3. The Hidden Secret and The Revealed Mystery

The 1990 Nobel Prize winner for literature, Camilo José Cela, declared that “I am not in Opus Dei because I don't like secret societies”. (26) Secrecy within Opus Dei is like an obsession, like a nightmare, like a syndrome. Its followers practice hermeticism. As Santiago Aroca wrote: “Another of the Work's myths is secrecy. Opus Dei officially denies being a hidden organization”. However, Article 193 sanctions: “These Constitutions, the published instructions and those that may be published in the future, as well as the other documents, MUST NOT BE DISCLOSED”; furthermore, without the permission of the "Father", “those documents that were written in Latin must not even be translated into the vulgar languages”. Incidentally, article 232 states: “We will not communicate the business and reasons for our vocation to strangers; if done, it will be very cautiously and very rarely”. To finish off, Article 191 proclaims the value of discretion and indicates that members of the Work “must keep prudent silence regarding the names of other members and that they will not reveal to anyone the fact that they belong to Opus Dei”. (27)

One of the people who knows best the inner workings of Opus Dei is Alberto Moncada, having belonged to the group for many years, where he carried out important functions and tasks. He has written several books in which he states that a “mania is secrecy and whispering, simply unacceptable in a modern society”, (28) defining Opus Dei as “an intricate skein” and making his own the words of R. S. when he stated that “for the Work to be understood, Opus Dei must be done away with”. (29) In Opus Dei, according to the conditions that the leaders usually set for those who leave, they are not to communicate to anyone their experiences in "the Work", (30) but “all hidden power, all simulation, is repugnant to the profound demands of Christian sincerity”. (31)

For Yvon le Vaillant the most surprising aspect - and one most frequently pointed out by observers - is the "secret" character of Opus Dei, its nature and its behavior as a "secret society". There are precise instructions to this effect. The Jesuit priest Jean Beyer points out that “the secret concerns the members, the houses and the vows of the Institute”. (32)

There are many maxims in the bedside book of the members of Opus Dei - Camino - that insist on and reiterate this suffocating need in the Work. There are whole chapters devoted to such topics as "discretion" or "tactics" where the slogans of secrecy follow one another more or less explicitly. Thus we can read:

“970: It is true that I have called your discreet apostolate a 'silent and effective mission.' And I won't go back on what I said.”

“639: Remain silent, and you will never regret it: speak, and you often will.”

“654: Bitterness has sharpened your tongue. Be quiet!”

“835: You long to shine like a star, to shed your light from high in the heavens? Better to burn like a hidden torch, setting your fire to all that you touch. That's your apostolate: that's why you are on earth.”

“840: May your dedication pass unnoticed as, for thirty years, did that of Jesus.”

The Constitutions of Opus Dei, drawn up in 1947, also insist, with a heavy heart, on the aspect of secrecy. Among its articles, we highlight the following:

Article 6: “Opus Dei professes collective humility, and thus it is not permitted to edit newspapers or other publications of this type under the name of the Work, except internally for use by the members; its members never wear a distinctive sign; they speak with caution with outsiders...”

Article 189: “In order for the Institute to reach its proper end more effectively, it wishes to live as hidden, ...”

Article 190. “... even membership in the Institute admits no external manifestations.  The number of members is kept hidden from outsiders; and indeed our people do not discuss these things with outsiders.”

Article 191: “... The lack of this discretion can constitute a grave obstacle to exercising apostolic work or create some difficulty in the environment of one’s natural family or in the exercise of their office or profession.  Thus the Numerary and Supernumerary members should know they are to live a prudent silence regarding the names of other members; and that they are never to reveal to anyone that they themselves belong to Opus Dei, not even to spread the Institute, without express permission from their local director. This discretion especially binds those who are newly accepted in the Institute and also to those who, for whatever reason, have left the Institute. [...]”

Article 193: “These Constitutions, published instructions and those which in the future may be published, and the other things pertaining to the government of the Institute are never to be made public. Indeed, without the permission of the Father, those documents which are written in the Latin language may not be translated into vernacular languages.”

Article 232: “The business and essence of our vocation are not discussed with outsiders, except with extreme caution, and only rarely. [...]”

It often happens that two members of a house, from the same residence of the Work, pretend not to know each other when they meet in public; that members of the same family do not know that one of them belongs to Opus Dei; that people discover to their surprise that a friend, a co-worker they have known for years, has carefully hidden his membership from them. It is not unusual for the affair to happen even to bishops themselves, who have been surprised to learn that such and such a priest belonged to Opus Dei. (33)

With regard to the proverbial discretion and secrecy surrounding Opus Dei, another Jesuit, Father Heyen says: “Let us here point out the apostolic deviation that secular institutes must avoid, especially those that must observe a certain secrecy. This is the danger, under the pretext of apostolate, of imitating the communists and of "infiltrating" the milieu or taking over the levers of command and important posts. In such a course of action, one will see, and rightly so, a flagrant disloyalty to other Christians. Above all, it will be seen as a serious alteration in the nature of the specific apostolate of these Institutes: such infiltration would not mean using the light and love of Our Lord Jesus Christ; the means of secrecy would mean corruption.” (34) And scandals have been a constant in the Work. However, in secret.

Lieutenant General Fernando Rodrigo Cifuentes made the following statements when referring to Opus Dei: “As a military man, I consider the high commitments that the military man has contracted with the nation to be totally in conflict with any other commitments that are undoubtedly contracted by accepting the regulations of a secret association, since its work of recruitment and action is secret.” (35) Colonel Antonio Sánchez Cámara said: “Many, many members of Opus Dei, if asked directly, deny their membership. Opus Dei is something closed, and I like open spaces.” (36)

The writer Evaristo Acevedo, in a relaxed tone, commented that Opus Dei surrounds its activities with great secrecy and caution, almost with the qualification of official secret, “to the point that I don't know - he said - whether my wife, brothers, uncles, cousins and dear friends belong to the Work. The mystery and 'suspense' surrounding the Opusians and the activities they carry out prevent me from judging exactly whether their purposes, tasks carried out and to be carried out, are beneficial or not for the community”. (37) It should not be forgotten that with the sectarian spirit of Opus Dei, who are of them and who are not of them is something that is silenced and that only on rare occasions, and at their own convenience, can its members confess their belonging to the Work.

With the practice of secrecy, Opus Dei has been called by different names that reinforce its condition: "Holy Mafia", "Catholic Freemasonry"; this latter name being attributed to Henri Fesquet, the most famous religious chronicler of the newspaper Le Monde, who on June 7, 1956, wrote in his column with the headline “With Opus Dei, a return to equivocation, a kind of Catholic Freemasonry”, where he spoke of a somewhat particular type of missionaries who carefully conceal the name of their organization and the real motives for their activity.

One could argue that their corporate works - that is, those they recognize as their own - exist and are sometimes known. This is the only publicity Opus makes for its activities, but it is significant that they never appear under their real name. None of them belong to Opus Dei. In the corresponding registers the name of this modest association never appears, but rather: trusts, real estate, private persons or any form of commercial or cultural companies, which makes it difficult for the public authorities to act on the corporate works of this secular institute. Therefore, these trusts and real estate companies entrust the spiritual direction of these centers to Opus Dei. (38)

José Cepeda Adán, university professor of contemporary Spanish history, made the following logical reflection: “I do not understand, nor will I ever understand, the mystery and the secret that surrounds Opus Dei in its activities. Why? If the path is straight and high, with the light it will gain clarity and it will be freed from the dangers of the selfish and dark earth”. (39) In the same vein, the writer and journalist Antonio D'Olano said that “it is more difficult for people of our time who do not belong to the so-called Work of God to understand it than the theory of relativity... 'Opuslence'... I am terrified of darkness. Everything they bring us is viscous, alarming. In the darkness men do not make contact, even if they are groping, nor can they look each other in the eye. If we are in favor of something confessable, why hide it?” (40)

Their inclination for secrecy and reserve in the sect has led them to adopt words of passage and touches of recognition, in the image and likeness of Freemasonry. To some it has seemed significant that among the members of this Work, which among us has been described as "white masonry", numerous symbols, passwords and signs are used. If, to give an example, one finds oneself at a meeting and a person who has just arrived says when presented "Pax", one should not interpret that this person has gone mad. It means that he is from Opus Dei and that he is giving out his "password" so that if there is another person in the group who belongs to the Work, he can identify himself by saying: "In aeternum". (41) Secret rites. Esoteric.

Surely the adoption of such attitudes comes to them when they see the considerable results that such practices have produced for Freemasonry. Opus Dei copied the technique of secrecy, as a means and system of penetration and control, with the enormous advantage of having the official assistance of priests.

The Mexican writer Manuel Magaña, in his book "Revelaciones sobre la Santa Mafia" ("Revelations about the Holy Mafia"), reveals the existence of "secret meetings" of the members of Opus Dei more often than one might suppose, with a view to controlling the press, the cinema, the radio, the TV, so that their plans for political-religious infiltration, of international scope, are favoured with a public image that hides their true purposes. (42) Perhaps, in a humorous tone and with an intuition of the existence of such secret meetings, the humorist Manuel Summer, speaking about Opus Dei, said that “when he was a little boy he was taught at home that "little secrets in meetings are a lack of education"”, adding “I love freedom and I do not want to be part of any flock”. (43)

A researcher and specialist in topics related to Opus Dei, the journalist Santiago Aroca, went a step further in explaining the existence of these secret meetings by writing that “the cryptic internal language of the members, in their senior members and leaders, are called by numbers and not by their names in the government meetings at the summit”. (44) The world is in need of more light and stenographers, when faced with secret societies of the Opus type, which are clans or cartels subject to the law of silence.

The consideration of a secret society has been a constant. Daniel Artigues, in his book published in France in 1971 under the title "El Opus Dei en España" He pointed out the ("Opus Dei in Spain"), already wrote on the first page that it was an almost secret society that aspired, in the first place, to capture the elite, while at the same time pursuing its own ends, not well known and more of political than religious nature.notable reputation that Opus Dei had and its taste for secrecy, concluding that “this desire for discretion, as the members of Opus Dei say, or this cult of secrecy, as its adversaries claim, is one of the essential characteristics of the Work” (45)

Hence, do not hesitate to call it a "pressure group".

We will never be able to know exactly which or how many are the official accomplishments of Opus Dei, what are the dark spots or points of penetration under virtuous pretexts. According to Yvon Le Vaillant it is impossible, for example, to know the exact number of residences or student houses. Nor does the name of Opus Dei appear in any telephone book, and God knows that, down here, the telephone is a common, albeit natural, instrument. Opus Dei does not appear in the open, nor does it advertise in its own name, but it retains control of the decision, and so a double conclusion is reached:

1) Opus Dei reserves, without it being apparent, the possibility of selecting its clientele, its members, its interlocutors.

2) It retains the possibility of operating these houses and residences as traps. (46)

In any case, it is an illusion to seek clarification from those responsible for the Work. Jesus Ynfante, author of the book "La prodigiosa aventura del Opus Dei" ("The Prodigious Adventure of Opus Dei"), finds in the Work of Escrivá a "terrible still" (47) whose membership is conceived in a multiple and complicated way, from broad external circles to intimate, secret groups... operating according to enigmatic methods. Hence, those under 18 years of age are instructed not to say anything to their parents, to keep the secret until the parents have not the legal capacity to remove them from Opus Dei. (48)

Such is the secret that prevails, that an authority within the Work could write: “I doubt very much that one in a thousand of the members knows the Constitutions of Opus Dei.” (50)

Antonio Pérez (51), one of Escrivá's closest friends and for some time his private secretary, says: “The 'Father' always had a great concern for secrecy. This led him to apply to these issues the same strategy as to internal affairs, that is, only a few people at the top knew about them and negotiated with those directly responsible, keeping the rest of the partners out of the information. This was done mainly through the control of documentation and the greater or lesser accessibility of the notes and notices from Rome. There was even a secret code for correspondence, in which each numeral or combination of numeral with vowels had a meaning.” “The book [the secret code] was kept in a book called "San Girolano"” recalls Maria del Carmen Tapia.

On December 4, 1991, the newspaper "El Mundo" published an interview with the theologian Hans Küng, who was in Madrid to present his work "Project for a Global Ethic". To the question of whether the Work had as much power in the Church as was said, he answered without hesitation: “A lot, and now the Pope supports the secret society of Opus Dei in a profound way... Opus Dei is worse than a sect: it is a secret and clandestine company.”


26. Jardiel Poncela, op cit, p 64.
27. Santiago Aroca, "Tiempo" Magazine (11 August 1986).
28. Alberto Moncada, "El Opus Dei: Una interpretación", p 21 (Madrid: 1974).
29. Ibid, p. 38.
30. Ibid, p. 143.
31. Le Vaillant, p 242.
32. Ibid, p 242.
33. Ibid, p 248.
34. Oscar H. Wast, "Jesuítas, Opus Dei y Cursillos de Cristiandad", pp 62-63 (Mexico: 1971).
35. Jardiel Poncela, p 173.
36. Ibid., pp 188-189.
37 Ibid., p. 38.
38. Fernando García Romanillos, "La cara oculta del Opus" ("The Hidden Face of Opus"), "Historia" Magazine, No. 6 (September, 1975), p 57.
39. Jardiel Poncela, p. 67.
40. Ibid, pp 74-75.
41. Luis Carandell, "Vida y milagros de monseñor Escrivá de Balaguer, fundador del Opus Dei" (Barcelona: Editorial Laia, 1975), p. 160.
42. Manuel C. Magaña, "Revelaciones sobre la Santa Mafia" (Mexico: Self-published, 1974), p. 228.
43. Jardiel Poncela, p 200.
44. Santiago Aroca, "Tiempo" Magazine ( July 7, 1986).
45. Daniel Artigues, "El Opus Dei en España" (Paris: Ruedo Ibérico, 1971), p. 74.
46. Le Vaillant, op cit, pp 94-95.
47. Jesús Ynfante, "La prodigiosa aventura del Opus Dei" ("Genesis and Development of the Holy Mafia") (Ruedo Ibérico, 1970), p. 114.
48. "El Opus Dei, El verdadero poder en España", "Tiempo" Magazine (April 11, 1988), p. 16.
49. Moncada, "El Opus Dei: Una interpretación", p 95.
50. Ibid, p 28.
51. Moncada, "Historia oral del Opus Dei", pp. 12-13.

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