SECTS AND OPUS DEI
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:
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
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
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:
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"orders" converting them into "suggestions" that must be fulfilled to
The vow of obedience means accepting without conditions the will of
God, expressed through the superiors of the Work. What 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
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
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
means achieving the maximum availability to obedience,
which imposes the obligatory intellectual censorship, which, within
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)
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”.
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
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
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.
Index of Chapter I