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Testimonies and Other Writings

Noticias and Cronica -- Opus Dei's Secret Magazines
ODAN newsletter, vol. 10, no. 4, 2000

Opus Dei circulates magazines available only to its members: Cronica for the male members of Opus Dei, and Noticias for the female members. Normally, these magazines are kept under lock and key in Opus Dei centers to prevent "outsiders" from reading them.

Noticias and Cronica contain articles about different aspects of "the spirit of Opus Dei" (and how to live this spirit more intensely,) updates on proselytism taking place around the world by Opus Dei members, current activities of the prelate (current head) of Opus Dei, and features on the history of Opus Dei and its Founder, Josemaria Escriva. Each issue contains an editorial at the beginning, normally about a spiritual topic lived in light of "the spirit of Opus Dei."

The editorials are widely used by Opus Dei members for spiritual reading and meditation. Both Noticias and Cronica share the same editorial. However, Noticias concerns itself only with the proselytism initiated by Opus Dei women; Cronica focuses on the proselytism undertaken by the male members of Opus Dei. This is but one example of the strict segregation of the sexes within Opus Dei. For Opus Dei members to even talk about members of the opposite sex often brings about deep embarrassment, and is generally discouraged by Opus Dei leaders. 

Noticias, the Spanish word for "the news," is written in Spanish. Articles which are deemed particularly important are translated separately into English for the benefit of those who do not know Spanish. The magazine features a picture of a different women's Opus Dei center from around the world on the cover each month, and there are many pictures throughout the magazine.

However, the articles do not have bylines, and photo captions do not mention the last names of those pictured. This serves several purposes. Individuals in Opus Dei are devalued for the collective glorification of Opus Dei; the Founder continually emphasized that members should "pass unnoticed." This allows for the superiority of "doctrine over person," one of eight characteristics of a totalistic group outlined by Robert J. Lifton in Chapter 22 of Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism. [1] The individual member must always give in to the rules of the group, since the group itself is perfect and ordained by God. Members adopt the attitude that the collective good of the group takes precedence over the individual. (See excerpts from Cronica regarding the doctrine over person.)

Former numerary member John Roche agrees, writing "Opus Dei has a grotesquely inflated opinion of itself, calling itself 'everlasting,' the 'predilect of God,' the 'Mystical Body,' referring to 'the beauty of the Work of God. . .which is more luminous than 'the dawn, fair as the Moon, bright as the Sun, terrible as an army with banners.'" [2] Problems within Opus Dei are attributed to the error of individuals, never to a problem within the organization itself.

The use of only first names also allows Opus Dei to more easily "change its history." Maria del Carmen Tapia writes that she observed Opus Dei members covering over or changing certain parts of the Noticias, particularly when members pictured and written about were no longer members of Opus Dei. The "corrected" pages were sent to all directors who were instructed to destroy the old pages and insert the new ones without any question [3]. The former members' existence within Opus Dei was effectively erased.

Noticias and Cronica achieve several goals within Opus Dei. The secretive nature of the magazine and its availability only to Opus Dei members augment the feeling of superiority within Opus Dei, consistent with one of Lifton's eight characteristics of totalistic groups, "the sacred science." [1] The "sacred science" allows a group to believe itself as "the ultimate moral vision for the ordering of human existence." [1] Total belief and loyalty to this vision is demanded of the members, who may not question its sacredness or its validity; reverence of the message and those who originated it are demanded. The magazines also serve as a unifying force within Opus Dei, emphasizing Opus Dei as a "worldwide family," thus strengthening the loyalty and feelings of belonging of the Opus Dei members.

Overall, Opus Dei's internal magazines serve as a unifying force within Opus Dei, contributing to the attitude of its members that Opus Dei is the exclusive purveyor of moral correctness and orthodoxy.


Sources:

[1] Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism, Robert J. Lifton, University of North Carolina Press, 1989, pp. 427, 430

[2] The Inner World of Opus Dei, Dr. John J. Roche, Linacre College, Oxford, June 15, 1982, p.4

[3] Beyond the Threshold: A Life in Opus Dei, Maria del Carmen Tapia, Continuum Publishing Company, 1998, p. 168

[4] Personal experiences and observations of former Opus Dei numeraries.

 

Excerpts from Cronica, Opus Dei's Secret, Internal Magazine
ODAN newsletter, vol. 10, no. 4, 2000

The following excerpts come mainly from the writings of Opus Dei's Founder, Escriva, and other Opus Dei members writing for Cronica and Noticias, Opus Dei's internal magazines. [1] The titles for each section describe characteristics commonly employed by sects to recruit, motivate and maintain the obedience of members.


Messianic Zeal, Love-bombing

These quotes illustrate the drive for new members which is the primary goal in Opus Dei, and the techniques employed to get those new members. Love-bombing is a term used to describe the extravagant attention placed on new recruits to win them over to Opus Dei and exact a commitment from them.

"We do not have any other aim than the corporate one: proselytism, winning vocations." (Cronica, v, 1963)

"When a person does not have zeal to win others...he is dead...I bury cadavers." (Cronica, v, 1963)

"There is not a single man on earth, a single soul to whom God has not sent us...our inheritance is the whole world...all the seas belong to us." (Cronica, iv, 1964)

"We have to spread out like a fan...we must open up like a hand and have a group of souls...dangling from each finger...and pull...souls are like cherries, you pull one and you get two." (Cronica, iv 1971)

"This holy coercion is necessary, compelle intrare the Lord tells us." (Cronica, iv, 1971) (Editor's note: "compelle intrare is Latin for "compel them to enter" from the gospel story in Luke 14:23)

"In our souls was born a devastating uncontainable eagerness to spread God's fire, like a fire that has to burn the forest, like a flame that ignites the mountains." (Cronica, v, 1963)


Heavenly Deception

Heavenly Deception illustrates the belief in Opus Dei that deceiving new recruits and the public about Opus Dei's real intentions is acceptable because the end result is "pleasing to God."

Opus Dei states publicly that its clubs, hostels, etc. are a "disinterested service of humanity" [Conversations with Mgr. Escriva de Balaguer, Dublin 1968, 47] and "a response to...the need to provide suitable accommodation and environment for students..." But privately, in Cronica, v, 1963, the Founder stated: "university residences, universities, publishing houses...are these ends? No, and what is the end?...to promote in the world the greatest possible number of souls dedicated to God in Opus Dei..."

When recruiting youngsters the Founder advised: "In this period of transition be prudent in imposing and even in manifesting the obligations which our people have." (Cronica, ii, 1963)


Doctrine Over Person

Doctrine Over Person was first described by Robert J. Lifton as "the subordination of human experience to the claims of doctrine...the demand that character and identity be reshaped, not in accordance with one's special nature or potentialities, but rather to fit the rigid contours of the doctrinal mold." [2]

This demand for absolute obedience results in members who are at war with their own sense of identity; despite this struggle, the members' own desire to "do the will of God" as outlined by Opus Dei essentially turns them into puppets of Opus Dei and shadows of their former selves. It is of cardinal importance to note that in Opus Dei suppression of the ego is not directed to Christ or to the Church but to Opus Dei.

"To devise personal plans, to be at the center of our thought, to consider oneself as something distinct and untouchable...that would be a crime, a depravity." (Cronica, vi, 1955)

"The meaning of our very person will become clear upon comparing it to the total reality of Opus Dei...[we give] superiors complete freedom to dispose of us in the manner most suitable for the Work." (Cronica, xii, 1950)

"Our ego has died and our only concern is the collective ideal of uniting our efforts towards the same end." (Cronica, xi, 1954)

"Be like clay in the hands of the potter...it is so contrary to our spirit to want to guide ourselves by our own judgement." (Cronica, viii, 1955)

"When it comes right down to it, the whole is what is efficacious...we know how to measure our effectiveness by the degree of its integration in the whole." (Cronica, viii, 1957)

"...eat, sleep and forget that you exist." (Cronica, vii, 1966)

"...blind obedience to your superiors, the way of sanctity." (Cronica, viii, 1963)

"...If [my sons] have given in [to their directors] to what in their consciences seems an error and they offer it generously to our Lord, he will...bring good out of the error...it will strengthen our personality." (Cronica, xii, 1966)

"Our life is no longer ours, it no longer belongs to me, it belongs to the Work." (Cronica, i, 1955)

*Note that many of these quotes from the Founder talk as though everyone in Opus Dei is "one." It is not logical to say OUR life, because the use of the word "our" should be followed by a plural noun, "lives" instead of "life." The following phrases from the above quote illustrate this incoherence: "OUR thought," "OUR very person," "OUR ego." This further demonstrates the supremacy of Opus Dei over the individual member.


Group Superiority and the Sacred Science


Robert J. Lifton describes the Sacred Science as the maintaining of "an aura of sacredness around [the group's] basic dogma, holding it out as an ultimate moral vision for the ordering of human existence...[prohibiting] the questioning of basic assumptions...[while making] an exaggerated claim of airtight logic, of absolute "scientific precision."3 Thus Opus Dei members hold onto a militant belief that Opus Dei is entirely perfect; the result is a "group superiority" that is capable of offering "much comfort and security" [3] to the individual member.

"...The Divine beauty of the Work of God, which is 'fairer than the sun and surpasses every constellation of the stars, compared to light she takes precedence (Wisdom, 7)'" (Cronica, iv, 1964)

"Provided people not in contact with the spirit of the Work live its spirit, they will be saved." (Cronica, iii, 1965)

"Only one thing is necessary: that Opus Dei be accomplished on Earth..." (Cronica, xii, 1950)

"The divine paths of the Earth have been opened, our Work is so beautiful that it satisfies all souls." (Cronica, ii, 1972)


The "Glorification" of the Founder, Escriva


A characteristic of most totalistic groups is a strong focus on the leader or Founder, who is typically a charismatic, strong personality. Note the emphasis in these quotes on the Founder, not Jesus or God the Father; the comparisons of Escriva with Jesus Christ; and the scriptural references typically reserved to describe Jesus being attributed to Escriva.

"...as Jesus received his doctrine from the Father, so my doctrine is not mine but comes from God and so not a jot or title shall ever be changed." (Cronica)

"The best sign of our filiation to the Father [Escriva, not God!] will be our dedication, our fidelity to our spirit...we know that there we vibrate with the Father's heart and are united to his intentions when we are very faithful to the spirit of the Work. "What you have learned and heard and seen in me these things practice. And the God of peace will be with you.'" (Cronica, i, 1971)

"God's grace prepared the priestly soul of our Father, making it to the measure of Christ's heart, that is open to the multitude that our Lord wanted to call to his Work with the passing of time, and even to all humanity." (Cronica, i, 1971)

"...As we think of the Father...we will remember that man whom Scripture praises because 'when tested he was found loyal.' For this reason, God promised him with an oath that in his descendents that nations would be blessed, that he would make them numerous as the grains of dust...'(Ecclesiasticus 50:24)" (Cronica, i, 1971)

"our Father [Escriva} is the good shepherd who leads the flock of the whole Work." (Cronica, i, 1971)

"I [Escriva] will pass away, and those who come afterwards will look at you with an envy as if you were a relic." (Cronica, i, 1971)

"My children I try...to throw out...gold coins, the gold of God...if you don't pick them up, you are doing wrong, and God our Lord will ask a very strict accounting from you." (Cronica, i, 1971)


Internal Coercion and Thought Reform


These concepts describe the manner in which Opus Dei is able to keep its members obedient and loyal. Members are given clear direction in an indirect way to do exactly as they are told by their directors; to do otherwise would be "impure" and against the will of God. The control of the environment in which Opus Dei members live (particularly the numerary, celibate members) is important in maintaining Opus Dei's standards of strict obedience; other members play an important role in regulating Opus Dei's rules, for they are commanded to correct any member who is not in line with those standards.

"You will go to your brothers the priests as I go [for confession.] If we were to go to a person who could only cure our wound superficially...it would be because we are cowards...and doing this wrong, seeking a second-hand doctor who cannot give us more than a few seconds of his time...would also harm the Work...You wouldn't sin because of this, but woe to you!...You would have begun to hear the voice of the bad shepherd...the good shepherd...makes all the sacrifices. And you ought to be ready to make them too. And the first is this: not to exercise that right...not to go outside the Work to wash the dirty clothes...if not, you are not needed here." ('La Confesion,' Cronica, vi, 1962)

"...If our Lord wanted to force strangers to come to his banquet, how much more will he want you to use a holy coercion with those who are your brothers...this most beautiful coercion of charity far from taking away your brother's freedom, will delicately help him to use it well." (Cronica, vi, 1969)

"What will you do when you see that one of your brothers is getting soft...well take hold of him and help him...Why do we have fraternal correction...the personal chat...confession...and if they avoid it, watch out!" (Cronica, ii, 1972)

"If one of my [Escriva's] children abandons the fight, or leaves the war, or turns his back, let him know that he betrays us all, Jesus Christ, the Church, his brothers and sisters in the Work...it would be treason to consent to the tiniest act of unfaithfulness...in these moments." (Cronica, ii, 1972)


Sources:

[1] The Inner World of Opus Dei: Evidence from internal documents of Opus Dei and testimony, Dr. John J. Roche, Linacre College, Oxford, June 15, 1982. Note: Dr. Roche, a former numerary member of Opus Dei who resigned in November 1973 after becoming increasingly alarmed by Opus Dei's practices, secretly copied about 140 editorials from Cronica before leaving.

[2] Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism, Robert J. Lifton, University of North Carolina Press, 1989, pp. 430-431

[3] Lifton, pp. 427-428

Posted: May 13, 2002