Friday, May 13, 2005

Opus Dei

Opus Dei/Work of God

Source: GroupWatch: Profiles of U.S. Private Organizations and Churches, was compiled by the
Interhemispheric Resource Center, Box 2178, Silver City, NM 88062. Check when each article was last updated as much material is no longer current. This material is provided as a source for historic research.

“The parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us a hierarchy of values: man comes first, and the Sabbath second. Public, social and ecclesiastical institutions exist for man, and not the other way round. We, like the Samaritan, must first of all see the man, his status in society notwithstanding, his splendid clothes or pauper's rags notwithstanding.” – Fr. Victor Potapov, Rector, Russian Orthodox Cathedral

Opus Dei ("Work of God") was founded in 1928 by a young Spanish priest named Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer in response to a divine command. (2) He founded this Catholic lay organization to "tell men and women of every country and of every condition, race, language, milieu, and state of life... that they can love and serve God without giving up their ordinary work, their family life, and their normal social relations."(1)

Opus Dei displays features of a cult, however, including [intense veneration] of the founder--known as the "Father"--and self-mortification by its followers. (3) Josemaria Escriva wrote his most famous book, called "The Way," a compendium of 999 "maxims" that became Opus Dei's spiritual handbook. (3) He also saw himself as a latter-day knight, leading the faithful into battle against godless communism. (3) Msgr. Escriva, whom Pope John Paul II called "an unforgettable figure," died in 1975. (1) In 1981, a beatification process was begun in Rome. (4) Msgr. Alvaro del Portillo, who had spent 40 years as Msgr. Escriva's chief aide, was named the first Prelate of Opus Dei in 1982. (1,3,4)

Ascetism, anticommunism, a rigid hierarchicalism, religious militancy and secrecy have become the distinguishing marks of the organization. (3) Opus Dei has followed a deliberate policy of keeping its membership, hierarchy, rituals and rules hidden. (3) In an interview for the Catholic diosesan newspaper, the Brooklyn Tablet, Fr. Angel de la Parte Paris observed that Opus Dei professes a fundamentalist theology, condemns Liberation Theology, has no concern for social problems, leaves little freedom to an individual's conscience, and is associated with secular power structures. (5)

Opus Dei finds a strong supporter in Pope John Paul II. Barry James, in an article published in the Los Angeles Times, says that the Pope is "giving clear indications of his esteem for the conservative Opus Dei as a force that could regenerate lax moral values in the West and stand as a bulwark against communism."(2) The Pope has also taken part in the ordination of an Opus Dei priest. (1,2) In 1982, Opus Dei received the status of personal prelature by decision of Pope John Paul II. The personal prelature status means that the organization is more autonomous, more flexible, and answers directly to the Pope through Msgr. Alvaro Portillo rather than through a bishop. (1) According to Penny Lernoux, The Nation's Latin American correspondent, Opus Dei forms part of a powerful group of Catholic organizations of U.S. origin that promote the Pope's political agenda. (6)

Opus Dei has a hierarchical organization. Numeraries--a select group of people who belong to the middle or upper classes-- hold a university degree, must be unmarried, and must pledge vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Below the numeraries are the associates, who have the same obligations as the numeraries, but come from the working class. A final category consists of "co-operators," or sympathizers, who can be Catholics or non-Catholic.This class division is rigorously enforced. (3)

To join Opus Dei, according to Msgr. Alvaro del Portillo, it is necessary that "each person must have received from God the specific vocation to dedicate himself (herself) to the specific aims of Opus Dei, and must meet the requirements necessary to undertake responsibly the commitments involved in that dedication."(4) Membership with Opus Dei requires a contract which spells out the rights and the obligations which the members assume. (1)

Opus Dei has some 73,000 members in eighty-seven countries, the largest number being in Spain and Latin America. It also influences 487 universities and high schools, 52 radio and television stations, 694 publications, 38 news and publicity agencies, and 12 film distribution companies. (3)
The group has received criticism for being connected to powerful institutions and for entering the field of education for the middle and upper classes. (2) Critic John Roche, a professor at Oxford University, has said,"I am convinced [Opus Dei] is a sect, a cult, a malignant growth upon the body of the church."(2)

Funding comes from the tithing practice and voluntary donations of its members."Co-operators" also donate to Opus Dei. (1,3,7)

According to Opus Dei, its main purpose is the general mobilization of Catholic lay men and women with the aim of making them clearly aware of their rights and responsibility in fulfilling their duties as consistent Catholics. (4) This religious task is carried out by Opus Dei members taking part in all human Activities: social, cultural, and scientific. (4) In their professional and familiar surroundings, members carry out a constant personal apostolate on a one-to-one basis with those around them. (4)

Opus Dei works with worker groups in Spain, Argentina, Colombia, and Brazil; with youth clubs in Kenya, Nigeria, Japan, Puerto Rico, England, Canada, Australia, Portugal, Mexico, Belgium, Ecuador, Kenya, and Spain; with students in Costa Rica, Australia, Austria, Spain, the United States, England, Nigeria, Belgium, Uruguay, Philippines, Italy, Venezuela, Chile, Colombia, Canada, Ecuador, and Switzerland; with universities in Spain, Peru, and Colombia; and with women's study centers such as the Escuela Tecnica de Hosteleria y Hogar Montemira in El Salvador, and others in Mexico, France, Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, Spain, Philippines, Peru, Brazil, United States, England, Argentina, and Italy. (7)

Spain: Opus Dei has its main base in Spain, where it has raised the largest contributions and enjoyed the most substantial political and economic influence. Opus Dei retained a strong influence on Spain's banking system and industry. (3) The Spanish branch has the largest membership (24,000, some 5,000 of whom are numeraries), the biggest network of centers and schools, including Pamplona's University, and a business school in Barcelona with ties to Harvard University. Opus Dei members claim to control more than 150 companies and financial entities known as the "Holy Octopus."(3) Critics allege that Opus Dei served the Franco dictatorship and works through rightwing parties in Spain. (2,3)

El Salvador: It entered in El Salvador in 1958. In 1985, the Catholic church appointed two non-native bishops. One of them, Fr. Fernando Saenz, is a member of Opus Dei. According to the Salvadoran Jesuit magazine, Estudios Centroamericanos, these appointments showed the Vatican's determination to control socially activist sectors in the church. (3,6) Opus Dei supports right-wing political groups in the country through its religious courses and schools, and through newspapers, magazines, and television outlets influenced or owned by members in El Salvador. (3,6)

Guatemala: Opus Dei runs a dormitory for male students who attend a university but receive additional education through the group. Opus Dei holds seminars "to change attitudes" of workers of all religions in Guatemala. (8) They also have programs for women and business owners and run a worker center called "el Centro de Formacion y Capacitacion Obrera Kinal."(8)

United States: U.S. membership remains small, at approximately 3,000. the U.S. branch was founded in Chicago by a Spanish priest in 1949. Opus Dei has established several student centers in Chicago, New York City, Milwaukee, San Francisco, Indiana, and Washington DC (3) A priest from the American Catholic church said that Opus Dei is a "devious, antidemocratic, reactionary, semi-fascist institution, desperately hungry for absolute power in the church. It ought to be forced either to come out into the open or be suppressed."(3)
Opus Dei is inseparably linked to the priestly Order of the Holy Cross, whose President General is the Prelate of Opus Dei. (4)

U.S. Address: Opus Dei, 330 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10025. Phone: 914-235-1201.
Principals: Msgr. Alvaro del Portillo (Prelate). (1)

1. Russel Shaw, Working for God The World Over: What is Opus Dei, U.S. Information Office, 1985.
2. Barry James,"Unusual and Powerful Lay Organization Stirs Criticism in Roman Catholic Church," Los Angeles Times, Oct 7, 1985.
3. Penny Lernoux, People of God: The Struggle for World Catholicism, New York: Viking, 1989.
4. Prelate of Opus Dei,"20 Questions for Msgr. Alvaro del Portillo," brochure, 1985.
5. Maryknoll Justice and Peace Office,"Salvadoran Military Cheer New Bishops," News Notes, vol. 12, no. 1, 1987.
6. Penny Lernoux,"Opus Dei and the Perfect Society," The Nation, April 10, 1989.
7. Dominique Le Tourneau, El Opus Dei, Barcelona: Oikos-tau S. A. Editiones, 1986.
8. Interview with Fr. Julio Ortiz, June 4, 1987.
The underlying cites for this profile are now kept at Political Research Associates, (617) 666-5300.

“The parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us a hierarchy of values: man comes first, and the Sabbath second. Public, social and ecclesiastical institutions exist for man, and not the other way round. We, like the Samaritan, must first of all see the man, his status in society notwithstanding, his splendid clothes or pauper's rags notwithstanding.” – Fr. Victor Potapov, Rector, Russian Orthodox Cathedral

“Nations whose NATIONALISM is destroyed are subject to ruin.” - Colonel Muhammar Qaddafi, 1942-, Libyan Political and Military Leader

"We shall be better and braver and less helpless if we think that we ought to enquire, than we should have been if we indulged in the idle fancy that there was no knowing and no use in seeking to know what we do not know..." - SOCRATES

"Upang maitindig natin ang bantayog ng ating lipunan, kailangang radikal nating baguhin hindi lamang ang ating mga institusyon kundi maging ang ating pag-iisip at pamumuhay. Kailangan ang rebolusyon, hindi lamang sa panlabas, kundi lalo na sa panloob!" --Apolinario Mabini La Revolucion Filipina (1898)


Tala said...

Hi I'm Calai Clarino and a member of Opus Dei. I was going through your list of topics since I was looking for resources for my history class and I found the link to this post of yours about Opus Dei. I don't know how you chose your sources when you wrote this profile of Opus Dei but I think you got unfair and biased outsiders' look about the group. If you really want to know more about Opus Dei, for truth and justice sake, go to this official website ( everything is there for you to know. And you can even get in touch with any Center here in the Philippines where you can get the REAL stuff about Opus Dei.

Bert M. Drona said...

I would have expected you to specifically address which are unfair, from your point of view. Are having positions different from yours (whatever you believe in) being biased?

If you are what you claim you are --a member of the organization (I personally know a few even back in the late 1960s to the present)-- I look forward to your more detailed contentions.

Thanks for your comment.

Anonymous said...

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