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Opus Dei does not want to be an exception in the Church, prelate says

Walter Sanchez Silva By Walter Sanchez Silva for CNA

A statue of St. Josemaria Escrivá, founder of Opus Dei / Flick Torreciudad Sanctuary (CC BY 2.0)

ACI Prensa Staff, Aug 28, 2023 / 16:45 pm (CNA).

Monsignor Fernando Ocáriz, the prelate of Opus Dei, said the institution he has led since January 2017 “does not want to be an exception” in the Catholic Church.

The prelate gave his comments June 27 to El País Semanal in a weekend supplement to the Spanish newspaper, which was published Aug. 26 in a report titled “Opus Dei at the crossroads.”

When asked if Pope Francis, with the reforms he has ordered for Opus Dei, has decided to dissolve the “specificity” of the institution, the prelate said he amiably disagrees and that “the specificity of Opus Dei rests on its charism or spirit rather than on its legal trappings. At its core is the universal call to holiness through work and the ordinary realities of life.”

“For the rest, Opus Dei does not want to be an exception,” he noted.

The fact that until now “The Work” has been “the only personal prelature that could have been perceived as something ‘exceptional,’ but of course it’s not that: On the contrary, I think it would be very good if there were other personal prelatures that contributed to the evangelization of numerous areas especially in need of Christian inspiration,” Ocáriz remarked.

Opus Dei means “the work of God” in Latin, which is why its members refer to the institution as “The Work.” Its emphasis or charism is sanctification through daily work. It is made up of priests, celibate laymen who are called numeraries and associates, and supernumeraries who are married members.

Founded by St. Josemaría Escrivá on Oct. 2, 1928, and erected as a personal prelature on Nov. 28, 1982, by St. John Paul II, since March 2022 Opus Dei has been at the center of a series of reforms determined by Pope Francis.

The most recent, issued Aug. 8, equates personal prelatures with public clerical associations that have the power to incardinate clerics.

A little over a year ago, on July 22, 2022, with the motu proprio Ad Charisma Tuendum (“to protect the charism”), the Holy Father transferred the competencies in matters of personal prelatures from the Dicastery for Bishops to the Dicastery for the Clergy and determined that the prelate, currently Ocáriz, will not be a bishop although he maintains the honorary title of monsignor.

Blessed Álvaro del Portillo and Javier Echevarría, the first two successors of St. Josemaría at the head of Opus Dei, were appointed bishops by St. John Paul II.

The perception outside of Opus Dei

The prelate also pointed out to El País Semanal that “most of the people who know us appreciate us. Especially when they know about the work that is done: social, educational … when they come into contact with people individually, because these are the realities. Even when they think otherwise.”

Then there are other environments, he continued, “in which there may be more criticism, due to prejudice: due to a conception that one has of the history of the Church and of its role in the world that can lead to a nonpositive assessment.”

It is understandable, then, “that there are aspects that do not fit the way of thinking of some people. But that’s pluralism. The only important thing is to respect each other: We can always collaborate,” he added.

Position in face of criticism

Regarding the criticism that Opus Dei receives, Ocáriz commented that “mistakes and personal inconsistencies are part of life. Criticisms help to improve when they are well-founded and come from knowledge of reality.”

“I would like the variety of Opus Dei people to be better perceived from the social and cultural point of view. Sometimes the focus is on a person of public importance and not on a hundred others who have difficulties making ends meet.”

In the opinion of the 78-year-old Spanish prelate, “in some cases a stereotyped reading has been made of Opus Dei, based on clichés, which don’t help understanding a broader and more plural reality.”

“I would also like to see greater understanding that Opus Dei people are free and responsible. Their merits or mistakes in their professional performance or in civil life, for example, must be attributed to him or her, as it happens with any other Catholic,” he noted.

The prelate of Opus Dei stressed that “the opinions or decisions of a politician on the left or the right are his and his alone, not attributable to the Church or to an institution; these are realities that move on different planes. Historically, this mechanism of attributing personal performance to belonging to a spiritual path has fostered misunderstandings that continue to this day.”

Opus Dei is currently present in almost 70 countries and is made up of more than 93,000 lay members, of whom 57% are women and 43% men, in addition to 2,095 priests.

Fighting between progressives and conservatives in the Church?

Regarding the “fight” between conservatives and progressives in the Catholic Church, Ocáriz recalled that “the pope was asked a similar question, and he pointed out that it was a worldly interpretation, alien to the religious dimension. I think that too often there is a tendency towards a reading of reality in terms of power and polarization, with groups that oppose each other and don’t understand each other.”

However, the prelate explained that “in the Church the logic that must prevail is that of service and collaboration. We all row in the same boat, open to being helped to improve.”

And about the “old conflict” that the Spanish newspaper mentioned between Jesuits and members of Opus Dei, the prelate noted that “personally I can tell you that I am a former student of the school of the Society of Jesus in Madrid, and I am very grateful for the formation and the example I received from the Jesuits.”

A prayer request from the prelate

The reform ordered by the pope, which includes the modification of the statutes of The Work, led to holding a world congress in Rome in April in which 126 women and 148 men participated, of whom 90 were priests.

“The motu proprio of Aug. 8 must also be taken into account when adapting and updating the statutes of the Work … For this reason, I now renew the request for prayers that I already addressed to you a few months ago, so that this work comes to fruition,” Ocáriz wrote in a letter to the members of Opus Dei two days after the publication of the papal document this month.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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  1. It is all so confusing. With all the restraints Pope Francis is putting on Opus Dei, it will probably cause a decline in the number of adherents to the organization. And in the long term the complete demise of the organization

  2. Pope Francis seems to affirm that because the Jesuits purged themselves of Marxist poisons, everything can be taken to be alright with them; and seems to add that the fault of it anyway was General Ledóchowski and the EPITOME.

    Read it in the link to LA CIVILTA CATTOLICA, “The Water Has Been Agitated”, by Spadaro. Break it down and see.

    1. The Marxisms are not fully purged.

    2. There are other noxious things now besides Marxism adding to the wreaking of havoc in the residual Marxisms, such as a refined Liberation Theology and -most especially among the others- Modernism. I have mentioned others.

    3. The fault was neither the Epitome’s nor General Ledóchowski’s.

    4. What needs to be identified for the Jesuits is the individuals who went wrong and what they were professing in place of the Epitome, the authentic Ignatian ways and Faith. In identifying them what will come to light is the anti-Christ influences that bore down on them.

    5. Pope Francis is having trouble assimilating and processing information and groupings, both on the factual level and on the faith level.

    6. By excluding those who are faithful, it forces a public reaction. Yet in reacting they are not being like Ham to Noah. If you want to fill out the image of Ham and Noah, you will see the figures of Spadaro contemning the Heavenly Father.

    7. The reaction is not reactionary; the reactionary things are found in a) the exclusion of General Ledóchowski and the things of Faith! b) the diminution of the Ignatian ways; and c) the company of unfaithful men that expect to impose these rebellions with impunity in the name of the Church.

    8. Calling the faithful, reactionary, is like the false hermeneutic they propelled with “seamless garment”: it is meant to elevate their base nonsense and convey how “edified” their self-positioning is. But it fails.

    9. General Ledóchowski and his Epitome were in their own small way, a triumph! Actually they have to relearn the lessons! These will continue to be useful in finding the reform of the Jesuits still to come.

    10. Owning up to this will take humility but mind, God has to give it and He is free to decide when the time has passed.

    Will this be to embarrass the mentioned Benedictine? No. It is simply a case that it was not given to the Benedictine to foresee all this at the time. His concern over the problem of pedantry was quite valid. The situation that has developed now irrespective of the Epitome is precisely one of pedantry.

    It is like the miracle of the healing of the young man born blind in the Gospel: it was not to show his sin or the sin of the parents, he was healed to show the Glory of God.

    Likewise, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul went wrong after WWII but the lessons from the Founder Frederic Ozanam are available intact to assist in their recovery.

    Again, other Orders are going through the same degradation. Let the faithful among them be encouraged to overtake it in the Name of Jesus.

    Opus Dei then adds its own experience to the scenarios. Whereas the others by and large have been suffering through aberrations and INFORMAL alterations, Opus Dei got formally obverted and the junto is in plain sight.

    Providentially, the very legalist sign of Opus Dei snagged the traitors.

    Nothing is wrong with summaries like General Ledóchowski’s Epitome. The first martyr Stephen was killed consequent on his summarization of the Old Testament that inflamed the hatred of the Judaizers.

    Summaries do not exclude grace. What is wrong is when 1. grace is excluded and 2. the exclusion is said to be grace.

    I say let us resolve to pay close attention to what we are reading and attend to the settings in the timelines.

    Pope Francis is praising Arrupe for “founding” the Ignatian Center; however, that action occurred in the Marxian heyday.

    It is at that point that Fr. Luís Gonzalez Hernandez was tasked to travel the world to give the new training. Hernandez was employing the same get-together technique that Pope Francis is now using when he meets with Jesuit groups.

    But in fact this style of meeting in circles originates in Opus Dei. The Founder Escriva did not use it to globalize himself such as we are seeing today, it was given to him as an inspiration for the sake of the Work and for the sake of love.

    So you can notice that Spadaro has used the image of the Angel stirring the water to produce the miracle? God gives us sight WITH prophecy!

    Fear not. May God be your hope.

  3. As the reform of the Church with the updating of spirituality proceeds in gentle small steps without being jarring, Spadaro will be sure to streamline his earlier impressions of what has been coming to pass.

    A fellow might advise him to be careful to avoid conniptions and at the same time not become swoled up and restless as a dog on a cactus. Not so easy what with all the contention going and folks hankering.

    ********** 2017

    ‘ Francis’ leadership, Spadaro is reported to have said, “is based on the success-error dynamic,” which inevitably “destabilizes whoever seeks certainties,” insofar as “discernment is not based on human certainties, but on enabling the unfolding of God’s will in history.”

    Spadaro reportedly described the Holy Father’s thought as “open and incomplete” – a turn of phrase that is meant to place Pope Francis’ thought in contrast to that of a closed system or self-contained ideology.

    If this really is an accurate picture of the Holy Father’s mind, it would mean Francis conceives his mission as essentially that of the discerner-in-chief. How that understanding squares with the expectations of his electors, or with the hopes of those they elected him to lead, is still very much to be seen.

    ********** 2023

    ‘ That description is of a piece with what close papal advisor Antonio Spadaro SJ has called the pope’s “open and incomplete” leadership style, by which he means to say that Francis prefers to “start processes” rather than “occupy spaces” in his approach to things.

    “If one has the answers to all the questions,” Pope Francis told Spadaro in a 2013 interview published in the Jesuit-run La Civiltà Cattolica, “that is the proof that God is not with him.”

    Such an approach necessarily leads to processes of trial and error, which will sometimes seem, from the outside in, like taking two steps forward and three steps back. Willingness to walk that way may engender serious pastoral dynamism ‘

  4. When Opus Dei gained the status of being a personal prelature, they indeed became an ecclesiastical and canonical anomaly. By having a leader as bishop the members scattered worldwide were not considered members of the local churches or dioceses where they lived and worked. Unlike Catholics of the Anglican heritage and military ordinariates, Opus Dei members are to live out their spirituality of ordinary everyday holiness in their localities. Their leader now rightly says they don’t want to be an exemption (actually, more of abnormality) upon Pope Francis’ correction of this mistake.

    • You make your pen name sound like “God is withered”. That’s on you.

      You are denying the whole inspiration of the Founder of Opus Dei. As I said, something similar happened to other Church bodies where the subsequent members of the middling sort came up with their own parameters of what their institutes meant in the end.

  5. Prodigies of Faith are not “exceptions” to Faith; neither are they counter-evangelical; neither are they any sort of ecclesiastical misfit; neither are they seeking of centre-stage; neither are they a reduction to words.

    They are God’s Glory and an endless celebration.

  6. The idea that Opus Dei still needs to work itself out is flawed and directly against Church history. This week we have Valero saying that it’s a new organization that is changing from one thing to another because it is understanding itself better -more error. Presumably he expects it’s “only natural for such things to transpire”. Or, according to Ocariz, “we can discard in order to avoid exceptionality”. Fernandez finds a new way to underwrite this: he places the “tiny Church” in “the immensity of truth and beauty” with Pope Francis having his singular doctrine power alone with the Holy Spirit to reinterpret decided matter. up for grabs but this is neither development of doctrine nor the way of the Church. “Seamless garment”, “reactionary”, “blessing unions” – stretching them beyond their true meaning and exaggerating their position and effects is a tell-tale on inauthentic spirit tied up in improvisation. Even as the Pope admits it’s not just about words.

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