Parents Guide to Opus Dei by J. J. M. Garvey

reviewed by Joseph I. B. Gonzales, former numerary
Originally published in a series of reviews of Opus Dei-related books on amazon.com,
January 27, 2002

opus dei is a cult
There are basically three groups critical of Opus Dei. The first is various non-Catholic sectors that oppose the hidden agenda of Opus Dei, which is to place members in influential positions and thereby impose policies society-wide deriving from Roman Catholic belief. The second group is “progressive” sectors of the institutional Church that wish to bring about changes in areas such as governance, liturgy, theology, or spirituality, according to new conceptions, so that from this standpoint Opus Dei is obstructionist and reactionary. The third group is former members (usually numeraries) and families of former or existing members that believe they have been personally harmed by the objectionable practices of Opus Dei, especially the use of deception, manipulation, and mind control as well as the exploitation of Church goodwill in the propagation and expansion of the organization. In adherence to Bl. Josemaria Escriva, Opus Dei delusively assumes itself to be an unmitigated good.

This little publication is written by persons belonging to the third group, who, I believe, harbor the most legitimate grievance against Opus Dei. It is this group that has been the most directly harmed by what is demonstrably unethical in Opus Dei.

The booklet scrutinizes Opus Dei using the criteria in the Vatican Pastoral Letter published in Osservatore Romano (May 19, 1986), “Characteristics of Destructive New Religious Movements,” i.e., cults.

The booklet describes the cult-like traits of Opus Dei very well. It quotes directly from the pastoral letter that destructive groups are “generally authoritarian in structure” and that “they exercise forms of brainwashing and mind control, cultivate group pressure, and instill feelings of guilt and fear.” In the process of recruitment and indoctrination, they employ a combination of “affection and deception,” which is characteristic of cults. The booklet is unusual in that it makes four specific requests of the Church to curtail systemic deception in Opus Dei.

While the booklet highlights the most obvious abuses, its analysis is cursory.

Another good source on the cult-like character of Opus Dei is Judith Church Tydings, “Shipwrecked in the Spirit: Implications of Some Controversial Catholic Movements,” Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 16, No. 2, 1999, pp. 82-175. [This document is available from the American Family Foundation website.]

Parents’ Guide was published in 1989. Has Opus Dei changed? Judging from the continuing consignment of former members to psychiatric clinics around the world–yes–it would appear that the harmful cult-like traits of this organization do persist.

P.S. Some of the best examples of lying and thought control in Opus Dei are cited in this booklet.