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Opus Dei is left without privileges: the new panorama of the prelature under Pope Francis

John Paul II travels in the 'popemobile' during the canonization of Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, on October 6, 2002. AP

For 40 years, the Opus Dei it was the only personal prelature of universal scope with its own status. own of its founder, Josémaría Escrivá de Balaguer, explains its status: unlike most dioceses, it was secular and personal, and was committed to evangelizing the whole world regardless of origin, location or profession. The Work —as it is also known— expanded throughout the world thanks to this condition, which also gave it quite a few freedoms in rendering accounts. It was like that until last Thursday, when the Pope Francisco He cut off their privileges. Omnia tempus habent.

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I think it’s a wake-up call, a kind of strong institutional reprimand”, he tells El Comercio Juan Fonseca, expert historian on religious issues and professor at the Universidad del Pacífico. “What the Pope would be saying is that, until now, they have acted contrary to the charisma they claim to have.”.

In the texts of the Second Vatican Council, the word charism is used to indicate that the Holy Spirit guides the Church and provides and governs her with various gifts. In the case of Opus Deithe group points out that holiness is a goal that all people can reach.

Indeed, on July 14, the Holy Father the “Ad charisma tuendum”. In that apostolic letter, he recalled that, “to protect the charism, my predecessor Saint John Paul II, in the Apostolic Constitution Ut sit […]erected the Prelature of Opus Deientrusting him with the pastoral task of contributing in a special way to the evangelizing mission of the Church”, and added his modification. What you are looking for is that the order is based “more on charisma than on hierarchical authority”.

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El Comercio contacted the press office of the Opus Dei in Perufrom where they shared a public article written by their prelate, Archbishop Fernando Ocarizin which it was acceptedfilially” the decision of Francisco. Even a kind of mea culpa was outlined: “[Su Santidad] He exhorts us to take care of the charism of Opus Dei ‘to promote the evangelizing action carried out by its members’”.


about charisma

In the texts of the Second Vatican Council, the word ‘charisma’ is used to indicate that the Holy Spirit guides the Church and provides and governs her with various gifts. In the case of Opus Dei, the group points out that holiness is a goal that all people can reach.

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Fonseca says: “In the Catholic Church, the procession is carried inside, first, because it is a monarchical structure; and second, because the Opus Dei he always maintained that vertical vision only that, in this case, it goes against his interests”.

And, what is it that changes for the Work? “They are now under the supervision of the Clergy Dicasterythat means, for example, that you have to account every year”, explains Fonseca.

In addition, it was also provided thatthe leader of Opus Dei will no longer be considered a bishop and will not be able to wear episcopal vestments”. Now, he will be considered under the of supernumerary apostolic prothonotarywhich according to the Europa Press agency, is an honorific denomination.

The specialist emphasizes that it is false that the Opus Dei is going to become a sect, that is going to break away from the Catholic Church. Quite the contrary. What he is looking for Pope Francisco is that the order is integrated into the hierarchy to which the rest of the members do submit.

John Paul II travels in the ‘popemobile’ during the canonization of Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, on October 6, 2002. AP / MAURIZIO BRAMATTI

Charisma Meanings

1. They are the gifts with which the Holy Spirit organizes the Church, giving rise to the services and functions that the community needs.

2. They are the sacramental characteristics received in baptism, confirmation and holy orders that define insertion in the ecclesial community.

3. They are the gifts that suppose the choice of a state of life in response to a vocational call, be it in marriage or in celibacy.

The reforms of the Holy Father

Why John Paul II gave him carte blanche Opus Dei? For Juan José Tamayo, general secretary of the Juan XXIII Association of Theologians and member emeritus of the Chair of Theology and Religious Sciences of the Carlos III University of Madridthere are two reasons. The first is that, due to their international character and great presence, the Supreme Pontiff took them as a platform to spread his message, whose orientation Tamayo considers “neoconservative and restorationist.

The second was financial support. “They contributed huge sums to cover the expenses of the Vatican. This, added to the effectiveness and practicality of the order, contributed to John Paul II and Benedict XVI give him all kinds of privileges”.

For decades, Opus Dei practically ran the Catholic Church from a very traditional perspective, but this situation could not last that long. Pope Francisco it has taken more than nine years to put limits on them because he considers that the organization is going in the opposite direction to the reforms that he wants to implement”.

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Portrait of Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer.  AP
Portrait of Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer. AP

For Tamayo, in addition to the criticism that the Holy Father makes of neoliberalism, “ally of Opus Dei“, the allegations of sexual abuse against members of the order and the little or no prosecution of the alleged culprits, would have had a preponderant role in his decision. “It may not be the only reason, but there is a direct link. As the pontificate is developing, it seems an obligation to take measures of moderation to these organizations”.

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As with other similar organizations, there are more and more accusations against members of the Opus Dei. In the the Vatican condemned for the first time a member of the organization, the priest Manuel Kitchenfor sexual abuse. Also listed is the “Servants of God?”complaint of 43 women who indicate that the order recruited them when they were adolescents and forced them to “work for free as domestic workers”.

Photo of December 20, 2001. The then prelate of Opus Dei, Javier Rodríguez Echevarría, greets Pope John Paul II. AP

Tamayo recognizes the natural resistance of the most conservative who make up the “Vatican leadership and other very influential sectors of the national churches”. That, he says, prevents the reforms that the Pope Francisco proposes “develop with the strength and breadth that he would like”. “It must be taken into account that he knows his adversaries and has a clearly critical attitude, perhaps not energetic enough, to try to neutralize them, which collides with great powers.”, he notes.

“Could this cause the pope to resign as he did Benedict XVI? I don’t think so. He is firm in his proposals, he knows that, from the theological and evangelical point of view, what he proposes is correct and adequate, and in no case will he allow himself to be intimidated by the opposition”.

Now, I have my doubts about whether this decree is going to be put into practice, if it is actually going to limit the power and influence of the Opus Dei. In Spain and in the world there are bishops who belong to the organization, but above all there is a network of parish priests who occupy positions of power in the dioceses and parishes. They have extraordinary influence to put the brakes and levers on the reforms of the Pope Francisco”, concludes Tamayo.

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