Review of Saints & Schemers: Opus Dei and Its Paradoxes
by Joan Estruch (From the ODAN Newsletter,
Vol. 6, No. 3, 1996)
by a parent of a former member of Opus Dei. The review reflects
the personal opinions of the reviewer.
book was fascinating and perceptively written, although it was a
difficult book to read due to the detailed information which it
contained and its scholarly focus.
author gives a comprehensive, factual history of Opus Dei, with
much emphasis on the Founder, whom he believes defines the organization
author uses several sources, including the "official"
literature of Opus Dei, historical data, interviews with members
and former members, and interviews with insiders connected to the
first part of the book focuses on the history and sociology of Opus
Dei. The second part focuses on the Opus Dei ethic and the spirit
author offers many theories, poses numerous questions, and does
his best to do so in an unbiased forum.
the most startling of the author's theories is that contrary to
"official" Opus Dei history, the organization was founded
not in 1928, but much later, and that its main goal from the beginning
was not "the sanctification of daily work" but a desire
to influence academic circles in Spain.
author faults Opus Dei for not being true to its own history; Opus
Dei stubbornly denies its many changes over the years.
outlining the different emphases in each new edition of The Way,
Escriva's first major work, Estruch tracks the changes in Opus Dei
itself over the years.
example, earlier editions of The Way do not even mention
"sanctification of work" in the index; The Way
has little to say about this subject, yet Opus Dei still claims
that the Founder visualized the entirety of Opus Dei in 1928, and
that the emphasis was on "sanctification of daily work."
hindering the search for Opus Dei's true history is the fact that
Opus Dei will not reveal crucial documents and letters written in
the early years.
biographies of the Founder omit many crucial facts and do not admit
political or cultural influences.
illustrates that the history of Opus Dei is closely connected to
the Spain of the 1930s and 1940s in the religious, political and
social spheres. He also shows that the rivals of Opus Dei, the Jesuits,
were actually the model used to form Opus Dei.
proposes that their relationship is marked by confrontation and
conflict because of their similarities -- at least in the beginning
-- rather than their differences.
the final chapter, Estruch outlines some of the many paradoxes in
Opus Dei, including the following: how Opus Dei, an "elitist"
organization, nevertheless says it is made up of "ordinary
Christians"; how Opus Dei claims to profess a "clearly
lay spirituality" while inducing many of its most valuable
members to enter the priesthood; how Opus Dei claims that it participates
in all the affairs of society, in the name of its radical "secularity,"
yet at the same time in the name of "discretion" seeks
to pass unnoticed in society, employing much energy to keep its
true identity secret.
summary, Estruch points out that the ideals of Opus Dei are not
in accord with the structure of the organization and its actual
practices. (p. 261)
was an extremely interesting and insightful book. Of particular
interest was learning how greatly this movement has ingratiated
itself in the Vatican, with obvious power in the Roman Catholic
Church. I would recommend the volume to anyone interested in a comprehensive,
factual documentation of this elusive organization.
to website May 13, 2002