The Catholic Church is known for its universal traditional mode of worship, which for long has been in existence but very recently, there are groups and societies that have a whole lot of questions to be reviewed and have attracted a long lens into it. One among them is Opus Dei.
Opus Dei – which means “Work of God” – has its roots in Spain, founded in 1928 by the Catholic priest Josemaría Escrivá. Originally Escriva did not even give this new reality a name; “Opus Dei,” came from an offhand comment from Escriva’s confessor, who once asked him, “How’s that Work of God going?” This is why members usually refer to Opus Dei as “the Work.”
It is a lay and clerical Catholic Group that firmly believes that an individual’s spiritual and Christian life must be fully aligned and combined with their work, professional, social, and family lives. It is called a lay and clerical group because it has both priests and ‘ordinary’ people as members of the group.
The idea of the group is “Christianizing it,” carrying out all the tasks of daily living with a new spirit. Escriva’s shorthand formula was, “Sanctify your work. Sanctify yourself in your work. Sanctify others through your work.”
Its members remain fully immersed in the world and do not retreat to monasteries or cloisters. Over the years, Opus Dei has been classified within Church structures in various ways: as a pious union, a priestly society of everyday life without vows, a secular institute, and finally, since 1982, as a “personal prelature.”
But Do They Really Practice What They Preach?
Complains that reached SecretReporters by a parent who chose to be anonymous indicated that this group deceived their daughter to join them after her university and fled from Lagos to Abuja after her service year to join this cult, and she no longer regards them as parents by providing, contributing to the home or performing the responsibility of a child to the parent. In other words, the group initiates youth to become members, according to the sad parent.
SecretReporters embarked on a 3-months intensive investigation to unravel the mystery behind the sect.
Our reporter, who constantly visited ZARIBA GIRLS AND WOMEN DEVELOPMENT CENTER FOR MORETHAN 3 MONTHS, came up with a handful of shocking discoveries about this group.
Secrecy Of The Group
“Do you know what Opus Dei means? It is holiness in the middle of your work. It means you must have professional work while doing the work of opus dei,” Olamma Nnenna (not her real name), a health practitioner and member of opus dei, introduce to our investigator.
“The first day I came, a lady who happens to be a member of the cult asked that I pray in the oratory, which is in the building, before I can be shown around. They asked who invited me to the group to be sure it was one of their members. And they also want to know how I heard about Opus Dei and their center in particular. They are always scared to identify themselves in public,” our investigator revealed.
It is almost impossible to discover this group’s inner workings or find those willing to share their experiences as members. This is so because members must make commitments not to share anything about the group and attend spiritual formation classes and retreats. Any person who leaves the group faces persecution which cannot be disclosed, and harassment for speaking out. Today, the groups have spread widely, and so are the members. In Nigeria, opus dei has centers in five states: Lagos, Abuja, Ibadan, Benin, and Enugu. The group recruits massively by choosing young people especially, pressuring them to join. Once they do, it’s very difficult to leave.
A person’s youthful stage is the most important aspect of one’s life that needs crucial reflection. This group is skilled in targeting persons in their prime to join this force in the name of attaining holiness.
“This is where we (opus dei members) stay. These are our different rooms, but roommates are shared, considering some factors you may not understand. Before you start living here with us, you have to become a numerary or numerary assistant, which I will explain in detail as time goes on”, one of the members told our investigator.
Opus dei builds or rents a center where they assign members to start their activities of recruiting people in the name of formation classes. The members DO NOT live in these centers for FREE. The group has various ways of milking a sort of rent from them by asking members to submit their hard-earned salaries monthly or in what manner they are paid (every penny they have earned in their places of work) to their house director. The words of opus dei while collecting these hard-earned salaries are ‘God calls you, God asks this of you, and you cannot fail God.’
Meanwhile, a center is a house with different rooms, classes, toilets, kitchens, Oratory (chapel) provided for opus dei members to live in new homes. Members can only be transferred to different states where another center is built and hence needs an experienced hand to care for them.
Mode Of Recruiting
“One of the days I went to the center, I went to the oratory. There I found elderly women repeating what a person I think is their coordinator, was saying (reciting). They affirmed that they would lead their homes in the way Josemaria Escravia taught while on earth, and even when their husbands kick against it, they will stand strong,” our investigator said.
Nothing can divide our homes, families.
We will reflect on the teachings of Saint Josemaria Escravia
Our children will be godly and without sin in accordance with the doctrine of Opus Dei
We will be the head even when our spouse kicks against
And we will ask God to open the eyes of our spouses.
Those were some of the lines contained in their secret prayer booklets, which they recite.
Recruitment is called whistling in the opus dei. They recruit by either creating “a school/study group” where members help in giving tutorials to students and in turn, encourage them to be part of opus dei. In this initial stage of convincing you to join, what they tell you is that the group will help you to be holy and abstain from sin while doing your everyday life. They do not explain in detail how the group helps and the pros/cons of joining. If you are smart enough to ask detailed and deep questions, they tell you that you may find it challenging to understand as you are a newbie.
Another method of recruiting is proffering the group as the solution to your spiritual growth.
“One of the turning points in my life was when I met opus dei in my 200 level at the University of Benin (UNIBEN). Really at the time, I did not really like church; I am a Catholic, but I wanted to be a good person, but I don’t like attention. I do not have the strength to be everywhere. I did not want to be in choir and all that but then the time I met opus dei, I was changed; it influenced my life a great deal. It opened my horizon that I could actually aspire for more just like we do in our day to day life. Then they would have like doctrinal classes and I learned it is good to go for frequent confession, speaking with the priest and share your personal sufferings with them (priest and members of the opus dei),” a member shared her journey throughout.
SecretReporters’ investigator reached out to one of their strong members, disguising that she wants to be strong in the Catholic Faith and to God, the member suggested that our investigator joins the sect. The member went as far as sending links that show the positive things the group does and centers in Nigeria. How about the negative?
It has been described as a very controlling organization, demanding extreme faithfulness and dedication that even daily errands such as normal hangouts by those who live in the centers (opus dei houses) needed permission or were not allowed. They even have curfew hours for members who are ADULTS and mature. It is hell on earth.
In the center and as a member, expenditures were required to be accounted for; reading and television viewing was restricted. They were also discouraged from confessing their sins to non-Opus Dei priests. They have this notion that non-opus dei priests are sinners and unclean.
Father Eddy, a priest who visits Zariba center, confirmed that restriction is for the benefit of members of the prelate as it is a sure way to be holy. “I think it should not be called restriction so it does not sound strange. It is just one of those ways to help members of the prelate to stay out of sin”.
When asked why they do not make their gathering public or any form of announcement after Mass in any of the church (Catholic), Ochuwa (a numerary) informed that they are not “part” of the church, hence the church does not have a say in the affairs of Opus Dei. But ironically, they continue to enjoy the support of the Vatican where they have members and a steady increase in its members as it soon reaches its 100th anniversary in 2028. It is simply an organization, pretending to act on the order of God to fleece the underlings.
How do you say you are not a part of the church but you recruit the priests and make them take charge of doctrinal classes where they brainwash people to join and members to stay, a social commentator once queried. The members do not agree that they are brainwashed because nobody is pointing a gun to their throats. But, the priest or whoever is in charge of teaching the doctrinal class make them accept that the teachings of Opus dei will take them to heaven, hence all should accept without questions.
It was gathered that the group targets young children who are as young as 8 year old and above. It is a common notion that children within the age of 8 – 10years do not make decisions on their own and should be left to handle life on their little pace but the group either teaches the parents who are also members (supernumeraries) to always bring their children to the center or organize lessons for the young ones in their residential communities, using that as a bait for the children (of non-members) to attend. Parents who are members and by extension controlled by this sect will also see no reason why their wards should not be brought to the center to participate in the activities.
Some of the activities they claim to have to keep members intact are quite secretive…but there are a few:
Doctrinal class: It holds every second, fourth and fifth Saturdays by 12:45pm – 1:45pm. Here there usually have members of the prelature and outsiders who attend to learn some catholic doctrines and teachings of opus dei and are encouraged to live the life of Escravia. Topics like virtue, birth control and concept of sexual relationships and the place of the church, are discussed.
Recollections for the St. Gabriel/Young professionals: third Sundays from 9:15am – 1:45pm
Other private secret meetings which they are unwilling to share
The Opus Dei does not care about how the parents of members feel. The group does not care whether or not the parents of their members give their consent or not. An intending member complained that her parents are not willing to agree or permit her to join the opus dei.
“Your parents do not care about what God wants for you. It does not matter to them. Whether your devotion will make you happy or not, it does not matter to them. It shows selfish interest. They only care about what matters to them. It does not show love for you. It is selfish!
“As long as you are an adult, the work (opus dei) does not need your parental consent, as long as it is your passion and what you want,” Fr. Eddy added.
He added that there have been cases of parents who came to the center to physically take their children from the center and some have called The Police force. “Some terrible things have happened. We have had worst case than this. At the end of the day, it depends on the person, focus on your faith and know what God has called you to do. If your parents don’t approve with what you’re doing they’re the bad ones, they’re in error or sin or worse. And that’s not good.”
Mortification of Flesh
Our Investigator asked how members tend to control sexual urges as HUMANS when such desire/urge comes, the priest answered that they practice mortification of flesh.
“Control of urges goes beyond sexual urges but also temperament because opus dei members are trained to not allow their passion or flesh put them to sin. The word mortification comes from two Latin words which simply mean to put to death. Hatred, sadness, anger, dreams are weaknesses that one has to kill. Adam and Eve did not have this weakness before but when they sinned, they had it.
“The whole idea of mortification is to willingly mortify yourself by saying that you do not give in to every demand.
“There are means to mortify your flesh by hugging the crucifix, invoking the spirit of discipline, physical punishment like wearing of thorns,” Fr. Eddy added.
Escriva, the founder of this cult, reportedly beat himself so hard with rope to mortify his flesh that he would leave his cell covered in blood. Less severe body mortification is still practiced. This means that to be able to control urges/desires, members can flog themselves like their founder did or wear thorns that will pierce through their hearts, literally.
MEMBERS OF OPUS DEI
Membership usually arises out of getting to know Opus Dei, either through family who are members, or by exposure to one of Opus Dei’s “corporate works” such as a school or youth center, or through some other activity.
There are three categories of members:
Numeraries: They are celibate members who give themselves in full availability to the service of opus dei. They give doctrinal classes in the absence of priests and receive doctrinal teachings when priests are not available. Numeraries are part of the internal government of the prelate. They are not allowed to live with individual families but in the centers (opus dei houses), where they are appropriately watched and supervised. They are responsible for moving to other states to start or help with the creation of other centers and spread of their cult activities if asked by the prelate. Numeraries are expected to live in gender-specific centers run by Opus Dei. They often participate in daily meals, where they share news and conversations. They must have jobs where they earn money in other to submit to the cult.
Numerary Assistant: These are a type of numerary that exists in the Women’s Branch of Opus Dei. Their full availability for the Prelature is lived out as full availability for catering for the domestic needs of conference and residential centers of Opus Dei, like cleaning, cooking, and other messenger duties.Assistants live in centers run by Opus Dei and do not have jobs outside said centers. They are meant to be celibate too. But they are also not paid for the work they do in the centers.
Associates: These members do not live in opus dei centers but in their abodes. They receive family and emotional support from the centers and members of Opus Dei. These members also practice celibacy; they take most apostolic assignments and give doctrinal formation and other activities. They differ from Numeraries in not making themselves “fully” available to the official undertakings of the Prelature.
Clergy: The Clergy of the opus dei are priests who are under the jurisdiction of the prelate of Opus Dei. They are a minority in Opus Dei that makes up about 2% of Opus Dei members. They are the only priests allowed to celebrate masses in the centers.
Supernumeraries: supernumeraries are married men and women with careers or those intending to marry in the future. Supernumeraries devote a portion of their day to prayer, in addition to attending regular meetings and taking part in activities such as retreats. Due to their career and family obligations, supernumeraries are not as available to the organization as the other types of faithful, but typically contribute financially and lend other types of assistance as their circumstances permit.
It is important to note that numerary members submit their WHOLE earnings to the cult, while other membership categories contribute significantly to the group.
Extortion Of Money From Members
It is germane to note that Numeraries who are recruited into this group will first be separated from their families, and taken to the Opus Dei center in another state to begin their journey. Young numerary experienced unjust labor practices disguised as a religious vocation; members are pressured to serve God, encouraged to do self-punishment if they do not comply with the supposed will of God, and are also distracted with so many religious activities. After separating them from their families and loved ones, they are told that their discomfort was “God’s will” and that God is pleased.
The group milks out hard-earned money from members by compelling them to submit ALL their earnings. Members are told that it was part of giving to God. They convince them with the vocation, with ‘God calls you, God asks this of you, you cannot fail God.’ They do not allow their members to have personal savings. So when a member needs to buy something as little as a pencil, he/she would write to the House Director for approval before the said amount for the pencil is disbursed to him/her. They become slaves to their own money.
But Fr. Eddy contends by saying that the group does not extort money from members. “Numeraries are asked to submit their earnings because opus dei is now their new family, and just like our individual family, we bring money to run the homes. And it is important to know that it is not called ‘contribution’, so it does not seem odd. It is something you should do (responsibility)”. He likened the commitment to marriage: “A person who is married is making all of his income available to his spouse and his children; he’s thinking first in terms of the others. He would not call this contribution because it is his responsibility.”
Members strike a deal with Opus Dei: They agree to live in the spirit of Opus Dei, to support its apostolic activities, continue keeping a low profile, and in return Opus Dei agrees to provide doctrinal and spiritual formation.
The formula of the oath of allegiance/vow is as follows:
I, in the full use of my freedom, declare that with firm resolve I dedicate myself to pursue sanctity and to practice apostolate with all my energy according to the spirit and praxis of Opus Dei. I assume the obligation:
First, to remain under the jurisdiction of the Prelate and the other competent authorities of the Prelature, in order to dedicate myself faithfully to everything that has to do with the special purposes of the Prelature;
Second, to fulfill all the duties of a Numerary/Associate/Supernumerary member of Opus Dei, and to observe the norms by which the Prelature is governed, as well as the legitimate rulings of the Prelate and the other competent authorities of the Prelature regarding its government, spirit and apostolate.
Representative of the Prelate
I, representing the Prelate, declare that from the moment of your incorporation into the Prelature, and for as long as that incorporation continues in force, Opus Dei assumes the obligation:
First, to devote constant care and attention to your doctrinal, spiritual, ascetical and apostolic formation, and to provide you with the special pastoral attention of the priests of the Prelature;
Second, to fulfill its other obligations with respect to its faithful, as determined in the norms by which the Prelature is governed.
It is important to know that members hold the agenda of Opus dei as though their lives depend on it (which is most likely). But the question of the practice of lesbianism among female opus dei housemates and gay among opus dei male housemates is not often heard and are not spoken about. Does this mean such things that happen in catholic convent and seminary do not happen here as quest to satisfy sexual urges?