primary documents by which Walsh delineates the spirit of Opus Dei
are the Constitutions of 1950 and 1982 and The Way. Additional sources
include Cronica and the personal testimony of former numeraries.
With the exception of The Way, these sources represent information
that is relatively inaccessible.
book begins by constructing the history of Opus Dei with the startling
insight that Opus Dei itself lacks a history. This characteristic
is already accounted for very well by Joan Estruch et al., Saints
and Schemers (1995), by demonstrating that Opus Dei delusively
cultivates a mythic self-image.
starting with the 1950 Constitutions, Walsh maps out the distinctive
features of this organization, highlighting the objectionable: its
specific bias against women; its devotion to hierarchy; its elitist
aspirations; its subversion of the institutional church; and its
on to The Way, the author adds revealing details to this
portrait: the authoritarian clericalism; the Fascist affinities;
the spiritual simplism; the Jansenist undertones; the institutional
avarice; the doctrinal reductionism; the dubious profession of divine
incisively locates the rationale for the culture of dissemblance--so
manifest in Orwellian doublespeak--in apostolate or the drive to
recruit new members. Because various aspects of Opus Dei are objectionable,
they represent obstacles to recruitment and are therefore hidden.
worst of all is "the ideology of submission" (p. 118)--the
abuse of the "confidence," "circle," and even
the sacrament of confession, to enforce the psychologically damaging
praxis of control.
the end of the book, the author focuses in separate chapters on
Opus Dei's distinctively right-wing alignment in politics and business;
the recruitment of impressionable youth according to a manipulative
and deceptive modus operandi abusively injurious to parents; and
the problematic character of Bl. Josemaria Escriva as a candidate
for the "honors of the altar."
with Maria del Carmen Tapia, Beyond the Threshold (1997)
and Joan Estruch et al., Saints and Schemers (1995), Michael
Walsh, Opus Dei (1992) represents the finest triumvirate
of books on the negative side of Opus Dei.
been published nearly ten years ago, Walsh's book is dated. Since
then, along the lines of the mendacious revisionism so effectively
depicted in Joan Estruch et al., Saints and Schemers (1995),
Opus Dei has no doubt made adjustments in its ideology and praxis
in order to elude or thwart criticism. Among the claims alleged
by Opus Dei are that it no longer invades the private letters of
numeraries; that it accommodates parents in the process of their
child's vocational discernment; and that it adequately informs the
numeraries of the commitments they undertake before they join the
or not these claims are true, one of the most enduring values of
this and other critical books is that they provide a historical
record of the dead bodies Opus Dei has left in its wake.
book. Six stars.