12. Totalitarianism and Fanaticism

The maxims and slogans elaborated by the "Father" himself are categorical and do not give room for controversy. That is what one reads in The Way:

941: “Obedience, the sure way. Unreserved obedience to whoever is in charge, the way of sanctity. Obedience in your apostolate, the only way: for, in a work of God, the spirit must be TO OBEY OR TO LEAVE.”

484: “Your duty is to be an instrument.”

622: “How well you understood obedience when you wrote to me: "To obey is always to be a martyr without dying".”

619: “Initiative. You must have it in your apostolate, within the terms of your instructions.... Never forget that you are only an agent.”

For their part, the Constitutions of the Work abound in obedience; we will cite some of their articles as examples:

Article 31.3 - Whenever there are two members of the Institute, lest they be deprived of the merit of obedience, a certain subordination is always observed, in which one is subject to the other according to the order of precedence.

Article 148. Incorporation into the Institute, demands a private social and recognized vow of obedience. In virtue of this vow, all the Numerary and Oblate members profess a full and complete obedience to the President General and to their Superiors.

The neophyte of Opus Dei is told this verbatim. "You renounce being you in order to be Opus Dei". (132) There is no such complete abdication of the individual for the benefit of a bureaucratic apparatus as that which is carried out in Opus Dei. Escrivá wrote in one of his letters to his children: “Whoever puts his hand to the plow must not turn his head back. In the Work, intransigence is practiced at all costs, in an organically totalitarian attitude”.

There is a song or hymn that is often sung in the centers and institutions of Opus Dei. It is entitled "Go, Donkey". (133) There is also another little letter that says: It does not leave my memory / what I have been told to arrive / You will be a donkey on a Ferris wheel / Donkey you will always be...

Antonio Senillosa himself, a former deputy who occupied a general directorship in the Ministry of AAEE, states that (134) he is not in favour of "blindly obeying the superior" according to the maxim 941, adding that "The Way seems to me to be a book of delirium and terrifying intellectual poverty".

In the Work,  "if you cannot praise, shut up" (135) is repeated with perseverance and insistence.

Blind obedience is combined with control of the members, which includes control of expenses, readings and the schedule of activities, (136) regardless of whether the member is given directives through confession, the secrecy of which is violated in order to keep the superior informed about the political-religious plans of the Work.

Every week Opus Dei publishes a list of literary novelties classified and qualified according to their strict observance. (137) A circle next to the title of a work means that it can be read with care by the members. Two circles mean that it can only be read by the directors of the Work and by highly qualified people. Three circles is the condemnation to oblivion: no one can read it.

General information magazines are forbidden. As the Founder said, "one must take care of one's eyesight, one's magazine and one's interview".

An ex-member of the Work (138) tells us that she once went to the librarian to get a book to read. She remembers that she was given  The Little Prince by the librarian even though she was 23 years old and had already read it two hundred times. Any book which, according to Escrivá's unquestionable criteria, contains danger, cannot be read.

Another example: M.R.S., (139) who spent 14 years of her life in Opus Dei, testifies. She was pressured to exercise her profession as the Work wished. After studying philosophy and literature, she worked as an art and decorating teacher, was the director of Delsa, the company that coordinates the Opus Dei bookstores, and then for six years was the director of the Neblí art gallery. Due to her prestige, 15 days after leaving Opus, she was already directing the Sala Durán in Madrid. M.R.S. believes that “in Opus you are not allowed to advance as a person, not even to think. Your directors are obsessed by the dangers that a normal working life entails for a woman. If I got home later than 9:30 p.m., there would be an argument. I couldn't have coffee with a client and, to talk to him, I had to have the door open. Professionally, I couldn't read anything without permission.

The spirit of the Work consists of an irrational obedience and an absolute fidelity to the "Father" and his satraps. You are imbued with the fact that the most important obedience is the obedience that Christ taught us on the Mount of Olives; it is the submission of the intelligence by accepting God's will, without understanding it. (140) And what about freedom? A father wants his children to be very free, but to do exactly, promptly, only what he wants. This is the secret of freedom.

The word of order in Opus Dei could be summed up in the demand to “Keep the rules. Be savagely sincere with your superiors and there will be no problem”, which was launched by the "Father" and which is part of the spiritual childhood to which the members of Opus Dei owe themselves.

By the time the "hooked" realize it, they are no longer masters of their own breathing and very soon they begin to understand what is the exact scope of the vow of obedience - a vow which consists in saying yes to everything that is proposed to them and to everything that is suggested to them, because “at home when something is demanded with more force it is doe by saying, please”. In this manner, they eliminate from their vocabulary the term "orders" converting them into "suggestions" that must be fulfilled to the letter.

The vow of obedience means accepting without conditions the will of God, expressed through the superiors of the Work. What is terrifying is to think that these constitutions are obeyed by beings who hold positions of public political and financial responsibility. The dependence of these gentlemen on their superiors is such that it even reaches the professional level. (141) The vow of obedience in an institution as hierarchical as Opus Dei means an absolute surrender of one's will and capacity for decision.

But what is even more incredible is that by invoking the precepts of religion, by making the very name of God a premise, by relying on the commandments of divine law, it is possible for the strong to dominate the weak and even to be grateful to the tyrant because, thanks to the slavery to which he is subjected on this earth, he promises him holiness and the kingdom of heaven in the afterlife.

Naturally, criticism and disagreement with what the "Father" interprets in The Way is considered pure "gossip" because “obedience should be mute”.

Criticism of sectarian "dogma" is considered sacrilege. As an antidote, the ability to forgive - as freely acquired as the ability to blame - is only a mechanism designed to magnify the power of authority and to reinforce the corresponding capacity to punish. (142) Forgiveness is the reward for submission, just as punishment is the "reward" due to those who do not follow the group's guidelines.

Loyalty to the person of the "Father" must be unquestioned. "Rendering judgment" (143) means achieving the maximum availability to obedience, which imposes the obligatory intellectual censorship, which, within Opus Dei, even has an office whose missions include the preparation of a thick index of books and authors that are forbidden to those of the Work, for which the "Father's" permission is required. (144)

Generally, the man in the street, the profane, is unaware of the degree to which a person is committed to Opus Dei, since the vows are not pronounced publicly, as is the case in the large and traditional religious Orders, even though the sect's vote is comparable. (145)

Can its members have two different personalities depending on the level at which their action takes place? The oath taken by the "numerary" and "supernumerary" members has a disturbing content: “With my immediate or supreme superior, according to the gravity of the case... I will always consult about professional, social and all other problems, even if this does not constitute a direct matter of the vow of obedience, but without transferring the responsibilities to the superior himself”. The members of the Prelature and the Prelature itself establish stable bonds with each other, remaining always and in everything morally under the direction of their superiors, who demand strict discipline from their followers.


132. Ynfante, "The Prodigious Adventure of Opus Dei," p. 390.
133. Carandell, p 122.
134. Antonio de Senillosa, in "Why Aren't You in Opus Dei," p. 194.
135. Moreno, "Opus Dei, an Annex to a History," p 44.
136. Magaña, p. 29.
137. Santiago Aroca, "Tiempo" magazine (June 30, 1986).
138. "Marie Claire" magazine (December 1987).
139. "El País" newspaper (May 1, 1988).
140. Vicente Gracia, "In the name of the father" (Barcelona: Editorial Bruguera, 1980), p 40.
141. Dr. Luis de Castro Feito, in "Why Aren't You in Opus Dei", p. 6.
142. Rodríguez, "Slaves of a Messiah", p 99.
143. Moncada, "Oral History of Opus Dei," p 100.
144. Ibid, p. 117.
145. Wast, Jesuits, "Opus Dei and Cursillos in Christianity", p 62.
146. Artigues, p 99.

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