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 interest 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 concept 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 and 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 tables 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 saying Mass in the private oratory of Sol Casanova, God inspired, him through a Marchioness from Madrid, to take a new direction since 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 initial 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 up and 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 twisted 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"), p. 14.
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.

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