8. Mistreatment and Coercion

“My daughter is working as a servant for free”, says the mother (105). They make her work from ten in the morning to a quarter to eleven at night, without stopping, so that she doesn't think. I have told the ladies that the time of the black slaves is over, but their answer is that what she does is for God. But my daughter is not scrubbing floors for free for God, who does not need it, but for the Work.

Covadonga Carcedo also tells of her experience of the humiliations she suffered when she became part of  Opus Dei (106): “I used to get up at six in the morning, kiss the floor, exclaiming 'serviam', and take a cold shower. After work, I applied two hours a day wearing a cilice and gave my entire salary to the Work. In Opus Dei, as in all sects, they have a great capacity to brainwash you, but the truth is that they are a real cohort of scribes and Pharisees. They preach that there are no luxuries there, and yet the rich numeraries have to be assisted by uniformed maids during spiritual retreats. Now many people are leaving, especially the young ones, who did not know that once they were admitted they became real slaves.”

The daily rules that a member living in an Opus Dei house has to observe are very strict. (107) A person who was a numerary member of Opus Dei for more than ten years assured me that during the first seven years of his membership in Opus Dei, he lived in constant tension and was unable to comply with all the rules laid down. Moreover, he believed that none of those who lived with him or had met him in the ranks of Opus Dei had succeeded in doing so.

Another important observation is that all these sets of norms are an integral part of the "spirit of the Work". When they get up they kiss the ground and make the offering of all the things of the day to God, but the fruit of this offering is gathered by the sect leaders. They shower with cold water and are kept busy all day long so that they fall asleep and have no time to think about the misery they have made their existence.

The coercive dynamic is an essential characteristic of any sectarian structure and it should not be surprising to find it in groups as apparently honorable as Opus Dei itself. (108)

A well-known architect, Miguel Fisac - who was one of the first twelve members of Opus Dei - who was a member of the Work for years, says:

“During the time I was in the Work I was coerced to unacceptable extremes. So much so that when I finally managed to get Alvaro del Portillo (the great guru and successor of Escrivá de Balaguer) to let me out, he asked me to forgive those coercions and justified them by saying that since I had shown great generosity, they had interpreted it as a vocation.”

This so-called excess of zeal or "holy coercion" in the terminology of the Work, so typical of exploitative sectarianism that identifies vocation (religious, humanitarian, etc.) with irrational submission and slavery, cannot be justified either by earthly arguments or by divine allegations.

To pretend to cover up miserable coercion, of whatever kind and in whatever group, with the excuse of a "disinterested dedication to the ideal" is as little acceptable as to pretend to justify the activity of the guild of thieves under the mantle of a humanitarian campaign against selfish and sinful materialism.

Torture is not only physical, but also, and in this case more subtle, psychological. As proof of this, we have the testimony of María del Pilar Domínguez Martínez, from Tuy (Pontevedra), (109) whose testimony informs us that as soon as she joined Opus Dei, she was hunted down by a numerary and taken to a doctor of the Work to find out if she was not physically handicapped. Later, the mortifications deformed her body and the "sharing of confidences", the talks, acquired their true character of interrogation, for which she expressed her discontent. When she realized that she wanted to leave Opus Dei, her superior decided to take her to a psychiatrist of the Work.

In 1965 Miss Tapia was called to the headquarters in Rome, where she was placed under virtual house arrest for eight months. She was not allowed to communicate with the outside world, either by telephone or letter. She was informed that anyone who asked for her would be told that she was sick or absent. Within three months her hair turned white. She asked if she could return to her family in Spain and was refused permission. Tapia had been director of the women's section in Venezuela. Opus Dei took away her passport and all her personal documents. When she left, finally after the nightmare, she was forced to go to confession. (110) A priest of Opus Dei warned her that no matter what penance she did for her various "crimes," there was little chance that she would be saved. In his account in the National Catholic Reporter, he describes the rude and insulting treatment she received from the hands of the Founder. He concludes: “My astonishment is infinite when I now hear that Monsignor Escrivá is in the process of beatification.”

The coercion also comes from the documents that they make their followers sign, which prevent them from taking critical attitudes for fear of reprisals.

The numeraries sleep on a board without a mattress and are of a certain height which, when covered by the quilt, gives the appearance of a normal bed, in case someone who is not from the Work passes by. (111) The "Father" says that women need to put their bodies on the pavement, that one should not give them certain comforts because it is a source of temptation.

Numeraries wear the cilice for two hours every day except Sundays and holidays. Discipline is another mortification of the body type to which they are subjected: it is a whip of cords that ends in several points. It is used on Saturdays and only on Saturdays. They have to go into the bathroom, get rid of their underwear and on their knees, whip their buttocks for the whole time they take to pray a Salve. If they do not do so, they must confess to it, even if it is not a sin or a serious fault.

As for men, Alberto Moncada (112) tells us, young people are used to handling the disciplines, once or twice a week, and the cilice, which they wear for two hours a day, tight to their thighs, during the hours of study. Once a week they have to sleep on the floor, on the famous day of the watch that each one has appointed to redouble the observance of his brothers.

The cilice is a mortification tool that, according to what is made clear to the followers of Opus Dei, is completely necessary, although in the opinion of a former member of the Work (113) “it is an outdated object that produces unnecessary suffering”. The use of the cilice (spiked belt) as a practice is a norm in the sect. On one occasion a minor was injured and cut on her thigh, (114) and when asked by her mother she lied. The mother later found out that her 15-year-old daughter's wound had been caused by the cilice. They call these lies "secrets of the Work".

To understand the voluntary acceptance of ill-treatment by pseudo-religious sects, one must refer to the depersonalizing process they have undergone and the guilt complex they have created. They are made aware that accepting the physical pain produced by self-injury is a path of spiritual evolution for the atonement of sins and the redemption of guilt. It is an irrational fervor the abiding in the contempt and mistreatment they receive from the Work. The tighter the cilice, the more it hurts and the more it marks, the more the suffering is silenced, the better the adept is considered. If the walls of the toilet are stained with blood after the application of the weekly discipline, this will be a merit to be taken into account and will certainly indicate unequivocally, that the imprint and the aftermath of the sect is indelibly imprinted.


105. Magazine "Tiempo" (11 April 1988).
106. Magazine "Interviú" (06 April 1988).
107. Ynfante, "La prodigiosa aventura del Opus Dei", p. 117.
108. Rodríguez, "El poder de las sectas" ("The Power of Cults"), p. 70.
109. Magazine "Tiempo" (August 4, 1986).
110. Walsh, p. 181.
111. "Marie Claire" magazine (December 1987).
112. Moncada, "Historia oral del Opus Dei", p. 141.
113. Magazine "Interviú" (April 6, 1989).
114. Ibid.

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