Charlie's Blog: The Cult of Opus Escriva


The Cult of Opus Escriva

Don't judge without having heard both sides. Even persons who think themselves virtuous very easily forget this elementary rule of prudence.

I had a friend from long ago who introduced me to the heretical teachings of John Calvin. Naturally, being young and naive, I embraced those teachings even to the point of following that friend to a Calvinist seminary to learn more and embark on becoming a Presbyterian minister. Needless to say, God corrected my error, and I have come to embrace the other side of the story that my friend and the seminary never told me. This was the Roman Catholic side of the story. Had I actually given time to hearing that other side, I might have saved myself a great deal of grief and trouble.

I ran into my friend later after my Catholic conversion. I returned the "favor" of giving him the information that I wished I had received those many years ago. Needless to say, he was not grateful for this information, and we are no longer friends. I do not wish him ill, but life has taught me that it is the few and not the many that find the right path that leads to life.

This post is also the return of a similar favor. I have a lifetime of journeys down wrong paths before finding the right path, and it should be no surprise that this would continue even after becoming a Roman Catholic. I did not come into the Church with blinders on my eyes. I was already familiar with the sex abuse scandals and corruption in the Church. On the outside, the Catholic Church is monolithic. On the inside, it is a fistfight. You have modernists, semi-modernists, and traditionalists. You also have cuckoos and nuts. Whatever nuttiness is in the Protestant churches, you will see a counterpart in the Catholic Church.

I always try to find the good guys. No one is perfect, but I learned from my time as a Protestant to be trusting of people who are orthodox and devout. This is why I never became an Episcopalian. Unfortunately, even demons can appear as angels and lead you astray. This is how I became acquainted and involved with Opus Dei.

Opus Dei means "work of God" in Latin. I prefer to call the Work "Opus Escriva" because I do not think of it as a work of God anymore. The first time I heard about Opus Dei was from the dreadful novel, The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown. That novel portrayed an opus member as some crazed albino monk intent on murder and whatever. Needless to say, the entire book is garbage including the smears on Opus Dei. The irony is that it provoked me to study up on the group and find out the truth. I liked what I read and came to the conclusion that these followers of Escriva must be the good guys because of all the criticism and hatred.

The person who had the most impact on me wanting to be an Opus Dei member was Scott Hahn. Like me, Hahn is a Protestant Calvinist convert to Catholicism. He is also a supernumerary in Opus Dei and wrote a book about the group called Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace: My Spiritual Journey in Opus Dei. I was already a Scott Hahn fan from reading his other books, and I still recommend them. Unfortunately, Hahn is like all of the other Opus Dei members. He is a well-intentioned dupe. His heart is in the right place, but his brain is in the off position when it comes to Opus Dei. I pray that his eyes will be opened about this organization.

I cannot point to anything heretical in the teachings of Escriva or Opus Dei. In fact, on its face, those teachings are very good. The gist of Opus Dei is that laypeople can find holiness in their everyday lives through the sanctification of their work and activities. You don't need to belong to a religious order to live this life of holiness. I embraced this teaching, and I still embrace it. But if you don't need to be a religious to become a saint, why do you need to be an Opus Dei member? That's where things go bad with Opus Dei.

My initial impression of Opus Dei was that it was an organization for helping laypeople sanctify their lives. My opinion now is that Opus Dei is a cult that exists to filch money from its members and to venerate the memory of a man who was no saint. The Work has more in common with Scientology than the Franciscans or the Dominicans. Sad to say, it is not the only cult that exists in the Roman Catholic Church nor is it the worst. These cults have flourished since Vatican II in a failed attempt to feed the spiritual hunger of those who are sick of the Vatican II modernist church. I was one of those people.

A layperson does not need a cult like Opus Dei to sanctify their lives. God has already provided for us. It is called the Roman Catholic Church. You don't need anything extra. It is all there. I would also recommend reading the works of Saint Francis de Sales for those laypersons wanting to sanctify their lives in the ordinary world. Unlike Escriva, Francis was a saint, and his writings put Escriva's output to shame as the work of a hack and a pretender.

I can honestly say that I have found a goldmine in the ordinary teachings of the Catholic Church. None of this stuff is hidden or mysterious. It's all right there for the taking. I am someone who has spent hours at circles and recollections of Opus Dei, and none of it amounted to anything except the bit I got from Divine Intimacy that an Opus Dei priest shared. That is an awesome book. It is better than anything that Escriva has ever written. In hindsight, I suspect that this priest had strayed from his leaders' wishes in sharing from that Carmelite classic. I don't know. But it was my first inkling that Opus Dei was a bill of goods.

The breaking point for me came when the supernumerary leading our circle endeavored to defend Pope Francis who had recently come out in approval of gay civil unions. This was no surprise to me since Bergoglio had done this in Argentina. At this point, faithful Catholics should know that we are dealing with something wicked in this pope and probable antipope. The one thing I know is that I will never do damage control for the man. I take what he says at face value as being truly what he thinks. I don't engage in popesplaining.

My supernumerary who is a brilliant chemical engineering professor endeavored to make the case to our cooperator's circle that Pope Francis did not say the thing he said. I found this bizarre and idiotic. I told the supernumerary that if there was any doubt about it to give it a day or so for Bergoglio to double down on the heresy which Bergoglio did. With anyone else, this would have been a difference of opinion except I came to the realization that the supernumerary had been ordered to do this idiotic damage control by his superiors. At that moment, I realized that Opus Dei was a cult.

In hindsight, the clues were there. I just gave them the benefit of the doubt. Opus Dei is secretive. It relentlessly recruits members, but they want members with large salaries, large families, and high prestige. The real cream is a celibate numerary who makes a lot of money from his professional career who turns over all of this money to the cult. You figured that with all this money rolling in that Opus Dei would have extensive works of mercy like hospitals, orphanages, and aid groups. This isn't the case. The works of Opus Dei are little more than recruiting operations for more members. There is no charity in Opus Dei.

I felt a bit stupid for having gotten involved with the group. I started reading up on the group from its critics at the Opus Dei Awareness Network. It was time to get the other side of the story. What I considered the lies of embittered ex-members turned out to be the truth. I wasn't that deep into the group as God kept restraining me. I realize now that when God frustrates you in a thing it is for your own good. He allowed me to learn enough and no further. A similar thing happened to me at that Calvinist seminary.

I have no animosity to that supernumerary or Opus Dei members. I see them as victims with good intentions. They are not evil but gullible. It hurts my heart to see good people duped. And that is why I feel a duty to write this post. The world needs to hear both sides of this story.

The real villain was Josemaria Escriva. I have done quite a bit of reading on the man from his official biographies to the real stories of people that knew the man. He was no saint. Yet, if you tell this to an Opus Dei member, that member will become very agitated and angry. Their devotion to the man is far out of bounds in comparison to how people feel towards greater saints like Aquinas or Ignatius of Loyola. That is the strongest clue that you are dealing with a cult.

I remember making a remark comparing Escriva's folksy demeanor to Mother Angelica. My supernumerary friend looked like he was going to blow a gasket. I did not know at the time that this was a no-no. But it is all clear to me now.

My opinion of Escriva was that he was a nobody who wanted to be a somebody. This isn't the worst crime in the world, but it is not the fertile seedbed for sanctity. True saints are deeply humble and aspire to nothing except love for and obedience to our Lord. They don't do things like brag about being the founder of a religious work, seek aristocratic titles, claim academic honors that were not earned, or rewrite their biographies to make their past look better than what it was. Escriva is guilty of all that.

The purpose of Opus Dei was to make Escriva a somebody both in life and death. There is strong evidence that Escriva's canonization was bought. This would explain the speed of the canonization. I do not believe that canonizations are infallible since it is only the doctrine of the communion of the saints that exists in the deposit of the faith but not the sainthood of any particular individual. This is why the demands for canonization were so stringent and took centuries to complete. Today, they make saints within the lifetimes of people that knew them while alive. With this watered down standard, I suspect there have been many errors made in the canonization process. I know that Escriva's cause would not have survived the scrutiny of the Devil's Advocate. But that no longer exists.

Once Escriva was canonized in an act that can only be called simony, Opus Dei was put beyond all criticism. No one dares question the life and work of a saint. Yet, this is what happened. Escriva's canonization put the Church's seal of approval on this cult. I recommend reading all you can on the ODAN website about the real Josemaria Escriva.

The best book I have read about the real Opus Dei was Beyond the Threshold: A Life in Opus Dei by Maria del Carmen Tapia, a former Opus Dei numerary who personally knew Escriva. Other critical books touch what is only on the surface, but Tapia tells the complete truth about Escriva and his cult. Opus Dei is not as sick or depraved as the Legionaries of Christ cult with its pervert priest founder, Marcial Maciel. I remember my supernumerary friend telling me this in "defense" of Opus Dei. Basically, he said that his cult is not as bad as that cult. This weak defense exposed the truth about Opus Dei. Fundamentally, all cults are the same. They deny reality and warp the truth. I can't recommend Tapia's book enough.

My advice to all Roman Catholics is to steer clear of Opus Dei and its members. Don't let your children become involved with them. Opus Dei already has a terrible reputation which is why they are so secretive. You will find more transparency among the Freemasons. The Freemasons wear rings and put decals on their vehicles. Opus Dei members are spread throughout the Catholic Church and other organizations, but they are hiding in plain sight. The only things Opus Dei loves as much as money are power and influence. Politics, media, and university posts are their favorite places to be. This allows them to control the narrative and recruit more members.

What is the damage that Opus Dei has done? The most obvious damage is financial as many true works of religion and charity will never be funded because the cult takes its members' money for its own purposes. The second would be the loss of vocations as the numerary members would have joined a real religious order like the Dominicans. The third would be the demolition of the faith of members as they grow disillusioned with the cult equating it with the Roman Catholic Church. The truth is that Opus Dei is a pen stroke away from destruction. This is why they were running that damage control for Francis. Escriva learned a long time ago to always be on the good side of the pope. Ultimately, the worst damage is taking faithful Catholics and blunting their impact on the world and the Church by sidelining them in what amounts to a counterfeit church within the Roman Catholic Church.

Pope Francis is no friend of Opus Dei. I think the cult is figuring this out as Francis has deprived them of having a bishop and made dramatic changes in their governance. From what I have heard, there is much gnashing of teeth inside Opus Dei over this development. They deserve this for being such sycophants to a modernist Jesuit material heretic. I actually support Bergoglio's moves against Opus Dei. I see the hand of Providence in all of this.

Opus Dei and similar cults deserve to be destroyed. The canonization of Josemaria Escriva needs to be revisited and rescinded. There is a ton of corruption throughout the Church, and Opus Dei is a misdemeanor in a world of felonies. But Opus Dei shouldn't exist. As for me, I will tell every Catholic I meet that I think Opus Dei is a cult.

The whole affair of my involvement with this group has troubled me for some time, but I find consolation in the teachings of Saint Francis de Sales who is the true saint for the lay faithful. As I explore my own heart and conscience, I must admit that it was hubris that attracted me to Opus Dei. Like Escriva, I was a nobody who wanted to be a somebody. Opus Dei is spiritual vanity because it is "elite" and promises to make you a cut above those average pewsitters. Yet, I think Saint Francis de Sales nailed it when he wrote, "Be who you are and be that well." A saint is a somebody who strives to be a nobody. Because of this, I am content to be an ordinary layman in my ordinary parish. This new perspective and attitude has done wonders for me and my spiritual life.

I could write a book about Opus Dei and its founder, but those books have already been written. The ODAN website is a valuable resource for understanding the truth about this cult. Instead of writing a book, I have put up a signpost pointing people away from the cult of Opus Escriva. My prayers are that more will discover the truth about this cult, and the Church will correct this error.