Opus Dei, the spiritual organization founded in Spain in 1928 by Josemaría Escrivá (1902-1975 CE) has become the most controversial force in Roman Catholicism. Josemaría Escrivá called for a full acceptance of God's plans with the world and with man and an unconditional and fearless personal dedication, following in Christ's footsteps. Opus Dei is a spiritual path that aims at the sanctification of the secular life and it is a path followed with great fidelity and moral seriousness by many people worldwide and admired by even more. As such it deserves some serious study, but although it is not a "secret" organization like freemasonry, it is not easy to find unbiased information about Opus Dei. Pax. In aeternum.
The "Prelatura Sanctae Crucis et Operis Dei" or "Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei" (in short: Opus Dei) is a Roman Catholic organization. Opus Dei was founded by the Spanish Roman Catholic priest Josemaría Escrivá (1902-1975 CE) on 2 October 1928, Feast of the Guardian Angels - Memorial and during the reign of King Alfonso XIII (1886-1941 CE) of Spain. The majority of the membership of Opus Dei are lay people, with secular priests under the governance of a prelate (bishop) appointed by the Roman Catholic pope. The latin words Opus Dei mean "Work of God", and therefore it is often referred to simply as "the Work". In 1934 Josemaría Escrivá published his Spiritual Considerations, the first version of Camino or "The Way".
On 24 February 1947 the Holy See granted the first pontifical approval with the "Decretum Laudis". Opus Dei was given final approval by the Roman Catholic Church, "Primum Inter", on 16 June 1950 by Pope Pius XII (1876-1958 CE) as the first secular religious institution of the Roman Catholic church. The approval enabled married people to join Opus Dei, and secular clergy to be admitted to the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross. On 28 November 1982, by decision of Pope John Paul II (1920-2005 CE), in the Apostolic constitution "Ut Sit", the Roman Catholic Church made Opus Dei into a personal prelature, which means that the jurisdiction of its own bishop covers the members of Opus Dei wherever they are, rather than geographical dioceses. On 17 May 1992, the Roman Catholic Pope John Paul II beatified Josemaría Escrivá and he proclaimed him Saint Josemaría Escrivá ten years later, on 6 October 2002.
Opus Dei has different types of members and membership is granted in accordance with Catholic theology, when a vocation, or divine calling is presumed to have occurred. The majority of its members (70%) are called "Supernumeraries", which are married men and women with careers. "Numeraries", celibate members, the second largest type of members of Opus Dei, comprise about 20% of total membership and live in Opus Dei centres. "Numerary assistants" are unmarried, celibate female members of Opus Dei, who serve in the Opus Dei centres. "Associates" are unmarried, celibate members who typically have family or professional obligations, but do not live in the Opus Dei centres. The Clergy of the Opus Dei Prelature are priests who are under the jurisdiction of the Prelate of Opus Dei. They are a minority in Opus Dei and only about 2% of Opus Dei members are part of the clergy. The "Priestly Society of the Holy Cross" consists of priests associated with Opus Dei. Part of the society is made up of the clergy of the Opus Dei prelature whose members of the priesthood who fall under the jurisdiction of the Opus Dei prelature are automatically members of the Priestly Society. The "Cooperators " of Opus Dei are non-members who collaborate in some way with Opus Dei.
The day of an Opus Dei member starts with kneeling and saying "Serviam!", meaning "I will serve you, God" and with it start the Preces of Opus Dei, a daily vocal prayer. Like most fraternities Opus Dei is believed to have a secret greeting among its members - "Pax" and "In aeternum." (Latin for "Peace" and "In eternity.").
Opus Dei emphasizes the principle of a 'universal call to holiness', which is the belief that everyone should aspire to be a saint, not just a few special individuals. It also emphases the unity of spiritual life, with professional, social, and family life. There should be no double standard. The philosophy of Opus Dei is Thomistic in its origin as was founded by Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 CE) and therefore it is Aristotelian at its core. In theology, Opus Dei upholds the medieval philosophy of Thomism as an unchanging, perennial philosophy and gives it a very rationalistic and dogmatic interpretation. For instance, it's 'love for freedom' principle is based on the Thomistic concept of freedom, which is a freedom with a goal and commitment (teleological). The teachings of Opus Dei, as developed by Josemaría Escrivá, is the sanctification of ordinary work, meaning that one can find God through the practice of law, engineering, or medicine, or merely by doing everyday work, if one brings to that work the proper Christian spirit. At its core, the message of Opus Dei is that the redemption of the world will come in large part through laywomen and men sanctifying their daily work, transforming secularity from within. "Spirituality" and "prayer", according to this way of seeing things, are not things reserved primarily for church, a set of pious practices marked off from the rest of life; the real focus of the spiritual life is one's ordinary work and relationships, the stuff of daily living that, seen from the point of view of eternity, takes on transcendent significance. The political philosophy of Opus Dei, as a devout Roman Catholic organization, is integristic, which means that all social and political action ought to be based on the Catholic Faith. This is of course opposed by its opponents (see also Opus Dei: Leadership and Vision in Today's Catholic Church, Vittorio Messori, Regnery Publishing, 1997, p. 51 and Opus Dei: An Objective Look Behind the Myths and Reality of the Most Controversial Force in the Catholic Church, John L. Allen, Jr., Crown Publishing Group, 2005, Ch. 5 'Christian freedom' and The Sanctification of Work: Aspects of the Teaching of the Founder of Opus Dei, José Luis Illanes, José Luis Illanes Maestre Scepter Publishers, 2003 and A Philosophical Proposal for the Sanctification of Work, Maria Pia Chirinos, Romana, No. 45, July-December 2007, p. 342 and Wretched Aristotle: Using the Past to Rescue the Future, Jude P. Dougherty, Rowman & Littlefield, 2009, p. 41 and Conversations with Saint Josemaría Escrivá, José María Escrivá de Balaguer, Scepter Publishers, 2007, p. 72 and Fundamentalism and Pluralism in the Church, Dennis T. Gonzalez, DAKATEO, De La Salle University, 2004, p. 1).
Opus Dei - Wiki
Saint Josemaría Escrivá
Writings of Saint Josemaría Escrivá
Saint Josemaría Institute
Saint Josemaría Escrivá Historical Institute
Romana - Bulletin
Opus Dei Corporate Works
University of Navarra
Opus Dei in Belgium
Like any fraternity, Opus Dei seems to cause controversy. Since the earliest days of Opus Dei, there were people and groups who opposed its existence for various reasons, both political and philosophical or religious. Perhaps because of its "Stout Catholicism" ethos, Opus Dei has become a marker for the broader culture wars in the Roman Catholic Church and in the (popular) culture of society at large.
The main controversy surrounding Opus Dei, is its presumed association with the Franco regime in Spain from 1936 until 1975. The foundation of Opus Dei in 1928 happened before the establishment of the rule of Francisco Franco y Bahamonde (1892-1975 CE) in Spain. Franco was head of state of Spain from October 1936 (as a unified nation from 1939 onwards), and de facto regent of the nominally restored Kingdom of Spain from 1947 until his death in November 1975. The sympathy of Josemaría Escrivá for the Franco regime and the association of Franco with Roman Catholicism remains a matter of dispute even today (cfr. letter written on 23 May 1958 by Josemaría Escrivá to General Francisco Franco). Both Josemaría Escrivá and Francisco Franco y Bahamonde were of course anti-communists and abhorred atheism. Franco was initialy seen by Roman Catholics and members of Opus Dei as a savior who liberated Spain from the communism and anarchism of the Second Spanish Republic.
Miguel Primo de Rivera (1870-1930 CE) lead a military coup in 1923 during the reign of King Alfonso XIII (1886-1941 CE), who gave his support to the military dictatorship, but Rivera lost power in 1930 and the following year (1931) he agreed to democratic elections. The Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed when King Alfonso XIII left Spain on 14 April 1931 following the municipal elections of 1931 in which republican candidates won the majority of votes. The Second Spanish Republic would be the government of Spain between 14 April 1931 and its destruction by the military rebellion led by General Francisco Franco in 1939. The Republican constitution (9 December 1931) was based on the absence of religious involvement in government affairs, in order to build a secular society. Pope Pius XII (1876-1958 CE) condemned the Republican Spanish Government's deprivation of the civil liberties of Catholics in the encyclical "Dilectissima Nobis" of 3 June 1933 (see also The Spanish Civil War: Reaction, Revolution, and Revenge, Paul Preston, W. W. Norton & Company, 2007, p.53 and Spain's First Democracy: The Second Republic, 1931-1936, Stanley G. Payne, Univ of Wisconsin Press, 1993, p. 64).
The Spanish civil war between the Falangists and the Republican government in Spain, which lasted from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939, pitted the elected leftist government against right-wing forces that rose up under Franco, who went on to win and presided over Spain in a nearly 40-year dictatorship. Approximately 500,000 people would lose their lives in the civil war. The Spanish civil war has left its scars in Spanish society up to the present day and alleged Opus Dei connections with the extreme right wing and pro-Nazi movements in Europe keep surfacing.
Members of Opus Dei would play an important role in Spanish politics under Franco and afterwards. The period of the Spanish miracle, was initiated by the reforms promoted by the so-called technocrats, many of whom members of Opus Dei. Adolfo Suárez (1932-2014), who was Spain's first democratically elected prime minister after the dictatorship of Francisco Franco and who lead the transition of Spain to democracy, was a member of Opus Dei since 1961 (see also In God's Name, Yallop Yallop, David Yallop, Constable & Robinson, 2012, p. cxv and An Historical Essay on Modern Spain, Richard Herr, University of California Press, 1974 and The Development of Modern Spain: An Economic History of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Gabriel Tortella Casares, Harvard University Press, 2000, p.452 and The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America, Betty Clermont, SCB Distributors, 2011, section on Opus Dei and Fascism in Spain, 1923-1977, Stanley G. Payne, University of Wisconsin Pres, 1999, p. 440).
The 'mortification of the flesh' is a ritualistic form of self-harming practised by Opus Dei members as well as other religious groups. The 1950 Constitutions of Opus Dei (N260-50) stated: "They conserve faithfully the pious custom of chastisement of the body to keep it in a state of servitude, by wearing a small cilice for at least two hours a day, taking the discipline and sleeping on the floor once a week, making adequate provision to safeguard the health'. Opus Dei numeraries follow a prescribed programme of self-mortification. This involves a self-flagellation on the buttocks with a whip once a week. Also, a cilice is worn on the upper thigh for two hours each day - except Sundays and Holy days. Mortification is part of the daily routine of Opus Dei numeraries, which includes use of the cilice and periods of fasting. Self-mortification is being used to teach humility by making a person recognize that there are things more important than his or her own pleasure. It is meant to teach compassion by giving a person a window into the sufferings of others-who don't have a choice in whether they're suffering. And it is also meant to strengthen self-control (see also 1950 Constitutions of Opus Dei, N260-50 and Fasting: An Exceptional Human Experience, Randi Fredricks, Randi Fredricks PhD, AuthorHouse, 2012, p.183 and Corporal Punishment Around the World, Matthew Pate, Laurie A. Gould, ABC-CLIO, 2012, p. 39).
Wearing the cilice is meant as a way of doing penance. From a physiological point of view, the deliberate and willing inflicting of pain, causes the release of endorphins by the brain, which are endogenous opioid peptides. The planned release of endorphins can cause a state of mind resembling exercise addiction, where a person becomes addicted to his or her internal opioids. The use of the cilice therefore can become an addiction, while it is not the pain which is the 'physiological' goal, but the production of endorphins (see also Endogenous formation of morphine in human cells, Poeaknapo C, Schmidt J, Brandsch M, Dräger B, Zenk MH (September 2004), Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 101 (39): 14091-6 and The Mystic Mind: The Psychology of Medieval Mystics and Ascetics, Jerome Kroll, Bernard Bachrach, Routledge, 2006, p. 27 and The Curious World of Drugs and Their Friends, Adriano Sack, Ingo Niermann, Penguin, 2008, on flaggelation).
Insinuations and controversies about Opus Dei pop up all the time, some of which are mentioned here.
The support for Opus Dei by
Pope Pope John Paul II (1920-2005 CE),
was seen as a move against the Jesuits,
who Pope John Paul II did not seem to support any longer as the Roman Catholic intellectual elite. The conflict between the
papacy and the Jesuits had been building ever since the
Second Vatican Council,
when some Jesuits began busying themselves in social action and in questioning papal teachings.
As a moral guide to his members Opus Dei maintains an
'Index' del Opus Dei, which of course reminds of the
controversial Roman Catholic
Index librorum prohibitorum.
Opus Dei has been accused of engaging in aggressive recruitment practices. A Belgian Parliamentary Commission Report of 28 April 1997 classified Opus Dei as a sect, according the applied criteria. Recruitment of minors without the knowledge or consent of parents is a source for controversy. In 1981 revelations of its activities led Cardinal Basil Hume (1923-1999 CE) to restrict recruitment by Opus Dei in England to those over 18 years of age (see also Their Kingdom Come, Robert Hutchison, Random House, 2012, p. 241 and Guidelines for Opus Dei within the Diocese of Westminster, Cardinal Basil Hume, 1981).
Article 17 of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union or the Treaty of Lisbon of 13 December 2007 (into force on 1 December 2009), introduced the idea of an open, transparent and regular dialogue between European institutions and churches and religious associations or communities and also philosophical and non-confessional organizations. This is seen as a back door for introducing religious influence upon the decisions of the European Commission and thereby bypassing parliamentary control by religious groups such as Opus Dei (see also Religion Politics Law EU - Leustan, Lucian N. Leustean, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations Lucian N Leustean, Dr, John T.S. Madeley, Routledge, 2013, p. 11 and Opus Dei in België, André Van Bosbeke, Uitg. EPO, 1985 and The Encyclopedia of Politics and Religion: 2-volume Set, Gerhard R Andlinger Professor of Social Sciences and Director Center for the Study of American Religion Robert Wuthnow, Robert Wuthnow, Routledge, 2013, p. 137 and Christianity and hegemony: religion and politics on the frontiers of social change, Jan Nederveen Pieterse, Berg, 1992, p.263-270)
Opus Dei - Unofficial
Opus Dei - Unofficial
Opus Dei Alert
John Paul Takes On the Jesuits
Opus Dei Religious Sect
Vatican beatifies 498 Spanish martyrs
Sects in Belgium - Belgium
Dialogue with religion, churches and communities of conviction - EU
Article 17 of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union
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