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From Catholic Opus Dei to Atheism
#1
From Catholic Opus Dei to Atheism
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Hi, everyone! My name is Anna, I'm from  Russia, I've been lurking through several atheists' forums for quite a while until I finally decided to share my story at one of them, so I'm leaving it here too. I'm an atheist but used to be Catholic and supernumerary in Opus Dei.
I'm sure everyone knows about this cult like movement within Catholic church thanks to 'DaVinci Code'[Image: smile.gif] Surprisingly enough there's almost no information about their activities on atheists' forums, so I hope this information will be useful and will shed some light on Opus Dei.


My story with OD (Opus Dei) is so complicated, I don't know where to start. I would recommend everyone to read this book of a former OD member Beyond the Threshold {link snipped}. It describes the things as they were and as they are now, because nothing has really changed within the organization since its foundation.
To tell the story short - it's a cult-like organization with really aggressive ways of finding new members. OD has many members who are very good people and do an undeniable amount of good. However, it is a very tightly structured and controlled organization. Many people are members for years and still do not know what goes on in the leadership. OD has 5 types of members - numeraries (lay people who can't get married and live at the centres separated for men and woman), supernumeraries (lay people who are married, my husband and I were supernumeraries), numerary assistants (only women who can't get married and work as servants, usually from poor uneducated Latin American, Asian or African families), associated members (those who can't live at the centres, usually male members from military background), OD priests (usually ordained numeraries) and helpers (non-catholic people who help financially). OD is usually recruiting its members from the universities or colleges when they are young, they've started recruiting at high schools. You can now become a numerary even at the age of 14! They tell you that you can leave at any time, but that's not true, especially for the numeraries.
I met this girl from OD, she was a supernumerary, pregnant with her 1st child, I was at my first trimester with my second, so we had a lot in common (that's what they do, they always send someone who's really common to you, has the same interests or hobbies etc.), she invited me to the Centre. I had just converted to Catholicism and was looking for some community to continue my spiritual education. So, I guess I was an easy target with a good mold for them - young, intelligent, charismatic, in a financially secure marriage, and most importantly, I was eager to please and sought affirmation. These are their main targeted features in supernumeraries. They're never recruiting among the poor, unattractive and uneducated people (except for assistants). At first, before making any commitments, I really enjoyed going there. Well, as a married woman with a small kid I was getting a lot of attention, the people were so pleasant and they knew how to keep a nice company. To become a supernumerary, or how they call it - "to whistle" one should write a letter to the Prelate at Rome. Than you're excepted for a sort of probation period. As a supernumerary you get two special mentors. One from the supernumeraries and one from numeraries. They are your formal spiritual directors. You have to 'confess' everything to them. And they don't tell you about it before you join OD. This was shocking for me. We found out that they were transferring the information that they got from me at the women's centre or from my husband at the men's centre to each other. Before you join OD, you are introduced to a priest who starts to guide you in a context of spiritual direction. As a supernumerary I had my so called 'daily norms' which were: the Heroic minute, waking up punctually and saying "Serviam!", morning offering (fixing one's intentions to do everything for the glory of god), spiritual reading (usually something from Escriva's works) and reading the New Testament, mental prayer, reading the "Preces" - a traditional OD pray, attending the Holy Mass daily (preferably at the Center), praying Rosary, Memorare and Angelus daily, giving a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, to give an examination of conscience at the end of the day (like trying to remember what you've done wrong during the day, sort of mini confession to god),three Hail Marys before bed to pray for the virtue of purity, to give short, spontaneous prayers throughout the day and offering your job, sufferings and daily routines up to God. We also had our weekly norms: weekly confession with an OD priest (it wasn't welcomed to confess to other priests, especially jesuits), the so called 'Circle' - a group meeting of spiritual formation, the praying of a Marian antiphon on Saturdays, making Psalm 2 the basis of mental prayer on Tuesdays and making the 'Adoro te devote' the basis of mental prayer on Thursdays. We also had to attend special one-week seminars for supernumeraries once a year, which were taking place in Lithuania, so all the accommodation and travelling costs were on us .Also members were expected to make a day-trip pilgrimage where they recite Rosary on the month of May in honour of Mary. These were the official norms, but they also have so called 'traditions', like sprinkling one's bed with holy water before going to sleep, writing letters to Prelate, mortification of the flesh for numeraries with cilice and sleeping without a pillow or sleeping on the floor, fasting or remaining silent for certain hours during the day and taking only cold shower for men. These are the things that you can see and that they share with you before you join OD. The worst parts of it you will experience only after joining it. Like your spiritual director has great “insight” into your soul, and she proceeds to find imaginary faults in your character regarding your use of time. “Use of time” is a virtue which is given a lot of emphasis in OD. Since we were supposed to sanctify our lives with our jobs, it was a grave offence to waste the time God has given us for our hobbies, family and friends who are not regarded by OD as 'potential' interests. One thing that bothered me the most were the status of numerary- assistants and how the OD members scrutinized and directed their numeraries' relationship with their family. The numerary-assistants are usually recruited through OD schools for young girls which gives them a certification in household management or cookery. They just tell that assistant numeraries and numeraries are the same, just that the assistants' work was different. But soon you realize that their life is one of long working hours and absolutely no social life. It was very clear that they are in no way the same as numeraries.
First of all, there are some material differences between the two classes of members. Numeraries wear expensive clothes while assistant numeraries wear uniforms with a white apron most of the time. Assistant numeraries can only wear ordinary clothes if they leave the center for grocery shopping but they are usually second hand or inexpensive clothes. Numeraries eat in different dining rooms with better quality foods while assistants eat the leftovers in a separate room. And these are only material differences. What shocks the most is a psychological difference between them. Assistant numeraries could never be left alone. Numeraries always had to accompany them wherever they went, they also couldn't have access to any money and their passports and papers are kept in a safe place at the director's room. I just felt that these women's human rights were severely violated by the attitudes and rules of OD. However, OD continues to justify this type of status to exist. It can only be described as the serious exploitation of a vulnerable group of uneducated and poor women and violation of their rights. Not to mention how they were treated at the men centre. They were treated like they didn't exist.
OD men are another story - these are men, who don't do anything around their house, yes, nuns and monks do live separately, but they don't have any servants like numeraries do. The amount of what women and men in OD are doing is just not equal at all.
What also bothered me was that as a supernumerary, I started to feel the control OD was having over my life, especially my sexual life. Not to mention that OD does not reveal all of the lifestyle changes numeraries and supernumeraries make before they join. In that way and in a way their founder Escriva is only to be called 'the Father' OD is like a cult. Here are some examples of its cult-likeness:
-numeraries are told to have a list of 15 friends, the top ones on the list should be people with the potential to join OD. To spend time with anyone who does not have the potential to become an OD member is considered a waste of time.
-numeraries are not allowed to keep gifts of clothes, jewelry and other small presents from their parents. These gifts are given to other numeraries in the center by the Director or kept in a closet.
-numeraries eat with others in the center. Members have no input into the menus or food shopping. They must eat what they are served. Members are sometimes encouraged to offer up in penance their sweets or other denials.
-female OD numeraries sleep on a board placed on top of their mattress. Once a month, there are all-night vigils when the members sign up to pray in the middle of the night for one-hour stretches.
- numeraries surrender all control over their finances and generally do not hold their own bank accounts, their passports and other documents are kept in the Director's office.
- numeraries have very little time for leisure, entertainment or vacations. Movie and concert-going are forbidden unless you are invited by a 'potential' person. Numeraries do go on one excursion per month with the other numeraries in their house. Even if they have too much homework to do, they may still be directed to go and “have fun.”
- numeraries are told where to live, what jobs to take, what schools to attend and are expected to obey their superiors without question.
- in the weekly chat with a spiritual director numeraries are influenced to report any doubts about their vocation and if they've noticed that some other member is having doubts.
-numeraries are obligated to make the so called fraternal corrections, which basically means telling on other numeraries.
- if numeraries are successful in their recruiting, they are allowed to invite their friends or family members.
- numeraries typically report to their directors every time they leave or arrive at the OD house. They are allowed only brief visits to their families, often with a chaperone. They are not allowed to talk with members of the opposite sex behind closed doors.
- in-going and out-going mail is read by the Directors, most of the time without the knowledge of the writers.
As I look back I can't understand how I got myself into joining this cult. The people there just seemed so nice and intelligent I just didn't notice anything disturbing at first. And after you become aware of these negative aspects you can find it too hard to leave, especially for numeraries.
From my experience I can tell you that there are two types of OD members - those who come from huge OD families or those who are recruited. For example, my son's godmother is a supernumerary from a family of 16 children, her parents were among the first generation of supernumeraries and most of her siblings are either numeraries or supernumeraries. Such members usually come from large families, where each child attends OD schools from the beginning and is supposed to become an OD member at some point. If you're a member of such a family and you don't want to become an OD member or you want to quit you're sort of banished from your family.
The thing with numeraries is, that they are very dependant from OD, they usually don't know how to live alone, how to make decisions by themselves, they're like children living with their parents in a way, so a lot of them want to leave but are just afraid to do it. Those who are recruited outside the OD are another story. Most of them are recruited at the age of 14-18 by their friends (who just 'happened' to be numeraries) at their colleges or schools. Most of them are recruited at the most vulnerable moments of their life - someone from their family has just recently passed away, or they are about to get married and have some doubts about their choice. This is usually when OD comes. They tell you that you're such a special person, that god wants you to find your way, that marriage may not be the best choice for you as you're clearly having some doubts which means that god has guided you to them for some purpose etc. And people are easily bought into these words.
A lot of numeraries begin to struggle with their choice at some point, but prefer not to leave, especially men, because they're actually comfortable, I mean their food is prepared for them, their clothes are washed and ironed for them, they are served as in fancy restaurants by their servants, they don't have to make any decisions and choices.
I've never lived at the Centres, only during retreats. I stayed there with my 3 month old son for a week on a retreat, and I decided to leave OD after it because my family was far more important than OD and I had a lot of issues with their ideology by that time. I couldn't even called my husband without being watched. That made me crazy. They were always telling me, that I should consider OD as my 3rd child, who needs the equal amount of attention and money as my own kids. That was the end for me. I could never treat an organization as my own child. So I went home after my first retreat and told my husband that I was done with OD. To my surprise he was excited to hear it, he came to the same decision a week before. He just couldn't stand the way men were treating woman there.
We spent almost 2 years of our life there and I found my personality to be completely torn apart, I can't even imagine how those who left OD after 5, 10 or 20 years must have felt like. And you know what? My family didn't even know about it. They told me not to tell them, 'cause they might be strongly opposite it", so for them it was ok to keep this a secret.
The only excuse I have for myself and how I could be so blind is the simple fact that new members of OD are always making just an initial commitment without knowing any of the details of OD life are treated as full members. Instead of allowing new recruits to examine the details of membership and then re-evaluate their commitment, OD just deliberately withholds information and then strikes with a great pressure on new recruits to remain in OD, even if they object to one or more aspects of OD life. It was so easy to be impressed by OD, with its beautiful, clean and organized apartments, its energy, its sense of purpose, its likeable, well-dressed and groomed women, and its apparent loyalty to traditional catholicism. But this is only one face of OD. Internally it is totalitarian and full with fascist ideas turned to religious purposes. It has developed a wide range of successful techniques to persuade young people to join which are closer to the methods of cults. "Love-bombing" has long been used, the provision of a total environment, and the gradual alienation from family, friends, and the church - these are all the means that OD doesn't hesitate to use.
After leaving OD I continued going to the church for some time, but after my son has been diagnosed with autism I started questioning my faith and the existence of god. But that's another story.
{Snip}
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#2
RE: From Catholic Opus Dei to Atheism
Hello, welcome to the forum! Thank you for sharing your story.

I removed external links as per the comment at the top of your post. I also deleted the duplicate thread you submitted, probably because you thought this one hadn't worked! But it had been picked up by our filter for containing links.
Feel free to send me a private message.
Please visit my website here! It's got lots of information about atheism/theism and support for new atheists.

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#3
RE: From Catholic Opus Dei to Atheism
Anka:

Obviously, there are two sides to every story. For an opposing viewpoint, folks might read this book:

[Image: 51j09B6awKL.jpg]

Dr. Hahn gives a thoughtful overview of the positive experience he has had as a member of Opus Dei for more than 10 years. I own and have read the book, and although I don't feel called to be a member of Opus Dei (and not everyone is, Anka), I think that Opus Dei is doing good work. From the promotional:

Quote:Through stories about his job, his marriage, his role as a parent, and his community activities, Hahn shows how Opus Dei’s spirituality enriches the meaning of daily tasks and transforms ordinary relationships. He offers inspiring insights for reconciling spiritual and material goals, discussing topics ranging from ambition, workaholism, friendship, and sex, to the place of prayer and sacrifice in Christianity today. 

I'm sorry that your own experience was not beneficial to you.
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#4
RE: From Catholic Opus Dei to Atheism
(March 31, 2016 at 8:07 am)athrock Wrote: Anka:

Obviously, there are two sides to every story. For an opposing viewpoint, folks might read


I'm sorry that your own experience was not beneficial to you.

Obviously there are two sides to every story. For an opposing viewpoint, folks might talk to people who think being part of the waffen SS was the apex and most meaningful part of their lives, or to "athrock", who "reasons".
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#5
RE: From Catholic Opus Dei to Atheism
(March 31, 2016 at 8:07 am)athrock Wrote: Anka:

Obviously, there are two sides to every story. For an opposing viewpoint, folks might read this book:

[Image: 51j09B6awKL.jpg]

Dr. Hahn gives a thoughtful overview of the positive experience he has had as a member of Opus Dei for more than 10 years. I own and have read the book, and although I don't feel called to be a member of Opus Dei (and not everyone is, Anka), I think that Opus Dei is doing good work. From the promotional:

Quote:Through stories about his job, his marriage, his role as a parent, and his community activities, Hahn shows how Opus Dei’s spirituality enriches the meaning of daily tasks and transforms ordinary relationships. He offers inspiring insights for reconciling spiritual and material goals, discussing topics ranging from ambition, workaholism, friendship, and sex, to the place of prayer and sacrifice in Christianity today. 

I'm sorry that your own experience was not beneficial to you.

I've read this book. I guess coming from a Christian fundamentalist background, Scott and his wife simply found an organisation which fit their lifestyle with 5+ kids and patriarchy within their family.
I also read 'Women of Opus Dei', 'DYA' by Jose Louis Gonsalez Gullon and other books recommended by OD Big Grin  So I also can give some 'thoughtful overview' from my own experience.

(March 31, 2016 at 7:52 am)robvalue Wrote: Hello, welcome to the forum! Thank you for sharing your story.

I removed external links as per the comment at the top of your post. I also deleted the duplicate thread you submitted, probably because you thought this one hadn't worked! But it had been picked up by our filter for containing links.

Thanks! I just thought the first thread didn't work. Blush
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#6
RE: From Catholic Opus Dei to Atheism
Wow!
My wife joined those creeps a little over a year ago... And she does so all those stupid things you mentioned...reading from a tiny book,
Spending way too much time "praying"...daily mass...sleeping without a pillow...
not going to mention how some aspects directly affect me...

And yet she seems to think it's all good...

Ps: I'm actually shaking, after reading this... (what an eye-opener) thanks!
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#7
RE: From Catholic Opus Dei to Atheism
(March 31, 2016 at 9:38 am)pocaracas Wrote: Wow!
My wife joined those creeps a little over a year ago... And she does so all those stupid things you mentioned...reading from a tiny book,
Spending way too much time "praying"...daily mass...sleeping without a pillow...
not going to mention how some aspects directly affect me...

And yet she seems to think it's all good...

Ps: I'm actually shaking, after reading this...

Is she happy?

Surely the negative experiences of one former member ought to be balanced with the witness of someone who's involvement has been more positive?

Perhaps reading Hahn's book would help you understand Opus Dei better.
Reply
#8
RE: From Catholic Opus Dei to Atheism
(March 31, 2016 at 9:45 am)athrock Wrote:
(March 31, 2016 at 9:38 am)pocaracas Wrote: Wow!
My wife joined those creeps a little over a year ago... And she does so all those stupid things you mentioned...reading from a tiny book,
Spending way too much time "praying"...daily mass...sleeping without a pillow...
not going to mention how some aspects directly affect me...

And yet she seems to think it's all good...

Ps: I'm actually shaking, after reading this...

Is she happy?

Surely the negative experiences of one former member ought to be balanced with the witness of someone who's involvement has been more positive?

Perhaps reading Hahn's book would help you understand Opus Dei better.

She seems happy...
But I know I'm not...and, as you can imagine, it's bound to break somewhere...
Reply
#9
RE: From Catholic Opus Dei to Atheism
(March 31, 2016 at 9:38 am)pocaracas Wrote: Wow!
My wife joined those creeps a little over a year ago... And she does so all those stupid things you mentioned...reading from a tiny book,
Spending way too much time "praying"...daily mass...sleeping without a pillow...
not going to mention how some aspects directly affect me...

And yet she seems to think it's all good...

Ps: I'm actually shaking, after reading this... (what an eye-opener) thanks!

Sorry to hear that Sad  Most of the supernumeraries in Russia are married and their spouses are not involved in OD, we were the first supernumerary couple in Russia, even received a letter from OD Prelate. It's easier for supernumeraries whose spouses are not in OD, they can always 'blame' them for not letting them to go on a retreat or for using contraception.
I can only suggest watching some videos with Escriva's public speeches in Argentina or Peru, I don't know why but when you actually look at him in videos instead of reading his books you can see what a sneaky, unpleasant and bigoted person he was. I would also recommend giving her the book by Maria Carmen del Tapia I've mentioned, it helped me a lot.
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#10
RE: From Catholic Opus Dei to Atheism
(March 31, 2016 at 9:56 am)Anka Wrote:
(March 31, 2016 at 9:38 am)pocaracas Wrote: Wow!
My wife joined those creeps a little over a year ago... And she does so all those stupid things you mentioned...reading from a tiny book,
Spending way too much time "praying"...daily mass...sleeping without a pillow...
not going to mention how some aspects directly affect me...

And yet she seems to think it's all good...

Ps: I'm actually shaking, after reading this... (what an eye-opener) thanks!

Sorry to hear that Sad  Most of the supernumeraries in Russia are married and their spouses are not involved in OD, we were the first supernumerary couple in Russia, even received a letter from OD Prelate. It's easier for supernumeraries whose spouses are not in OD, they can always 'blame' them for not letting them to go on a retreat or for using contraception.
I can only suggest watching some videos with Escriva's public speeches in Argentina or Peru, I don't know why but when you actually look at him in videos instead of reading his books you can see what a sneaky, unpleasant and bigoted person he was. I would also recommend giving her the book by Maria Carmen del Tapia I've mentioned, it helped me a lot.

Thanks...I'll give it a look.
Not sure she'd be receptive to it though...
It's not like she's making excuses not to follow those directives...she IS following them... :le sigh:
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