SECTS AND OPUS DEI
2. What is a Sect?
Julián García Hernando, in an article published in the
journal of the Institute of Applied Sociology, points to two aspects
when searching for the etymological root of the word "sect" which can be
derived from the Latin "sequi" - which means
"following". In this sense, sect would be
the movement of those who follow a religious leader and who accept his
message. Or it could have its radical entrenchment in the term "secare"
or "secedere" - to cut, to separate. In this case it would mean a group
that has separated itself from a church or another sect, with a
manifest tendency to close in on itself. (15)
From a sociological point of view and in a broad concept of sect one
could call it a conventional group of people who participate in the
same religious experiences. (16)
A sect, in a global sense, is nothing
more than a group of people united by the fact of following a certain
doctrine and/or leader. (17)
In any context, a sect is a group of
people united by a particular doctrine, the word sect being incomplete,
that is why they are called "destructive cults or sects", "young sects"
or "totalitarian pseudo-religious movements" (18).
A sect would be the “voluntary
grouping of converts, limited only to
adults, to the exclusion of sinners, that is, reserved only for those
who commit themselves to the law of God after having had a conversion
experience” if we stick to the definition given by
therefore, the faithful adhere to the revelations made to a founder.
The sect differs from the Church (in the non-theological sense) in that
it recognizes another new revelation, different from that witnessed in
Sacred Scripture and which it claims to be necessary to understand.
Furthermore, the sect limits salvation to its own members.
According to Father Cavalier, the elements that characterize modern
sects are the
factor of security and certainty. The
members of the sect are aware that they belong to a group that holds
the truth and salvation.
Affective factor: The group considers
itself self-sufficient. It has no
contacts with other groups except to convert them and integrate them
into its own group. There is no room for ecumenical dialogue, only for
proselytism. Charity can only be exercised within the group, which is
very lively and very hot, becoming a real "ghetto".
A factor of doctrinal, disciplinary
and moral rigorism. Total primacy
is given to principles, to doctrine and its interpretation over the
rights of individuals. What prevails is the "sect" that identifies
itself with the will of God. (19)
The plenary session of the Congress of Deputies, which decided to
investigate the groups considered as sects in Spain, recorded an
approximation to the characteristics allowing for the definition of the
negative or "antisocial" nature of these groups. According to the
socialist deputy Carlos Navarrete, the following characteristics could
be considered: (20)
- Doctrinal, religious or
socio-religious, demagogic cohesion as a
framework for these organizations.
- The presence of a charismatic leader who is considered an incarnation
of the divinity or a nuncio of it.
- The existence of a theocratic, vertical and totalitarian structure.
- The establishment of a limit to reason by virtue of the apriorism of
- To be constituted in closed communities or with a great dependence on
- The suppression of individual and intimate freedoms, of
- The recourse to certain neurophysiological manifestations of
meditation, spiritual rebirth, "accesit", etc.
- The total rejection of societies and secular institutions.
- The proselytism and the collection of money and the economic
dispossession of its members.
To the previous characteristics the journalist specialized in the
subject of the sects, Pepe Rodríguez, in his recently published
the matter with the title "El poder
de las sectas", corrects and
increases those that he had already pointed out in his previous works
"Las sectas hoy y aquí"
and "Esclavos de un Mesías".
- Demanding total adherence to the
group and forcing (under
psychological pressure) the breaking of all social ties prior to
entering the cult: parents, partner, friends, work, studies, etc.
the information that reaches their followers, manipulating it
at their convenience.
- Use sophisticated psychological or neurophysiological techniques
(masked under "meditation") that serve to annul the will and reasoning
of the followers, causing them, in many cases, serious psychic
- Advocating a total rejection of society and its institutions. Outside
the group everyone is an enemy (polarization between good/sect and
evil/society). Society is rubbish and the people who live in it are
only interested to the extent that they can serve the group.
- To have as primary activities the proselytism - to obtain new adepts
- by hidden
and illegitimate ways
and the collection of
money - surveys by the streets, courses, clearly criminal activities.
In the case of multinational sects, the money collected is largely sent
to the headquarters of each group.
- Obtaining, under psychological coercion, the handing over of the
personal assets of new followers to the sect, or large sums of money in
the form of courses or audits. Members who work outside the group have
to give all or a large part of their salary to the sect. And those who
work in companies belonging to the group do not receive salaries (the
salaries of these companies of the sect are only a legal cover as they
are never paid out - or they return the money later for their
There are two aspects that Pepe Rodríguez insists on and places
special emphasis on when referring to the characteristics of sects. On
the one hand, the isolation from the outside world, in order to better
depersonalize the neophyte, manipulating the environment, cutting
emotional ties, carefully controlling social activities and relations,
cancelling and suppressing information from outside the sect itself by
means of strict guidelines, advice and censorship in terms of
information and communication, creating a stereotyped and conventional
language typical of the sect, giving the words a different meaning from
the vulgar or "profane" usage, creating some peculiar signs of
identity, imbuing in the follower a feeling of hostility and rejection
towards the foreign and suppressing the properties and means of
survival of the initiated, under the pretext of their own "spiritual
evolution", which makes them have a submissive and vexatious dependence
on the sect.
The second aspect that Pepe Rodriguez emphasizes is that which refers
to the suppression and annulment of personality, the destruction of
individuality by means of studied methods and techniques that, when
perfection, will create on the adept the paradox that “man -
as an isolated individual - believes himself to be a fragile and weak
entity. For this reason, he seeks shelter within the group and a mass.
There he feels strong and powerful when, in reality - and this is the
cruel paradox - he has moved to a stage where he is totally vulnerable
and manipulable. While the isolated individual acts under rational
guidelines, the mass acts under emotional and irrational imperatives.”
(22) It is a
path of no return because “when one
enters the sectarian
community one never again has intimacy”. (23)
When the question “Why aren't you in
Opus Dei” was put to the Madrid
politician and lawyer Manuel Cantanero del Castillo, his answer was
brief and concise, but enlightening “Because
I am not willing to be
in other words, not to be sold.
Some years ago, in February 1984, journalist Luis Reyes wrote a piece
of information in the weekly "Tiempo"
that, despite its seriousness, went
unnoticed. He wrote: “Opus Dei in
Germany is included among the
pernicious sects, also known there by the police as 'El Camino'.”
As an eloquent testimony, we will reproduce the open letter that a
father wrote to his son, a member of Opus Dei, as a cry that comes from
his innermost being and it is as
heartbreaking as ever: “Son Peter: I
would like you one day to come to the light of truth, to discover the
underworld of the 'sect' in which you are now trapped, like an impotent
fly entangled in the fine meshes of a spider's web. That gigantic
spider is the Marquis of Peralta, the mesh of his Work, the cavernous
hole where he takes his prey to devour them, is the Church of the
Antichrist. You will give me immense joy the day you manage to escape
from the dense nets in which you are now powerfully trapped. Meanwhile,
continue to pray for you. A hug from your suffering and waiting
These are the tears of a parent who fights against a
destructive sect which, as such, brings about the destruction
(destructuring) of the previous personality of the follower and
severely damages him, destroying his emotional ties.
15. García Hernando, p 28.
16. Ibid, p 28.
17. Pepe Rodríguez, "El
poder de las sectas", p 31 (Barcelona:
Editorial B Group 2, 1989).
18. Pepe Rodríguez, "Sectas y
lavado de cerebro", in "Esclavos
de un Mesías", p 25 (Barcelona: Elfos, 1984).
19. García Hernando, p 29
20. Newspaper "El Independiente",
p 32 (June 3, 1988).
21. Pepe Rodríguez, "El
poder de la sectas" ("The Power of Cults"), p 33; "Las sectas hoy y aquí"
("Cults Today and
Here"), pp 59-60; "Esclavos
de un Mesías" ("Slaves of a Messiah"), p 26.
22. Pepe Rodríguez, "Esclavos
de un Mesías" ("Slaves of a Messiah"), op. cit.
23. Ibid, p 78.
24. Eve Jardiel Poncela in "¿Por
qué no es usted del Opus Dei?" ("Why Aren't You in Opus
Dei"), p 58.
25 Nicolás Cobo Martínez, "Faro
inconfundible" ("Unmistakable Lighthouse"), No. 31, p. 6
Index of Chapter I