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June 22, 2007


Saul Menowitz

I've been around OD for more than 12 years, although I'm not a member. I've been to OD centers around the world in my travels for work. I was married by a priest of OD, all 5 of our kids were baptized by priests of OD, my wife and I receive spiritual direction from priest of OD, some of my closest friends are in OD and my parish of preference is St. Mary of the Angels, which is the only church in the US staffed by OD priests. I found John Allen's book to be spot on in its description of OD. Very well researched and well-written. He had practically unfettered access to OD.


I am not a member of Opus Dei-but have also been around them a lot--and think they are great--certainly not the stereotype that many have nor the ridiculous DaVinci code book--that does not mean I understand I every nuance or agree with every idiosyncracy nor that I like every member--but they do some amazing things and have some amazing people. I think Opus Dei is great--maybe not perfect as they are trying to be, but really great and authentically Catholic.



Allen gets some thinks right, and some things wrong--remember, he isn't a theologian or a canonist, and his lack of training in these areas shows sometimes.

Jeff Miller

I read the book last week and reviewed it here:

This is a very good book and a comprehensive view of Opus Dei.

Mike Petrik

Of course, you are right. I think that Jimmy's point is that Allen is not only well-informed, bright and literate, he earnestly tries to be fair. Sadly, all too many journalists can't check those four boxes. Those who are bright, literate, and well-informed usually develop strong opinions which lead to biases which, in turn, lead to unfair reporting. Allen certainly has opinions, and I disagree with some of them, but he does try hard to be fair; and I respect this a lot. I suspect Jimmy feels the same way.


i agree


I am in the middle of Scott Hahn's book on Opus Dei which is good as well.

Eileen R

Scott Hahn's book is very different, of course, and from my particular standpoint, more interesting. It's not a book about the history and organization of Opus Dei, but an explanation of the spirituality of Opus Dei.

Dianne Wood

I am a member of Opus Dei, and I was very surprised with what a great job John Allen did on writing this book. He has explained some things about Opus Dei way better than I can explain them. I have been buying copies to give to friends that have problems understanding opus Dei.


Scott Hahn is a member of Opus Dei.

I think the problem is before Allen you had the hagiographies of St. Escriva by Opus Dei members or syrupy books or articles on "the work"--but on the other hand (even within the Church) you had these anti Opus Dei diatribes that were ridiculous and false culminating in the ridiculous fictional book the DaVinci Code.

There are no assasins, or monks, maybe some albinos--don't think there is an overarching political conspiracy (sometimes I wish there was)

BUT, Opus Dei can seem classist (despite what the more pro books say) and a sort of elitism. Certainly it is good that most members are very eduated and there is a certain mission to university areas and students and profs--but it can at least appear exclusionary. The talk about the taxi driver and other stories don't comport with reality.

Opus Dei also can seem rather opulent and spends a lot of money on very very nice retreat houses and conference centers that can be scandalous to middle class American sensibilities--there facilities in Rome are gorgeous--but again can seem very opulent and expensive with American Catholics with perhaps "Protestant" subconscious or cultural influences. There is not a sense of poverty, or humility--again they have an explanation for that but it does not meet the smell test. This is especially true in 3rd world countries where the contrast is so dramatic.

But good education, schools, and programs for kids and young adults.


Hi, i just surfed in searching for interesting blogs on Spirituality, you have a cool blog. Do keep up the good work. I'll be back even though i live far from where you live. its nice to be able to see what people from across the world thinks.

Warm Regards from the Other Side of the Moon.

On a related note perhaps you might find the following link interesting. Its propossing a theory and i'll like to hear your take on the subject via comments. See ya...

Jesus an Essenes ?


Kerala, India

Brian T.

I've also been around OD a lot since I was a teenager, and I found Allen's book very fair. Hopefully it should difuse the hysterical attitude to OD you get a lot in the media, a hysteria which pre-dates the DaVinci Code but was fed by it.

Bu I don't agree with everything OD do, and what I found especially interesting about the book was that it showed that even some OD members are not totally uncritical regarding the Escriva cult, or the way OD centres are not always completely up-front about the fact that they are run by OD.

Rob: yes, OD can sometimes seem elitist, but they also work for the disadvantaged. In my home city they run an tutoring programme for poor kids, as well as a youth club based in a very rough part of town. Yes, the centres are often very opulent. But I've always thought that the life of an OD numery is quite hard - hard work, no wife, not much independence - and he's surely entitled to some comfort!

Sean Gallagher

I think Allen's publisher is doing a new push on his book because it is now coming out in paperback.

The fact that it is coming out in paperback is probably a sign that it sold fairly well as a hardback.

Which is good, because, as many commenters have noted, it is a pretty good book.

I'm looking forward to reading Hahn's book on the subject.

I only regret that there's no center close to where I live.


There is a "cult" (not in the negative sense of the word) to Escriva in Opus Dei. To non Europeans it may seem extreme. (or to American/English/Protestants)
Escriva no doubt was a genius and very loyal to the Church and had a great vision.

Being without a wife, or a busy life--does not necessarily justify the opulence in Opus Dei which sometimes is extragavance. They no doubt do some good work with the underprivileged. You may be talking about the Midtown Center which is excellent--but the actual members, and the focus of the evangelization is clearly focused on the very well educated and those with a certain presentation--which is not what Jesus did in picking disciples. There is a lack of a sense of surprise, and a reversal of temporal and materialistic roles of who is Blessed by God.

The sense of hierarchy, in nature according to Aquinas, the Aristotelean classifications, the European especially Spanish sense--all lead to the elitism and class stratification which is evident to most people and turns them away from the good they do.


I read the book last summer. Definitely a good overview and a sane alternative to the books that describe OD as a cult.

I do, however, have serious problems with OD's spirituality, as described by Allen, in that it promotes a "finding God in all things" (a la Ignatius) that tends to baptize all professions as potentially being the "work of God," i.e. serve God in whatever profession you are "called to." I am of the mind that some professions are seriously not compatible with Catholicism, and it is especially important for those in positions of economic and political power (those that OD largely caters to) to engage in self-critical reflection on whether or not his or her profession can truly be called the "work of God." Often, they are not.


I am of the mind that some professions are seriously not compatible with Catholicism...

I wonder if this might apply to lawyers.

Also, how about those who work for the government who are special agents and need to utilize the art of deception in their field of work?

As for the 'cult' perception of Opus Dei, one just needs to watch The History Channel's presentation on it. They portrayed OD as a dark, fanatical cult; almost satanic.

They even made Escriva look like a demented man who only thought he was inspired by God but really was only out for vainglory.

The History Channel even went to the extent of presenting supposed 'close friends' of Escriva who were present from the very beginning.

I would've had more respect for the program if it gave a fair, even-handed presentation and did not capitalize on blatant manipulation of the audience's perception by playing dark music and images to associate OD and Escriva in so diabolic a manner as they had in the show.

Needless to say, unless such an audience member who found it as dark had more information on OD, they would avoid it at all costs like The Black Death.


The History Channel even went to the extent of presenting supposed 'close friends' of Escriva who were present from the very beginning.

It seems I didn't finish my thought here.

The 'close friends' that were interviewed testified to the cruel, villainous features of Escriva's character.

By what they reported, Escriva is hardly a saint.


Opus Dei does a lot of good work.

It can come across, perhaps unintentionally as exclusivisitic or elitist--and I have been around them.

But they are not a cult in a bad way, (cult is not necessarily a bad word), do not have killers, or at least not albino killers, or at least no albino killers who are monks (Maybe priests but no monks and mostly lay people)

The spirituality is classic in the sense of practicing the Presence of God (like St. Larwence). The theology is Orthodox with a strong emphasis on Aquinas/Aristotle (in contrast to Eastern Rite theology or Bonaventure or Scotus)
It (Opus Dei) has a strong Spanish cultural influence.
There are some idiosynchricies and cultural nuances that are hard for the American mind.

It definitely has a emphasis on gifted people, professionals, and college students. They may not even realize it. It is not primarily used by cab drivers and stay at home moms (maybe moms more) of poor families. They do some good social service. They are not secretive per se but really have this thing about names and lots of corporate cover and explanation and splitting hairs with words.

The spiritual pracitices are traditionally Latin Rite Catholic with emphasis on daily Mass, frequent confession, certain practices regarding Mary (kissing feet of statues), kissing the cross in the oratory (called a pious "ejaculation" or better word could be aspiration), daily Rosary, use of Latin, spiritual reading of Escriva--sometimes Gospel or traditional Catholic (Western--with a focus on Medeival, counter-reformation, and Oxford movement), Angelus, Spirtual directions, and specific methods they uses called "chats", "circles", "meditation", "excursions"--on the whole all good stuff.
The Cirrus and other mortifications are taken out of context, not that bad, genuinely Catholic, and rarely used anyway.

Opus Dei is good but has serious image problems and does not seem genuine in some explanations and answers. Opus Dei also does a reflexive and even theologically justified elitism and exclusion that can come across as classism and certainly not egalitarian from a Anglo-American point of view--although some think Opus Dei has some Calvinisitc tendencies.


But they are not a cult in a bad way, (cult is not necessarily a bad word), do not have killers, or at least not albino killers, or at least no albino killers who are monks (Maybe priests but no monks and mostly lay people)

So you're admitting that there might be albino priest killers? The truth is that there ARE albino monk killers, its just that all the monks are albino killers, and there are so few of us our existence is a secret. A secret which I will share with the world for 100 million euros and the reverse of whatever surgery Michael Jackson got. Media people, are you listening?


It is kind of funny about the albino monk killers because anyone who knows Opus Dei can't even imagine this.
Also since it is a lay organization, there are no monks.
People can be stupid.


Also, how about those who work for the government who are special agents and need to utilize the art of deception in their field of work?

Kind of vague... But I would be suspicious of this kind of work.


"I think the problem is before Allen you had the hagiographies of St. Escriva by Opus Dei members or syrupy books or articles on "the work"---"

Obviously never read any of them. They are quite 'non-syrupy'--I should know I work for Scepter Publishers who publishes most of them in English.

The 'cult' that has been touched on is a age old approach to the Saints....to reverence those who followed Jesus closely as his disciples....nothing weird about it.

Beauty is not opulence... and the members of the work themselves live 'poorly' (as in being detached..poor...)

They would say all honest work can be sanctified...not that which is dishonest.

I would have thought those who would be on this blog would not have been 'taken in' by silly rumors and gossip but rather look to the Church and see how she sees OPUS DEI.

Now to note...I myself am not a member...but I have friends who are...


I would have thought those who would be on this blog would not have been 'taken in' by silly rumors and gossip but rather look to the Church and see how she sees OPUS DEI.

Who exactly are you referring to here? Who exactly do you think is 'taken in' by silly rumors and gossip on this blog?

I don't think anybody who has posted so far on this thread is taken in by any such silly rumors and gossip.

You should learn to first read and comprehend what people are posting before you castigate folks for something that's not even true.


Forgive me if it was taken as blanket statement.....most of the comments are what I would expect--and are on the informed side. If you read all the comments you will find some that are not. But the things I noted including a few others such as OD being classist and eliteist, opulant, not humble or poor e etc are more on the --less informed side of things. --My apologies to the rest!


Happy feast of St. Escriva everyone!


No prob, Kevin.

But, I still think you may have erred in your assessment.

I have difficulty in actually finding a comment that definitively declares OD as being classist, eliteist, etc.

If you are referring to something in Tom's post (unless I, myself, have read his comments incorrectly; if so, obviously, it is I who have erred and not you), I believe he was addressing mistaken notions of OD due to, for one, cultural differences as well as theological ones.


I like Opus Dei. I have been around it for much of my life. I have many friends in it. I am not a member however. They do a lot of good work.

The claim that detachment is the same as poverty is not the same in my mind or in the perceptions of most people. A beautiful cathedral, oratory, statue--that was very expensive, may seem out of place in a poor country--we are torn between the Gospel narrative of the women washing Jesus's feet and him saying the poor will always be with us--and other Gospel stories about shirts off backs and the enclycical Solicitudo Rei Socialis by Pope John Paul II--where he goes as far to say you should sell treasures and melt gold to help others.

The contrast betweeen rich and poor--and the people primarily in and the "houses" of the work--in 3rd world countries is very stark and very disturbing to people--even those who are very pro-"the Work"--as am I. Many people have travelled to Mexico and to other South American and other countries and are disturbed by attitudes, opulence, priorities.

Also, the retreat houses are very expensive, without many attendees vis a vis other houses. Some view retreats as necessary for some sacrifices. They cause a lot of scandal.

Priests, monks, nuns, and family people also sacrifice a lot--and the furniture, constructions, neighborhoods etc of most of the physical structures of Opus Dei (or "inspired" by Opus Dei as they do not claim corporate ownership per se) are certainly not indicitave of poverty, sacrifice, or a mission to others beyond a upper middle class and educated.

Again, some will get on the board and cite Midtown Center or some good programs in Kenya--but these are not the major focus or priority.

The 50 million (just initial estimate and cost not upkeep) for the Opus Dei center in Manhattan.
50 million could of kept a lot of elementary schools open in middle class neighborhoods. It could of done a lot in Africa or wherever.
It is good to have a presence in the heart of New York City, and to have a mission to the rich, decision makers, and the most educated--but it gets lost and these are different times culturally thean when you converted the King and the whole people would convert. The Opus dei center in Manhattan could of been done for far less money, they could of stayed in New Rochelle, New York--they could of opened up elementary and High School and good tutoring programs like Opus Dei had in Boston, or still has in New York, Washington DC, and the flagship in Chicago.

Opus Dei does some good work, a lot of good work with certain programs. But I stand by the contention, and many people see it and are turned away from the good because of an exclusive club like and elite atmosphere--a lack of forgiveness, a lack of generosity and a certain competitive almost Dutch sense of salvation and virtue.


I visited the chief church and center of Opus De in Rome recently--I was overwhelmed by the beauty! It really helped towards recollect and raising ones heart to God!

I visited the chief church and center of Opus De in Rome recently--I was overwhelmed by the beauty! It really helped towards recollection and raising ones heart to God!


I may have to read this and Hahn's books. I've been intregued by Opus Dei, the concept of taking your daily laity life and turning it over to God has appeal. Their teachings are interesting, but then you hear those who say they are elitist or too attached to worldly wealth. Of course, I'm used to people accuse the Church herself of that constantly so I don't know if I should give it much thought.

As it turns out, I guess I can come down to three things I can decide:
1) I should get to know more about Opus Dei
2) I'd probably have to work a lot on myself to even be ready to undertake such an intense spiritual life, which means I'd better be working on myself, even if I never join.
3) The number one reason to join Opus Dei would be to tick Dan Brown off. :)

reluctant soldier

I have received tremendous benefit(s) from Opus Dei.

Opus Dei helped me convert to become Catholic.

Opus Dei helped me learn about the Catholic faith.

Opus Dei helped me become more loyal to the Seat of Peter, and beyond theory, a great personal love for the last Pope John Paul the II--that I had the opportunity to meet through a trip.

Opus Dei helped me deepen my love and devotion through practical exercises to the Blessed Mother.

Opus Dei exposed me to previously unknown traditional Catholic practices like Eucharisitic devotion(s), Benediction, and Latin hyms (I believe composed by Aquinas) like the Pangea Lingua and the Tantum Ergo.

Opus Dei provided me opportunities to travel, learn, work, and do social service in many different countries--and I am not a member nor a major donor.
I went to Mexico, and Italy and had friends that went to Lithuania, India, the Holy Land among other places to teach English, Catechism, build projects, have summer camps, take classes, and have pilgrimages. Most people had a lot of fun, had a good time, learned a lot, acted better, and deepened their faith and lived it out--no allegations (not that it would be impossible) of sexual abuse, coercion, never saw a wire around a thigh nor did anyone suggest one in public or to me (but I did realize they existed and some members used it), no hair shirts (but many Saints had them), no flaggellation (but it was known that St. Escriva and many saints did that), not too much politics (maybe informally and it tended to be conservative depending on the country but not universal but certainly and rightly so--pro life).
There were no conspiracies of a political or financial nature and I had friends who left Opus Dei who were directors of residences. No secrets that the former members shared nor that I was ever privy too. But a lot of kids learned, and did better in school, and some treated their parents better, or got better grades or studied more, or fought with their brothers and sisters less--some also became members of Opus Dei and in some cases priests or even in one case a monk (I think Dominican). Dozens of people I know over about a 20 year period became Catholic and many Catholics prayed the Rosary, went to Mass more, and learned more about topics from the Bible to Aquinas to Social Teachings of the Catholic Church.

This does not mean I liked everyone in Opus Dei or I think it is perfect in a temporal practical sense or that it is the best or only way to practice Catholicism. Sometimes, it can come across to some people (I think erroneously) as a club, or lacking charity (or lack of charitable individuals) and I am sure some individuals have made mistakes. But the worse criticisms are pure fantasy and have no basis in reality. And some of the criticisms are based on true and traditional Catholicsm and Orthodoxy--which is viewed as a negative.

Opus Dei is a diverse organization (technically a prelature) that is truly Catholic and definitely has spiritual (rather than political or primarily temporal or materialistic) aims. The educational programs are excellent--from tutoring programs to schools--and are open to everyone (perhaps some financial commitment but there are scholarships, and some behavioral commitments as even public institutions have) including in fact in most cases lower income, minorities, lots of Hispanics in the US, non Catholics, and mostly average (and many above average although certainly not gifted programs but neither learning disabled eitehr) students.

Some of my best friends are in Opus Dei. I have learned to be a better person from Opus Dei.
I do not understand all the "quirks" in Opus Dei and there are different rules and traditions (many of them good traditions) that I don't understand nor appreciate. There is certainly a focus on separation of the sexes (male and female) that is hard for the modern mind (especially American, secular, egalitarian of the sexes) to understand or appreciate.
Some of the "houses" or "centers" are very nice, perhaps not opulent--and it can cause scandal--but most of the numerary members live rather humbly--have small rooms, no TVs, little "free" time, and not the modern ameneties of whirl pools, big screen TVs, wetbars--but some very nice houses in nice areas and nice furtniture--most importantly usually lots of books, many many good books.

Most of the members I have met are very educated with Masters Degrees or higher (this is a good thing). (at least for the numerary members--the Associates or Super Numeraries may vary on educational levels). Most are friendly, and have a spiritual focus even if they are accomplished professionals in their fields.
A focus on College students is not something to be criticize unless one wants to criticize the Newman centers and Calvert houses on most campuses (that many of them don't do half of what Opus Dei centers do and some have questionable forms of Catholicism)
Lots of people from all across the globe, I have met and have friends through Opus Dei from Spain, Italy, Mexico, Germany, Lithuania, India, Kenya, Nigeria--and all over the US including lots of Mexican Americans and many relatively humble middle class people.
Most of the time they are relatively kind and patient (they have put up with me, and when I was younger perhaps somewhat difficult to handle)

Opus Dei is very family oriented. Lots of large families. Few divorces (but it does happen but certainly not like in the general population). Lots of kids. Lots of men committed to marriage, unlike other circles I have been in.

The priests of Opus Dei have been very good confessors. Very pastoral in the confessional.
The sermons are orthodox and always mention Mary.
There is a focus on the Mass, the Real Presence, other Eucharistic devotions besides the Mass, devotion to Mary, devotions to your Guardian Angel, and unique devotions specific to Opus Dei to the Holy Family, St. Rafael, and St. Thomas More. The theology is orthodox and in keeping with the Catholic Church, the Catechism, and a emphasis on "Scholasticism" and teaching of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas.

One of the greatest things I learned from Opus Dei was better use of my time, keeping a schedule (some members really like the Blackberrys, the Calendar books, and the Steven Covey and Planner things)
But also in my schedule for work or school to also put time for Mass, to wake with the heroic moment, Morning Offering, Angelus, Rosary daily if possible, Mental Prayer, spiritual reading, visit to the Blessed Sacrament when possible, examination of conscience at night, customs like sprinkling the bed with Holy Water at night, and frequent confession, frequent if not daily Mass attendance and annual retreats--a so called Norms of Piety/Plan of Life. This has not only helped my spiritual life but also my professional life, organization and time management.

I am not saying that Opus Dei is right for everyone. I am not saying Opus Dei is perfect or cannot change as an institution. I am not saying I like every member or person who every associated with Opus Dei.
BUT, I am saying on a human level it is a great institution that has or has motivated others to have schools, vocational institutes, tutoring centers, and other projects all around the world doing good things for people.
I am also saying that Opus Dei is indeed the work of God and from God and a valuable part of the Catholic Church. I believe whatever his possible shortcomings (his temper, smoking, mistakes) that Escriva is a saint who loves the Holy Trinity, said the Mass with the right intention, loves the Blessed Mother and created an organization to help people sancitify their daily lives and try to become saints and get to heaven.
Opus Dei has certainly helped me.

Opus Dei certainly doesn't deserve some of the criticisms which are whole cloth lies and fantasy.

Please pray for me and for Opus Dei and for all souls.
God Bless

Eileen R

It is not primarily used by cab drivers and stay at home moms (maybe moms more) of poor families.

It does depend where you live, I think! Here in Western Canada, it's certainly the stay-at-home moms that are the backbone of Opus Dei locally. Most of the members I know are bringing up large families without huge incomes or glamorous jobs.

(My mother's a member, for disclosure.)


Opus Dei needs to change and adapt with certain not problematic aspects of modern culture.
In terms of management, disclosure, and possibly the more extreme separation of sexes.


Even if legitimate, criticism of Opus Dei should be done with charity. Opus Dei is a prelature of our Holy Mother the Church--inspired by a Saint and does a great deal of good.

PLEASE remember:

"Cook the truth in charity until it tastes sweet," this famous quotation of St. Francis de Sales is the principle of our apostolic work. Fruitless discussions or, worse, uncharitable polemics never help to attract souls to the Lord. Again, St. Francis de Sales said: "One drop of honey attracts more bees than a barrel of vinegar." The revealed truth of our Holy Catholic Faith is, in itself, attractive because of its depth, brilliance, and logic. Wherever it appears clothed in the beautiful garments of charity, it becomes ever more acceptable to those who might otherwise fear its inevitable consequences for our lives and the sharpness with which it cuts through our weaknesses and our excuses. The famous religious poet, Gertrude von Le Fort, wrote of the Church and the revealed Truth: "I have fallen in your Faith like in an open sword, and you have cut all my anchors." How much more easier does a soul accept the grandness and the majesty of Divine Faith when it is presented with the merciful charity and patient meekness that Our Lord himself shows all the time to His children.


I am not a member of Opus Dei. I do prefer the Traditional Latin Mass.
But ALL of the Masses I have been to offered by priests of Opus Dei have been reverent, correct, respectful, holy, and focused on the Sacrifice of God/Man. and they all have been Masses of the current rite. The Opus Dei priests that I have been lucky enought to have gone to Confession with all have been very very good confessions for me and hopefully pleasing to God with much pastoral care and good advice.

I first learned of the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament through Opus Dei and the beautiful Latin chanting of Priests and lay members of Opus Dei.

Opus Dei only offers the Novus Ordo Mass, and does not allow the TLM or does not have an indult--I am unsure of all the reasons. But the liturgies are wonderful.
Very respectful. Very correct with the rubrics. Wonderful preaching. Sometimes the Novus Ordo in Latin. Lots of people praying before and after Mass and going to confession.

I hear (perhaps an urban legend and no confirmation through Opus Dei sources) that St. Escriva preferred the Traditional Pre Vatican II mass and had a dispensation for offering it in private--don't know if it is true.

The Theological Forum of Opus Dei puts out a very nice compilation of prayers and a Daily Missal (post Vatican II) that is very good.


The Berglar book on Opus Dei is also very good.


Does Opus Dei offer the Traditional Latin Mass?

and if not

Opus Dei is a great group, I appreciate them more and more as I get older.

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I haven't been up to anything lately. I've just been letting everything wash over me recently. My life's been generally boring lately.


LÒinteret du forum est precisement de susciter un debat parmi les citoyens pour que le budget et les choix quÒil sous-tend soient places au c?ur du debat public. Un budget, ce sont des choix. Des choix supposent des priorites.

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