5. Disordered Tendencies

Escrivá was keeping an open secret. That which everyone knew, which many have hinted at without daring to say it in public. Escrivá had an obsession, a characterstic related to his sexual behavior. He was a homosexual, delicate, and pusillanimous.

From his youth he felt the inverted carnal inclination. In Logroño, in the seminary, he had, as we have already mentioned, problems derived from his condition. In Zaragoza, during his puberty, he attracted attention because "he never went out there with girls. His elegant manners, that slender aspect of his person, the pleasant appearance in his treatment of others, attracted the girls. When Antonio or some other friend made comments to him in that sense, he cut them by exclaiming something like: "if they knew me well, inside, just as I am..." (73)

He dragged that tendency through his whole life. A year before his death, on June 23, 1974, he cried out aloud at the Coliseum Theater in Buenos Aires: "Pray for all priests - sinners like myself - so that we do not do crazy things". (74)

To what madness did that man of attractive appearance "and a marked neatness, not to say elegance in dressing, despite his financial troubles" refer? In the seminary of Saragossa his manner of dress distinguished him. Most of the seminarians, Vázquez observes, were somewhat vulgar and uneducated. Escrivá de Balaguer was the exception. His clothes were always clean, his shoes always shiny. Apparently it was a matter of comment that he washed from head to toe every day". (75) The official biographer (76) describes Josemaría as "handsome, tall and corpulent".

"From the first moment", he said, "some people did not understand Josemaría's bearing, his behavior and his manners. When he was appointed superior of the seminary," continues his biographer, "he had José María Román Cuarteto for an assistant, who always saw him as very correct and more refined than other seminarians. These and other details made this boy think that Josemaría would not become a priest, because he considered him to have human possibilities for better careers. Logically, not everyone judged things that way. Some interpreted them in quite the opposite way".

María Angustias Moreno reveals in a definitive manner, when she writes in her book (78) about the story of Félix Pons, which reads: "Unfortunately for me, I met Opus Dei, introduced by the priest D. Saturnino de Dios... in 1934 that's when he introduced me to Escrivá and I began to take care of the Ferraz 50 residence. For lunch there was a boy named Laureano who had joined the Work, from the reformatory at Porta Coeli (for young offenders under the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court) where the Opus Dei members gathered until they had this residence in Ferraz. Laureano was the administrator of Porta Coeli and provided them with facilities for their meetings in that institution. In Ferraz, he was in charge of purchasing and ordering meals. He was not bad at it. Because of the small space in the residence with a simple curtain in the middle of a room, on the two bedsteads, that were couches to sit on during the day, we both slept".

"Except for his rough upbringing Laureano was a good boy and nothing negative could be said about him. He made his daily confession to the 'Father'. One fine day, without knowing why, he left for Malaga and Ricardo went to see him off at the station. When Ricardo returned I saw that 'Father' was asking for a conference with a convent in Malaga, where he himself had provided Laureano with a placement. They were the ones who had taken Laureano out of Porta Coeli, so, if Laureano had to leave the Work at this point, he would stay in the street. And what was not my astonishment when Escrivá spoke to the superior of that convent and told him that he had sent Laureano with the intention of getting rid of him, telling Laureano that they needed an errand boy for the convent, but that they should neither take him nor recommend him to anyone, because he was inverted. Imagine how I felt. Everyone knew this, even Genaro Gumiel, who will confirm it."

"From 1934 to 1935 there were only seven in Opus Dei, and they all lived with their respective families, except Laureano - the homosexual already mentioned who was with Escrivá in the residence. The others were Ricardo Fernándel Vallespin, Saiz de los Terreros, Isidoro Barredo, Jenaro Lázaro Gumiel and Jiménez. And as incipient or possible members, my brother Bernardo and, after my brother and I, Esteban Portillo, Garnica, Fisac, Casciaro and two medical students, who were brothers, whose last names were Fontana. Those were the ones who appeared in Ferraz 50." (79)

Later on, the daily life of the numeraries of the Work would be very similar to the conventual life and (80) "there were so many prohibitions with respect to civil life, such as not going to parties where there might be women, or to cinemas, or to theaters, that the young people of Opus Dei suffered constant misunderstandings and criticism from relatives and friends. In addition, "because the houses were small, the numeraries slept two in each room." (81)

His first twelve followers were: Angel Santos Ruiz, Rodríguez Casado, Ignacio Orbegozo, Alfonso Bacells, Juan Jiménez y Vargas, Federico Suárez Verdeguer, Miguel Fisac, Isidoro Zorzano, Alvaro del Portillo, José Luis Múzquiz, José María Hernández Garnica and Pedro Casciaro. "The desertion of Fisac, in 1965, served to increase the myth, equating his defection to that of Judas Iscariot, ....". (82) The reason for Fisac's desertion was none other than to get married, for which he was excluded from the circle, which suggests that celibacy was already part of the obligations imposed by the founder.

It seems evident, writes Luis Carandell, that Escrivá de Balaguer (83) cultivated from his youth that virtue of leadership which consists in not lavishing himself, while wisely administering "the spiritual, and even physical attraction, that he seems to have".

It is hard not to think about the phrase attributed to Escrivá, and which appears in the propagandistic book about the Work by Jean Jacques Thierry (84): "Allow me not to go into the details about the beginnings of the Work, since these principles are intimately linked to the history of my soul and belong to my interior life".

Escrivá wanted to overcome his strong homosexual inclination with pain and corporal punishment. At the Academy "there was naturally a bathroom. In spite of the constant cleaning, its walls were stained with blood, from the scourging that Escrivá inflicted on himself." (85)

"He used a kind of nine-branch scourge to which he had tied pieces of metal and pieces of razor blades (it is not said whether other residents joined, although this penitential practice became common in Opus Dei). The discipline and the spiked chain that was tied to Escrivá's arm were kept in the 'Father's room'. There, under a pictorial representation of the Gospel story about the miraculous catch, confidential conversation was encouraged and spiritual guidance was given."

The best psychological portrait referring to the homosexuality of 'Father' Escrivá de Balaguer has been painted by the writer Vicente Gracia in his historical work, written as a novel and entitled 'In the Name of the Father', published in 1980.

Vicente Gracia knew Opus Dei well, had been a member of it and reflected its interior experiences in his work. He illustrates how 'Father' "moved his hands gently" (86) and how he anxiously asked: "When will the boys who are going to start their theology course at the College arrive? I am looking forward to seeing them. Are they beautiful?" (87) and then, "wetting their lips piously", (88) and preparing for such an event in the family scene that he portrays for us:

- "Father, the tailor is here to fit you".

- "Ah! The cassock!"

It is observed in detail in the great three-body mirror... the skirts of the cassock open in an undulating flight that produces the fru-fru of the delicate clothes.

- "I'm handsome, aren't I, Alvaro?" (89)

When the schoolchildren arrived in Rome, situations like this occurred:

- "Hey, I'd like to see you... Are you handsome?"

- "Don Alvaro is holding me hostage here in my rooms, you know... He doesn't want me to see you until Saturday, but I can't stand it anymore. Why don't you come and see me? What room are you in?"

Confused, he accepts the strong embrace from the 'Father' and the kisses he gives on his forehead.

- "You will never tell anyone about this meeting which will always be a secret between you and me, promise?"

While he lets his hair caress by the hands of the 'Father' who presses him against his breast and kisses him tenderly on the cheeks".

The tone of the "Father"'s voice becomes more and more intimate and emotional. He takes Luis' hands, brings him close to his chest and whispers in his ear:

- "Do you love me, son?"

- "Yes, Father."

- "But how much do you love me?"

- "I don't know, a lot."

The faces together, and bound at the chests, in a total spiritual bond - at the same time, unconscious and pure - lit in the same frenetic flame of love for God, the two lovers seal their contract with a kiss on the cheeks that slips wetly into the skin.

The "Father"'s eyes shine and a tremor of lips denounces his emotion. (90)

- - -

It is not the only conversation where Feliz Gracia, who knew the 'Father', tells us about Escrivá's "loving" adventures. This other romance he describes takes place between Monsignor Escrivá and a priest - Don Victor:

Monsignor takes him by the hand and leads him to the window, bringing him closer to the light.

- "What noble features! You could say they were sculpted on alabaster!"

Monsignor raises his hand and delicately caresses the young priest's jaw as if he were afraid of breaking it, as if it were a beautiful glass object.

Monsignor continues to gently caress the smooth face of a well-beloved son.

- "Well, well... - the 'Father' excuses him with wet eyes and wet lips - it doesn't matter. I forgive you if you give me something else."

- "Something else? What does the 'Father' want?"

- "Can't you guess?" - The 'Father' smiles mischievously. And he adds 'Now that no one sees us...

Don Víctor, troubled, turns his head in vain.

- "I'd like you to give me a kiss."

The Monsignor can't help it if a shadow of a glow covers his cheeks. The young priest approaches the 'Father' and, embracing him lightly, kisses him on the cheeks. Then, passionately, the 'Father' returns the loving caress by moistening with his lips the smooth and perfumed complexion of his son, touching almost the end of his lips. (91)

- - -

This inner restlessness, this sexual uneasiness, is expressed in his written work and spiritual guide of Opus Dei, The Way, from which we will select some of the maxims and slogans that refer, among the many that are found, to Escrivá's homosexual feelings:

28 "Marriage is for the soldiers and not for the General Staff of Christ's army. For, whereas food is a necessity for each individual, procreation is a necessity for the species only, not for the individual. Longing for children? Children, many children, and a lasting trail of light we shall leave behind us if we sacrifice the selfishness of the flesh."

38 "Could it be true - no, no, I can't believe it - that in the world there are not men but bellies?"

367 "The choicest morsel, if eaten by a pig, is turned (to put it bluntly), into pigflesh! Let us be angels, so as to dignify the ideas we assimilate. Let us at least be men, so as to convert our food into strong and noble muscles, or perhaps into a powerful brain capable..."

592 "Don't forget that you are a... dust-bin. That's why if by any chance the divine Gardener lays his hands on you, and scrubs and cleans you, and fills you with magnificent flowers, neither the scent nor the colour that embellish your ugliness should make you proud. Humble yourself: don't you know that you are the rubbish bin?"

743 "You talk of dying 'heroically'. Do you not think that it is more 'heroic' to die a bourgeois death, in a good bed, unnoticed... but to die of love-sickness."

999 "And what is the secret of perseverance? Love. Fall in Love, and you will not leave him."

302 "Your Crucifix. - As a Christian, you should always carry your Crucifix with you. And place it on your desk. And kiss it before going to bed and when you wake up: and when your poor body rebels against your soul, kiss it again."

563 "Win over the guardian Angel of that person whom you wish to draw to your apostolate. He is always a great 'accomplice'."

16. "You a drifter? You... one of the crowd? You, who were born to be a leader! There is no room among us for the lukewarm. Humble yourself and Christ will set you aflame again with the fire of Love."

22 "Be firm. Be virile. Be a man. And then... be a saint."

205 "...May you and I too live our 'sugar tragedy'."

121 "There is need for a crusade of manliness and purity to counteract and undo the savage work of those who think that man is a beast..."

381 "Don't worry if people say you have esprit de corps."

975 "It is urgent that we strive to rechristianise popular celebrations and customs... Ask God to provide labourers for this much-needed work which could be called the 'entertainment apostolate'."

655 "I could never over-emphasize the importance of discretion."

677 "Gold, silver, jewels: dust, heaps of manure. Gratification, sensual pleasures, satisfaction of the appetites: like a beast, like a mule, like a cock, like a pig, like a bull..."

130 "Remove, Jesus, that filthy crust of sensual corruption which covers my heart, so that I can feel and readily follow the touches of the Paraclete on my soul."

134 "The flesh is flesh though dressed in silk."

387 "The standard of holiness that God asks of us is determined by these three points: Holy intransigence, holy coercion and holy shamelessness."

388 "Holy shamelessness is one thing: plain cheekiness, quite another."

391 "If you have holy shamelessness, you won't be worried by the thought of 'what will people say?' or 'what can they have said?'"

Among the slogans that Escrivá often launched and that have become classics in the Work in relation to the rational, scientific, sober, and self-controlled behavior, is the one picked up by Le Tourneau that invokes "Free yourself from the ugliness of soul and body!" (92) The founder of Opus Dei considered that, for a normally constituted person, "the theme of sex occupies a fourth or fifth place" and added "get used to raising the issue of struggle in points that are far from the capital walls of the fortress". (93)

In his Christmas homily in 1970 he said: "Chastity - not simply continence, but the resolute affirmation of a will in love - is a virtue that maintains the youthfulness of love in any state of life". Sometimes in the solitude of his reflection he thought aloud: "Time passed, and hard, tremendous things happened, which I do not tell you because they do not cause me sorrow, but they would make you sad". (94)

The Marquis of Valdeiglesias, when speaking about Opus Dei, asked himself: "Does it pursue purely ultra-terrestrial ends or specifically human ones? Is it not, perhaps, that in the mixture of both we find the nefarious?" (95)

During a tour of Spanish-American lands, his biographer tells us the story that happened one day in 1974 in Brazil (96) when "Rafael Llano had not seen him for thirteen years. The founder of Opus Dei responded to his greeting with the Italian melody 'Tímida é la bocca tua', which he used to sing to Rafael in Rome, a long time ago, alluding to the large size of the mouths of Rafael and his brothers, almost all of whom were members of the Work. In the afternoon I would comment: I remember that once there were many people. I saw one and I said to him: You are so-and-so. And he answered: "Yes, how do you know me? In my mouth! Do you remember?"

Braulia, the little sister of Maria Ignacia Garcia Escobar, contemplates the Founder of the Work in 1931 "always surrounded by young boys". (97) 'Father' liked to repeat: "I have spoken of my twenty-five years. I had some idea of what our Lord wanted. I did not know until I was twenty-six. I wanted this madness, this madness of affection, of union, of love..." (98) His passion was famous among his intimates.

Among Escrivá's most silent intimacies is his very special affection for Isidoro Zorzano, to whom he professed a deep love in every sense. Isidoro Zorzano had been his classmate at the Institute of Logroño during his puberty. The sympathy was mutual and reciprocal.

When Escrivá went to Zaragoza, he stopped going to see him, although he did keep up some correspondence. "He wanted to make him a newborn Opus Dei member. On August 24, 1930, he found him in Madrid. Isidoro was working in Malaga as a railway engineer, and had come to talk to him about his spiritual concerns..." (99)

Zorzano was so close to Escrivá that "for some time he was actively promoted as a candidate for canonization, although his cause has been quietly abandoned, (100) although there is practically no one in Spain who knows anything about Isidoro Zorzano. (101)

The brief biography of this unmarried boy, Isidoro Zorzano, comes to us through Florentino Pérez Embid who informs us that he was from an Argentinean family - he was born in Buenos Aires on September 13, 1902 - that "he had to be one of the first disciples of the 'Father' when he founded his Work and that he had to share his adolescent aspirations". (102)

For a time he was director of the Ferraz Residence, remaining in Madrid during the whole of the Spanish civil war as an engineer in the central offices of RENFE, and dying in 1943 of the so-called Hodgkins disease. Shortly after his death, Escrivá hurried to open the process for his beatification, although time soon made him forget about love. "Did this man do anything important in his life? (103) He died young, with hardly any time to carry out any particularly remarkable tasks... he was above all Escrivá's companion".

The epilogue of his life is written by Fisac who tells us that "when Isidoro Zorzano had to be hospitalized, due to a painful ganglionic illness, I went every Sunday to keep him company and it was gratifying to be able to talk to him about my desire to leave the Work, about the discomfort caused by my scruples about my sexual problems, which he understood. When Isidoro died, 'Father' Escrivá reacted in a very strange way, as if he were afraid, and he let Eduardo Alastrue and I shroud him without intervening at all". (104) Here we will highlight the necrophobia of Escrivá, who never attends funerals, nor prays for the dead, nor is accustomed to going to funerals, possibly because a dead member is no longer of any interest to him.

Such was his degree of obsession that "Escrivá went so far as to write that executive numeraries should not have female secretaries, but male secretaries", (105) since a great theme in the life of these numeraries is the vow of chastity in its dual aspect of sexual and affective repression... Few matters have merited such a number of notes and notices from Rome. From the formulas so that the members of the male and female sections do not deal with each other, with the double lock on the buildings and the interior telephone for conversation that "must be in keeping with the needs of the administration", to the extreme on how not to accept being alone in a room with persons of another sex, nor eating with them, much less walking or traveling with them. (106) Escrivá's hypothesis was to try to deny the existence of the other sex.

When Escrivá moved to Rome in 1946, he found in Alvaro del Portillo, who, at the time of this writing, is the Prelate of Opus Dei and Bishop, "a collaborator and an accomplice at all times. Sinuous and adaptable... his relations with Escrivá were very close. It can even be said that Alvaro del Portillo walks in Escrivá's footsteps." (107)

How Escrivá liked to emphasize: "Well, yes! We love each other! Yes, sir. We love each other and that's the best compliment you can give us!" Or on a more folkloric style when he insisted that "the sins of man are summed up in an inch. The span that goes from pocket to fly." (108)

It is a well-known fact, for example, that notoriously ugly people are not welcome in the Institute (109) and that the oratories and churches of Opus Dei never lack pictorial and sculptural representations of angels and archangels, beautiful young men who appear triumphant, killing with their swords sweaty, carnal men in whose eyes the fire of lust shines. Eros, lascivious, seductive.

Ah, a detail: Escrivá in some correspondence signed "Mariano".


73. Bernal, p 65.
74. Ibid, p 90.
75. Walsh, p 26
76. Bernal, p 26.
77. Ibid, p 62.
78. Moreno, "La otra cara del Opus Dei" ("The Other Face of Opus Dei"), p 98.
79. Ibid, p 30.
80. Moncada, "Historia oral del Opus Dei" ("Oral History of Opus Dei"), p 141.
81. Ibid, p. 141.
82. Magaña, pp. 16-17.
83. Carandell, op cit.
84. Thierry, Jean Jacques, "L'Opus Dei, mythe et realité", pp. 20-21.
85. Walsh, p. 39.
86. Grace, "En el nombre del padre" ("In the Name of the Father"), p. 9.
87. Ibid, p 12.
88. Ibid, p. 15.
89. Ibid, p 17.
90. Ibid, pp 28, 31, 34.
91. Ibid, pp 204-209.
92. Le Tourneau, p 57.
93. Ibid, p 143.
94. Bernal, p 60.
95. Poncela, p 205.
96. Bernal, p 155.
97. Ibid, p 169.
98. Ibid, p 170.
99. Ibid, p 145.
100. Walsh, p 43.
101. Le Vaillant, p 15.
102. Carandell, p 145.
103. Ynfante, "La prodigiosa aventura del Opus Dei" ("The Prodigious Adventure of Opus Dei"), p 130.
104. Moncada, "Historia oral del Opus Dei" ("Oral History of Opus Dei"), p. 145.
105. Ibid, p. 158.
106. Ibid, p 157.
107. Le Vaillant, pp 57-58.
108. Carandell, p 100.
109. Ibid, p 56.
110. Ibid.

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