*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 2nd of October 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
Well, well well… so, it was on this, the 2nd of October in 1928 in Spain that Jose Maria Escriva founded Opus Dei- one of the more controversial Catholic religious associations of the 20th century whose secrecy has given birth to more than a few conspiracy theories, including those found in Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code.
[and yes, we’ve talked a bit about him on this show recently as I mentioned I gave a talk in AZ about Conspiracy theories in the church… to give an overly simplified review of that book and movie let me compare it to Nicholas Cage’s “National Treasure”? Are they fun movies? You decide. Are they history? No]
So- what is this group and why are they so often the center of controversy? Jose Maria Escriva claimed direct revelation from God in creating this new secular organization that would encourage holiness amongst the laity. It was not a religious order, but worked similar to medieval tertiaries- that is, they were laypeople devoted to personal holiness and service but not cloistered. If you are familiar with the doctrine of vocation (that is, all work is holy) you can see parallels here.
In 1950 they were recognized by the Holy See as a “secular institute” and in 1982 Pope JP2 made them a personal prelature- the only one in the church. This means that where you live or work is irrelevant as to who your bishop is, there is a specific bishop for the approximately 90,000 members. The structure of Opus Dei is international and the bishop has authority over all of its members and reports only to the Pope.
So what’s the big deal?
Escriva and Opus Dei came to prominence in Spain during the Spanish Civil War between those leaning towards communism and those leaning towards fascism. The conservative group took up the banner of Franco and the nationalists. Thus they would look suspicious to anyone on the political left.
The group has always sought to evangelize and influence what they would consider being the “elite”- titans of industry, etc… the idea was that if they could change the minds of the wealthy they would have a better chance at changing society. And counting many politicians and media elites in their number only stokes the suspicions. It was common, last century, to make the lazy comparison to Freemasons. And in so far as they are a private religious institution they don’t have to hand out their tax returns. And thus you might expect some suspicion.
Their connection to Pope JP2 also has drawn a few raised eyebrows. From his pre-Pope days, John Paul II was wholly wrapped up in the polish anti-Communist “Solidarity” movement. As Pope he was especially concerned to give Catholics a doctrine of work and labor in distinction to the perceived dangers of Marxism and the left. Once again, if you are not on the right you might be suspicious. Add to that the traditionalist understanding of the roles of men and women and a network of vocal “ex-members” and you have all the ingredients for a salacious story. Also, they don’t like the Jesuits and if you can get the Jesuits to involve in your intrigue you bump your salacious numbers up about 20%
But perhaps the practice of self-mortification has drawn the most attention since the Da Vinci Code and the scenes of the Opus Dei Albino whipping himself. First, about 75% of Opus Dei lead secular married lives. It is only about 25% who may be cloistered and are under strict discipline. And part of this discipline involves self-flagellation. Using a braided rope and small spikes on the inner thigh, the penitent member self induces blood and pain as participation with Jesus and his sufferings. Does this seem strange to modern folk? Yes, of course! But this is a historical practice in parts of the Church.
Opus Dei is a controversial and secretive society in the Roman Catholic Church who have been conveniently roped in with the Illuminati, Masons, Knights Templar, etc… who, on account of their silence makes for easy “what if…?” Arguments. Are they peculiar? Yes. Are they a cult? Maybe I’ll explain on a later show while that question should rarely be answered.
Nonetheless, today marks the 93rd anniversary of Opus Dei- a personal prefecture in the Roman Catholic Church devoted to encouraging personal holiness in everyday work and… well, all the conspiracy stuff.
The last word for today comes Isaiah 40:
All people are grass,
their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand forever.
Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good tidings;[a]
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,[b]
lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
See, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 2nd of October 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by the mother sheep of so many 1517 podcasts, he is Christoper Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man whose favorite conspiracy theory involves the Patriots and their 2002 Super Bowl victory over the Rams. I am Dan van Voorhis
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.