THE HIDDEN LIFE OF
6. Escrivá and women
It's no secret that Escrivá behavior was "anti-feminist".
(111) During his
lifetime he even made it clear in writing that "Opus Dei would not have
any women, not even as a joke". (112) However, it was in his
at one point to change his strategy, and so on February 14, 1930, he
established the women's branch. Once it was constituted, it would be
abandoned by all women, and "this
desertion was a harsh blow to Escrivá, which would accentuate
his misogynist character". (113)
In The Way, Escrivá's
ideas on the worth and role of women became clear as they were
relegated to secondary positions. There is no doubt that women were
treated unfairly by the
founder of Opus Dei, and that The Way
is full of quotations
and comments that leave no room for doubts about Escrivá's
of women. We can read in The Way
"women needn't be scholars: it's
enough for them to be prudent" - 946 - "insinuating
that discretion will seem to
them a virtue difficult enough to achieve". (114)
The new constitution of the Work does not provide for women to reach
positions of high responsibility. Women members are to take on tasks
such as working in bookstores and libraries, encouraging other women in
modesty, educating girls in all girl schools and preparing maids for
domestic work - the main and predominant occupation and dedication of
women in Opus Dei. They are also to clean and look after the temples
chapels as well as to be used in apostolic missions as bait for
recruiting cheap labor by creating maids and servants
who can then obtain "holiness" in the service of their male masters.
Escrivá did not blush when he said that men do not sleep on
because after a day of intense work they need to rest. (115)
Apparently, unlike women, they "should
not put their bodies on the line".
The foundation of the women's branch of Opus Dei is also, as it would
be expected, claimed to be the result of divine inspiration, and in
spite of Escrivá's initial and fierce
opposition to the initial integration of women into God's work. Maria
del Carmen Tapia tells how, in 1930, while "Father" Escrivá was
Mass in the private oratory of Sol Casanova,
God inspired, him through a Marchioness from Madrid, to take a new
she said "I didn't love you, I was
afraid of you. I started the Mass
without knowing anything and I ended up knowing everything". (116)
The creation of
this women's section was achieved to fulfill Escrivá's
desire that women be "the
intravenous injection into the bloodstream of
society" because he still considered that "the usual state of a married
supernumerary was pregnancy". (117) This theory was taken
expounded by a priest of Opus Dei, Jesús Urteaga, who wrote in
his book God and Children,
that women are
the object of impurity: "if you do
not have children, you will end up
having dogs" or "women will
be saved by having children". (118) A whole new and
theory of Christian charity and love of neighbor.
The vision of the feminine component within the Work can be summarized
in "that women
are to blame for 80% of the infidelities of their husbands because they
do not know how to conquer them every day" and it advises that "the
married woman must first take care of the home; I remember a couplet
from my country that says 'the woman who, because of the Church lets
the pot burn, has an angelic half, with the other half being demonic'.
To me she seems wholy demonic." (119)
111. Artigues, p 122.
112. Le Tourneau, p 11.
113. Ynfante, "La prodigiosa
aventura del Opus Dei" ("The Prodigious Adventure of Opus Dei"),
114. Walsh, p. 118.
115. El Pais" newspaper (May 1, 1988), p. 9.
116. Moncada, "Historia oral del
Opus Dei" ("Oral History of Opus Dei)", p. 104.
117 Ibid, p. 126.
118. Le Vaillant, pp. 29-30.
119. Carandell, p 103.
Index of Chapter II