What is Opus Dei?

and why are they so controversial?

I believe that their conservative fidelity to the Catholic Church; their loyalty to the Pope; their intense spirituality and their success in many fields of academic and spiritual guidance of the students within their University Colleges have some people fearful that they may do some good.
The rubbish found in some modern fiction creating scandal does not help either.
It has at its heart a very Spanish spirituality that its saintly founder espoused for the lay man which does not suit me personally as I am at the very heart of my nature, a sinner. But it is very worthwhile to research it as it is found throughout the world due to the nature of its organisational framework within the Church. Although it will never go where the local Bishop does not want their entry.
You could not find a personal prelature better suited to fighting the evil culture of our age.A number of my legal friends are very involved. They, not so strangely, are far better men than I. (But I am still God’s own sinner. )



Well, that’s a good question.

It depends on which Opus Dei you’re referring to.

There is an Opus Dei which includes shadowy bishops named “Red Herring”, giant albino assassins who go around shooting elderly nuns for the fun of it, and ancient conspiracies.

There is also an Opus Dei founded by Josemaria Escriva, a canonized Saint of the Catholic Church, with the intention of sanctifying everyday work and life in the ordinary world.

One of them is the creation of an over-imaginative and libellous writer of third-rate fiction.

The other is reality.

I’m sure you’re intelligent enough to see which is which. :slight_smile:

Regarding your first paragraph, I’m sure that many of the critics are indeed more ‘liberal’ minded Catholics who don’t appreciate Opus Dei’s more conservative positions… but that doesn’t fully address the OP’s question. I personally know conservative, orthodox Catholics who are very wary of Opus Dei. One is a priest who regularly celebrates the EF mass (but he also celebrates the OF so he isn’t of the traditionalist camp that criticizes Opus Dei for their exclusive use of the OF - though those exist as well). I personally have observed some odd behaviour among some Opus Dei members, but I wouldn’t condemn the entire organization and also see a lot of good. I won’t go into too much detail, but some seem to have a nearly artificial / forced zeal, “targeting” potential recruits in a way that very much reminds me of Mormon missionaries. I don’t want to offend anyone associated with Opus Dei… just my experience.

From my understanding, they are a very right wing and secretive group. Most likely on the fringe.

Opus Dei is a Traditionalist Catholic organization. They are controversial because of their involvement with fascism. I am not a fan of them.

When your choice was the Commies ( Republicans) that were killing you and Franco that was an easy choice to make.
Keep in mind Franco was a staunch US ally during the hottest part of the cold war.
and despite German pressure maintained neutrality during the war .

They are not a “traditionalist” organization. SSPX is a traditionalist organization. Opus Dei is always obedient to whoever is pope, including Pope Francis, and never works without the consent of any local bishop. Pope Francis has supported Opus Dei.

It’s not conservative. It is orthodox, just as Pope Pius XII, Pope John XXIII, and Vatican II. It anticipated some aspects of Vatican II, for instance on lay apostolate. Its style is for individuals to implement the gospel in everyday life. Their approach is not for everyone, just as Franciscanism is not for everyone.

Not sure what you mean by “fascism”, but if you refer to the Franco regime in Spain, some individuals in Opus Dei supported Franco, some opposed him, most had nothing much to do either way. The organization was not involved in supporting or opposing that regime, which in any event has been gone for 40 years.

Is there any large Catholic organization that has **not **been accused of involvement with Fascism, and/or Communism, and/or the Mafia, Masons, etc?

“Conservative” would be a better term than “Traditionalist”; they do not have a particular devotion to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Also, it’s doubtful if Franco’s government truly merits the “fascist” label (as opposed to, say, Mussolini’s), though it did come close. (Remember that the alternative to Franco’s right-wing government was Communism, and that Spain was recovering from a bloody civil war and needed some serious reconstruction. Not defending the man, but the alternatives could have been worse. :))

:thumbsup: Very well said.

And if we’re going to bash Opus Dei for supporting the Franco regime, where does that leave Marcel Lefebvre’s support for the Nazi puppet Petain regime in France? :rolleyes:

I am not sure which organizations have been accused or not. I just read an article about Opus Dei being a neo-fascist organization.

I participated in the activities of Opus Dei (weekly, spiritual direction & confession, and weekly meditations), and it was the best spiritual and life-changing experience. They teach and live what it means to do apostolate (giving example to others by the way you live), mortification ( to offer a small sacrifice to God for a particular intention), to live a unity of life ( not living a double life like being in Church this kind of person, and a different person outside of Church), and to recognize the presence of God everywhere. It helps grow in spirit and in virtue.

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Suggest you check out their website. It was supported at least by Pius XII, St. JP II, Benedict, and, in Argentina, by Francis. It isn’t perfect. Some members are bad or ineffective.

It is a few different things. It is in effect a diocese covering the whole Earth, for those who choose to join it - a “personal prelature” with its own ordinary, just like the bishop of Brooklyn or London. It has its own clergy, under that ordinary of Opus Dei, under the Pope. But there are other priests and bishops who choose to affiliate with it, but are still diocesan clergy, with almost all their ministry directly to their own diocese. A bishop can “belong” to Opus Dei, but not necessarily be an “Opus Dei” bishop. A diocesan priest might also be a member of St. Vincent de Paul, K of C, and Opus Dei, for instance. But they are under their own diocesan ordinary, not Opus Dei.

It also is an organization, to which some individuals belong; with very different levels of commitment. You might compare it to a religious order, with male and female residences and intense involvement, like Franciscans; but with other laity directly working in their ministries; and still other laity, who do only limited contact, trying to live out the spirituality, like in a third order.

Keep in mind the main part of Opus Dei is the individual, living the ordinary Catholic faith in their family, job, and community.


Thank you for posting this. Authentic experience always trumps rumour and hearsay.

I don’t think ‘they’ as an organisation have any involvement with fascism. St Jose Maria himself met with persecution during the War.

The best thing, to get to understand the organisation, is to read its founder.

I highly recommend ‘The Way’ which essentially details the Saint’s advice to lay people on sanctification of every day life, which is the underlying goal of the organisation- providing a structure for those who want it, in order to do this.

Here in Melbourne Australia the one church which I know will have an orthodox Mass, whose priests will give orthodox Catholic advice in Confession is St Mary’s in West Melbourne; a parish given to the priests of the Prelature of Opus Dei by then Archbishop Pell.

This is not to say that there are not more orthodox priests in Melbourne but finding them is the difficulty. It doesn’t matter which priest is at St Mary’s he will be Faithful.

I hate to say it, but most of the posts are wrong.
Opus Dei is very controversial because of their extreme acts of penance.
They believe in intense mortification of the flesh.
This includes fasting, sleeping on the ground, taking cold showers, jumping out of your bed at the first morning alarm, wearing a cilice(A belt with small spikes that poke your skin, THEY HURT), and striking your back with a disciple(Think of the Scourging at the Pillar, but instead you are scourging yourself and the scourge is made of rope).
Here are some of their instruments of mortification:

They are too strict.

Yes, numeraries (single members) of Opus Dei do practice mortification of the flesh. These are not forced upon anybody, but individuals take upon themselves these mortifications as part of their own path to holiness, as many, many saints have done before them.

I’ve often attended their days of recollection. Although their spirituality isn’t a great fit for me, their priests are excellent confessors and I have always benefited from the recollections.

They have a reputation for elitism and extreme recruiting methods. I have experienced neither in my many years of casual involvement with them, though I imagine it must exist somewhere, thus the reputation.

They exist because we are all called to be saints. They teach a path to holiness. They are entirely orthodox in their teaching. They have been granted the status of the only personal prelature in the Church and were a favorite of Pope John Paul II (who was also said to practice corporal mortification, by the way). In fact, we should all practice some form of corporal mortification from time to time, even if it is simply the minimum of fasting required by the Church.

There is much I appreciate about Opus Dei, but I have witnessed the “extreme recruiting methods” and at least the appearance of elitism. Their local mansion is gorgeous in the most exclusive neighbourhood in town and they only seem to have time for promising professionals. I’m not condemning them - as I said there’s much good.

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