SECTS AND OPUS DEI
3. The Hidden Secret and The Revealed
The 1990 Nobel Prize winner for literature, Camilo José Cela,
declared that “I am not in Opus Dei
because I don't like secret
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
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
"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
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
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
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:
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
“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
“840: May your dedication pass
unnoticed as, for thirty years, did that
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
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
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
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
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.”
Colonel Antonio Sánchez Cámara said: “Many, many members
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";
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
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
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.
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
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
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"
the Holy Mafia"), reveals the existence of "secret meetings" of
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
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
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
"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
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,
42. Manuel C. Magaña, "Revelaciones
sobre la Santa Mafia"
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
1971), p. 74.
46. Le Vaillant, op cit, pp 94-95.
47. Jesús Ynfante, "La
prodigiosa aventura del Opus Dei"
Development of the Holy Mafia") (Ruedo Ibérico, 1970), p. 114.
48. "El Opus Dei, El verdadero poder
en España", "Tiempo"
(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.
Index of Chapter I