Copyright 2002 Micromedia Limited 
Canadian Business and Current Affairs 
Copyright 2002 New Catholic Times Inc.   
Catholic New Times 

February 24, 2002 

SECTION: v.26(4) F 24'02 pg 1,9; ISSN: 0701-0788 
CBCA-ACC-NO: 5313573 
LENGTH: 1616 words 
HEADLINE: Opus Dei: the organization 
BYLINE: Rainey, Desmond 
At Josemaria Escriva's beatification in 1992, as the story is told, Opus 
Dei representatives predicted, off the record, that their founder would be 
canonized in two years. Vatican officials, off the record, claimed it 
would not take place during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, as the 
Holy Father was well aware of the controversy ignited by Escriva's 

The expectation now is that Msgr. Escriva will be canonized this year and 
perhaps as early as summer. 

The rush to canonize large numbers of people, 200 during this papacy, makes 
many reputable theologians very uncomfortable. Carolyn Sharp, professor of 
theology and ethics at St. Paul University in Ottawa, explains the danger 
in speedy canonizations, ''It opens the process to any number of pressures 
which risk unfortunate decisions. Money is, of course, a factor, but 
political jockeying is a concern. There is a grave risk at the moment that 
canonizations (will) become a tool for advancing theological or political 
objectives of special interest groups within the Church, rather than a 
means to fortify the Church's faith and courage.'' The controversy surrounding
the fitness for canonization of the Opus Dei founder continues to be fuelled, 
no doubt, by the excessively secretive nature of the organization, as well as 
its questionable practices and political alliances. 

From the beginning, secrecy and concealment have been the twin organizing 
and operating principles of Opus Dei. Critics have labelled it a ''secret 
society,'' even an ''ecclesiastical mafia.'' It does not publish financial 
statements or reveal lists of members or supporters. It reports to its own 
bishop in Rome who, in turn, reports only to the pope once every five 
years. Opus Dei prefers to characterize its secrecy as ''holy 
discretion.'' At least one version of its constitution cites the 
obligation to ''conceal the number of members from outsiders'' and ''to 
always maintain prudent silence about the names of other members, and not 
reveal to anyone that you belong to Opus Dei.'' That sounds like ''holy 

Fishing for new recruits
The aggressive recruitment practices of Opus Dei, using teams and staged 
activities, is one of the most contentious issues for Catholic parents whose 
children encounter Opus Dei members and priests in high schools and 
universities. Opus Dei members refer to recruitment as ''fishing.'' One 
does not apply for membership; it is by invitation only. Former members
bitterly complain that they were deceived by a lack of upfront honesty about Opus Dei 
intentions and what membership entailed.In Joan Estruch's 1995 book Saints and
Schemers -- considered the first authoritative study of Opus Dei -- the Spanish 
professor of sociology states, ''in the course of recruitment into the order, 
young people appear to have been told not to discuss the order with their 
families, for fear that they would not understand, and to inform family only 
after joining,'' which has ''aroused fears of 'kidnapping' and brainwashing 
among the general Catholic public.''In Cronica, Opus Dei's internal magazine, 
the founder himself referred to recruitment in 1971, saying, 
''This holy coercion is necessary'' and ''you must kill yourselves for 
proselytism.'' Recruitment is a raison d'etre.Opus targets 'best fish'
Opus Dei residential centres are located in upscale, prosperous 
neighbourhoods near many of the most prestigious universities: Princeton, 
Harvard, Dartmouth, Chicago, Columbia and Notre Dame. The best ''fish'' 
are found in the best ''ponds.''Opus Dei leaders freely acknowledge the group
tries to attract or influence the most influential and powerful members of 
society. Sometimes the results are embarrassing. Two names familiar to the 
public, for activities less than honourable, are former high-ranking FBI 
agent and confessed spy, Robert Hanssen and the Spanish aristocrat and 
recently retired president of the scandal-plagued International Olympic 
Committee, Marquis Juan Antonio Samaranch. 

Secrecy was their common currency. 
A recent guest at the Jan. 7-11 Congress in Rome was the 
Republican senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum, who regards George Bush 
''as the first Catholic president of the United States.''The formal title is
Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei. The Prelature 
of the Holy Cross is the community of Opus Dei priests who ''guide'' the 
''lay organization'' called Opus Dei (Work of God). Nominally a lay 
organization, it bears all the characteristics of a religious order -- and 
a rigid one at that. (For a day in the life of a full member called a 
''numerary,'' see  are four categories of membership
in Opus Dei according to what they call degrees of ''participation.''
''Numeraries'' constitute about 30 per cent of Opus Dei membership and 
they make a commitment to lifelong celibacy and obedience. In addition, they 
live in an Opus Dei residence, turn over their secular pay and practise 
selfmortification, which includes self-flagellation. They are expected to have
a university degree and to ''fish'' for others like themselves: well 
educated with excellent prospects for success in their secular careers. A 
numerary's life is disciplined and rigidly controlled, according to former 
members.Other members, who are unable to live in residence because of other 
commitments, are called ''associates.'' They, too, commit to celibacy. 
About 20 per cent of Opus Dei members are associates.Some members, called
''Supernumeraries,'' who make up about 50 per cent 
of Opus, are not committed to celibacy and are frequently married and setting
up families. They follow a modified set of commitments.  Finally, there are
''cooperators'' who are not members but support the organization financially 
or spiritually.  They are about 700,000 of them.

Who really runs the lay organization, Opus Dei? In maxim 61, Josemaria 
Escriva states, ''When a layperson sets himself up as master in moral 
matters, mistakes are frequently made: lay people can only be disciples.''No
one outside the Opus Dei leadership really knows how wealthy the 
organization is. Rumours are that it was able to bail out the Vatican after 
major bank scandals more than two decades ago.However, one indication of its
wealth is its move into a smart, new 17-storey highrise, in the high-priced 
real-estate market of downtown Manhattan (the corner of E. 34th Street and 
Lexington Avenue) at a cost of $54 million. There is no outside identification, 
and this is perhaps a symbol of Opus Dei's operational secrecy.
Small but powerfulInterestingly, a former 14-year Opus Dei member, Dr. John 
Roche, recruited as a graduate student in Galway, Ireland, describes the 
group as having a ''strange apostolate of not giving.'' It does not believe 
in giving alms to the poor and its members are not permitted to give 
presents to anyone. If true, this certainly appears to be at odds with core 
gospel values. 

Opus Dei remains a small organization, but its influence is greater than its 
numbers. ''I think they fly under everybody's radar screen and they are a lot 
more powerful than a lot of people think,'' says Father James Martin, SJ, 
associate editor of the highly respected Jesuit magazine America.The growing
influence of Opus Dei internationally and its behind-the-scenes 
machinations, coupled with undisclosed members in high government positions, 
have many knowledgeable people worried. The fear is that Opus Dei will impose 
its rigid moral code and legalistic vision not only on Catholics, but on 
populations at large.  Intense Opus Dei lobbying to influence national
delegations was evident at the United Nations conference on population and 
development in Cairo in 1994 and again in 1995 in Beijing at the conference 
on women. Sometimes Opus Dei members represent nations at such conferences 
as delegates.''My concern is the strong anti-woman, anti-feminist agenda of Opus 
Dei,'' comments Denise Nadeau of the Vancouver School of Theology. ''In 
Latin America, Opus Dei representatives infiltrated the pre-conference with
the purpose of undermining a feminine agenda. Opus Dei members are very
influential in Latin America governments, supporting an anti-reproductive 
rights agenda and fiscally conservative economic policies, including 
privatization of education and health services.''

Latin American connection
Latin America is a fertile field ripe for the proselytizing by Opus Dei. Lee 
Cormie, a professor of theology at the University of Toronto, says, ''Opus 
Dei... especially in Latin America, is associated with dictatorships, death 
squads and oppressive policies.'' Concerning Escriva's canonization, 
Cormie adds, ''A canonization process for the founder that opened the books 
on this history could be cleansing and inspiring. One that does not would be 
scandalous.''But it is Canadian author Robert Hutchison, in his book Their
Kingdom Come, Inside the Secret World of Opus Dei, who sums up the fears of 
many, ''(Opus Dei) is dangerous because it inserts itself between the laws of 
nations and the canons of the Church. Rather than a floating diocese, 
Opus Dei functions like a compact, tenacious, mercantile state, with its own 
councils, foreign policy, finance minister and state religion, even its own 
territories -- the dioceses entrusted to its care.''Opus Dei leaders freely 
acknowledge the group tries to attract or influence the most influential and 
powerful members of society.'My concern is the strong antiwoman, antifeminist 
agenda of Opus Dei'-- Denise Nadeau