. The majority of its membership are lay people, with secular priests
under the governance of a prelate
(bishop) appointed by the pope. Opus Dei is Latin
for "Work of God", hence the organization is often referred to by members and supporters as "the Work".
Founded in Spain in 1928 by the Catholic priest St.
Bearing a secret sword of goodness and truth, Opus Dei is the most important spiritual movement of our time.
Amidst the cynicism and materialism of our time, it is impossible not to be heartened by Opus Dei's dedication to cultivating the potential spiritual and practical gift of every person and every occupation.
Opus Dei plays an extremely important role in the Church today. Its mission of helping people find holiness in their work is a very important one. It also provides spiritual direction and inspiration to many people of all ages, both Catholics and non-Catholics. I have the highest regard for the work and members of Opus Dei.
The work of Escrivá de Balaguer, will undoubtedly mark the 21st century. This is a prudent and reasonable wager. Do not pass close to this contemporary without paying him close attention.
The Christian West cannot exist without the Christian East, and vice versa. That is why Pope John Paul II spoke about the “two lungs of Europe.” Escrivá, in proclaiming the idea of a “Christian materialism,” unites the two lungs. He spiritualizes matter, understood in the West in so pragmatic a way, and he materializes the spirit, which is too spiritualized in the East. That’s why I say that the teaching of Josemaría Escrivá is inherently ecumenical.
. The majority of its membership are lay people, with secular priests
under the governance of a prelate
(bishop) appointed by the pope. Opus Dei is Latin
for "Work of God", hence the organization is often referred to by members and supporters as "the Work".
Founded in Spain in 1928 by the Catholic priest St. Josemaría Escrivá, Opus Dei was given final approval in 1950 by Pope Pius XII
. In 1982, by decision of Pope John Paul II, the Catholic Church made it into a personal prelature
—that is, the jurisdiction of its own bishop covers the persons in Opus Dei wherever they are, rather than geographical dioceses.
As of 2010, members of the Prelature numbered 90,260. Lay persons, men and women, numbered 88,245, while there were 2015 priests. These figures do not include the diocesan priest members of Opus Dei's Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, estimated to number 2000 in the year 2005. Members are in more than 90 countries. About 70% of Opus Dei members live in their private homes, leading traditional Catholic family lives with secular careers, while the other 30% are celibate, of whom the majority live in Opus Dei centres. Opus Dei organizes training in Catholic spirituality applied to daily life. Aside from personal charity and social work
, Opus Dei members are involved in running universities, university residences, schools, publishing houses, and technical and agricultural training centers.
Opus Dei has been described as the most controversial force within the Catholic Church. According to some journalists who studied Opus Dei separately, most of the criticisms against Opus Dei are mere myths created by its opponents, and Opus Dei is considered a sign of contradiction
. Several popes and other Catholic leaders have endorsed what they see as its innovative teaching on the sanctifying value of work, and its fidelity to Catholic beliefs. In 2002, Pope John Paul II
Escrivá, and called him "the saint of ordinary life."
Controversies about Opus Dei have centered around criticisms of its alleged secretiveness, its recruiting methods, the alleged strict rules governing members, the practice by celibate members of mortification of the flesh
, its alleged elitism and misogyny
, the alleged right-leaning politics of most of its members, and the alleged participation by some in authoritarian or extreme right-wing governments, especially the Francoist Government of Spain until 1978. Within the Catholic Church, Opus Dei is also criticized for allegedly seeking independence and more influence.
In recent years, Opus Dei has received international attention due to the novel The Da Vinci Code
and its film version of 2006
, both of which many prominent Christians and non-believers protested as misleadingly inaccurate and anti-Catholic
Foundational periodOpus Dei was founded by a Catholic priest, Saint
, on 2 October 1928 in Madrid, Spain. According to Escrivá, on that day he experienced a vision in which he "saw Opus Dei". He gave the organization the name "Opus Dei", which in Latin means "Work of God," in order to underscore the belief that the organization was not his (Escrivá's) work, but was rather God's work. Throughout his life, Escrivá held that the founding of Opus Dei had a supernatural character. Escrivá summarized Opus Dei's mission as a way of helping ordinary Christians "to understand that their life... is a way of holiness and evangelization... And to those who grasp this ideal of holiness, the Work offers the spiritual assistance and training they need to put it into practice."
Initially, Opus Dei was open only to men, but in 1930, Escrivá started to admit women, based on what he believed to be a communication from God. In 1936, the organisation suffered a temporary setback with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War
, as many Catholic priests and religious figures, including Escrivá, were forced into hiding (the Catholic Church actively supported the Nationalist rebels). The many atrocities committed during the civil war included the murder and rape of religious figures by government loyalists. After the civil war was won by General Francisco Franco
, Escrivá was able to return to Madrid. Escriva himself recounted that it was in Spain where Opus Dei found "the greatest difficulties" because of traditionalists who he felt misunderstood Opus Dei's ideas. Despite this, Opus Dei flourished during the years of the Franquismo, spreading first throughout Spain, and after 1945, expanding internationally.
In 1939, Escrivá published The Way
, a collection of 999 maxims concerning spirituality. In the 1940s, Opus Dei found an early critic in the Jesuit Superior General
, who told the Vatican that he considered Opus Dei "very dangerous for the Church in Spain," citing its "secretive character" and calling it "a form of Christian Masonry
In 1946, Escrivá moved the organization's headquarters to Rome. In 1950, Pope Pius XII granted definitive approval to Opus Dei, thereby allowing married people to join the organisation.
Post-foundational yearsIn 1975, Escriva died and was succeeded by Álvaro del Portillo
. In 1982, Opus Dei was made into a personal prelature
. This means that Opus Dei is part of the universal Church, and the apostolate of the members falls under the direct jurisdiction of the Prelate of Opus Dei wherever they are. As to "what the law lays down for all the ordinary faithful", the lay members of Opus Dei, being no different from other Catholics, "continue to be ... under the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop", in the words of John Paul II's Ut Sit. In 1994, Javier Echevarria became Prelate upon the death of his predecessor.
One-third of the world's bishops sent letters petitioning for the canonization of Escrivá. Escriva was beatified
in 1992 in the midst of controversy prompted by questions about Escriva's suitability for sainthood. In 2002, approximately 300,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square on the day Pope John Paul II canonised Josemaría Escrivá. According to one author, "Escrivá is... venerated by millions".
There are other members whose process of beatification has been opened: Ernesto Cofiño
, a father of five children and a pioneer in paediatric research in Guatemala; Montserrat Grases
, a teenage Catalan student who died of cancer; Toni Zweifel, a Swiss engineer; Tomás Alvira and wife, Paquita Domínguez, a Spanish married couple; Bishop Álvaro del Portillo and Father José Luis Múzquiz de Miguel.
During the pontificate of John Paul II, two members of Opus Dei, Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne and Julián Herranz Casado
, were made cardinals
In September 2005, Pope Benedict XVI blessed a newly installed statue of Josemaria Escriva placed in an outside wall niche of St Peter's Basilica, a place for founders of Catholic organisations.
During that same year, Opus Dei received some unwanted attention due to the extraordinary success of the novel The Da Vinci Code
, in which both Opus Dei and the Catholic Church itself are depicted negatively. The film version was released globally in May 2006, further polarising views on the organisation.
Opus Dei places special emphasis on certain aspects of Catholic doctrine. A central feature of Opus Dei's theology is its focus on the lives of the ordinary Catholics who are neither priests nor monks. Opus Dei emphasises the "universal call to holiness
": the belief that everyone should aspire to be a saint, that sanctity is within the reach of everyone, not just a few special individuals. Opus Dei does not have monks or nuns, and only a minority of its members are part of the priesthood. A related characteristic is Opus Dei's emphasis on uniting spiritual life with professional, social, and family life. Whereas the members of some religious orders might live in monasteries and devote their lives exclusively to prayer and study, members of Opus Dei lead ordinary lives, with traditional families and secular careers, and strive to "sanctify ordinary life". Indeed, Pope John Paul II called Escrivá "the saint of ordinary life".
Similarly, Opus Dei stresses the importance of work and professional competence. While some religious orders encourage their members to withdraw from the material world, Opus Dei exhorts its members and all lay Catholics to "find God in daily life" and to perform their work excellently as a service to society and as a fitting offering to God. Opus Dei teaches that work not only contributes to social progress but is "a path to holiness", and its founder advised people to: "Sanctify your work. Sanctify yourself in your work. Sanctify others through your work."
The biblical roots of this Catholic doctrine, according to the founder, are in the phrase "God created man to work" (Gen 2:15) and Jesus
's long life as an ordinary carpenter in a small town. Escrivá, who stressed the Christian's duty to follow Christ's example, also points to the gospel account that Jesus "has done everything well" (Mk 7:37).
The foundation of the Christian life, stressed Escrivá, is divine filiation
: Christians are children of God, identified with Christ's life and mission. Other main features of Opus Dei, according to its official literature, are: freedom, respecting choice and taking personal responsibility; and charity, love of God above all and love of others.
At the bottom of Escrivá's understanding of the “universal call to holiness” are two dimensions, subjective and objective, according to Fernando Ocariz
, a Catholic theologian and Vicar General of Opus Dei. The subjective is the call given to each person to become a saint, regardless of his place in society. The objective refers to what Escrivá calls Christian materialism
: all of creation, even the most material situation, is a meeting place with God, and leads to union with Him.
Different qualifiers have been used to describe Opus Dei's doctrine: radical, reactionary, faithful, revolutionary, ultraconservative, most modern, conservative. and liberal.
PrayersAll members – whether married or unmarried, priests or laypeople – are trained to follow a 'plan of life', or 'the norms of piety', which are some traditional Catholic devotions
. This is meant to follow the teaching mentioned in the Catholic Catechism to "pray at specific times...to nourish continual prayer," which in turn is based on Jesus
' "pray always" , echoed by St. Paul's "pray without ceasing" . According to Escriva, the vocation to Opus Dei is a calling to be a "contemplative in the middle of the world," who converts work and daily life into prayer.
- Heroic minuteWaking up earlyWaking up early is a productivity method of rising early and consistently so as to be able to accomplish more during the day. This method has been recommended since antiquity and is presently recommended by a number of personal development gurus...
, waking up punctually and saying "ServiamServiamServiam is Latin for "I will serve." This was the cry of St. Michael the Archangel as a response to Lucifer's "I will not serve" when God put the angels to the test....
!" (Latin: I will serve)
- Morning offeringMorning offeringIn Roman Catholicism, the Morning Offering is a prayer said by an individual at the start of the day in order to consecrate the day to Jesus Christ. It serves the purpose of preparing the Catholic to focus completely on Christ and give to him all that he or she does during the day...
, fixing one's intentions to do everything for the glory of God
- Spiritual readingSpiritual readingSpiritual reading is a practice of reading books and articles about spirituality with the purpose of growing in holiness.Spiritual reading is devoted to the reading of lives of saints, writings of Doctors and the Fathers of the Church, theological works written by holy people, and doctrinal...
and reading the New TestamentNew TestamentThe New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....
, a practice recommended by St. Paul and other saints
- Mental prayerMental prayerMental prayer is a form of prayer recommended in the Catholic Church whereby one loves God through dialogue, meditating on God's words, and contemplation of his face. It is a time of silence focused on God...
, conversation with God
- MassMass (liturgy)"Mass" is one of the names by which the sacrament of the Eucharist is called in the Roman Catholic Church: others are "Eucharist", the "Lord's Supper", the "Breaking of Bread", the "Eucharistic assembly ", the "memorial of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection", the "Holy Sacrifice", the "Holy and...
, CommunionEucharistThe Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...
and Thanksgiving after CommunionThanksgiving after CommunionThanksgiving after Communion is a spiritual practice among Christians who believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist they receive during Holy Communion, maintaining themselves in prayer for some time to thank God for what they believe to be the great gift of receiving God Himself...
- RosaryRosaryThe rosary or "garland of roses" is a traditional Catholic devotion. The term denotes the prayer beads used to count the series of prayers that make up the rosary...
, a traditional Catholic devotion to Christ and to Mary
- The PrecesPrecesPreces are, in liturgical worship, short petitions that are said or sung as versicle and response by the officiant and congregation respectively...
(the common prayer of Opus Dei)
- AngelusAngelusThe Angelus is a Christian devotion in memory of the Incarnation. The name Angelus is derived from the opening words: Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariæ The Angelus (Latin for "angel") is a Christian devotion in memory of the Incarnation. The name Angelus is derived from the opening words: Angelus...
prayer, which recalls Christian belief in God's becoming man
- MemorareMemorareMemorare is a Roman Catholic prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Memorare, from the Latin "Remember", is frequently misattributed to the 12th century Cistercian monk Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, apparently due to confusion with its 17th century popularizer, Father Claude Bernard, who stated that he...
prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary offered for the Opus Dei member in most need at that exact moment
- Visit to the Blessed SacramentVisit to the Blessed SacramentVisit to the Blessed Sacrament is a devotional practice of visiting a church and praying in front of the Eucharist, where Catholics believe Jesus is sacramentally present...
, a Catholic practice of greeting Jesus in the Eucharist
- Examination of conscienceExamination of conscienceExamination of conscience is a review of one's past thoughts, words, actions, and omissions for the purpose of ascertaining their conformity with, or deviation from, the moral law. Among Christians, this is generally a private review; secular intellectuals have, on occasion, published autocritiques...
at the end of the day
- Three Hail MarysThree Hail MarysThree Hail Marys is a traditional Roman Catholic devotional practice of reciting three Hail Marys as a petition for purity and other virtues. Believers recommended that it be prayed before going to bed, and after the examination of conscience at night. This prayer has been recommended by St Anthony...
before bed to pray for the virtueVirtueVirtue is moral excellence. A virtue is a positive trait or quality subjectively deemed to be morally excellent and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being....
- Short, spontaneous prayers throughout the day, offering up to God one's work, sufferings etc.
- ConfessionConfessionThis article is for the religious practice of confessing one's sins.Confession is the acknowledgment of sin or wrongs...
, in pursuit of the Catholic recommendation on frequent confessionFrequent confessionFrequent confession is the spiritual practice among some Roman Catholics of going to the sacrament of reconciliation often and regularly in order to grow in holiness...
- a group meeting of spiritual formation ("the Circle")
- the praying of a Marian antiphon on Saturdays
- taking Psalm 2Psalm 2Psalm 2 is the second Psalm of the Bible. It tells us that we can either defy God and perish, or submit to him and be blessed. Psalm 2 itself does not identify its author, but Acts 4:25-26 clearly attributes it to David.-In the original Hebrew:...
as the basis of mental prayer on Tuesdays
Additionally, members should participate yearly in a spiritual retreat; a three-week seminar every year is obligatory for numeraries, and a one-week seminar for supernumeraries. Also members are expected to make a day-trip pilgrimage where they recite 3 5-decade rosaries on the month of May in honour of Mary.
MortificationMuch public attention has focused on Opus Dei's practice of mortification
— the voluntary offering up of discomfort or pain to God, this includes fasting, or in some circumstances self inflicted pain such as self flagellation. Mortification has a long history in many world religions, including the Catholic Church. It has been endorsed by Popes as a way of following Christ who died in a bloody crucifixion
and who gave this advice: "let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me." (Lk 9:23) Supporters say that opposition to mortification is rooted in having lost (1) the "sense of the enormity of sin
" or offense against God
, and the consequent penance
, both interior and exterior, (2) the notions of "wounded human nature" and of concupiscence
or inclination to sin, and thus the need for "spiritual battle," and (3) a spirit of sacrifice
for love and "supernatural ends," and not only for physical enhancement.
As a spirituality for ordinary people, Opus Dei focuses on performing sacrifices pertaining to normal duties and to its emphasis on charity and cheerfulness. Additionally, Opus Dei celibate members practise "corporal mortifications" such as sleeping without a pillow or sleeping on the floor, fasting or remaining silent for certain hours during the day.
Critics state that self-mortification is a "startling," "extreme," and "questionable" practice — one that borders on masochism. Critics assert that "due to modern psychology and thinking, the practices which inflict pain are sometimes considered to be counterproductive to one's spiritual development, as they can easily lead to pride and an unhealthy attitude toward one's body."
Ut Sit, Opus Dei was established as a personal prelature, a new official structure of the Catholic Church, similar to a diocese
in that it contains lay people and secular priests who are led by a bishop. However, whereas a bishop normally has a territory or diocese, the prelate of Opus Dei is pastor to the members and priests of Opus Dei worldwide, no matter what diocese they are in. To date, Opus Dei is the only personal prelature in existence. In addition to being governed by Ut Sit and by the Catholic Church's general law, Opus Dei is governed by the Church's Particular Law concerning Opus Dei, otherwise known as Opus Dei's statutes. This specifies the objectives and workings of the prelature. The prelature is under the Congregation for Bishops
The head of the Opus Dei prelature is known as the Prelate. The Prelate is the primary governing authority and is assisted by two councils — the General Council (made up of men) and the Central Advisory (made up of women). The Prelate holds his position for life. The current prelate of Opus Dei is Javier Echevarria Rodriguez
, who became the second Prelate of Opus Dei in 1994. The first Prelate of Opus Dei was Álvaro del Portillo
, who held the position from 1982 until his death in 1994.
Opus Dei's highest assembled bodies are the General Congresses, which are usually convened once every eight years. There are separate congresses for the men and women's branch of Opus Dei. The General Congresses are made up of members appointed by the Prelate, and are responsible for advising him about the prelature's future. The men's General Congress also elects the Prelate from a list of candidates chosen by their female counterparts. After the death of a Prelate, a special elective General Congress is convened. The women nominate their preferred candidates for the prelate and is voted upon by the men to become the next Prelate — an appointment that must be confirmed by the Pope.
MembershipAs of 2010, members of the Prelature numbered 90,260, 88,245 of whom are lay persons, men and women, and 2015 priests. These figures do not include the priest members of Opus Dei's Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, estimated to number 2000 in the year 2005.
About 60% of Opus Dei members reside in Europe, and 35% reside in the Americas. For the most part, Opus Dei members belong to the middle-to-low levels in society, in terms of education, income, and social status.
Opus Dei is made up of several different types of membership:
, the largest type, currently account for about 70% of the total membership. Typically, supernumeraries are married men and women with careers. Supernumeraries devote a portion of their day to prayer, in addition to attending regular meetings and taking part in activities such as retreats. Due to their career and family obligations, supernumeraries are not as available to the organisation as the other types of members, but they typically contribute financially to Opus Dei, and they lend other types of assistance as their circumstances permit.
, the second largest type of members of Opus Dei, comprise about 20% of total membership. Numeraries are celibate members who usually live in special centers run by Opus Dei. Both men and women may become numeraries, although the centers are strictly gender-segregated. Numeraries generally have careers and devote the bulk of their income to the organisation.
are unmarried, celibate female members of Opus Dei. They live in special centres run by Opus Dei but do not have jobs outside the centres — instead, their professional life is dedicated to looking after the domestic needs of the centers and their residents.
are unmarried, celibate members who typically have family or professional obligations. Unlike numeraries and numerary assistants, the associates do not live in Opus Dei centres.
The Clergy of the Opus Dei Prelature
are priests who are under the jurisdiction of the Prelate of Opus Dei. They are a minority in Opus Dei— only about 2% of Opus Dei members are part of the clergy. Typically, they are numeraries or associates who ultimately joined the priesthood.
The Priestly Society of the Holy Cross
consists of priests associated with Opus Dei. Part of the society is made up of the clergy of the Opus Dei prelature — members of the priesthood who fall under the jurisdiction of the Opus Dei prelature are automatically members of the Priestly Society. Other members in the society are diocesan priests — clergymen who remain under the jurisdiction of a geographically defined diocese. These priests are considered full members of Opus Dei who are given its spiritual training. They do not however report to the Opus Dei Prelate but to their own diocesan bishop. As of 2005, there were roughly two thousand of these priests.
The Cooperators of Opus Dei
are non-members who collaborate in some way with Opus Dei — usually through praying, charitable contributions, or by providing some other assistance. Cooperators are not required to be celibate or to adhere to any other special requirements. Indeed, cooperators are not even required to be Christian. There were 164,000 cooperators in the year 2005.
In accordance with Catholic theology, membership is granted when a vocation
, or divine calling is presumed to have occurred.
ActivitiesLeaders of Opus Dei describe the organization as a teaching entity, whose main activity is to train Catholics to assume personal responsibility in sanctifying the secular world from within. This teaching is done by means of theory and practice.
Its lay people and priests organize seminars, workshops, retreats, and classes to help people put the Christian faith into practice in their daily lives. Spiritual direction
, one-on-one coaching with a more experienced lay person or priest, is considered the "paramount means" of training. Through these activities they provide religious instruction (doctrinal formation), coaching in spirituality for lay people (spiritual formation), character and moral education (human formation), lessons in sanctifying one's work (professional formation), and know-how in evangelizing one's family and workplace (apostolic formation).
Opus Dei runs residential centres throughout the world. These centers provide residential housing for celibate members, undertake recruitment, and provide doctrinal and theological education. Opus Dei is also responsible for a variety of non-profit institutions called "Corporate Works of Opus Dei
". A study of the year 2005, showed that members have cooperated with other people in setting up a total of 608 social initiatives: schools and university residences (68%), technical or agricultural training centres (26%), universities, business schools and hospitals (6%). The University of Navarra
in Pamplona, Spain is a corporate work of Opus Dei which has been rated as one of the top private universities in the country, while its business school, IESE
, was adjudged one of the best in the world by the Financial Times
and the Economist Intelligence Unit
. The total assets of non-profits connected to Opus Dei are worth at least $2.8 billion.
Relations with Catholic leadersThe bishop of Madrid where Opus Dei was born, Leopoldo Eijo y Garay, supported Opus Dei and defended it in the 1940s by saying that "this opus is truly Dei" (this work is truly God's). Contrary to attacks of secrecy and heresy, the bishop described Opus Dei's founder as someone who is "open as a child" and "most obedient to the Church hierarchy."
In 1960, Pope John XXIII
commented that Opus Dei opens up "unsuspected horizons of apostolate". Furthermore, in 1964, Pope Paul VI
praised the organization in a handwritten letter to Escrivá, saying:
Opus Dei is "a vigorous expression of the perennial youth of the Church, fully open to the demands of a modern apostolate... We look with paternal satisfaction on all that Opus Dei has achieved and is achieving for the kingdom of God, the desire of doing good that guides it, the burning love for the Church and its visible head that distinguishes it, and the ardent zeal for souls that impels it along the arduous and difficult paths of the apostolate of presence and witness in every sector of contemporary life."
The relationship between Paul VI and Opus Dei, according to Alberto Moncada, a doctor of sociology and ex-member, was "stormy". After the Second Vatican Council
concluded in 1965, Pope Paul VI denied Opus Dei's petition to become a personal prelature, Moncada stated.
Pope John Paul I
, a few years before his election, wrote that Escrivá was more radical than other saints who taught about the universal call to holiness
. While others emphasized monastic spirituality applied to lay people, for Escrivá "it is the material work itself which must be turned into prayer and sanctity", thus providing a lay spirituality.
Criticisms against Opus Dei have prompted Catholics like Piers Paul Read
and Vittorio Messori
to call Opus Dei a sign of contradiction
, in reference to the biblical quote of Jesus as a "sign that is spoken against." Said John Carmel Heenan, Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster
: "One of the proofs of God's favour is to be a sign of contradiction. Almost all founders of societies in the Church have suffered. Monsignor Escrivá de Balaguer is no exception. Opus Dei has been attacked and its motives misunderstood. In this country and elsewhere an inquiry has always vindicated Opus Dei."
"[Opus Dei] has as its aim the sanctification of one’s life, while remaining within the world at one’s place of work and profession: to live the Gospel in the world, while living immersed in the world, but in order to transform it, and to redeem it with one’s personal love for Christ. This is truly a great ideal, which right from the beginning has anticipated the theology of the lay state of the Second Vatican CouncilSecond Vatican CouncilThe Second Vatican Council addressed relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the modern world. It was the twenty-first Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church and the second to be held at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. It opened under Pope John XXIII on 11 October 1962 and closed...
and the post-conciliar period."
One-third of the world's bishop
s petitioned for the canonisation of Escrivá. During the canonisation, there were 42 cardinals
and 470 bishops from around the world, general superiors of many orders
and religious congregations
, and representatives of various Catholic groups. During those days, these Church officials commented on the universal reach and validity of the message of the founder. For his canonisation homily
, John Paul II said: With the teachings of St. Josemaría, "it is easier to understand what the Second Vatican Council affirmed: 'there is no question, then, of the Christian message inhibiting men from building up the world ... on the contrary it is an incentive to do these very things' (Vatican II, Gaudium et spes
, n. 34)."
Concerning the group's role in the Catholic Church, critics have argued that Opus Dei's unique status as a personal prelature gives it too much independence, making it essentially a "church within a church" and that Opus Dei exerts a disproportionately large influence within the Catholic Church itself, as illustrated, for example, by the unusually rapid canonisation of Escrivá
, which some considered to be irregular. In contrast, Catholic officials say that Church authorities have even greater control of Opus Dei now that its head is a prelate appointed by the Pope, and its status as a prelature "precisely means dependence." Allen says that Escriva's relatively quick canonization does not have anything to do with power but with improvements in procedures and John Paul II's decision to make Escriva's sanctity and message known.
The current pope, Benedict XVI, is also a particularly strong supporter of Opus Dei and of Escrivá. Pointing to the name "Work of God", Benedict XVI (then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger), wrote that "The Lord simply made use of [Escrivá] who allowed God to work." Ratzinger cited Escrivá for correcting the mistaken idea that holiness is reserved to some extraordinary people who are completely different from ordinary sinners: Even if he can be very weak, with many mistakes in his life, a saint is nothing other than to speak with God as a friend speaks with a friend, allowing God to work, the Only One who can really make the world both good and happy.
Ratzinger spoke of Opus Dei's "surprising union of absolute fidelity to the Church’s great tradition, to its faith, and unconditional openness to all the challenges of this world, whether in the academic world, in the field of work, or in matters of the economy, etc." He further explained:
"the theocentrism of Escrivá...means this confidence in the fact that God is working now and we ought only to put ourselves at his disposal...This, for me, is a message of greatest importance. It is a message that leads to overcoming what could be considered the great temptation of our times: the pretense that after the 'Big BangBig BangThe Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model that explains the early development of the Universe. According to the Big Bang theory, the Universe was once in an extremely hot and dense state which expanded rapidly. This rapid expansion caused the young Universe to cool and resulted in...
' God retired from history."
ControversyThroughout its history, Opus Dei has been criticized from many quarters, prompting journalists to describe Opus Dei as "the most controversial force in the Catholic Church" and founder Saint
as a "polarizing" figure.
The organisation has been criticized for issues relating to the Catholic Church, especially the practice of mortification of the flesh
. Controversies about Opus Dei have centered around criticisms of its behaviours, such as alleged secretiveness, aggressive recruiting methods, and its strict rules governing members. The organization's members have also been categorized by critics as right-leaning elitists, with some individuals supporting fascist governments, such as the Francoist Government of Spain until 1978.
Supporting viewsAccording to several journalists who have worked independently on Opus Dei, such as John Allen, Jr., Vittorio Messori
, Patrice de Plunkett
, Maggy Whitehouse
, Noam Friedlander
many of the criticisms against Opus Dei are myths and unproven tales. Allen, Messori, and Plunkett say that most of these myths were created by its opponents, with Allen adding that he perceives that Opus Dei members generally practise what they preach.
which expects Opus Dei members to behave as monks and clerics, people who are traditionally known and externally identifiable as seekers of holiness. In contrast, these journalists continue, Opus Dei's lay members, like any normal Catholic professional, are ultimately responsible for their personal actions, and do not externally represent the organization which provides them religious education. Writer and broadcast analyst John L. Allen, Jr.
states that Opus Dei provides abundant information about itself. These journalists have stated that the historic roots of criticisms against Opus Dei can be found in influential clerical circles.
As to its alleged participation in right-wing politics, especially the Francoist regime, British historians Paul Preston
and Brian Crozier
state that the Opus Dei members who were Franco's ministers were appointed for their talent and not for their Opus Dei membership. Also, there were notable members of Opus Dei who were vocal critics of the Franco Regime such as Rafael Calvo Serer
and Antonio Fontan
, who was the first Senate President of Spain's democracy. The German historian and Opus Dei member Peter Berglar
calls any connection made between Opus Dei and Franco's regime a "gross slander." At the end of Franco's regime, Opus Dei members were 50:50 for and against Franco, according to John Allen. Similarly Álvaro del Portillo
, the former Prelate of Opus Dei, said that any statements that Escrivá supported Hitler were "a patent falsehood," that were part of "a slanderous campaign". He and others have stated that Escriva condemned Hitler as a "rogue", a "racist" and a "tyrant". Opus Dei spokespersons also deny claims that Opus Dei members worked with General Pinochet. Various authors state that Escriva was staunchly non-political, and detested dictatorships. Allen wrote that, compared with other Catholic organizations, Opus Dei's stress on freedom and personal responsibility is extraordinarily strong. There are many Opus Dei members who are identified with left-wing politics, including Ruth Kelly
and Jesus Estanislao
While Opus Dei spokepersons have admitted mistakes in dealing with some members and do not, as a rule, contest their grievances, supporters have rejected generalisations merely based on negative experiences of some members. Sociologists like Bryan R. Wilson
write about some former members of any religious group who may have psychological motivations such as self-justification to criticise their former groups. Wilson states that such individuals are prone to create fictitious "atrocity stories
" which have no basis in reality. Many supporters of Opus Dei have expressed the belief that the criticisms of Opus Dei stem from a generalised disapproval of spirituality, Christianity, or Catholicism. Expressing this sentiment, one Opus Dei member, Cardinal Julián Herranz
, stated "Opus Dei has become a victim of Christianophobia." Massimo Introvigne
, author of an encyclopedia of religion, argues that critics employ the term "cult" in order to intentionally stigmatize
Opus Dei because "they could not tolerate 'the return to religion' of the secularized society".
Opus Dei is not "elitist" in the sense in which people often invoke the term, meaning an exclusively white-collar phenomenon, concluded John Allen. He observed that among its members are barbers, bricklayers, mechanics and fruit sellers. Most supernumeraries are living ordinary middle-class lives, he said.
Regarding alleged misogyny
, John Allen states that half of the leadership positions in Opus Dei are held by women, and they supervise men. The Catholic Church defends its male priesthood by saying that "the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven are not the ministers but the saints."
Critical viewsIn the English-speaking world, the most vocal critic of Opus Dei is an internet-based blogging website called the Opus Dei Awareness Network (ODAN). ODAN describes itself as an organisation that exists "to provide education, outreach and support to people who have been adversely affected by Opus Dei." ODAN is headed by Diane DiNicola, mother of a former member, Tammy DiNicola. Other major critics include Maria Carmen del Tapia, an ex-member who was a high-ranking officer of Opus Dei for many years, liberal Catholic theologians such as Fr. James Martin
, a Jesuit writer and editor, and supporters of Liberation theology
, such as journalist Penny Lernoux
and Michael Walsh, a writer on religious matters and former Jesuit.
Opus Dei has been accused of deceptive and aggressive recruitment practices such as showering potential members with intense praise ("Love bombing
"), instructing numeraries to form friendships and attend social gatherings explicitly for recruiting purposes, and requiring regular written reports from its members about those friends who are potential recruits.
Organisations such as ODAN allege that Opus Dei maintains an extremely high degree of control over its members— for instance, past rules required numeraries to submit their incoming and outgoing mail to their superiors for inspection, and members are forbidden to read certain books without permission from their superiors. Critics charge that Opus Dei pressures numeraries to sever contact with non-members, including their own families. Exit counselor David Clark has described Opus Dei as "very cult-like".
Critics assert that Escrivá and the organisation supported radical right-wing governments, such as those of Augusto Pinochet
and Alberto Fujimori
of Peru during the 1990s. Both Pinochet's and Fujimori's ministries and prominent supporters allegedly included members of Opus Dei. There have also been allegations that Escrivá expressed sympathy for Adolf Hitler
. One former Opus Dei priest, Vladimir Felzmann, who has become a vocal Opus Dei critic, says that Escrivá once remarked that Hitler had been "badly treated" by the world and he further declared that "Hitler couldn't have been such a bad person. He couldn't have killed six million [Jews]. It couldn't have been more than four million."
Opus Dei has also been accused of elitism
through targeting of "the intellectual elite, the well-to-do, and the socially prominent."
As a part of the Roman Catholic Church, Opus Dei has been open to the same criticisms
as Catholicism in general— for example female members of Opus Dei cannot become priests or prelates.
After conducting a critical study of Opus Dei, journalist John Allen, Jr. concluded that Opus Dei should (1) be more transparent, (2) collaborate with monks and nuns who belong to religious order
s, and (3) encourage its members to air out in public their criticisms of the institution.
Other viewsSociologists Peter Berger
and Samuel Huntington
suggest that Opus Dei is involved in "a deliberate attempt to construct an alternative modernity," one that engages modern culture while at the same time is resolutely loyal to Catholic traditions. Van Biema of Time magazine
emphasises Opus Dei's Spanish
roots as a source of misunderstandings in the Anglo-Saxon
world, and suggests that as the United States becomes more Hispanic, controversies about Opus Dei (and similar Catholic organizations) will decrease.
In her 2006 book on Opus Dei, Maggy Whitehouse
, a non-Catholic journalist, argues that the relative autonomy of each director and centre has resulted in mistakes at the local level. She recommends greater consistency and transparency for Opus Dei, which she sees as having learned the lesson of greater openness when it faced the issues raised by The Da Vinci Code and other critics.
Opus Dei in popular culture
- Since 2003, Opus Dei has received world attention as a result of Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci CodeThe Da Vinci CodeThe Da Vinci Code is a 2003 mystery-detective novel written by Dan Brown. It follows symbologist Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu as they investigate a murder in Paris's Louvre Museum and discover a battle between the Priory of Sion and Opus Dei over the possibility of Jesus having been married to...
and the 2006 film based on the novelThe Da Vinci Code (film)The Da Vinci Code is a 2006 American mystery thriller film directed by Ron Howard. The screenplay was written by Akiva Goldsman and based on Dan Brown's worldwide bestselling 2003 novel, The Da Vinci Code...
. In The Da Vinci Code, Opus Dei is portrayed as a Catholic organization that is led into a sinister international conspiracy. In general, The Da Vinci Code has been sharply criticised for its numerous factual inaccuracies, by a wide array of scholars and historians. According to the AnglicanAnglicanismAnglicanism is a tradition within Christianity comprising churches with historical connections to the Church of England or similar beliefs, worship and church structures. The word Anglican originates in ecclesia anglicana, a medieval Latin phrase dating to at least 1246 that means the English...
Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Dr Tom Wright, the novel is a "great thriller" but "lousy history". For example, the major villain in The Da Vinci Code is a monk who is a member of Opus Dei — but in reality there are no monks in Opus Dei. The Da Vinci Code implies that Opus Dei is the Pope's personal prelature — but the term "personal prelature" does not refer to a special relationship to the Pope: It means an institution in which the jurisdiction of the prelate is not linked to a geographic territory but over persons, wherever they be. Nonetheless, Brown stated that his portrayal of Opus Dei was based on interviews with members and ex-members, and books about Opus Dei. An Opus Dei spokesman questioned this statement.
- A Franco-Belgian comic bookFranco-Belgian comicsFranco-Belgian comics are comics that are created in Belgium and France. These countries have a long tradition in comics and comic books, where they are known as BDs, an abbreviation of bande dessinée in French and stripverhalen in Dutch...
(bande dessinée) on the life of Escrivá was published by Coccinelle BD in 2005. The title is Through the mountains, in reference to Escriva's escape from the Republican zone through the mountains of AndorraAndorraAndorra , officially the Principality of Andorra , also called the Principality of the Valleys of Andorra, , is a small landlocked country in southwestern Europe, located in the eastern Pyrenees mountains and bordered by Spain and France. It is the sixth smallest nation in Europe having an area of...
during the Spanish Civil WarSpanish Civil WarThe Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...
- In the 1997 novel The Genesis Code by John Case, the leader of Opus Dei is portrayed as the novel's antagonistAntagonistAn antagonist is a character, group of characters, or institution, that represents the opposition against which the protagonist must contend...
. In the novel, Opus Dei members are sent on a mission to execute children who were conceived using genetically engineered oocyteOocyteAn oocyte, ovocyte, or rarely ocyte, is a female gametocyte or germ cell involved in reproduction. In other words, it is an immature ovum, or egg cell. An oocyte is produced in the ovary during female gametogenesis. The female germ cells produce a primordial germ cell which undergoes a mitotic...
- There Be DragonsThere Be DragonsThere Be Dragons is a historical epic written and directed by Roland Joffé, a British filmmaker well known for directing The Mission, The Killing Fields and Captivity. It is a drama set during the Spanish Civil War which features themes such as betrayal, love and hatred, forgiveness, friendship,...
, a historical epic film released in the spring of 2011, includes the early life of Escriva. It is directed by Roland JoffeRoland JofféRoland Joffé is an English-French film director who is known for his Oscar nominated movies, The Killing Fields and The Mission. He began his career in television. His early television credits included episodes of Coronation Street and an adaptation of The Stars Look Down for Granada...
, and stars Charlie CoxCharlie CoxCharlie Cox is an English actor.-Life and career:Cox, the youngest of five children, was born in London, England and raised in East Sussex, the son of Trisha and Andrew, who is a publisher...
, Wes BentleyWes BentleyWesley Cook "Wes" Bentley is an American film actor known for his role of Ricky Fitts in American Beauty.-Early life:Bentley was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas, the son of Cherie and David Bentley, who are United Methodist ministers....
, Derek JacobiDerek JacobiSir Derek George Jacobi, CBE is an English actor and film director.A "forceful, commanding stage presence", Jacobi has enjoyed a highly successful stage career, appearing in such stage productions as Hamlet, Uncle Vanya, and Oedipus the King. He received a Tony Award for his performance in...
, Golshifteh FarahaniGolshifteh FarahaniGolshifteh Farahani is a Crystal-Simorgh winning Iranian actress and pianist.- Early life :Golshifteh Farahani was born on 10 July 1983 in Tehran, the daughter of actor/theater director Behzad Farahani and his spouse, Fahime Rahiminia and sister of actress Shaghayegh Farahani. She started studying...
, Dougray ScottDougray Scott-Early life:The son of Elma, a nurse, and Alan Scott, an actor and salesperson, Stephen Dougray Scott was born in Glenrothes, Fife and attended Auchmuty High School...
, Olga KurylenkoOlga KurylenkoOlha Kostyantynivna Kurylenko , better known as Olga Kurylenko, is a French actress and model. She is perhaps best known as the Bond girl, Camille Montes, in the 22nd James Bond film, Quantum of Solace. She also portrayed Nika Boronina in the movie adaptation of the video game Hitman...
, and Lily ColeLily ColeLily Luahana Cole is an English model and actress. Cole's modelling career was launched by a chance encounter with Benjamin Hart in Soho, London when she was 14....
- Controversies about Opus Dei
- L'Opus Dei : enquête sur le "monstre"L'Opus Dei : enquête sur le "monstre"L'Opus Dei : enquête sur le "monstre" is a journalistic and historical work of Patrice de Plunkett about Opus Dei, an institution of the Catholic Church. Plunkett was the editor of the French magazine Le Figaro. His book was released on 17 May 2006, the debut of the film The Da Vinci Code which...
- List of members of Opus Dei
- Opus Dei and politicsOpus Dei and politicsOpus Dei and politics is a discussion on Opus Dei's view on politics, its role in politics and its members involvement in politics. There were accusations that the Catholic personal prelature of Opus Dei has had links with far-right governments worldwide, including Franco's and Hitler's regimes....
- Opus Dei: An Objective Look Behind the Myths and Reality of the Most Controversial Force in the Catholic Church
- Allen, John, Jr. (2005). Opus Dei: an Objective Look Behind the Myths and Reality of the Most Controversial Force in the Catholic Church, Doubleday Religion. ISBN 0-385-51449-2 — Online excerpts: Opus Dei: An Introduction, Chapter I: A Quick Overview of Opus Dei, Chapter 7: Opus Dei and Secrecy
- Berglar, Peter (1994). Opus Dei. Life and Work of its Founder. Scepter. — online here
- Estruch, Joan (1995). Saints and Schemers: Opus Dei and its paradoxes. Oxford University Press — trans. of L'Opus Dei i les seves paradoxes (in Catalan) — online Spanish version here
- Friedlander, Noam (2005). "What Is Opus Dei? Tales of God, Blood, Money and Faith" Collins & Brown. ISBN 1-84340-288-2. ISBN 978-1-84340-288-6. — a book review titled "A Wholesome Reality Hides Behind A Dark Conspiracy"
- Hahn, Scott (2006). Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace: My Spiritual Journey in Opus Dei. Random House Doubleday Religion. ISBN 978-0-385-51924-3 — online excerpt of Chapter One here
- Introvigne, Massimo (May 1994). "Opus Dei and the Anti-cult Movement". Cristianità, 229, p. 3–12 — online here
- John Paul II. Sacred Congregation for Bishops. (23 August 1982). Vatican Declaration on Opus Dei. — online here
- Luciani, Albino (John Paul I) (25 July 1978). "Seeking God through everyday work". Il Gazzettino Venice. — online here
- Martin, James, S.J. (25 February 1995). "Opus Dei in the United States". America Magazine. — online here — online version here
- O'Connor, William. Opus Dei: An Open Book. A Reply to "The Secret World of Opus Dei" by Michael Walsh, Mercier Press, Dublin, 1991 — online here
- Oates, MT, et al. (2009). Women of Opus Dei: In Their Own Words. Crossroad Publishing Company. ISBN 0-8245-2425-X.
- Ratzinger, Joseph (Benedict XVI) (9 October 2002). "St. Josemaria: God is very much at work in our world today". L'Osservatore Romano Weekly Edition in English, p. 3. — online here
- Schall, James, S.J. (Aug–September 1996). "Of Saintly Timber". Homiletic and Pastoral Review. — review of Estruch's work, online here
- Shaw, Russel (1994). Ordinary Christians in the World. Office of Communications, Prelature of Opus Dei in the US. — online here
Opus Dei Official sites
- Romana, the Opus Dei's Official Bulletin
- The founder of Opus Dei: Official Site
- Writings of the founder of Opus Dei
- St. Josemaría Escrivá Historical Institute, Rome
- YouTube Channel - Opus Dei
- YouTube Channel - St. Josemaria
Sites supporting Opus Dei
- The Vatican on Opus Dei and Josemaria Escriva
- EWTN page on Opus Dei
- Opus Dei Blogs – central hub of internet sources