St. Jerome is a Church Father, but Thomas
Bokkenkotter describes the dark side of St. Jerome as vain, cantankerous, and bigoted. Analogically, ethos is secondary to
the magisterium in the same manner that ethos is secondary to logos.
Speaking more concisely, I think you should give more weight to the evidence persons present against Opus Dei as well
as the logic of their arguments and less weight to the fact that they are so-called "lapsed" Catholics--this might
not even be true, and their good names might simply have been besmirched. Logos over ethos.
In fact, rhetorical theory identifies the misplaced emphasis on ethos as a logical fallacy. It is called ad hominem--against
Unfortunately, it is a common strategy of Opus Dei when it wishes to discredit the views of those who publicly disagree
with and criticize the organization. The reputations of Maria del Carmen Tapia, Fr. Vladimir Felzmann, and Dr. John Roche,
I think, have been unjustly damaged in this manner.
--I didn`t think my arguments to be rhetorical up to this point but now I see you`re partly right: most of the critics
of Opus want to convince the Church (the "public") so if I show that someone is unorthodox or doesn`t believe in
orthodoxy, this amount to diminishing his reputation among the "public" (I said: you will never convince the Church,
etc.). Ok. This is rhetoric. But it is not the only aspect of the argumentation, and I`m not sure the reference to Aristotle
(Rhet. I, 2) was the only good one. In order to convince, you may use pathos (public`s passions), logos, and ethos (your good
reputation and virtue; or, ad hominem, the bad reputation of your opponent). However, between rhetoric and analytic (scientific)
reasoning, there is a middle: dialectic reasoning, about subject matters that are probable. The goal here is not mainly convincing,
but probable truth (opinion). It is ok then to argue ad populum, ad verecundiam (from authority, experts), ad rem (logos)
or ad hominem. True, to argue ad hominem in analytic reasoning is a fallacy ("his mathematical theorem is wrong because
he`s a wife beater"), but not necessarily so in contingent empirical and factual matters involving perception. Otherwise
the courts would always make fallacies when they call experts to testifies or when they commit the "fallacy": this
witness has lied to us 5 times, so we won`t take his word the sixth, he`s no more credible.
Plus, arguing ad hominem need not to be concerned with the character: it can focus on consistency , or grounds, of what
is said by the homine: instead of saying that Opus is not guilty in fact, I can limit myself to refute the ground of the
criticism and just say that there is no proof until now that Opus is guilty; that way, I do not argue ad rem (about Opus)
but only ad hominem (about what is said about Opus by the critics-hominibus). The fallacy ad hominem would take place only
if I was saying that Opus is not overauthoritarian; I just say there is no conclusive evidence about that in what is said
by the critics, like it would be the case if the accusation was coming from overliberals. Of course, it presupposes that we
consider only the evidence given by the critic or that he is the only source of knowledge as witness, so that the probability
of a truth relies on his credibility. This is the case in trials, in historical research, etc.
Sure, one can be non-catholic, overliberal, and have killed all one's family and still be right in saying Opus is overauthoritarian,
but if at the same time one is pretending to be catholic, one is making a mistake, and it may be that very mistake that explains
the accusation against Opus, exactly as it is the case with trials' bad witnesses: there is a link between the issues, liberty
according to Opus, liberty according to the critics; it's like always lying about money, and testifying in a trial about money.
Credibility is at stake, and in some contingent matters, we have only credibility, probability. What is abuse of authority?
The answer is "It depends". On circumstances, prejudices, point of view; the virtuous middle is in part relative
to the observer.
I think the valid argument ad hominem is parallel to the valid argument from authority (ad verecundiam): we presume an
expert is right if he is speaking in his area of expertise, as we presume an untrustworthy man to be untrustworthy in his
area of untrustworthiness. Fallacies occurs when the areas are shifted or not relevant.
May I add that among Catholics we must assume by argument from authority (it is true because God said it - in philosophy
authority is the weakest argument, but in religion it's the strongest, provided it is authentic) that catholicism is true
religion, so it is important to criticise Opus from an orthodoxy ground, otherwise it looks like one is against something
in Opus BECAUSE ( the relevant link between matters) one is against something in catholicism; however, the particular argument
from authority called "faith", like some first principles in logic, cannot be considered wrong. I can certainly
argue validly ad hominem, on ground of inconsistency, if a Catholic criticise Opus because Opus is catholic! So I think the
point of view from which the critic argues is relevant to his credibilty and to the probable truth.
I'm a little more conscious now of why the logos-ethos dynamic is an important topic to me. And the reason is that Opus
Dei attacks the ethos of the primary witnesses against Fr. Escriva--Maria del Carmen Tapia, Fr. Vladimir Felzmann, and Dr.
John Roche--without giving justice to the logos of what they have to say. The official Opus Dei position, like that of the
beatification tribunal, is dismissive. Furthermore, the canonization of Fr. Escriva is extremely important to Opus Dei because
it amounts to a strong statement about the ethos of Fr. Escriva, and they want to use this construction of ethos to legitimize
all the questionable and, in my view, abusive aspects of Opus Dei without adequately addressing the defective logos that I
believe underlies the institutional culture.
I recognize that there is an inseparable dynamic between ethos and logos so that the former strengthens the latter.
At the same time, I think that those who would defend Opus Dei, both inside and outside the institution, have not given
justice to the logos of the critics. The apologists also like to attack the critics at what may be their weakest point--ethos.
For who has a perfectly unassailable reputation? This pilleria-inspired strategy also explains why Opus Dei has been charged
with character assassination. No wonder that Hutchinson describes what he perceives to be an inexplicable fear on the part
of former Opus Dei members to speaking out against the organization.
I believe that a fairer approach is to address the logos, the substance and evidence of the critical arguments against
Opus Dei, on their own terms.
Isn't it especially compelling, for example, that the critics all say the same or very similar things? They even use
the same vocabulary. One of the striking aspects of the critical revelations about Opus Dei is that even the very terms that
are used--e.g., brainwashing, trap, heartless--are the same. I was very surprised that the words that I had used to refer
to the organization in conversation were occurring in the published accounts of people in other parts of the world that I
had never even met. This consistency argues for systemic problems in the institutional culture.
I think it should be noted that publications with strong reputations for journalistic integrity, as well as highly respected
individuals within the Church, have given negative testimony about Opus Dei due regard. This evenhanded approach by sources
of reputable ethos indicates that the negative testimony about Opus Dei, especially from sources that have lived in the inner
circle and interacted in close proximity to Fr. Escriva, should not be treated dismissively. For example, Time, Newsweek,
The London Times have all aired the side of Tapia, Fr. Felzmann, and Roche. Cardinal Basil Hume, one of the papabile of the
1980 election, gave ear to the revelations of Fr. Felzmann and thereafter took preventative measures within the diocese.
On my part, the testimony of Tapia, Fr. Felzmann, and Roche are very credible because what they say is so consistent
with my own personal experience of the institutional culture of Opus Dei, which in turn derives from the inspiration of Fr.
Escriva, so that the testimony about Fr. Escriva is also compelling. The heavyhanded treatment of Tapia, for example, occurs
at all levels of the Opus Dei hierarchy, but it is usually more intense at higher levels. If anything, the testimony of these
former numeraries should not be rejected dismissively.
Here is what Hutchinson has to say on this issue:
Abiding by the Founder's maxim that "all is fair in love and war," Opus Dei employed every trick in the book,
including trampling over people's reputations, to steamroller the beatification through. p. 16
When former members wanted to put their doubt, fears or observations before the beatification tribunals, they were
systematically excluded from doing so because they were portrayed as being mentally unbalanced or sex fiends. And yet
no independent verification of the claims was ever made. p. 178
In rejecting this negative testimony, Opus Dei uses a circular argument. The testimony is tainted, says Opus Dei, because
the former numeraries left Opus Dei. So, naturally, it is to be expected that they will say negative things about Opus Dei
and Fr. Escriva.
Yet who is to be expected to give negative testimony about the inner workings of an extremely closed organization except
former members? Therefore, the circular reasoning is: Those who lived with Fr. Escriva and then left the organization cannot
testify against Fr. Escriva because they left the organization. Those who can testify because they know, cannot testify because
they have no credibility. But who else is expected to give negative testimony about the inner workings of the organization
except the members who have left? It is apparent that they have credibility precisely because they are former members who
are privy to closely guarded information. In effect, those who have credibility have no credibility. The argument is flawed.
Unless we give the former members a hearing, all we will have are yes-men in the tradition of the unabashedly adulatory
Profile of Salvador Bernal. The solution, then, is to give voice to this negative testimony and evaluate it on its own terms.
--I think you're both right and wrong here.
First, your argument from authority (consensus among serious journalists) seems invalid to me, from an Opus point of view,
for the same reason as usual: they generally reflect the zeitgeist, and for the time being Opus is running against it. So
they report a lot of interpretations, not pure facts. How could they be against "facts"? However, if you mean that
is a reason, OUTSIDE Opus, for not being dismissive, you're right. But this amounts just to analyzing the criticims, not saying
these are true. And this mean some ad hominem arguing... Why wouldn't be the case that all the critics were inadapted to
Opus in the same fashion because they were all less disciplined than Opus? - my criticism is: there are strangely common features
among critics "theology" or "ideology".
On the other hand, if we place ourselves inside Opus, we must remember that it is defensive, that arguing about those
things is contrary to its spirituality - and they have a right to be like that. In a way, I think that when they talk about
slanders, they are not even interested in what they say, they just want the discussion to end. This is simply, in my view,
a "no comment" attitude, more than a dismissive attitude in an aggressive sense - unless they are attacked publicly
in a perceived defamatory manner.
You're right about circularity, if you construe their argument as: "no criticism is valid against us, since the only
criticism comes from ex-members, who are not trusworthy because they left".
But you're not right if they say: "some criticisms are valid, provided they come from inside, with due process".
I think you can confirm to me that there is a way to criticise Opus from inside, and that it is the same as among classical
Jesuits: to put your concerns in writing and to give it to your superiors. Think about the army metaphor: the captain who
is not happy will submit his objections to his superiors and a decision will be made at the colonel or brigadier-general level;
any other attitude will be considered insubordination. It seems that some ex-members take no for a refusal to listen, but
a no may take place after listening.
A criticism from outside amounts to a fundamental disagreement with Opus, that is, to be no more a part in the organisation.
So they can say: he was not adapted to our spirit, he don't agree with us; so what? It is not a proof that we are wrong, Opus
has its own reasons to be like it is and if we begin to discuss there is a risk of decomposition.
And what about those who stay? Why not listen to them instead? Presumably they disagree why those who have quit, and their
word is good too. It is likely that concessions to those who quit would cause those who stayed to disagree: a recipe for disaster,
and it's a little like this that local decomposition of some religious orders took place - "community, dialogue, etc."
( all the more disgusting, those people want very often to give lessons to Opus). Opus system, if not perfect, has been efficient
up until now: any change must be done with caution, and in my opinion any change toward liberalization must be postponed until
There is another reason, apart from their "spirit", which justifies their ad hominem arguments about the exes;
a more theological reason concerning vocation. See below.
THEOLOGY OF VOCATION
Nothing is wrong with the "classical" theology of vocation. As the logical expression of theological thought,
it is legitimate.
However, it belongs to the realm of theological opinion. What is wrong is that the Opus Dei priests and directors erroneously
represent this classical theology of vocation as normative, even as an integral part of the Catholic faith, so that the Opus
Dei member is not properly informed of the true nature of theological opinion on the topic of
vocation and so cannot make a truly free, well-informed decision because his or her understanding has been cordoned off
by the conservative bias of Opus Dei.
Herein lies the abuse. There is a misrepresentation of the truth by persons who, because of their position as public
representatives of the Church, have the serious obligation to represent the teachings of the Church accurately.
This misrepresentation on the part of Opus Dei occurs systemically.
... The same is true for what you might call the "classical" theology of vocation. It belongs to the realm
of theological opinion, not dogma. The fundamental abuse of Opus Dei lies in misrepresenting its theological partiality as
an integral part of the depositum fidei.
...But Fr. Escriva's theology of vocation as "orthodox"? I think not. The orthodox-unorthodox duality does
not apply here because the theology of vocation is historically more inchoate than the development of other theological topics.
--Before my reply, a note about a suspicion (to be confirmed later): the "not infallible", "not from depositum"
reflex among anti-catholic doctrine and anti-apologetic milieux (often with the code expression: "further studies are
needed" - by us!); this is the main tool for disobedience and lack of docility (receptiveness to education and teaching).
It is not always misused, but often. So, ad hominem, it is linked to the issue of probable truth, or error...
You're partly right: what I thought to be classical theology of vocation was not so, but classical theology under 17th-18th
c. jansenist influence. A vocation must be free, a Jesuit director must not push on the candidate; to refuse a vocation may
be a mortal sin in some cases but no more according to Saint Liguori.
However, there is an orthodox doctrine on vocation, and it is not mere opinion, but de divina fide or at least theologically
certain; it has been taught by popes and has biblical roots: a vocation to priesthood or religious life is made authentic
by the call of the bishop or superior, and by aptitudes and right intentions of the candidate. The mystical experience is
considered a part of right intentions.
Nevertheless, I think the fact that Opus vocation is lay vocation, like in the case of secular institutes, that there
is no vows, gives more freedom of interpretation to Opus about vocations: sainthood is not ordinary, but ordinary life of
lay people is, so it's not so big deal to say that some lay people are called to sanctification in Opus. I Mean, it may be
big deal psychologically, but not theologically.
I must add an argument from authority here: Opus has theology faculties with some very competent people, who have certainly
studied those things seriously. I feel there is no reason not to trust their expertise.
Now, let's go back to the dismissive attitude. The exes are in a different situation than that of the candidates: they
were called by the superiors, they made commitments, so we may interpret that their vocation has been made certain (theologically
- we are NOT talking psychology here). When they quit, it is a lot more serious, a kind of treason, etc. So there is actually
an argument not to trust them, cause their conflict situation involves a fault on their part.
Another aspect is institutional: the dismissive attitude is a strong factor of cohesion/anti-decomposition.
VOCATION & CONSENT
Today I would like to write about what has been called the "vocation trap" of Opus Dei. It is a "trap"
because once a person gets in, it is psychologically very difficult for him to get out. I believe that the "trap"
in its most coercive form is a psychological one, yet it has the potential to be as compelling as a physical jail.
The entrapment process takes more or less the following form:
A person "sees" his numerary vocation or at least is persuaded that he "sees" it
This person writes a letter to the Opus Dei prelate to ask for admission as a numerary and is accepted
The numerary learns about Opus Dei ideas, customs, and traditions
After some time, for some reason, the numerary does not feel it is his vocation to stay in Opus Dei--sometimes, he develops
this feeling after learning about Opus Dei ideas, customs, and traditions, which in some cases is possible only after many,
sometimes many, many years because they are disclosed piecemeal over an extended period of time, and some aspects are never
He is told by the priest that he has a vocation, even if he cannot remember "seeing" it, and that he commits
a mortal sin by leaving Opus Dei
He trusts the priest and does not want to commit a mortal sin, so he stays on, sometimes agonizing over the decision
He decides to leave and is censured by the organization
The process is rendered abusive primarily because of the lack of informed consent, although other abusive aspects include
the psychological coercion, the misconstruction of vocation, and the stigmatization of the former member.
Initially, a person is asked to "give everything to God," "God" here being identified with "Opus
Dei," without knowing the content of this surrender: it is not possible for this person to know and evaluate the nature
of this commitment except after many, sometimes many, many years, by which time he is no longer permitted a graceful exit
by the Opus Dei organization. Hence, the lack of informed consent.
The situation is a classic "damned if you do, damned if you don't." The numerary is trapped in Opus Dei and
if he or she leaves, there are unfortunate consequences, real and imagined. Besides the threat of eternal perdition and the
pernicious emotional blackmail engendered by the charge of betrayal of Jesus Christ, there are other forms of psychological
pressure, in the form, perhaps, of peer pressure or cognitive dissonance arising from a real upending of the intensely cultivated
Opus Dei weltanschauung. Having invested many years of wholehearted service to the organization, it becomes very difficult
for the numerary to acknowledge the folly of this investment, cut his losses, and pull out, to use a stock market analogy.
It means acknowledging a terrible mistake--perhaps the most difficult psychological step--and spending many, many years afterward
correcting the negative and sometimes traumatic consequences of the mistake.
--This is explaining, I think, some of the problems of the exes, but those problems are encountered by a lot of people
who quit their monastery, who divorce, etc. The cause is not Opus per se, but the act of quitting Opus, or, more precisely,
I understand there may be personal problems, but am not truly convinced that the Opus theology of vocation is wrong. How
someone may ignore what means "giving anything to God" (your saying that this implies "to Opus" can be
said about any order: SJ, OSB, etc.)? Nuns knew very well, when they were making their vows, that they could be sent in any
house of the commmunity, in any work post; when they were assigned, in a solemn ceremony, all together, it happened that some
of them began to cry when learning their assignation (Cf. Tapia, who didn't want to go to Venezuela, and later didn't want
to quit Venezuela). Do you mean that informed consent means calculations of the precise costs and tasks? No more than 8 hours
a day? Don't candidates see the lives of numerarii in the house? And there are temporary vows, in a probatory period. What
you say seems to imply that the probatory period means nothing, that vocations are decided at the very beginning and suddently.
Once aptitudes and call from the superior are there, the only thing that remains to check is right intentions, of which
the "seeing" is an aspect. I'm not sure about what this precisely means, but I think it need not to be a mystical
experience, or only that experience; it may be simply the conscience of one's own intentions. And those intentions need not
to be entirely explicit, they are in part under supernatural influence, as in all vocations. There lies the difference: I
think - but I don't know for sure - Opus would say that your vision is lacking of a supernatural dimension. Think about it:
whether we put determination of vocation after final commitments, or after first commitments, won't it be a moment of "entrapment"
anyway? Otherwise, theologically, it would mean that there is NEVER final commitment; anybody, after 10 or 20 yrs would be
able to discover that he didn't have a vocation or that he could change because we all change psychologically. But a vocation
is not something psychological, it's more than that.
I see a problem in the fact that vocation is considered, in some cases - not in all, I presume - certain before final
commitment, let's say between first and final ones. But I guess we cannot interpret the prudence counsel that recommends not
to influence a candidate as meaning that the priest-director must remain silent; he must have a right to talk. Actually,
seminaries directors, at some point, are talking: they say to a candidate, yes I think, after all, that your vocation is authentic
and I will recommend you for ordination. An Opus director may be of the opinion that this or that is a mortal sin and he may
As you describe things, it seems that vocation in Opus is interpreted as this: the first commitment is considered final
on the part of the candidate (aptitudes + right intentions), and the really final commitment would result from the call from
the superiors. But it seems a little inconsistent, since there would be no need for the candidate to actually make final commitment.
The 2 commitments must be distinguished. It seems impossible that the "seeing" takes place only before first commitment.
There is a theology of vocation behind this trap that finds its source, justification, and perpetuation in the words and
actions of Bl. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer y Albas. By institutionalizing this specific incorporation process into the
Opus Dei system, Bl. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer y Albas is ultimately responsible for its abusive and unfortunate consequences.
In Bl. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer y Albas' system, a vocation to Opus Dei is defined by the following:
It is the product of a moment of prayerful illumination
It bears an essential or intrinsic relation to individual salvation
It is compulsory under the penalty of mortal sin
Numerary recruits are told that once they "see" their vocation, they have a moral obligation to follow it.
The supposed momentary vision is supposed to validate all the obligations and teachings that Opus Dei imposes upon the recruits
for as long as they remain in Opus Dei.
In meditations preached by Opus Dei priests, the following words of Bl. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer y Albas were reported
"If a son of mine has seen his vocation once and never sees it again, it should suffice for the rest of his life."
"If a son of mine leaves the Work, I cannot guarantee his salvation."
The latter is a veiled threat, especially since Bl. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer y Albas guaranteed the salvation of
members if they stayed in Opus Dei until they died. Keeping numeraries in Opus Dei seems to have been a lifelong obsession
for Bl. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer y Albas. We were told stories of how he wept when "God took away the first vocations,"
at how he would personally admonish individual numeraries to "be faithful" and not to leave, and how he would yell
in what seems to have been staged public anger upon reading letters of separation of former numeraries or at the numeraries
themselves when they expressed their decision to leave. He identified Opus Dei with Jesus Christ--perhaps a valid identification
in his case, in which he seems to have felt an indubitable
certainty of his vocation to Opus Dei, but certainly a questionable assumption with respect to many individuals who chose
to follow their own conscience, sometimes after great internal struggle, and leave the organization. I believe that his intolerance
reflects his narrow-minded convictions and lack of respect for the truth residing in the consciences of former members.
...This official Opus Dei theology of vocation is only one version of what constitutes a range of legitimate Catholic
ideas about vocation. Notwithstanding, Bl. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer y Albas' theology is represented to the numeraries
as the only version.
Bl. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer y Albas' theology finds similar expression in the writings of St. Alphonsus de Liguori,
who in fact appears to be one of Opus Dei's official theological sources on this issue. St. Alphonsus argues that because
a vocation bears an intrinsic relation to individual salvation, the failure of the individual to respond to the vocation amounts
to mortal sin and eternal damnation.
--Do you have the references from S. Liguori? Or from other important authors? This is a very important and interesting
detail that you're giving here.
It is true that S. Liguori is very pressing about vocation once a vocational call is supposed authentic, but I've read
that refusal to follow such a call is venial sin and only maybe mortal sin, according to that author. Anyway, S. Liguori is
more than excellent reference and surely a good point for Opus. I doubt that he wrote what you said. Only in some very particular
cases is there an intrinsic relation between vocation and salvation (not the same relation as vocation-sin).
Here's what I've found, which seems to show that things are more subtle:
In his magnum opus, Theologia Moralis, Lib.IV, ch. 1, #78, he writes:
"An et quomodo aliquis a Deo vocatus ad religionem peccet si vocationem suam negligat adimplere?
-Respondemus quod neggligere vocationem religiosam per se non est peccatum; divina enim consilia per se non obligant ad
I interpret roughly: "The question is whether and how someone called by God to religious vocation sins if he neglects
to follow his vocation.
-We reply that to neglect a religious vocation is not in itself a sin; in effect, divine counsels in themselves do not
imply obligations so that not to follow them would be a sin."
BUT, the text continues:
"Id tamen, ratione periculi aeternae salutis cui vocatus se committit, electionem status faciens non juxta divinum
beneplacitum, non potest ab aliqua culpa excusari. Et quidem, si quis crederet quod in saeculo manens damnationem incurreret,
tum ob suam fragilitatem quam inter saeculi occasiones expertus est, tum ob carentiam auxiliorum quae in religione haberet;
non potest excusari a peccato gravi, cum in grave discrimen salutis suae se injiciat"
"However, this man cannot be pure from any sin, because of the danger of losing eternal salvation in which he throws
himself, by not chosing his a state of life according to divine will. And if someone believes that, staying in the world,
he would be damned, either because his weakness would be too tempted by the occasions of sin in the world, or because he would
have no more the help available in religious life; he would commit a grave sin, because he would throw himself in great danger
of eternal damnation."
And follows a whole page of those "per accidens", if not "per se", considerations:
"If someone is morally certain of his vocation, and doesn't follow it, can he be saved as easily in the world? No,
there is no doubt that he's putting himself in great danger...God is preparing grace for those he calls; if they say no, they
lack this grace that was for them, and it's much more difficult to resist sins and temptations."
Interesting: after saying that it's mortal sin for parents to dissuade a son from entering religious orders without a
good reason, S. Liguori says:
"si ergo, qui alteri consulit ut damnum sibi inferat, non excusatur a peccato mortali; nescio quomodo poterit excusari
ille ipse qui sibi tale damnum infert"
"So, if someone gives counsel to another in a way that this person brings harm to himself is not excused from mortal
sin; I don't know how someone who brings himself the same damage can be excused"
His general conclusion is:
"Si vero loqueris de vocatis, dico teneri [religionem ingredi}; quia Deus negabit ipsis auxilia quae in religione
eis parata habebit, et quibus destituti, licet auxiliis ordinariis salvari possent, de facto tamen difficulter salutem adipiscentur"
"If you talk truly about called people, I say that there is an obligation for them to enter religious life; because
God will not give them the graces that was prepared for them in religious life, and with the lacking of this, although they
can be saved by ordinary graces, however it will be de facto more difficult to be saved".
It is not clear cut but it seems to amount to this: To refuse a certain vocation is not a sin in itself, but it is by
circumstances, because it amounts to take a risk one should not take. On the other hand, you still can be saved. Nevertheless,
the obligation is real. About mortal sin, he says: I don't know how it could not be one. I guess it is one. But everything
depends on the "dangers", the appreciation of which doesn't come from theory, but from prudence. Opus here is likely
to emphasize the danger of the present world, the medias, etc.etc. to reinforce its practical application of this theology...
I've found roughly the same thing in jesuit Spiritual exercices manuals (1940), about religious life:
"Christ invites to perfect life; refusal of the invitation is not a sin; but salvation may be put into jeopardy by
temptations or sins that would have been avoided by following his call."
It is really difficult to know if Opus theology of vocation is just one among others. It seems to me that the only things
being different are the practical means to detect the authenticity of the vocation, not the theory. The way S. Liguori argues
is convincing from a logical point of view, and if the premisses are orthodox, and the conclusions necessary, one may say
that these are certain from a Church point of view.
It is certainly orthodox to say that there is an obligation, IN SOME CASES, once one "see" the vocation, assuming
the seeing is authentic. The only - and main - problem is: how do you see? this is not theology, but virtue of prudence. The
theory seems ok.
"I cannot garantee his salvation" is rhetorical but orthodox.
Assuming the "seeing" is very truly authentic and "special", "exceptional", it makes a lot
of sense to talk about mortal sin if one doesn't follow it. However sin is not damnation; there is confession.
Nevertheless, you're right in thinking that Mgr. Escriva followed Saint Liguori. This doctor wrote in a Riposta ad un
"Most part of those who were damned, were damned becaused they didn't followed their vocation... If someone doesn't
obey to a divine call, it will be difficult, and even morally impossible for him to be saved".
About "illumination" again, we have this in jesuit spirituality of "election":
Commentary on Exercices by Gagliardi (1590)
"There are 3 kinds of election: The first is purely supernatural, when a man, illuminated by divine revelation...
This is the case of only a few persons...
The second takes place by spiritual motion and affections... inspirations...This must take place under the direction and
judgment of experienced persons...
The other kind takes place under reason helped by grace. Often, a divine inspiration intervenes..."
Directorium in exercitia
Ch. 39 : "when the soul has been purged from sin, it becomes ready and fit to receive divine illuminations, and the
outpouring of an influx of supernatural light" <about 2nd and 3rd weeks of the exercices, during which "election"
Ch.25 <about election> When the time comes for following the divine vocation a special difficulty is sometimes
felt, since in matters which are repugnant to sensitive nature human weakness is wont to procrastinate as long as it can...devising
reasons and grounds for delay. It is therefore best to overcome this difficulty during the Exercices, and to call to mind
the saying of st Ambrose: "The grace of the Holy Spirit knows not tardy efforts". We should imitate also the promptitude
of the Apostles who immediately left their nets and their father. This consideration also has weight: If it is ever to be,
why not now? And if not now, perchance never. For now the inspipration of God and his help are fresh and strong..."
So does illumination means supernatural and infaillible illumination or does it include inspirations? A good guess would
be that Opus theology is not far away from the jesuitic one. In all cases, illumination or not, there seems to be a moment
of truth about election, when grace is truly acting. The only problem is to detect that moment.
The same could be said about Saint Liguori, it seems. There has been some debates, but a specialist writes that the basic
theory of Alphonsus is that of the Church: aptitude, right intentions, call by a superior, and "never interior voices,
special invitations by Holy Ghost or special soul motions" (even if those are not necessarily excluded). True, there
are mention of lights and illumination in the litterature, but only under the rubric of "signs of vocation", as
part of right intentions. Nothing miraculous or direct, except in rare cases, as Liguori says, following Loyola.
Still another important idea about vocation, which is expressed in the writings of Fr. Jose Luis Soria, an Opus Dei priest,
and that seems to comprise Opus Dei's official line is that the obligation to remain steadfast to a vocation can be morally
imposed if the vocation is "absolutely certain." Fr. Soria's view also implies that it is possible for an individual
to be "absolutely certain" about a vocation.
--I think, in good theology, that there is absolute certitude about already ordained priests, that is after the fact of
valid ordination, a posteriori. It is not unreasonable to say the same about final commitments in Opus.
However, there are alternative theological ideas about vocation, some of which run counter to Opus Dei's official line.
Among these ideas are the following:
A vocation is the product of a gradual process of illumination - St. Joseph is often cited as the classic example
--Are you 100% sur that Opus doesn't allow such a gradual process to take place? Or, even assuming graduality, there must
be an end to that process: the final moral certitude. After all, you have contact with Opus before commitment.
A vocation bears no intrinsic relation to salvation because it demands more than what is expected or required of a Christian
to attain salvation - This is the argument given, for example, with respect to a religious vocation, in which the evangelical
vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience are not considered essential for salvation
No sin is involved, for the same reason that the demands of a vocation exceed what is normally required of a Christian
--This looks like a petitio principii: not to follow a vocation is not a sin since not to follow a vocation for those
who don't have it anyway is not a sin!
I'm not convince Opus or Liguori thought about intrinsic relation as you say they do; vocation is a mean of salvation.
A vocation is not certain, and even less, "absolutely certain" - Because a vocation is a moral and spiritual
reality rather than a scientific reality, it is not possible to obtain the same certainty about a personal vocation as that
which characterizes empirical answers to scientific or empirical questions
A vocation cannot be imposed - This follows from the premise that a vocation is not certain
A vocation is an invitation from Jesus Christ, not a command
--In some rare cases, it may be a command, but you're mostly right. However, think about the certitude in the faith area.
Isn't the word of God absolutely certain? Isn't there a supernatural certainty? Think about the a posteriori certainty of
I'm not sure the line of thinking of Mgr Escriva is not the most coherent: at SOME point there must be a certainty, otherwise
God would be playing games. Moral certainty doesn't mean doubtful: I can be absolutely certain that I've committed a sin.
About Soria, who is certainly a Thomist, it is very likely that "absolute" certitude must be interpreted as
moral certitude (like: the pope will not marry next week); he cannot ignore the doctrine of St.Thomas: there is 3 kinds of
certitude: metaphysical, physical, moral, and he could not mean metaphysical or physical in the context.
My own personal belief is that it is possible for an individual to arrive at moral certainty, even a strong moral certainty,
of a vocation or inner calling. However, this conviction must also be confirmed by external circumstances, especially by
the persons who are charged with the authority to confirm the vocation, as in the case, for example, of the bishop who ordains
a priest. I would like to venture that a vocation is an inner reality in a person's soul that must be confirmed by external
circumstances. When the inner and outer reality coincide, the likelihood of a vocation is high but it is still never scientifically
--This is very close to standard theory, but it cannot be true that already ordained priests have only a probable vocation.
In consequence, I believe that a spiritual director must respect the inner reality of an individual's conscience. Based
on my own experience in Opus Dei, this respect is truly deficient. How can a spiritual director be "certain" about
a personal vocation, and even less, impose it? I believe it is more important for a director to assist an individual in getting
in touch with the inner reality of his or her soul instead of imposing an unqualified commitment to an organization that after
a certain point may have lost much of its credibility.
Bl. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer y Albas, by his ideas about vocation that he imposed upon the members of Opus Dei, does
a disservice to the truth. With special implications for the entrapment of well-intentioned persons is his narrow theology
of vocation, which represents a vocation as certain and mandatory, conveyed in a moment of divine illumination. But there
are a variety of legitimate theological notions about vocation, and by no means do these ideas universally assert that vocation
is mandatory, and even less, certain. To represent Bl. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer y Albas' preferred theological ideas
as core Catholic doctrine is a misrepresentation of the truth. It is especially oppressive and harmful when such misrepresentation
in the name of truth and holiness distorts individual conscience and restricts and even twists acting according to such conscience.
This deleterious influence cannot be understated.
--This seems to me the crux of the question about Opus.
First, It seems to me that no theology says a vocation is certain, it just says it can be certain: prudence has to detect
On the other hand, I think "impose" isn't the right expression if it means to be told this or that is a mortal
sin, especially in a dialogue between spiritual director and candidate. You can be very pressing on moral issues, let's say
fiscal fraud, and this is not "imposing" your point of view - unless you're a relativist to whom truth itself has
I think also that Opus would say that vocation is less subjective a thing than you say, and this is classical. "Right
intentions" is not something about taste and impression, it is in large part grounded on objective criteria, like glory
of God, salvation, doing the will of God , etc. It seems that the magisterium itself has declared that mystical experiences
are not the main component of "right intentions".
May I add that I would like to see written sources about what you say. Those subjects are rather slippery, and before
trying to analyse it would be a good idea to have certitude about how Opus sees its theology of vocation. I'm skeptic about
the precise meaning of "illumination" theory.
It is incorrect to state that the ordinary universal magisterium is absolutely binding on the conscience because there
are many important examples in the history of the Church in which the ordinary universal magisterium, which is fallible,
has been shown to be wrong, even immoral. Church teaching on slavery, for example, which has behind it approximately 1900
years of Church tradition and that includes the venerable opinions of Church Fathers as well as the papal magisterium, has
been shown to be erroneous. This 1900-year "classical" tradition has been superseded by the teachings of the Second
Vatican Council on slavery.
Yet Opus Dei represents the ordinary universal magisterium as absolutely binding on individual conscience. It is not.
The same is true for what you might call the "classical" theology of vocation. It belongs to the realm of
theological opinion, not dogma.
The fundamental abuse of Opus Dei lies in misrepresenting its theological partiality as an integral part of the depositum
--Here, in that part of our dialogue, we have everything that goes wrong with usual anti-Opus argumentation: The point
of view from which interpretations are made. "Majoration of orthodoxy" is the usual expression used to describe
and criticise integrism; however, what this expression is supposed to mean if those using it underestimate orthodoxy ("minoration")?
Of course they will see "integrism" or majoration of orthodoxy everywhere. I think it is exactly what's happening
in anti-Opus thinking, almost without exception. And you're no exception: the whole pattern is in your sentences.
As I already pointed out, orthodox theology of vocation is far from being a mere opinion. Look at your way of talking:
"opinion, not dogma". I know it's only about a particular topic here, but it looks like that outside dogmas there's
only opinions, an obvious absurdity.
Same pattern about Magisterium teaching. First, I don't like very much the use of the word "conscience" here,
a concept related to moral issues, not to faith as such. To believe a dogma (Trinity) is not a job for conscience. Conscience
is only doing moral judgments about contingent particular acts, applying general moral rules to them. To always use the word
conscience gives the impression that the topics we are talking about are always contingent and per se of a deliberative sort.
But Trinity is not the same kind of thing as what is the right punishment for the stealing of a car.
About Magisterium, one must distinguish between orders ( or administration and policies - even pastoral: "openness
to the world, dialogue" has nothing to do with doctrine of faith)) and doctrinal teachings. Teachings linked to doctrine
of faith are certainly binding, not only for the sake of truth but also for unity (Otherwise anybody would be entitled to
do as Mgr Lefebvre: Vatican II is just pastoral, or mostly pastoral, so its not binding; Canon law is not binding, a recipe
for quick disintegration - and probably a mistake, since "unity" is part of doctrine, and Canon law is concerned
with unity, etc. etc.). The Magisterium is itself repeating this over and over again (Catechism ##892, 2037) - and the Magisterial
function on depositum fidei matters and all what is linked to them is surely a part of the depositum itself.
Here, we have exactly the example we need: Opus is right, is following the Magisterium, your theory is wrong, and you
want to give lessons! That's typical of anti-Opus thinking.
Another symptom: in trying to prove your point you use slavery, a highly contingent, historical reality, subject to evolution,
thus to anachronic thinking. And, may I add, It's precisely this possibility of anachronism that explain why people are using
this example... That is, the "proof" that "slavery" was wrong is mostly the unanimity of TODAY (an argument
No wonder truth is more complex about such a topic:
According to the Denzinger compendium:
-in 873, the Pope asks for liberation of slaves purchased by christians
-in 1537, he forbids the enslavement of indians (Interesting: At a point Las Casas, O.P., asked vehemently the enslavement
of Indians to be stopped, and that Africans should be used instead!)
-in 1839, he talks against enslavement of blacks and indians.
True, slavery was allowed, even in Pope's states (explicitly authorized by Paul III in 1548), and Trent council Catechism
(On priesthood) "Slaves (servi) cannot be ordained....because they don't belong to themselves"; (On the 7th
commandment) "to take the slave ( servus) of another person is a theft".
However, christian slavery was no more the same concept as in Antiquity. It was a mild form: serfdom. And this is, like
liberty, subject to historical evolution, cause it is better to live as a serf than to die from starvation. Of course, there
is no doubt, also, that slavery saved the lives of millions of war prisoners in he Antiquity; it was the only deal to stop
the soldiers from killing them. Some theory said it was an evil to be temporarily tolerated, under conditions, because all
the economic life was grounded on it. The slave was not such by nature, he was not a thing, had some rights, although not
all rights; his condition was alike that of a child, from a civil point of view. Think about evolution of children right (marriage
etc.), women's rights...
Scholastic theologians thought that there were 2 grounds for enslavement: free will (selling oneself) and civil punishment.
A 19th. century theology book used everywhere in France stated that "nothing in natural law forbids that a man become
a property", either by will, by war, or by punishment (argument: if one can lawfully kill someone, a fortiori, one can
take his liberty away).
And when the popes talked against slavery, it was against the enslavement and the commerce, not against serfdom per se.
Can we say those were errors at the time? I think it is impossible to prove this, because serfdom is not breaking primary
precepts of natural law. The reason is that full civil liberty is a contingent common good matter. Same thing today, in some
circumstances: are not some military duties in time of war suspensions of civil liberty? It is not unreasonable to think that
serfdom was the only way to save some people from starvation, even assuming, from a purely theoretical point of view, that
the rich had duty to feed them without buying them.
Please allow me to say that I cannot accept with your introduction of the concept of "orthodox" because it is
a word with a dualistic value judgment. When a person says that some views are "orthodox," others are "unorthodox,"
I believe it often entails a misrepresentation of the truth because I do not believe that theological views are so black and
white. I believe there are more discriminating gradations of theological certainty... Perhaps the only case in which we
can apply the term "orthodox" is when we are referring to what is really de fide and what is not.
Moreover, "orthodox" is a word, I believe, much abused in Opus Dei, which, in my experience, believes it has
a monopoly on orthodoxy. The belief that Opus Dei holds the true doctrine of the Catholic Church while the rest of the Church,
or almost all of the rest of the Church, especially the religious orders, is in error, is a false belief that constitutes
part of the peculiar culture of Opus Dei. There is evidence that this belief originates from Bl. Escriva.
--This is sophistry.
First, Opus has a right to its perception about orthodoxy, especially in the postconciliar period: it may very well be
right or partly right, decomposition of so many religious orders being so obvious. If there are abuses of orthodoxy, that
must be judge on a case by case basis. Only the Magisterium must judge this in last resort and so far, it didn't say that
Opus was "integrist" or something like that. Quite the contrary, the Pope has encouraged the new
foundation of Opus Holy Cross university in Rome... (Heretic theologians pushed then the reasoning to its absurd conclusion:
the pope is integrist!!)
Again, the Prelature has very competent theologians and it would be really surprising if it would have fallen in simple
traps like so-called "integrism".
Second, it is a fallacy to attack the concept of orthodoxy on the ground that some propositions are doubtful. Quite the
contrary, doubt entails orthodoxy, as a point of reference! More, your very saying about orthodoxy, if you have faith, must
be rooted in orthodoxy! It is exactly as if you were saying that truth must not be talk about because we have not always certainty;
but what about this very truth? What about the truth of relativism itself? The main fallacy in all this is to believe that
relativism is so to speak hanging over all other doctrines, an illusion that is quickly refuted by the obvious fact that relativism
is just a doctrine among others, as "true" or "orthodox" (in religious matters) than others. Otherwise,
it becomes self-defeating.
Nothing is more dualist than simple logic: if we use the concept of "assured orthodoxy ", then the negation
of this concept will include "heterodoxy and doubtful orthodoxy"; so doubt is not excluded from the dualistic reality.
Think about your gradation-not-black-and-white theory: isn't it true? so black and white? Sure! Unless you admit that this
theory is not so black and white; there is a grey area; but this grey area is the negation of the black and white theory that
theories must not be black and white, etc. In other words, your statement is too general. All we can say is that in some cases,
with good reasons, there must be a place for doubt. That doesn't mean that in other cases, there must be place for doubt.
Doubt is like any statement:
it has truth-values relevant to each situation.
In the Church, there is a spectrum of views from the left-wing to the right-wing. One of my complaints about Opus Dei
is that it drags the members into its right-wing factionalism. Originally, I joined Opus Dei because I wanted to grow in
my prayer life. That was all. Before I knew it, I was being constrained into espousing the right-wing theology and praxis
of the organization. This imposition is unjust because it does not allow us the freedom to hold our own views within the
legitimate range allowed by the Church. And, as noted by Tammy DiNicola, there was "lack of informed consent"--I
did not know when I first joined Opus Dei that I was going to be trapped in the right-wing faction of the Church.
The best example of the right-wing character of Opus Dei that I can think of right now is that the Bible translations
we were required to read in Opus Dei were restricted to the Douay-Rheims and Challoner. For the past fifteen years or so,
I have used the New American Bible instead. It is an excellent piece of scholarship, and for this reason, it is much better
than Douay-Rheims and Challoner. Yet Opus Dei did not allow me this freedom of choice.
I believe you may be "suspicious" because you think I may hold "left-wing" views. I do not think
this is the case.
My own intention and desire is to hold and express views within the legitimate range allowed by the Catholic Church.
If my opinions do not fall within this range, I am more than ready to repudiate and abandon them. But I have not yet been
adequately convinced that my views are not acceptable in the Church.
--You bet I'm suspicious! Just your use of political terms "right and left" is a proof of soft logic. It brings
pure nonsense: is J.S. Bach or Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina on the right? Tridentine mass on the right? Papism on the
right and conciliarism on the left? Contemplative prayer on the right? Discipline on the right? Mathematical truth on the
right and exegesis on the left? Creativity, cheap or otherwise, on the left? This is just playing with conventional words.
Right and left refers strictly to political trends, in contingent historical context involving heavy relativity. It has
no sense outside this area, that is, in religion, philosophy (outside some parts of political philosophy), science or arts.
Even if you were not a leftist, your very use of this terminology would be a proof that you are wrongly transposing some
point of view, and this transposition involves distortions: everybody sees that it is not the same to say that Opus is, let's
say, "stricty orthodox or dogmatic", or that it is "on the right". So why this superegatory , imported
phraseology? This is exactly the pattern of most anti-Opus argumentation: for the same reasons, the Unofficial Homepage is
talking about fascism instead of talking of abuse of authority. It tries to avoid the real issues, which are about truth,
not right or left (unless you think truth is on the right!!).
Since you are orthodox, the right phraseology must be along those lines: inside orthodoxy there is place for different
opinions, some more classical-traditional, some more modern-non-traditional.
But this doesn't imply at all that all religious orders must remain open to those opinions, they have a right to specialize,
like the monks who are contemplative, etc. And it is not to individual members to always reform the constitutions. Opus has
a right to impose some of its views, because it is free too; and the freedom of the members must be coherent with the freedom
of Opus. Its not Opus which is part of the member, but the member who is part of Opus. So it is obvious to me that you are
less classical than Opus, if not "on the left", and this is explaining very well why you interpret the situation
as an abuse on your "rights": it is only because you are more liberal that you judge them too authoritarian: the
problem comes from your point of view, not from them.
This is confirming my general theory.
You like payer life, but precisely, it is not impossible that there be a link between the "growing in prayer life"
and the classical theology of Opus...
Lack of informed consent about theology seems a little odd to me. Isn't everything in Opus, from cassock to discipline,
implying a classical-orthodox theology? Aren't there Faculty of Theology in Rome and Pamplona? To me, only one recollection
in Opus is enough to guess Opus Theology.
Your sayings about Bible editions is just a confirmation of what I say: Why in the world one version would be on the right
or on the left??? Nonsense. Opus may have spiritual reasons to prefer a version, it may be the version used by Mgr Escriva,
etc. And in Opus, spirituality is more important than human scholarship. It is also useful for a group to use the same basic
references. We may find a lot of good reasons.
Actually, my views about Opus Dei are mixed. There is a positive side to Opus Dei that I acknowledge and appreciate.
But in the current situation, I do not think enough airtime has been given to the negative side, so that former members continue
to end up in psychiatric clinics. That is why I focus on the negative side.
--Do you know, apart from FSSPX, any group in Church who is more attacked than Opus? Just look on the net. The negative
side is very well documented, much better than the positive side. What more do you want, that they kill their kids after raping
It's true that some former members have had problems. But this must be put in context. If the problem was with Opus per
se, members who stay in the Prelature would also encounter those personal problems. I know religious orders, and there is
alcoolism, there is homosexuality, there are depressions, etc. etc. Is Opus worse? Maybe, but it is because Opus has a deep
spiritual influence on its members, so any conflict has bigger repercussions. And, of course, in a totally secularised and
decaying religious order, there is never such repercussions because there is no more spiritual distance between the institution
and the world in which the ex-member readapts.
In my opinion, this issue is simply too complex to blame Opus without further considerations.
I believe, for example, that Fr. Escriva was indeed a holy man. But it is a special kind of holiness that does not work
for many people. The harsh asceticism of Fr. Escriva is, I believe, a dangerous path for most Catholics to follow. St. John
of the Cross has said, "Who has ever seen men persuaded to love God by harshness?" Moreover, in Opus Dei, the
elevation of obedience over conscience in non-doctrinal matters can cause terrible harm to devout people. In particular,
the official Opus Dei praxis of thought control has the effect of elevating the obedience of the mind over the voice of
the heart. Discernment is lacking, I believe, in Opus Dei spirituality. It has taken a back seat to obedience. While obedience
is an integral part of the spiritual tradition of the Church, the praxis of obedience in Opus Dei has in too many instances
proven to be harmful. Witness how Maria del Carmen Tapia nearly went nuts because she was being forced to feel guilty about
who knows what.
--If you don't see that Tapia was guilty of something, you have to reread the book.
Apart from that, you're right: Opus is not for everybody. Your remarks are extremely interesting in that these are traditional
criticisms against jesuit spirituality. More than anything else, it confirms that Opus is a new jesuit third order. The classical
jesuit mind is cold,rationalist, calculating, everything in the soul being submitted to the will, in a voluntaristic manner,
and this will is submitted to strong asceticism (the "little things" in Opus). In efficiency matters, they are no
tender hearts. This is spirituality of the will and they are not joking. If you talk to a classical Jesuit about the "voice
of the heart", you will see him smiling, the jesuit smile...
(It has been said that the ex-pupils of the elite Jesuit colleges were able to recognize each other at a show in that
they didn't laugh at the same jokes than other people, so deep was the jesuit influence on their mindset...)
P.S. I've found other little details in classical jesuit litterature. Spiritual exercices manuals, exactly like The Way,
are talking about "plan of life" (resolutions), and even about the moment one is waking up in the morning.
#78 If you don't get up at a fixed time you will never carry out your plan of life
191 Conquer yourself each day from the very first moment, getting up on the dot, at a fixed time...
206 The heroic minute. It is the time fixed for getting up... here you have a mortification that strengthens your will...
Other details, about ascetism, by an ex-Jesuit:
"From 18 to 28, I lived the life of a Jesuit, first as a novice, then, having taken perpetual vows of poverty,
chastity and obedience, as a "scholastic" preparing for the priesthood. That meant living in a Jesuit community,
in the first four years totally isolated from the outside world, without telephone, newspaper, radio or other distractions.
We prayed, we read the lives of the saints, we studied, we did penance.
To guarantee sexual abstinence, a panoply of rules was enforced, particularly during the early years. One was never to
touch someone else (Rule 32), except for handshakes on special occasions. We were never to speak except during the daily periods
of recreation, and then only if there were at least three.
What we were allowed to talk about was regulated -- never about anything sexual or doubts about faith or our vocation.
We were enjoined to keep "custody of the eyes," that is, to limit our vision so as not to be distracted by looking
We were to practise constant austerities, so as to strengthen self-control: At every meal, we were to deprive ourselves
of something desirable, such as sugar or milk or desert. Before bedtime, three times a week we whipped ourselves with knotted
cords (called a "discipline"), and twice a week in the morning we wore around an ankle or thigh a "chain"
of looped wire with pointed ends that pricked the flesh."