THE HIDDEN LIFE OF
5. Disordered Tendencies
Escrivá was keeping an open secret. That which everyone knew,
many have hinted at without daring to say it in public. Escrivá
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
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
Josemaría as "handsome, tall
"From the first moment", he
said, "some people did not
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
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)
the story of
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'
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
out of Porta Coeli, so, if Laureano had to leave the Work at this
point, he would stay
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
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
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
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
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
It seems evident, writes Luis Carandell, that Escrivá de
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):
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
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
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
confidential conversation was encouraged and spiritual guidance was
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.
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
and preparing for such an event in the family scene that
he portrays for us:
the tailor is here to fit
- "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?"
When the schoolchildren arrived in
Rome, situations like this occurred:
- "Hey, I'd like to see you... Are
- "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
'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
tells us about Escrivá's "loving" adventures. This other romance
takes place between Monsignor Escrivá and a priest - Don Victor:
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
Monsignor continues to gently caress the smooth face of a well-beloved
- "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
- "Can't you guess?" - The
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
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:
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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".
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
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
tua', which he used to sing to Rafael in Rome, a long time ago,
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
this madness, this madness of
affection, of union, of love..." (98) His passion was famous
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
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
although there is practically no one
in Spain who
knows anything about Isidoro Zorzano. (101)
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
For a time he was director of the Ferraz Residence,
remaining in Madrid during the whole of the Spanish civil war as an
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
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
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
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
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.
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"),
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.
Index of Chapter II