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Testimonies and Other Writings

The following is the work of the individual author and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Opus Dei Awareness Network, Inc.

Deception and Drugs in Opus Dei
by Maria, former numerary, Venezuela

Dear young man or woman who attends an Opus Dei Center:

As a former numerary of Opus Dei, I accepted the opportunity to tell you a little of my experience in "the work" for almost 5 years.

I am originally from Venezuela and joined "The Work" at age 20. I left Opus Dei right before my 25th birthday. Today I am happily married and blessed with 4 wonderful children.

I will try to be brief, even though it would take a book to express what one has lived and gone through while in this institution.

I was young, with great goals in life and a desire to change the world and bring Christ to all human beings. I first came in contact with Opus Dei, when I met a numerary at the university where I was studying "Education." She invited me to her center for a free conference on the "career of an educator." I found out later that she had planned this conference especially for me, since I seemed to her like a good candidate for "their work" from the very beginning. At the conference I met other people who were also in the field of education, most of whom where members of "the work" of course. This numerary didn't tell me at the time anything about Opus Dei. The following week I was invited to go hiking with some of the girls that lived in the center. I didn't realize then that this was part of their recruitment technique. Later as we became better friends she started telling me more about Opus Dei and the founder and invited me to my first meditation on a Saturday morning.

This is how they operate. If you consent to their friendly invitation, they will evaluate you and ask you many questions to see if you are a good prospect for them. Please beware when you enter a center for the first time. You will meet happy people with big smiles, in a casual atmosphere. They will show concern and care for you, "the new visitor," making your visit very pleasant, too pleasant at times. As time when on, I started visiting the center more frequently and spending more time with my new Opus Dei friends. About a year after my first encounter with that numerary I found myself asking to be admitted into Opus Dei as a numerary or full time member. As soon as "I whistled" or joined the work, my director instructed me to not tell my parents I had joined Opus Dei. When I disobeyed and told my mother I was reprimanded.

Not long after that I began to find out more things about the life of a numerary, such as all the corporal mortifications. We were required to wear a cilice or spiked chain tied around our upper thigh for two hours a day except on Opus Dei or church feast days. I also found out about the discipline which was a small whip used on the naked buttocks once a week, among other sacrifices we were required to make as part of our vocation. I was also informed that we mostly spent time with those friends who may have a vocation to the work. I also learned that "the work" was now my family, with stronger bonds than my blood family, and that I would never again be allowed to spend the night at my parents' home. There were other things I found out when I moved into the center.

I was happy at the very beginning of my vocation but not for long. I soon began to see many inconsistencies in my life as a numerary. The way we were required to pursue people to join the work started to seem manipulative and deceptive. I remember clearly an incident that happened, which was probably one of the first "red flags" that made me start questioning the false friendships we were required to pursue in the work in order to get girls to join as numerary members. I had a friend, Carolina, whom I had invited to the UNIV conference in Rome, since she had been on my St. Joseph list as someone who according to the directors of my center at the time, had a vocation to become a numerary. She ended up "whistling" while in Rome as the directors had planned. As soon as she wrote the letter to be admitted as a numerary, the directors immediately told me that she should no longer talk to me as a friend or share anything personal with me, since she was now a numerary. They told me there weren't any kind of "special friendships" allowed in the work and that from then on Carolina should only share her personal life with the director in charge of her fraternal chat. I found this very disturbing, since I had really become her friend and it didn't seem normal that now we could no longer be friends. This was also hard for Carolina who by the way was denied the admission as a numerary member after they found out that she suffered from asthma. She was admitted as a supernumerary, instead. The worst part of it all was that she found out about this on the very day she was supposed to do her "admission" in the work. She was planning on moving to the Center of Studies and had even bought the things required to bring when you move into the Center of Studies, such as the right number of skirts, shirts, white robes for cleaning, etc. Carolina suffered a great disappointment when they denied her admission as a numerary, and when she called to tell me about it and I listened to her I was reprimanded for disobeying the directors. They said I shouldn't have listened to her and that that was the result of having a "bad spirit." From then on, I was forbidden from talking to Carolina. It was not surprising that she was not a supernumerary for very long. She was smart enough to leave before it was too late!

Not long after that, I tried to tell the directors that I was having doubts about my vocation, but they always said it was a temptation of the devil. I felt manipulated and started doing things because the directors asked me to and because I had to obey the directors and live the "spirit of the work" even though I didn't believe it in my heart. I felt like I was living a lie, but was afraid to leave because I didn't want to be doomed to hell. They also told me that if I said "NO" to my vocation I would never be happy or be able to live in the grace of God again. There was a point in my life when I prayed to the founder more than I did to God, almost like if the founder was becoming more important to me than God himself.

Finally, a year after my Center of Studies, the person that I did my fraternal chat with told me that they had seen that I no longer had a vocation for the work. I asked them why they waited almost 5 years to tell me. I never got a good answer. The director from my center at the time, said that they wanted me to stay at the center and live my life as a numerary until March 19 and it was February 23. I refused and requested to be able to call my parents and have them pick me up that same day. They wouldn't allow that. When I tried to get out they hid the house keys. They wouldn't let me use the phone. They even had me take "Rohypnol", a very strong antidepressant that makes you very sleepy, saying that it would help me get some rest. I took it not knowing how strong that medicine really was and the fact that it made you so sedated that you couldn't even think straight. I still refused to do as they said, so finally, that night, "C.R", a numerary that had lived close to the founder for years, came to my center to tell me that I had received permission from the father (Alvaro del Portillo) to go home the next day. She said that I had never done the work's apostolate, that I always did my own and that if I ever spoke against the work she herself would make sure that my reputation would be ruined and that the doors of Opus Dei would be forever closed if I spoke negatively against them. It is now 11 years later than I am finally speaking out. I have also read the wonderful book by Maria del Carmen Tapia, Beyond the Threshold: A Life in Opus Dei, which I highly recommend.

I am sure many ex-members would agree, that once you are finally out, you are able to see things more clearly. There is no doubt that Opus Dei uses mind control to indoctrinate its members until they assimilate their doctrine through the different means of formation such as 30 minutes of prayer or meditation in the morning and evening, daily mass, praying the rosary at least once a day, 15 minutes of spiritual reading, weekly confession with the priest, fraternal chat with a director, weekly circle about a certain virtue, monthly retreats, praying the "preces" or secret Opus Dei prayer, among others. In addition, we were always required to be happy and cheerful, to obey the directors and live "the spirit of the work." By accomplishing all the requirements in our plan of life, we had very little free time to think. All these things seem like cult-like practices once you are outside opus dei.

The only good thing about that institution is the idea of sanctifying your professional work and striving to live a TRUE Christian life. It is unfortunate that in many cases this is not the reality.

This is a short summary of my experience in this institution. I am thankful that I was still young when I left and was still able to become part of the real world without any problems or traumas of any kind. Unfortunately, I know of some people who have left the work and have suffered immensely. I was so blind when I was a numerary. Everything is so clear now. There is no doubt in my heart that Opus Dei acts like a sect within the Catholic church at times. I just pray that many people will visit your website before joining. Another excellent website is www.opuslibros.com.

Posted May 13, 2004