In this exclusive English translation of an article appearing in Le Sel de la Terre (No. 11), Nicolas Dehan probes the organization referred to as Opus Dei and its beatified founder, Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer.
This dossier concludes with a response from the Opus Dei, Mr. Dehan’s counter-response, and a commentary regarding the approbation of Opus Dei by the Catholic Church.
On May 17, 1992, a grandiose ceremony in St. Peter’s Square in Rome revealed to, and thrust upon the world a man’s name and that of his work, both up until then relatively unknown to the general public.
In the presence of 46 cardinals, 300 bishops and 300,000 pilgrims, John Paul II celebrated the Mass of beatification of Josemarie Escriva de Balaguer, founder of the Opus Dei.
For over 60 years, "God’s Work" has labored very discreetly, so much so that some of its opponents—and it does have some—have defined it as clerical Freemasonry.
Josemaria Escriva, who died in 1975, hurtled over the various stages of the beatification process and was pushed up to the altar with amazing speed: 17 years. Certainly, the media seized upon this sensational aspect of the event, so rarely seen in Church history. For instance, think of the time it took—170 years—to define the heroic virtue of an authentic popular apostle like Louis-Marie Grignon de Montfort.
Thus, logic based on Church history prompts attempting to discover a reason justifying the urgency surrounding the introduction of Msgr. Escriva’s beatification process, and its acceleration. His cause was opened in 1981, six years after his death.
During the years of the process, the Opus Dei, which has no media antennae of its own, and conforming to its principle of discretion, reached its affiliates in the intellectual and professional classes through an annual Information Bulletin, addressed to select cadres. This private publication exalted the Spanish priest’s deep interior life and his apostolate; it reviewed and commented on his written and social work; it informed readers of the progress of his cause in the Roman Curia; and gave a brief overview of the Opus Dei’s expressions and its international activities.
Although not much, this was enough to get and keep the attention of the Bulletin’s readers, who might be curious about, or interested in, restoring the social order upon spiritual foundations. Nothing written in this publication, a priori, arouses any suspicion of an orientation deviating from the traditional teaching of the Church. Thus, the reader faithful to Church teaching remains trusting.
The same Bulletin also serves as a remembrance for those who knew the apostolate and work, some decades ago, of another Spanish priest, Rev. Fr. Vallet.
Information on the Opus Dei leads to comparing the two works, as well to deducing two facts:
The grand silence maintained by the Church on the missionary and social work of Jesuit Fr. Francois de Paule Vallet and, over these many years, the great amount of discretion enveloping Fr. Josemaria Escriva’s work, is enough to whet the curiosity, to incite lifting the veil by investigating all documentation on these works. Let us begin with what the Conciliar Church today exalts.
The history of the Opus Dei has been investigated for several Spanish, Italian, German and French studies. We shall begin our investigation with the first French work aimed at the public, written by an Opus Dei member, recommended by its Information Bulletin, and titled The Opus Dei. The author, Dominique Le Tourneau, who has a Ph.D. in canon law and a degree in economics, paints a 120-page, complimentary portrait of the Founder and an idealized expose of the spirituality of The Work. It is an account without warts of the Opus Dei’s work and its ensuing fruits. The book was given the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur of the Archdiocese of Paris.
The first chapter is devoted to the background and life of Josemaria Escriva, the founder: born in 1902 in Barbastro (Aragon, Spain), he is revealed as having been a precociously pious, as well as a sweet and generous person who, at 16, abandoned the idea of becoming an architect to enter the seminary.
In 1922, the Archbishop of Zaragoza, Spain, named him superior of the seminary; he was 20 years old. At 23, he was ordained a priest. In 1927, in Madrid, he prepared for a doctorate in civil law, all the while plunging himself into intense, charitable work among the sick, the poor, and abandoned children. While on retreat in 1928,
Fr. Escriva "saw"—that is the term he later used—what God expected of him. He saw that Our Lord was asking him to devote all of his energy to accomplishing what was to become Opus Dei, to urge men in all works of life—beginning with university people so as afterwards they could reach all men—to respond to a specific vocation to seek holiness and carry out apostolates in the world’s midst, through the exercise of their profession or skills, without any change in state."
Fr. Escriva was only 26 years old when The Work was created. He was long on desire for action, short on experience, but:
Fully aware of the Opus’ spirit, aims, means and ends, the bishop of Madrid had encouraged the Founder from the beginning, and had blessed his work."
This is the same bishop who, later, in June 1944, would ordain The Work’s first three priests, all of whom had been lay members of the Opus Dei.
Fr. Escriva’s disciples say he was "inspired by God"; others thought he was "mandated by the hierarchy." Father preached retreats, recruited members, and organized his Work. He chose his priests for The Work from the ranks of his disciples. He spoke of having clearly seen, while celebrating Mass on February 14, 1943, the canonical solution: the ordination of lay members of the Opus. At that moment,
The sacerdotal society of the Holy Cross was born, representing in the Church a new pastoral and juridical phenomenon, the ordination of men with university degrees and engaged in a profession..."
In 1946, Fr. Escriva moved to Rome, was appointed a Domestic Prelate by His Holiness in 1947, and received various appointments: member of the Pontifical Academy of Theology; consultor to the Congregation of Seminaries, etc. He toured the world, preached his doctrine, "sanctity through work," and died suddenly, in Rome, on June 26, 1975.
Through reading issues of the Information Bulletin, the reader develops an unsuspicious belief in the Opus, since each issue reports on the impressive record of the worldwide dissemination of "Msgr. Escriva’s doctrine," particularly through Camino (The Way), his only work published during his lifetime. First published in Valencia, Spain, in 1934, Camino is the Opus Dei’s veritable rule. Under the title, Consideraciones, the first edition of The Way appeared in 1934. Since then, 250 editions have been published in 39 languages, with sales of nearly four million copies.
On October 2, 1928, Fr. Escriva de Balaguer knew the will of God in all its implications... The light received was not a general inspiration, but a precise illumination; he knew from the outset that The Work was not a human one, but a great supernatural undertaking; ...the founder was able to describe it, presenting its total newness: all men are called to holiness and to apostolate, "without leaving the world, on the condition that they supernaturalize, above all, the temporal realities in which they are immersed: professional work, family and social responsibilities."
If this proposition is not false, it is essential to know how to interpret this phrase:
provided that he supernaturalize the temporal realities above all."
"What took shape was a veritable pastoral phenomenon," writes Dominique Le Tourneau. In the 1920’s, the wind was favorable to novelties, echoes of which were found at all ecclesiastical levels. In the beginning of the century, modernism was condemned but not neutralized. Taking refuge in clandestinity, it flourished, fostering a climate of return to novelties, or of a favorable reception to them: liturgical change, pastoral novelties, the marriage of the Church and the world.
One of the next chapter’s subheadings, "The religious concept," is instructive:
In the lives of the early Christians, work was not seen as something "good in itself" and, above all, was considered an ascetic means for combating pride... Among the Fathers of the Church, St. John Chrysostom, who paid great attention to work, was the last prominent Churchman to speak of the sanctification of the ordinary life in the same terms as Vatican II. After him, one gets the impression that the ordinary Christian is not called to fully live the Gospel. This prevailed up to the 5th century; regarding apostolate, it does not seem to have been part of the Christian’s obligations. In the Rule of St. Benedict, it is more the monastery than the monk who carries out apostolate."(!)
After this quotation, which inspires amazement and uneasiness, the author outlines the horizon where he wishes to lead the reader:
The appearance of the mendicant orders brought with it an emphasis on preaching, with preacher-monks traveling from city to city. This did not imply any affirmation of the value of professional work. On the contrary, above all, it seems to have increased the distance from it... The theologians of the mendicant orders did not reflect much upon the fundamental dimension of work; they affirmed the non-obligatory character of manual work. St. Thomas presents the secular occupations as an obstacle to contemplation. St. Bonaventure and others express a similar opinion.
Some other institutions more directly present in the world (military orders and medieval guilds) furnished scant ascetic and doctrinal preparation favorable to an awareness of the need to sanctify work.
Over the course of subsequent centuries, attention was deflected from work. The author of The Imitation of Jesus Christ judged work even more negatively than had the Desert Fathers. But the polarity that they erected between work and pride underwent a basic distortion in that work was seen as a constraint upon the effort implied in the ascetic struggle. This is the conception of Cisneros in his Exercitatorio and of St. Ignatius Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises."
After having disposed of the Church’s tradition, the Opus Dei prudently sets forth its doctrine’s spirit: The Opus Dei’s theologian’s following quotation sums it up:
A certain positive evolution was begun during the Renaissance by some men like Thomas More and Erasmus (...) However, the Catholic theology of the Renaissance and of the Baroque eras were in part contaminated by the ideas of an aristocracy which, by way of a narrow and badly founded moralism, held manual labor in contempt..."
Comparing the religious vocation in the traditional orders to the Opus’ vocation, the author quotes the founder:
The path of the religious vocation seems to me blessed and necessary in the Church, but it is not mine, nor that of the members of the Work. One can say of all of those coming to the Work that each and every one of them has done so on the express condition of not changing his state."
To be more precise, and using progressivism’s now official vocabulary:
The basic difference between the two can be expressed as movements in opposite directions. One answers [the call to vocation] from outside the world and moves toward it, bringing its presence toward it. This is the evolution of the religious state. The other is a 'being in the world'; it starts from being of the world. Such is the Opus Dei’s secular spirituality....This is what made Cardinal Luciani, the future Pope John Paul I, say that while St. Francis de Sales proposed a spirituality for lay people, Msgr. Escriva proposes a new lay spirituality."
Dominique Le Tourneau remains imprecise as to the Opus’ spirituality, declared unambiguously lay by the transitory pope. A 30-page Spanish study, written by one Juan Morales, very usefully completes the documents already studied here. The author bases his critique on seven works, all published by Rialp, the Opus’ publishing house in Madrid. In his introduction, he does not hesitate to write that the Opus Dei is "a real Trojan horse at the heart of the Church." Through sections taken from texts written by Opus Dei members, and the quotations by Fr. Escriva cited by the authors themselves, Morales demonstrates that the latter had the lay spirit to such an extent that he based some of his proposals on a fundamentally anticlerical mentality.
Morales quotes from Peter Berglar’s book, Opus Dei:
Escriva was happy when his first three priests were ordained, but he was also very sad that they did not remain laymen."
He also quotes Salvador Bernal in Monsignor Escriva de Balaguer:
For us, the priesthood is a circumstance, an accident, because at the heart of The Work, the vocation of priests and that of the laity is the same."
As well, he says,
[As to] the way that apostolic works are organized by the Opus Dei..., these are planned and governed from a lay mentality;... by so doing, they are not confessional."
Juan Morales reports the work of another Opus Dei author, Ana Sastre, in Tiempo de caminar, who, speaking of the Opus Dei’s characteristics, writes,
The climate of secularism and of personal initiative resulted in the Founder having been accused of being a progressive, a heretic and crazy."
Vasquez de la Prada, in El fundator del Opus Dei, says the same thing, recognizing that the spirit of the Opus Dei formerly qualified as being innovative and heretical, but is today ratified by Vatican II. He writes:
His [Escriva’s] collaborator and successor—Msgr. Alvaro del Portillo—[recently deceased—English Ed.]—who is faithful to the Council, and who contributed to its development, made this comment, 'On many occasions during the approval of conciliar documents, legitimizing them while speaking with the founder of the Opus Dei, I repeated to him: "Congratulations: Because what is in your soul, and what you have unfailingly taught since 1929 has been solemnly proclaimed by the magisterium of the Church" ' "...
This doctrine which thirty years ago would have been considered to be folly and heresy has been invested with official solemnity."
This is an unvarnished admission of the upheaval of the Church’s traditional doctrine. The Opus’ new doctrine was ratified yesterday by the Council and glorified today by the beatification. Because we are not fools, [we must say that] the beatification is the integration of Opus’ principles into the conciliar Church’s doctrine.
Opus members know, and have no compunction about this destruction of Tradition. In the book, Estudios sobre camino [Studies on The Way—Ed.], in a chapter titled, "A Silent Revolution," Jose Miguel Ceja makes this comment:
The novelty of the teachings of Msgr. Escriva consisted not only in being a new way of making an apostolic task practical, this being more or less similar to what, in previous times, the Church undertook through the concept and praxis of apostolate..., [Rather], The Way represented a quasi—and even non-quasi—scandalous novelty."
By this subtitle we allude to Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange’s judgment on the "new theology."
Let us return to the work of Le Tourneau.
In the paragraph discussing the Opus’ "great principles" on the sanctification of work, the author cites Msgr. Escriva:
'In effect, for us, work is a specific means of sanctity. Our interior life—contemplative amid the street—finds its source and impetus in this external life of each one’s work.' Msgr. Escriva demonstrates the latchkey of the passage in Genesis (2:15) where it is written that man was created ut operaretur, in order to work."
Yet another novelty! This interpretation of the Bible is not the Church’s. Dom Calmet, Crampon, and nearly all of the exegetes translate this verse 15 from Chapter 2 of Genesis thusly: "The Lord God took man and placed him in the Garden of Delights to cultivate and take care of it." Not, God "created man in order to work," but "to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him and thus to obtain happiness in heaven," as the catechism has always taught.
Throughout the centuries, the various religious orders and spiritualities within the Church have pursued this singular goal through different means. Certainly, work was one, but without it ever having been erected into an absolute value, as is attempted throughout the 130 pages of its codification by the Opus Dei:
Professional work becomes the pivot on which the entire task of sanctification turns. This is what led the Founder of the Opus to sum up life on earth by saying that: it is necessary to sanctify work, to sanctify oneself in one’s work, and to sanctify others through one’s work."
Dominique Le Tourneau does his best to demonstrate that the universal way to health and holiness is the Opus’ discovery and prerogative:
Holiness cannot be reserved to a privileged few, neither to those who have received the priesthood, nor to those whose religious profession sets them apart from the world. The message of Opus Dei’s founder demonstrates itself to be much more optimistic and open. And when it was proclaimed, it was seen as being even revolutionary: All men... can and ought to seek holiness, as the Second Vatican Council affirmed thirty years later."
Did we have to wait for Fr. Escriva and Vatican II to proclaim that holiness is not reserved to the privileged few? This is the constant preaching of the Church, Tradition, missionaries and preachers. This was what the founders of the various works of Catholic Action proposed long before the world snatched them up. Well before 1928, in order to facilitate and make sanctification available to all, Fr. Vallet, faithful to papal teaching, was preaching the necessity of the social royalty of Our Lord Jesus Christ, otherwise called the Christian social order.
The counsel to search for sanctity is nothing revolutionary, it is perfectly traditional in Christianity. What is revolutionary is the modernist spirit which the Opus provokes by infiltrating societies, as we shall go on to verify, in order to create a lay mentality, completely contrary to the social kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ, a mentality which is effectively that of the Second Vatican Council.
In a chapter on freedom, pluralism, and understanding others’ opinions, Msgr. Escriva says:
With our blessed liberty, the Opus Dei can never be, in any country’s political life, a type of political party. There is a place—and there will always be a place—in the Opus Dei for all of the viewpoints allowed by a Christian conscience."
In the above, there are two questionable, debatable points which are illusionary, utopian and mistaken:
Since conscience has been lately defined by natural morality as the "interior sentiment by which man gives witness to himself as to the good and evil that he does" (Larousse), the winds of liberalism have completely deformed this ethic beyond recognition. Conscience, still claiming to be Christian, seduced by the world, arrives at its aggiornamento: it is now elastic and permissive. It allows today what was inadmissible yesterday. Examples abound. Thus, the Opus puts Christian conscience on a very long leash by allowing those with every viewpoint, of all religions, and even non-believers in its ranks, and above all, in its "corporate apostolic activities."
Le Tourneau states:
For the Founder, the Catholic solution to various problems in the world does not exist.
All solutions will be Christian if they respect natural law and Gospel teaching. He therefore does not put the emphasis on the materiality of the solution, but on the spirit which should inspire it."
These sentences are laden with meaning, power, and destruction. It is necessary to stop here. The Catholic solution is cast aside. Thus the door is open to every solution, all vaguely tinged with ecumenical religiosity.
Meanwhile, pontifical documents reveal the solution to the social question, to the problems of work, to the social order, all of which were in circulation during the first years of the Opus Dei. The encyclicals Mens Nostra (December 20, 1929) and Quadragesimo Anno (May 15, 1931) are specific enough. The solution is Catholic. For example, Pope Pius XI declares that the Spiritual Exercises, in conjunction with retreats, are proper means for resolving the social question:
We have declared these to be very useful for all laymen, for workers... In this school of the spirit is formed, through the love of the heart of Jesus, not only excellent Christians, but true apostles for all states of life."
Let us again ask: Why, at the time of these clear pontifical directives, was Fr. Vallet’s work destroyed, especially since it conformed to this teaching? The internal disintegration of the Church had begun. The modernists installed in the Curia successfully surrounded and beat down St. Pius X’s faithful heirs, who were the artisans of the social kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Fr. Vallet was among these faithful heirs and his work was an excellent means for "restoring all things in Christ."
Fr. de Balaguer’s fledgling work took a totally other direction through its being pushed and protected by Bishop Eijo y Garay. We find this direction defined in our reference work’s Chapter IV, where its nature is presented in paragraph four, under the heading, "Corporate works of apostolate":
[The apostolate of its own members is primarily] a personal apostolate of friendship and trust. Nevertheless, members of the Opus, joining with their friends, who may be non-Catholics or even non-Christians, sometimes set up corporate works of apostolate. These are always professional and civil in character, radiate a Christian spirit, and contribute to the resolution of contemporary world problems. In any case, these works are not ever official works, nor even officially Catholic... [T]hey are carried out and directed with a lay mentality."
This is aberrant! It is the very apostolic mentality condemned by Popes Pius X, Pius XI, and Pius XII.
"Moreover," continues Le Tourneau,
these activities are open to men and women of all backgrounds, without discrimination against their social status, race, religion or ideology. This also applies to The Work’s benefactors, as well as to its administrative personnel... It is in co-existence that the person is formed."
This professional and civil character between people of different religions and ideologies, with the same skills or same business, or in the same association, resembles an organization based on similar interests, such as a sports club, a theater troop, but in no way resembles an apostolic work. It is truly a tissue of contradictions; it is to desacralize apostolate, it is apostolate’s negation, as well as the negation of the propagation of the faith, whose mission is conversion; it is to pervert the very sense of the word apostolate.
In Conversations with Msgr. Escriva de Balaguer, one is not astonished to read: "Long live students of all religions and all ideologies." In the same document, he says, "Pluralism is not to be feared but loved as a legitimate consequence of personal freedom."
This passion for freedom prompted Escriva to make some of the Opus’ residences inter-confessional. Thus freedom comes before the truth. The truth is an obstacle. Escriva is really the precursor, the inspiration and doctor of the new world order, whose working model we saw at Assisi.
The Opus Dei is a contemporary modernist manifestation, and, as such, falls exactly under the sentence pronounced against modernism and reiterated by the magisterium, particularly by St. Pius X’s encyclical, Pascendi Dominici Gregis, promulgated on September 8, 1907 and, more precisely, by his August 25, 1910 Letter on the Sillon, condemning these utopias:
At once alarming and saddening are the audacity and the shallowness of spirit of men who call themselves Catholic, who dream of reshaping society... with workers coming from everywhere, of all religions or without any, with or without beliefs, provided only that they forego whatever divides them...
The Church, which has never betrayed the happiness of the people by making compromising alliances, has no need to free herself from the past; all that is needed is to take up again, with the help of the social restoration’s true workers, the organisms shattered by the Revolution and to adapt them, in the same Christian spirit that inspired them, to the new milieu created by the material development of contemporary society. For the true friends of the people are neither revolutionaries nor innovators, but traditionalists."
There are numerous Opus Dei texts that are similar to those of The Sillon. Here then are some examples from our reliable authors:
Berglar, Vasquez, Sastre and others give details regarding the very friendly relations between Escriva and these cooperators from other religions, who were very good financial brokers for The Work; it was already an active and political ecumenism. Essentially, and in all areas, Escriva was a precursor.
This is the mentality and conduct which Pius XI condemned in his 1928 encyclical Mortalium Animos, where he addressed himself to those who:
...set to work organizing congresses, meetings, lectures, attended by all types of persons, unbelievers of every sort, and even those who have, unhappily, rejected Christ... Such efforts can in no way be approved by Catholics since they presuppose the erroneous theory that all religions are more or less good and laudable... Truly, the partisans of this theory have not only strayed into error, but have perverted the idea of true religion, repudiating it; and by stages, they fall into naturalism and atheism; ...this is tantamount to abandoning revealed religion."
Yet, this is the way, "the spirituality which Msgr. Escriva has laid out in unaltered form since 1928," writes Dominique Le Tourneau, who quotes Cardinal Poletti:
This is why he [Escriva—English Ed.] has been unanimously recognized as a precursor of the Council."
This is really why, so quickly after Escriva’s death, i.e., on February 19, 1981, his beatification cause was introduced. On April 9, 1990 he was declared "venerable," and on May 17, 1992, he was beatified. Only a saint could cover and justify the acts of the Council, in order to authenticate them.
An appraisal of Msgr. Escriva’s interior life and virtues is not within our ken. On the other hand, it is completely legitimate to cast doubt upon, and to refute, his revolutionary doctrine. Virtue and piety may not automatically confer doctrinal and pastoral orthodoxy.
Without examining the detail of the criticisms (of the Nicolas Dehan article—Ed.), some of which are solid and others less so, it must be observed that they bear fundamentally upon the very conception of the work as intended by its founder, and expressed in its official publications. It must be observed—as is pointed out on p.139 (in the original Le Sel de la Terre version; p21 in this English translation from Angelus Press—Ed.)—that this work was officially approved by Pope Pius XII in 1947.
Now, whatever may have been the maneuvers of Msgr. Montini (Pope Paul VI), it is theologically certain that the definitive approbation of a religious foundation (and there is no theological reason to hold otherwise for a secular institute) is covered by the Church’s infallibility... A letter from a reader published in Le Sel de la Terre, No. 13
Here is the commentary published in Le Sel de la Terre on the points raised:
It is correct that the definitive approbation of a religious order by the pope is covered by the infallibility of the Church. This doctrine is not of faith, but it is considered as certain."
Nevertheless it is necessary to understand it correctly.
The approbation must be definitive. Was this the case with the approbation of 1947? It does not seem so, since modifications came about in 1950 (if there was a definitive approbation of the statutes, it was at this date that it was given); then in 1982 there was a significant modification of the juridical statute of the institute.
But especially, the approbation must bear upon a religious order (cf. Zubizarreta, Theologia dogmatico-scholastica, Bilbao, 1947, vol. 1, p.420); for the Church is then infallible because she uses the means of sanctification given by Our Lord himself (the religious life). Yet, precisely, the Opus Dei refuses to be classed as a religious order, and demands that its special lay, secular character be recognized.
One could point out as well that the infallibility of the Church only concerns the doctrinal judgment: this or that religious rule is apt to sanctify; but it does not concern the prudential judgment: it is prudent or opportune to accept this religious order (cf. Sacrae theologiae summa, B.A.C., vol. 1, 1962, p.724). If, and such does not seem to us to be the case, one demonstrated that the infallibility of the Church were engaged in this matter, one would still be free to criticize the Opus Dei and to demand its suppression for reasons of prudence (for example, this institute foments a liberal, conciliar mentality).
...To maintain it (the Work) and the members of Opus Dei, there are other individuals who help, some of these are not Catholic and a large number, a very large number, are not Christians... (Msgr. Escriva de Balaguer, Tiempo, p.615).
For Popes John Paul I and John Paul II, Opus Dei and its founder were already objective historical facts that announced the beginning of a new era of Christianity (Opus Dei, Peter Berglar, Rialp, p. 243).
One must be satisfied with the end of this Council. Thirty years ago this month, I was treated as a heretic for having preached a certain spirit that is now solemnly welcomed by the Council in the dogmatic constitution De Ecclesia. One sees that we have shown the way, that you have prayed a lot. (Tiempo, p.486).
You certainly have a great ideal, because, since the beginning, he (Fr. Escriva) anticipated the theology of the laity that characterized the Church at the Council and after the Council (Allocution of Pope John Paul II, August 19, 1979).
The very ordinariness of the members of Opus Dei—the fact that they don’t look or act or speak differently from anyone else (because in fact they aren’t different)—does not imply any type of secrecy. But while members of Opus Dei do not advertise their membership, neither do they conceal it. As one expressed it, 'We never hide what we are or what we do, but we don’t carry a sign saying that we are good Christians or want to be'" (Ordinary Christians in the World. What is Opus Dei? p.12).
The Opus is organized like a religious order, comprised overall of priests and laity. Entering the Opus is considered to be a vocation and there are a rule and vows, although married members take different ones.
Here is how vocations are born:
When Opus Dei members enter their professions, they begin their personal apostolate, make friends, organize formation chats in their homes. [What formation?] Vocations arise, and, little by little, a nucleus is formed. An Opus Dei priest comes to preach.... Soon, it becomes necessary to find a temporary lodging and, eventually, a permanent center. Thus they put into practice the Founder’s recommendation: 'You must spread out, disperse worldwide through all of men’s honest occupations; you must open into a fan.'"
The number of vocations has continually increased. In 1989 the Opus Dei had 76,000 members in 87 countries. In France, there are about 1,400 members with ten centers in Paris and 15 more provincial ones. Some "corporate activities" have been created there, i.e., a hotel training school in Aisne (France), youth clubs, meeting centers, residences for domestic employees, etc.
By adorning its actions with the word "apostolate," the Opus Dei warps the general meaning of the term, understood in Catholicism as the propagation of the Faith. But this is exactly what it does not wish, what it does not do, and what it expressly forbids. It contradicts itself when it says: do the work of the Church and do not proselytize. But to which Church does this refer? The ecumenical Church? God’s Church? Assisi’s?
The Opus Dei is a work which opens, as it describes, into "a fan." This is exactly correct, for it is everywhere at work. It possesses a prestigious international university, the University of Navarre, in Pamplona, Spain, created in 1952, which has faculties of law, medicine, philosophy, letters, pharmacy, the sciences, theology, a language institute, schools of architecture, economics and business, as well as a school of hospital work, etc. Over 40 years, 30,000 students have completed their studies at the University of Navarre. In 1988-1989, more than 15,000 were enrolled. In Spain, eight residences for high school students are attached to the university. Also part of the university is its 500-bed clinic. In 1988, more than 80,000 consultations were given there, and 12,000 patients admitted.
This is only a sketch of what’s been done in Spain at the university level. There are similar universities in Peru and Colombia. We shall not list the full quotient of Opus’ worldwide works (Latin America, Australia, Japan, etc.). Knowing the Opus’ scope promotes understanding the reasons for its discretion, why it has been effective, and the methods of its success.
This is primarily carried out in the universities, schools, sports camps, clubs, and circles directed by The Work, all of which, in theory, are open to everyone; it is, in fact, also carried out in the intellectual and upper strata of society, among young high school and college students, in groups involved in academic, scientific, legal, military, medical, financial, commercial and political activities. In effect, this is Msgr. Balaguer’s "fan."
There are four degrees of membership:
Despite its liberal doctrine, the Opus has been, and is, the object of critics and opposition coming from different points of view. It has been treated as clerical Freemasonry because of its hierarchical structure and the great discretion surrounding its members’ activities. It absolutely denies this. Secularists classify it as right-wing or conservative because of the members’ piety and social class. This too is denied. Traditionalists define it as modernist.
The Opus’ doctrine, and its self-described "revolutionary" position, and its distance from the secular principles professed by the Church, the Fathers and the Doctors of the Church, have not prevented many Spanish bishops known as conservatives from offering their support to Msgr. Balaguer and his Work. In the 1970’s, among these were Archbishop Gonzales Martin, Primate of the Spanish hierarchy; Bishop Garcia Lahiguera, Archbishop of Valencia; or Bishop. Lopez Ortiz, Vicar of the Armed Forces. Others, such as the progressive Swiss theologian, Urs von Balthasar, accused them of perverting the Gospel through blind conformism, and of contemporary integrism unto theocracy.
The critics of both extremes haven’t hurt them; on the contrary, they have made them the beneficiary of a reputation for moderation, for exemplifying the golden mean, conciliation and cohabitation. In Rome, modernist Rome, which has unceasingly cooperated with the Opus Dei, such a position of openness is much needed—that type of openness which attempts to satisfy some, the progressives, and to reassure others, the conservatives—after the failure and disorder engendered by the Council.
The Opus Dei clergy is formed exclusively of priests who were former lay members of the Opus. The priests answer solely to the Prelate. In August, 1982, John Paul II constituted the Opus as a Personal Prelature. The Prelature’s jurisdiction embraces all of the members of the Opus worldwide. The current Prelate is His Excellency Alvaro del Portillo, one of Msgr. Escriva’s first collaborators. (Bishop Alvaro del Portillo died on March 23, 1994. Bishop Javier Echevarria was elected Prelate of Opus Dei on April 21, 1994, following Bishop del Portillo’s death.—English Ed.) Portillo was a civil engineer.
In 1991, there were about 1,400 priests in the Opus. By way of example, here are some ordination facts:
In the recent past, about 60 Opus members had their priestly orders conferred on them by the highest authorities: Cardinal Koenig, Cardinal Oddi, Cardinal Etchegaray, and Pope John Paul II. This is proof of the grand and then grander pride of place taken by the Opus Dei in the conciliar Church.
The priests of the Opus Dei are all aggregated into
an association of clerics who respond to the exhortations of Vatican II... They seek to promote priestly holiness and full submission to the ecclesiastical hierarchy of the diocese where they were incardinated. This is the Sacerdotal Society of the Holy Cross."
The discretion and mystery enveloping the Opus Dei do not permit knowing who or where their most important and influential members are. What is certain is that their stock is high, by virtue of the important social and political positions that they hold in every country, in the intellectual and action capitals of the world, where the thinkers and the technocrats reign.
Without being able to affirm their membership in The Work, one can at least say that some persons are known to be powered by the engine of the Opus: For instance, in France, there are politicians such as Maurice Schumann and Antoine Pinay; some members of the Academy such as Jean Guitton, and Professor Jean Roche of the Institute, Rector of the Sorbonne, who was made an honorary doctor by the University of Navarre in 1967; and [now deceased—French Ed.] Professor Jerome Lejeune who in 1974 received the same distinction from Msgr. Escriva de Balaguer.
February 2, 1947 was a great day for the Opus Dei. Rome published the constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia, providing the norms for the creation of secular institutes; on the 24th of the same month, the Opus received approval as a secular institute.
As the first secular institute, the Opus was the first Catholic association to cooperate with non-Catholics and even with non-Christians. Why this act, contrary to doctrine, contrary to the thought and will of Pius XII?
What we know today from archives which were opened, and from revelations written by intimates or disciples of Msgr. Montini (the future Pope Paul VI), allow us to answer this question. We know how the substitute Secretary of State betrayed the actions and decisions and of his superior, the Holy Father. How? By falsifying his letters (in particular, a December 2, 1944 one by Blondel); by providing interpretations contrary to Pius XII’s directives (in particular, to Humani Generis, in 1950); by making contacts, as well as compromising and scandalous alliances without the knowledge, but in the name of Pius XII (among others, the 1942 secret Montini-Stalin accords).
From Msgr. Montini’s now-known, disloyal conduct on so many occasions, it is not improbable to think, for example, that the decision to create secular institutes, which immediately benefited the Opus, was extorted according to the habitual practice of the disloyal servant.
Under Pius XII, nearly 20 years before the "French Revolution of 1789 in the Church," the Catholic Church’s immutable and traditional doctrine was already changed through the filter of Msgr. Escriva’s Opus Dei, a useful instrument in the hands of Msgr. Montini for proselytizing, among the ranks of the international elite, the "new theology" condemned by Pius XII.
We have already observed some of the doctrinal aspects. Above all, the Opus’ doctrine is transmitted orally to its members. However, it is written down for members’ use as a breviary in The Way, a compendium of 999 maxims.
The Way exalts the dignity of the human person independently of religion. In Estudios sobre camino [Studies on The Way], Msgr. Escriva’s successor comments:
This human dimension of The Way explains the capacity, as demonstrated by the book, of reuniting the hopes and aspirations of all men and women who are conscious of their own dignity, independently of their religious convictions. [The Way] offers the reader the inspiration to live a clearly more human and nobler life."
In the same document, he reveals how the indoctrination was fashioned prior to the Council. Although hidden, this indoctrination was thoroughgoing, reaching well beyond the cadre of Opus initiates:
At that time, The Way prepared millions of people to come into harmony with, and to imbibe, on a deep level, some of the most revolutionary teachings which thirty years later would be solemnly promulgated by the Church at Vatican II."
Thus is revealed a favored revolutionary mission, subsequently integrated by the modernist Church. This sums up the very effective Opus’ Father’s thinking on the self-destruction of the Church.
Peter Berglar, quoted earlier here, relates some very important things which promote an understanding of the enormity of the crisis. Like a propagandist for the Opus Dei, Berglar writes:
We know that Paul VI used his book, The Way, for his personal meditation. As well, John XXIII told his secretary that, 'The Work is destined to open the Church to unknown horizons of universal apostolate.' For Popes John Paul I and John Paul II, the Opus Dei and its Founder were already objective historical facts on which were based the beginning of a new epoch of Christianity."
The reader of The Way is deceived because, if the Opus exalts the lay mentality, The Way stifles the laity:
Maxim 61: Whenever a layman sets himself up as an arbiter of morality, he frequently errs; laymen can only be disciples.
Maxim 941: Obedience, the sure way. Blind obedience to your superior, the way of sanctity. Obedience in your apostolate, the only way: for, in a work of God, the spirit must be to obey or to leave."
These are authoritarian principles, for internal use, which bear heavily on the spiritual life of these "religious-laity."
Let us compare these maxims with some remarks, among many others, devised for public consumption, which give wide berth to fantasy and to bad habits on the subject of social doctrine. In doing so, we shall deduce the illogic so typical of the Opus Dei. During an interview granted to an American journalist, Msgr. Escriva declared,
On this matter, the attitude of Opus Dei directors is to respect freedom of choice in the temporal sphere.... It is a question of setting forth each member’s responsibilities and inviting him to assume them by following his conscience, doing so in complete freedom."
The body of the Church’s social doctrine, which is especially rich as taught by Pius XII, does not seem to be the source of temporal conduct for the members of the Opus. Not even taken into consideration are the conciliar Church’s pontifical directives. When interviewed the day after the beatification, one Spanish Opus Dei spokesman told a journalist from Courrier de l’Ouest,
In Spain, the Opus Dei has always refused to take official part in the campaign against abortion. This is not its role."
A comparison between certain principles, written in an ostensibly traditional style, and the directives underlying the organization of "corporate apostolic works" resonates over and over again with the Opus’ internal contradiction. This encourages the view that it has two faces, as well as encourages some of its adversaries to say: It is Freemasonry.
Le Tourneau does not conceal these accusations. Rather, he treats them in a short chapter where the following is found:
The founder had also been denounced before the special military tribunal for the repression of freemasonry, his detractors defining the Opus Dei as 'a Jewish branch of Freemasonry.'"
Later, Msgr. Escriva was accused before the Holy Office; however, this was after the Holy See had bestowed its definitive approval on the Opus Dei. Salvador Bernal also reports that event in much the same terms.
The Opus Dei’s protests have not convinced the most informed.
Dominique Le Tourneau spends a chapter on the Opus Dei’s defined and lived freedom:
A characteristic of the Opus Dei’s spirit that is often touched on by its spokesmen, and about which the Founder was, unfailingly, most insistent, is the value put on freedom. This love of freedom is intimately related to the secular mentality inherent in the Opus Dei by which ...according to his state in life, each member acts according to his well-formed conscience, and accepts all of the consequences of his actions and decisions. He learns not only to respect, but to love, in a positive and practical sense, true pluralism."
Thus is seen that contrast between The Way’s maxims and the secret character imposed on Opus Dei’s members by their "constitutions." It is this contrast that supplies great amounts of grist for the Opus’ critics’ mill. These constitutions, certain articles of which were necessarily modified since the erection of the Opus Dei into a Personal Prelature in 1982, are the Work’s governing charter. Written in Latin, following is a translation of the most probative articles:
Article 189: In order to carry out its proper goal in the most efficient way possible, the institute, inasmuch as it wishes to be hidden, occultum vivere, also abstains from participating in corporate acts... Given the nature of the institute, it agrees not to appear as a society to the outside world; its members shall not take part corporately in certain public cultic acts, such as processions.
Article 190: ...The fact of even being a member of the institute disallows any exterior manifestation; and one shall not reveal the names of members to outsiders; further, our members shall not talk to outsiders about [the institute—French Ed.].
Article 191: ...Let numerary and supernumerary members fully know that they must always observe a prudent silence as to the names of others [who are] associated, and that they must never reveal to anyone that they themselves belong to the Opus Dei, not even for the sake of a perceived advancement of the institute."
If prudence is always a good, is such secretiveness licit for a "work of God" aimed at the laity? Is such secretiveness compatible with apostolic mission? Here is conduct quite removed from the spirit of Pius XI’s encyclical, Quas Primas, on the universal kingship of Christ.
The investigative study of Dominique Le Tourneau’s manual, The Opus Dei, which we just inventoried, finally leaves the reader puzzled as to know which page to consult in order to situate the Opus Dei, since so many are contradictory. However, it seems that Le Tourneau has painted this work’s true, two-headed portrait.
And to those who have just placed The Work’s founder on the summit, we ask St. Pius X’s question: "What are they hiding, those who fear the light and the truth?"
A critical work on the Opus Dei, written by Arnaud de Lassus, makes a comparative study, which he calls, "the two images of the Opus Dei." The first one is its official identity, set forth for outsiders; the second is the conduct actually lived inside the Opus Dei. We quote one example taken from De Lassus’ comparisons:
Since De Lassus sheds light on the danger of the Opus Dei’s deceptive "apostolate," we quote this part of his text in full:
There are two remarks that relate to these two images of the Opus Dei:
The second image, based on the constitutional texts, necessarily corresponds to the reality: the first, the one most aimed at the general public, is presented for appearances sake. It is a semblance of the reality.
Thus, in the Opus Dei one finds a contrast between appearance and reality, a characteristic constituting one of the patently distinguishing marks of a great number of the modern world’s institutions.
As many families have discovered, this results in a misunderstanding about the nature of the Opus Dei. Seeing the Opus Dei according to its first image, these families send their children to its youth clubs, student residences, ski camps, etc., all created by the Opus’ initiatives, and directed by it as well. Yet, the families don’t see it as such. Some years later, they realize that their children have joined an organization of a religious nature, and have made 'engagements.' (According to the statutes, specifically Article 20, in the Opus Dei, promises can be made from age 18.) These youth clubs, student residences, ski camps, all served as instruments for recruiting them to the Opus Dei. And so it is, little by little, that the second image of the Opus unveils its face to them.
These recruitment practices, revealed and denounced by families deceived in this way, corroborate revelations made by former Opus Dei numeraries, and published in works that shed light on the Opus Dei’s hidden side, e.g., El Opus Dei: anexo a una historia (The Opus Dei: An Addendum to its History) by a Spaniard, Maria Angustias Moreno, and published by Ediciones Textos, and Das Opus Dei, eine Innenansicht, (The Opus Dei: An Inside View) by Klaus Steigleder, a German.
Revealing even more methods of betrayal, both of the above explain how numeraries recruit among families who still live the traditional principles, because the Opus Dei only wants well bred and educated people in its midst; how young people are solicited through healthy and legitimate activities, then indoctrinated, then brought fully into an occult atmosphere, and how, at last, without their parents’ knowledge, they are bound by the 'engagements.' Yet their parents trusted the Opus because of the recognition and seal of approval given to the Opus Dei by the Church. And all of this is sanctioned by 'The Father,' the all-powerful and revered head.
In 1981, weren’t these grave and numerous contradictions, which had already come to light, about the life of the Opus Dei, as well as this erroneous doctrine, these breaches of trust, all sufficiently known by those responsible for initiating Msgr. Escriva’s beatification cause? Some incompatibilities between the founder’s reputation for holiness and the spirit of certain of the constitutional articles written by him must have reared their heads. There is every reason to believe that the modifications carried out some months afterward, in 1982, were done in the interest of making a necessary adjustment between the principles and the facts—putting it all in order, so as not to obstruct his cause’s smooth road, was a necessary operation.
With the Bishop of Madrid’s 1941 approval of the Opus Dei as a "pious union," it was imprinted with the secret seal. As we have seen, the 1950 "constitutions," comprising 47 articles, confirmed the secret character, and Article 193 cast it in stone:
These constitutions, the instructions already promulgated, and those that could be promulgated in the future, as well as the other documents relative to the government of the institute, ought not to be divulged; moreover, those written in Latin shall not be translated into the vernacular without the Father’s permission."
These constitutional articles’ severity, excess, and contradictions do not appear in the Opus cadres’ topics, nor are they mentioned by them when recruiting new adepts. Thus in 1982, it was necessary to modify some articles so as to shore up the breach between appearance and reality.
With this change in the writing, was there also a change in the spirit? These constitutions themselves were set out from the first "founding of the work...; they must be considered as holy, inviolable, perpetual." Is correcting them not tantamount to betraying the Founder? Msgr. A. del Portillo, Escriva’s recently deceased successor, expressly treated these matters:
However, the change is only—I repeat—in juridical trappings, and nothing which is essential in the Opus Dei has been modified. I want to affirm that we have taken a very important step."
Exactly what makes this an important step? The Prelature? Msgr. del Portillo says nothing about that. Ten years later, in his homily delivered during a Mass of thanksgiving three days after the beatification, Cardinal Sebastiano Baggio, Church Chamberlain, would treat and explicate this:
For the blessed Josemaria Escriva, unity with the Church is not something external but the very essence of all authentic apostolates.
A new reason to thank God comes to us through the spirit of this unity in apostolate which, following the road forged by the blessed Josemaria Escriva, the Opus has lived with such intensity since its founding. A unity which found its rightful institutional expression in the erection of the Opus Dei into a Personal Prelature and which its Prelate’s ordination to the Episcopacy served to demonstrate how anchored it is to the very source of apostolic unity; [for] the collegiality of bishops—cum Petro et sub Petro—is based on the collegiality of the apostles."
The "pastoral phenomenon" [of the Opus Dei] is the heritage of the apostles. This is what had to be said so as to claim that it was done via apostolic authority.
Ten years were sufficient for the more zealous among the artisans to assemble the means for attempting to redecorate for the world the conciliar Church’s edifice. Yet, the operation wasn’t able to do away with all of the Opus Dei’s contradictions, distortions and abuses. He who invented the doctrine, "Work is the specific means from which springs the interior life" was glorified right up to St. Peter’s Square. In his homily, John Paul II at once felt the need to praise the blessed (Escriva) "who opened new apostolic horizons through evangelical and missionary activity," and to correct:
Christ invites the whole world to sanctify itself in everyday concrete life. That is why work is also a means of personal sanctification and of apostolate when one performs it in union with Jesus Christ."
This ostentatious operation has not escaped the attention of perspicacious clerical and lay observers who, grounded in sane Catholic doctrine, have not forgotten St. Pius X’s teaching: "Always keep the doctrine pure."
Here, there, and elsewhere, what ought to be understood and known has been reported. For instance, consider the following, so clearly expressed:
Whoever even cursorily knows the Opus’ history, and its role in the Church today, will see that it is a matter of beatifying the Opus Dei.... It is the Opus which has been made a star here, because it offers the Holy See’s politics a counterweight to the modernists’ fantasies. The priests of the Opus Dei ...are the keepers of the conciliar Church. The Vatican needs the Opus Dei to provide new equilibrium to the Church, which in so many places flounders, even unto anarchy. Thus it seems evident that the motive for beatifying the Founder of the Opus Dei is the promotion of the conservative and liberal wing of conciliar Catholicism ...The Church that emerged from Vatican II needed a model."
It is impossible to end this brief study without treating the role played by the Opus Dei in Spanish politics for over half a century.
We have observed that, since the end of the Spanish Civil War, the penetration of the Opus within the Spanish elite has continued to progress. Through its supports, methods, and means, as well as through its directors’ psychology, the Opus Dei has morally and intellectually formed men likely to assume all of the responsibilities within the structure of the state. Because of their abilities, these men have normally risen to executive posts in banking, industry and commerce, in the universities, the judicial system, and in the armed forces.
In their professional spheres, these men have applied methods to their work that reflect the Opus Dei’s own internal and characteristic ones. They have compromised. In Spain and elsewhere, their ability to lead well in business, elsewhere, has resulted in their gaining a legitimate reputation.
The major documentation for this section on Spain is not found in sources from Opus bookshops. Since such a study demands objectivity, the books used are those on contemporary Spain and the Franco regime. The judgments set forth in them are sometimes biased, as well as tendentious regarding Francoism, the monarchy, the Opus and Catholicism.
Two works deserve attention, since they devote quite a few pages to this "case," unique in modern political and religious history. Aside from the two authors’ analysis, these works’ main interest lies in their rich documentation: quotations, investigative reports, debate excerpts, discussions, statistics, government decisions, etc.
How was the Opus Dei, this "religious" work, which is forbidden to engage in politics, also so profoundly and radically able "to guide" this authoritarian regime? The genesis of its history and development, and the record of some of its benchmarks, are all instructive.
In 1957, General Franco formed his sixth government. New ministers were brought in, most of whom were known to be technocrats: some who belonged to the Opus Dei were not thought to be supportive of the regime. Why? The reason appears to be simple. Since the Spanish economy was in terrible shape from being handled by ministers from the nationalist movement and the Phalange, the Caudillo looked for effective men; he brought into the government men whose intellectual and technical expertise he’d heard praised. Among them were Fernando Castiella in Foreign Affairs, Alberto Ullastres in Commerce, Navarro Rubio in Economics and Lopez Rodo in the government presidium’s General Secretariat, which controlled all of the ministries.
Four were technocrats, the last three of whom were of the Opus. Lopez Rodo is an Opus Dei numerary. They introduced reforms and got them quickly up and running. In December, 1957, Foster Dulles, US advisor and negotiator, was received by Franco.
The more influential the Opus Dei became, the more the Phalange’s stock declined, and the more Franco turned over the reins to the liberals. In February, 1953, two groups of foreign "doctors" arrived in Spain, the first from the European Organization of Economic Cooperation (EOEC) and the second financed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The two groups put forth a "stabilization plan" and promised that its acceptance would bestow all sorts of advantages: the peseta would be stabilized; the American government, and the US, IMF and EOEC banks would provide aid. Solidly backed by the Opus’ economists, the plan was officially accepted by the government in July 1959. In December, Eisenhower arrived in Madrid.
Immediately, Spain became an active associate member of the EOEC. The peseta’s rate of exchange went from 40 to 60 against the American dollar. At its new rate of exchange, the peseta became one of the world’s strongest currencies. The 1958 $50 million deficit was transformed, in 1959, into a surplus of $80 million. The markets were thriving, but the speculators pulled out. Businessmen were ruined, tens of thousands of workers were reduced to unemployment, resulting in labor strife in the industrial region of Asturias.
The situation called for a forward looking man. On July 20, the liberal, Lopez Bravo, a 39-year old naval engineer and Opus member, was appointed Minister of Industry. Coming into the government with him, to the Ministry of Information and Tourism, was Fraga Iribarne, who was not in the Opus, and who would later play an important role against the Opus.
Indeed, the Opus Dei is not a political party. In terms of the Spanish government’s official composition, the Opus is not a participant. Rather, it is the men of the Opus who are.
Just as Freemasonry solemnly claims to give no political orders, it is the men of the Opus who influence, effect, and supply policy. And behind their impetus lies that spirit so much in line with the Opus’ doctrine. The Opus’ methods have created ministers as well as ministers compromised by them. This is how these cultured, competent and numerous men, who are ready to serve, who are so well educated and formed at the University of Navarre, are put into power. Nothing more human, nothing more natural. But why is this forbidden? Therein lies the evidence!
For the last government reorganization, Franco named Lopez Rodo, the discreet but important and brilliant Opus member, as Commissioner of the Four Year Plan. Scores of experts among his friends completely supported this appointment. Lopez Rodo established a veritable encyclopedia, in 31 volumes, on economic and social development.
The technocrats, driven and entranced by productivity and material success at any price—the goods of the socialist spirit—sacrificed the high, noble, spiritual part of the individual in order to obtain success. They summoned the international foreign affairs experts, the globalist politicians. Spain, which for 20 years, at least officially by law, had been preserved from moral corruption and subversive propaganda, opened wide its borders to let the money flow in.
The technocrats encouraged Spaniards to expatriate to the labor markets of prosperous countries: France, Germany, England. The flight of capital "out of the country" was very important and very useful to the Peninsula’s economy. The grossest receipt of return was the reverse migration, especially in the form of a considerable rise of commerce via tourism beginning in 1961, and by 1964, reaching the level of 14 million foreign tourists, or nearly one half the population of Spain. These Western hordes brought in $1 billion, and the bonuses were indecent shows and exhibits, as well as "advanced liberalism’s" leaven of corruption. How did Spain truly profit from all of this?
In subsequent years, the Christian technocrats pursued the actualization of their materialist plan. In October, 1968, Franco received Henry Kissinger, the German Jew who became an American citizen and a political advisor for Washington.
In a mere ten years, through the efforts of the men of the Opus, the Iberian peninsula flourished economically. The philosophy of work, so dear to the Opus, bore its material fruits. But "to sanctify others by work"?, "to sanctify oneself by work"?, "to sanctify work"? Did Spain earn sanctification thereby?
In August, 1969 a great scandal hit Spain. It concerned an important industrial conglomerate: Maquinaria textil del norte (MATESA). Founded in 1956, in the Opus capital of Pamplona, this company specialized in manufacturing textile looms under French licensure. The head of MATESA was Juan Vila Reyes, an Opus member. The press presented MATESA as a model of commercial dynamism. Reyes was an old friend of Rodo, the government Commissioner for Economic Development.
Some financial irregularities were unable to escape fiscal oversight. Five million pesetas went out of Spain and dozens of millions more having no connection to loom manufacture went to subsidize entities such as the University of Navarre and the Institute of Graduate Business Studies in Barcelona, both created and directed by the Opus Dei. This commercial empire of 75 Spanish subsidiaries, both overseas and in Europe, crumbled.
The scandal was caused by the misuse of public funds, a misdemeanor offense. From 1959 to 1969, MATESA received State export subsidies of 10 million pesetas from Banco de credito industrial. In principle, this money was for loom exports, but the machines never left Spain, or were put in foreign subsidiaries’ warehouses. Thanks to the phony deliveries, new government subsidies were allocated in the name of the momentary technocratic slogan, "export."
In an awkward coincidence, the Ministers of Finance and Commerce, and the head of the Bank of Spain, Navarro Rubio, were all in the Opus. Many were implicated.
Fraga Iribarne, the Minister of Information, profited from the situation. To appease his nationalist minister friends, he had the Phalangist and Monarchist press orchestrate a campaign against the Opus. This campaign did not expressly point to the "The Work," but rather to the "technocrats." The campaign attacked the government’s reputation.
Franco accused Iribarne of injuring Spain’s prestige by exploiting "the MATESA affair" for partisan ends. On October 29, 1969, Franco formed his ninth government, encouraged to do so by Lopez Rodo and Admiral Carrero Blanco. The nationalists were again excluded. Among them was Iribarne, who resigned his ministry to a former Vatican ambassador, Sanchez Bella, who was also in Opus circles. Eight Opus members entered the government. The MATESA scandal only served the Francoists. What an irony of history this was.
Since success is said to obtain by rendering to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, the Opus Dei triumphed. In the summer of 1969, it had already walked off with a great victory. On July 22, the "technocrat" ministers, the main artisans of "Operation Prince" heard Franco designate Juan Carlos as his successor as head of state to the Cortes [the Spanish Parliament—French Ed.] The next day, Juan Carlos was sworn in.
Surely the Opus in Spain doesn’t have any more power than do the political parties; but theirs is a power that has never needed parties. Liberalism gained ground. On December 21, 1969, Minister Lopez Bravo was in Moscow, where he signed accords. Well before Franco’s death, the way was opened to socialism.
For 25 years, the Opus Dei has played a considerable role in Spanish and world politics. Its disconcerting spirituality and its socialist doctrine have advanced. They contributed to the establishment of the new world order, not to the restoration of the social kingdom of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
The work of Fr. Vallet can be compared to Fr. Escriva’s in terms of the similarity of their field of action, their "clientele," the period in which they appeared, and their desire to transform society. The comparison stops there. Essentially, the comparison’s basic interest lies in the fate of the two works and on the diametrically opposed judgments pronounced upon their two founders.
If Fr. Escriva’s thought, doctrine, and work are difficult to pin down for lack of clarity, the spirit and work of Rev. Fr. Francois de Paule Vallet are very simple to describe. Fr. Vallet’s doctrine is unambiguous, nor does it oppose centuries of the Church’s apostolate. In fact, it is its heir. It is direct. It is like a flowing channel of traditional Church doctrine, a channel without either floodgates or tunnels. It contains no contradiction between Father’s thought and his action. Having gleaned the first fruits of the new world order (yes, even then), he fought them with his exceptional energy by tirelessly opposing them with the doctrine of the social kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ, as defined by the magisterium of the Church.
Who was this priest who, as the century comes to a close, is so little known? Spanish, born in Barcelona in 1894 into a family of skilled workers, Francois de Paule Vallet attended the university, then went on to engineering school. As an intellectual, he was interested in the sciences as well as in arts and letters; he wrote, he painted. His friends were scientists, writers, artists; he had a life full of activities, mostly all of them far from spiritual concerns. But a social life devoted to being interesting, conformist, and worldly left him feeling deceived. He fled the city and, providentially, found himself in Manresa, where Ignatius de Loyola, like Paul, was hurled down. He "made" the famous Spiritual Exercises. Everything changed for him; he discovered the divine plan for creation, man, and society.
He left the world in order to prepare himself to conquer it. At 24, he entered the novitiate of the Company of Jesus in Gandia, Spain. He was passionate about the sacred sciences. Exploring the immense possibilities of the Spiritual Exercises as a way to lead souls to God through the interior life, he discovered their power to transform the family, as well as social and political life.
Fr. Francois de Paule Vallet was convinced that this divine leaven, up until then reserved for religious and a few other privileged souls, ought to be pressed into service for all, not only Catholics, but also, and above all, for the most deprived, the indifferent, and unbelievers, so as to lead them to the Faith, to carrying out the Commandments, to the road of salvation forged by Our Lord Jesus Christ. That is how he defined apostolate, as the Church had always uniquely and truly defined it.
For him, there was nothing that had to be fabricated or invented. Rather he had only, profoundly, to till, sow, and harvest Our Lord’s field within the existing structures of the Church. Inspired by the story of the extraordinary, epic-making, popular retreats of Fr. Munoz of Colombia, which transformed all classes of society and established the social regime of Christ the King, the novice, Francois de Paule Vallet, threw himself completely into the task of obtaining permission to immediately apply this spiritual therapy in Spain. He recruited all through Spain’s Valencia region; he, the simple brother, helped by some novice priests, preaching the Exercises, amid that era’s most precarious social and material conditions. His preaching was aimed solely at men: heads of family and business and social leaders. To make them accessible to all, the Exercises were condensed into five days. The retreats grew and grew, taking the country by storm.
Ordained a priest in 1920, Fr. Vallet returned to Manresa as retreat director. From there, he went on to apprise Catalonia, not to create an independent work, but to resupply parish priests with some committed, zealous men—Apostles.
San Andres, a parish in suburban Barcelona, became the radiant, extraordinary center. With no distinction as to social class, company owners and workers, artisans and students, intellectuals and peasants made, and then repeated the retreat, then went on to recruit. Wrote Maurice Comat, "Like sparks from a fire, it spreads slowly, until the entire great capital of Barcelona is alight, everyone out on an errand after grace."
From 1923 to 1927 more than 12,000 male enthusiasts formed permanent parish leagues. They bought a big hotel in Barcelona, organizing it into an "exercising establishment" with a secretariat, restaurant, hotel, meeting rooms and a chapel.
Fr. Vallet’s great idea was:
Through the Spiritual Exercises, to give the laity a sense of civic responsibility, then, to take this, and vigorously transform it into a work of effective social Christian restoration."
Not at all to be a chapel, a Third Order: "I wish to be both of the Church and healthily lay." The objective was not to create Catholic newspapers, a Catholic political party, a Catholic labor union, a charitable work. The goal was precise: more and more retreatants, "an army of retreatants," active in every milieu, working to transform and found Catholic newspapers, parties, unions, and permanent works.
You shall not bring down the revolution, you shall dissolve it from within and by your own converted elites."
An optimistic program, which could have been realized if it had been encouraged, supported, and defended by the hierarchy. Later, a South American bishop, Viola [Bishop Alfredo Viola of Salto, Uruguay; 1893-1972—Ed.], would say about this program that it was "the work of the 20th century."
In that remark resides the entire difference between the Fr. Escriva’s work and that of Fr. Vallet.
Miracles resulted from Fr. Vallet’s apostolate. Virulent heads of Communist cells, union bosses, agnostics, and even some Catholics of the same ilk emerged from the retreat one day and, the next day, carried the processional banner.
The purpose here is not to retell Fr. Vallet’s life story. Rather, we wish only to say that the success was not rewarded. It was the period of the revenge of that modernism condemned by St. Pius X. Nothing of the labarum of this pontificate was to be permitted to survive.
Of course, there were the beautiful encyclicals, Quas Primas and Mortalium Animos; but at that time in Rome, the liberals had become entrenched, the spirit of The Sillon was well represented, progressivism was flying high there. Those who wanted "to restore all things in Christ" were unable to gain access there.
Fr. Vallet was persecuted, expelled from his country. He tried to seed his work in America. After many vicissitudes, and the creation of the institute "of parish cooperators of Christ the King," he found asylum in France where, for 10 years, working against the tide, he reenacted what he had done in Spain. Once more, the chaos of the liberation chased him beyond the Pyrenees. At times, he recalled St. Jerome’s words:
If I had been content to weave jute baskets and fill my stomach, I would have lived out my days in peace. But because I wanted to return Scripture to its original Hebrew, everyone wants to tear me apart with bared teeth."
At 60, he was exhausted, but mustered his last energies to go out, once more, to preach Christ the King. He was going to die, not in his easy chair at his desk, but in Madrid, preaching the Exercises. So, final silence descended upon this peerless apostolic power. No one took a piece of his cassock for relics; but at the time, his work spread rapidly in the French-speaking countries. Through him, tens of thousands of men would discover the doctrine of the Catholic Church.
What was not forgiven Fr. Vallet was his profound psychology, his luminous prescience, and his fidelity to immutable doctrine. He did not content himself with only forming pious men, faithful to the sanctuary, but also men for the front-line, active and resolute, taking up their positions in the cities as Catholics, in order to perform works of Catholic politics as against the spirit of the world. He affirmed that the social question would be settled if men would stop wanting to build a society estranged from God’s will. He dared to say that nations were marked on the forehead with the sign of death for having rejected the Kingship of Christ.
Apostolate’s only goal is conversion.
This face to face encounter demonstrates the antimony, the unavoidable opposition between these two men, between these two works.
The reigning modernism could only banish Fr. Francois de Paule Vallet so as to glorify Fr. Josemaria Escriva.
We received a letter from the Opus Dei in France concerning the article that appeared in Issue 11 of Le Sel de la Terre. This letter taxed the author with some factual errors, and then continued by a plea pro domo (i.e., general information supportive of the Opus Dei work and views—English Ed.). We thought that the first part of the letter, accompanied by the comments of Nicholas Dehan, could be of interest to our readers, and show them that the Opus Dei has nothing substantial to oppose to the article. On the contrary, we did not think it useful to publish the second half of the article: readers who desire press releases on the Opus Dei can write directly to their headquarters. (99 Overlook Circle, New Rochelle, NY 10804—English Ed.)
N.B. This response from the Information Office of the Prelature of the Opus Dei in France is translated verbatim from Le Sel de la Terre (No. 13). The page numbers, however, initially referencing pages in the original article, have been changed to reference pages in this English translation of Dehan’s article. The Editor has taken liberty to incorporate some of these clarifications in the English text of the article.—English Ed.
Paris, January 25, 1995
Mr. Philippe Roulon, Editor
Le Sel de la Terre
La Haye aux Bonshommes
49240 Avrille, FRANCE
It is with great surprise that I learned of the article by Mr. Dehan on the Opus Dei in your issue Number 11.
Undoubtedly, the author is ill-informed about the prelature of the Opus Dei; perhaps he is not personally acquainted with any of its adherents. This could in no wise excuse the levity of his discourse, nor the factual errors that are contained in his study. I shall only expose briefly the material errors:
I move on to other points so as not to prolong this letter. (...)
February 6, 1995
Here are a few thoughts concerning the reactions of the Opus Dei. Replies to the ten points:
Camino: Yes, it is the only doctrinal work of the Opus Dei written by Fr. Escriva. The others are only collections of conversations or homilies, or meditations. La Abadesa deals with a case of episcopal jurisdiction concerning an abbess. I maintain, the only work, rule of the Opus Dei.
Le Tourneau does not present himself as officially a spokesman, certainly. But when one writes for the collection What Do I Know?, of international scope for popularization, to explain what the Opus Dei is, one speaks in its name. On p.36 the author, speaking of the spirit of the Opus, evokes its "spokesmen"! He is one of them.
"Can only accept non-Catholics as cooperators," I wrote. But they are still in the ranks of the Opus Dei. Unicity of vocation and diversity of members:
True, the sentence lacks "the residence where," but that changes nothing. "All of the ideologies" are there.
On the contrary the author of the letter is embarrassed. Yes, everything is said by Vazquez; one understands where are the sources of the financial power of the Opus Dei, the five categories of benefactors!
I made it sufficiently clear throughout the text and especially on p.23—citing De Lassus, whom the author of the letter cannot possibly not know—that the members subject to vows until 1982 would be afterwards subject to contractual obligations. Vows and "engagements," isn’t it the same spirit?
The current prelate. Of course, my second revision dates from the summer of 1993. My study does not bear upon persons, but upon the banefulness of the spirit of the persons. It matters little that the author of the letter thinks he can impress us by pointing out that he was "appointed by the pope." The author of the letter hasn’t got much to sink his teeth into!
The reference to the conservative Cardinal Tardini seems to him more convincing that the one to Msgr. Montini. That alters in no wise the inopportunity of the constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia, were it signed by Pope Pius XII through Cardinal Tardini.
The author of the letter does not want to understand the meaning and the point of my sentence which highlights the corrective of Pope John Paul II: "and also," that is to say, another means, and not the unique means as Escriva teaches, as does the Opus Dei.
The French authority for the Opus Dei does not contest the political role of the Opus Dei which I describe, but he is making things up. I did not write that the ministers of Franco had attended the University of Navarre (although those who entered in the government in 1969 would be old enough to have studied there, I do not affirm it). I said, on p.26: "The ministers single out and place in their service these cultivated men (...) well educated at the University of Navarre." Yes indeed, bureaucrats well formed according to the spirit of the day, in the spirit of the Opus Dei, are not found among 50-year-olds. That is very little to single out from a very mordant and accusatory chapter on the political role of the Opus Dei in the socialization of Catholic Spain.
The Rome of Pope John Paul II urgently needed a St. Escriva to hallow his doctrine. A broad mobilization of the media, too, was necessary, just as it was for Pope John XXIII, "the good Pope John," indispensable for establishing a mood of euphoria for the "good Council."
1 Dominique Le Tourneau, L’Opus Dei, Presses Universitaires de France, collection "Que sais-je?" No. 2207, 3rd edition, 1991, (first edition, 1984); translated into German, English, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Dutch, Portuguese. It is interesting to know that in 1983, Number 57 of La Revue des sciences religieuses published an article by Dominique Le Tourneau, whose very title sums up all that it reveals: L’Opus Dei, prelature personnelle, dans le droit fil de Vatican II (The Opus Dei: in the Direct Line of Vatican II).
2 D. Le Tourneau, L’Opus Dei, p.6. The author italicized sees.
3 Ibid., p.9. Would the Bishop also have "seen," in order to be instantaneously and fully convinced?
4 D. Le Tourneau, L’Opus Dei, p.9. We emphasize "new pastoral and juridical phenomenon."
5 Bulletin published by the vice-postulation of the Opus Dei in France, 1991–5, rue Dufrenoy —75116 Paris.
6 D. Le Tourneau, spokesman for the Opus Dei, insists: Father, "knew the will of God," L’Opus Dei, ch.II, p.20.
7 D. Le Tourneau, L’Opus Dei, p.21.
8 Franciscan, Cardinal-Archbishop of Toledo (1436-1517).
9 D. Le Tourneau, L’Opus Dei, pp.22, 23. Our Holy Mother Church is reduced to next to nothing in history: 15 centuries of lethargy, no apostolate, mankind was abandoned. Finally, Fr. Escriva arrives!
10 Author of Utopia, who preached a Communist ideal. Put on the Index. (He was canonized for his martyrdom and not for his ideas—French Ed.) [It should be noted that the author being French is unaware that Thomas More's book was a political satire, a fact well-known in English circles. His book was initially condemned as many other works were through misunderstanding, a matter later clarified—English Ed.]
11 Dutch humanist, prepared the way for the Reformation through his In Praise of Folly. Luther only more thoroughly proclaimed and applied what Erasmus had insinuated.
12 The author does not say, "counter-reformation."
13 D. Le Tourneau, L’Opus Dei, p.23. Does the author refer to the Council of Trent and its catechism inspired by St. Charles Borromeo?
14 D. Le Tourneau, L’Opus Dei, p.25.
15 D. Le Tourneau, L’Opus Dei, p.26.
16 Juan Morales, El Opus Dei: su verdadera faz, Textos, citas y commentarios, [The Opus Dei’s Real Face: Texts, Quotations and Commentaries] December 1991. Available from: Casa San Jose, Carretera Navalcarrero a Grinon km 5,—28607 El Alamo, Spain.
17 Several have also been published in other countries. Authors and titles are in D. Le Tourneau’s bibliography, in op. cit., p.125ff.
18 Peter Berglar, Opus Dei, Rialp, p.216. Also published in Salzburg, Publisher, Otto Muller, 1983.
19 Salvador Bernal, Monseigneur Escriva de Balaguer, Rialp, p.153. Also published in Paris, SOS, 1978.
20 Ibid., p.309.
21 Ana Sastre, Tiempo de caminar, (Madrid: Rialp, 19890, p.95.
22 Vasquez de la Prada, El Fundator del Opus Dei [The Founder of Opus Dei], (Madrid: Rialp, 1983), p.336.
23 Jose Miguel Ceja, Estudios sobre camino, [Studies on The Way], (Madrid, Rialp, 1988), p.100.
24 D. Le Tourneau, L’Opus Dei, p.27.
25 D. Le Tourneau, L’Opus Dei, p.28.
26 D. Le Tourneau, L’Opus Dei, p.33.
27 D. Le Tourneau, L’Opus Dei, p.37.
28 D. Le Tourneau, L’Opus Dei, p.41.
29 Pius XI, Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, 1931.
30 D. Le Tourneau, L’Opus Dei, Chapter 4, "Les oeuvres collectives d’apostolat," ["Corporate Works of Apostolate"], p.89 and 90.
31 D. Le Tourneau, L’Opus Dei, pp.91,92.
32 Entretiens avec Msgr. Escriva de Balaguer [Interviews with Msgr. Escriva de Balaguer], French edition published by Fayard; Spanish edition published by Rialp (p.126).
33 Peter Berglar, Opus Dei, Rialp, p.244.
34 Vasquez de Prada, El fundator del Opus Dei [The Founder of Opus Dei] p.258.
35 D. Le Tourneau, L’Opus Dei, p.51.
36 Introduction of the cause of beatification decree.
37 Up to and including 1982, then replaced by "engagements."
38 D. Le Tourneau, L’Opus Dei, p.16.
39 D. Le Tourneau, L’Opus Dei, p.79.
40 D. Le Tourneau, L’Opus Dei, p.48.
41 Cf. Paul VI et le coup de maitre de Satan, [Paul VI and Satan’s Masterstroke] Courrier de Rome 148, July-August 1993. Address: BP 156,—78000 Versailles, France.
42 Collected Works, (Madrid: Rialp, 1989), pp.52, 53.
43 Interview with Peter Forbach in Time, April 15, 1967 and published in Entretiens avec Mgr. Escriva de Balaguer [Conversations with Msgr. Escriva de Balaguer], a collection of seven interviews granted to Figaro, The New York Times, etc., 1966-68, 46 Editions, 3rd French edition, Paris, 1987.
44 Francois Sartre, Paris lawyer.
45 D. Le Tourneau, L’Opus Dei, p.39.
46 S. Bernal, Mgr. Escriva de Balaguer, p.280.
47 D. Le Tourneau, L’Opus Dei, p.36.
48 A. de Lassus, L’Opus Dei, Textes et Documents (A.F.S., Paris, May, 1992), 44 pages.
Taking into account the discreet reserve that it is necessary to guard ...we have decided that the copy of these rules, regulations, orders, customs, spirit and ceremonials shall be kept in our secret archives." Madrid, March 19, 1941, Leopold, Bishop of Madrid, cited by G. Rocca, in Opus Dei (Paoline, Rome, 1985).
50 Article 172 of the Constitution.
51 Msgr. del Portillo, in Searching for God Amid Men, p.38.
52 May 20, 1992 in St. Mary’s Basilica in Vallicella, in Information Bulletin of the Opus Dei, Special Issue, p.15, first trimester, 1993.
53 John Paul II, Rome, May 17, 1992, homily for the beatification, quoted in The Information Bulletin, Special Issue, pp.7,8, first trimester, 1993.
54 Fr. P. Laroche: Un Bienheureux de l’Eglise Conciliare, [A Beatification for the Conciliar Church] in Controverses, Swiss monthly journal, December, 1992.
55 Edouard de Blaye, journalist for Agence France-Presse, Franco, ou la Monarchie sans Roi, [Franco, or the Monarchy Without a King], published by Stock, 1974, MATESA affair, p.255ff.
56 Aside from journal articles, there has been only one French language biography of Fr. Vallet, that by Maurice Conat: Le magicien du regne, Francois de Paule Vallet, 1884-1947, [The Magician of the Kingdom: Francois de Paule Vallet, 1884-1947]. Published by Val de Rhone, 1967. These few lines on him deserve a much more complete work.
Translated by Suzanne Rini.