Will Pope Francis achieve the reform of Opus Dei?

Will Pope Francis achieve the reform of Opus Dei?

Fernando Ocáriz Braña, a Spanish priest at the head of Opus Dei, in a 2017 image at the Vatican.Fernando Ocáriz Braña, a Spanish priest at the head of Opus Dei, in a 2017 Vatican image. Franco Origlia (Getty Images)

During the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. the Catholic Church endured a long period of “kidnapping” by Opus Dei, which in its majority occupied the highest positions of power in the Roman Curia, the World Bishop, in the Catholic schools elite, in universities and theological centers where a pre-conciliar theology is taught , in numerous parishes of the Catholic world with the promotion of Marian devotion and sacramental practice, both of which are often alien to the social reality of impoverished people and social groups.

John Paul II gave the key to Vatican communications with full powers to Joaquín Navarro Valls, a full member of Opus Dei, who decided on the participation or refusal of the media in the press conferences and in the Pope’s trips, depending on the affinity or the critical attitude towards the papal ideology. Opus Dei had a particular impact on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during the presidency of Cardinal Ratzinger, through the numerous complaints, dealt with with great haste, by theologians suspected of heterodoxy, brought in summary proceedings that ended earlier with the expulsion of the teaching of the theological centers in which they taught, and in censoring their books. In this context it should be remembered that in 1988 Cardinal Ratzinger was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Navarra of Opus Dei.

Given his politically and theologically conservative ideology, frozen by the time the book Camino (1939) was written, he played a fundamental role in the Catholic Church’s neoconservative and restorationist process, reconciling the rejection of Vatican II and the return to Christianity As a global organization, it became a key element in expanding the strategy of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. to the whole church. Perched at the highest echelons of economic power from neoliberal approaches, Opus contributed large sums of money to sustain the Vatican’s economy.

John Paul II rewarded Opus Dei for the excellent service it had rendered to the Vatican by recognizing a personal prelature, the only one in the Catholic world, with full autonomy, the promotion of its prelate to the rank of bishop, who was part of the hierarchical structure becomes the Catholic Church and the express beatification and canonization of the founder Escrivá de Balaguer in 2002, just 27 years after his death.

Last June, Pope Francis signed the Apostolic Exhortation Ad Charisma tuendum, stripping Opus Dei of the privileges granted to it by John Paul II and carrying out far-reaching transformations that go beyond organization and are considered by some to be humiliating throughout domination have been described . It abolishes the legal exception it was in – a prelature with its own jurisdiction -, places it under the dependency of the dicastery for the clergy, and excludes the prelate from the episcopal order, both decisions separating the work from the hierarchical structure of the dicastery exclude the Catholic Church.

He asks him to adapt the statutes to the new ecclesiastical status, asks him to submit an annual report on the state of Opus Dei and the development of its apostolic work, an annual report on its activities, and considers that the new form of government is this based more on the charisma of the work than on episcopal authority. A full grown oar!

I ask myself: Will Pope Francis achieve the profound and necessary reform of the opus formulated in the Apostolic Exhortation or will it be neutralized by the work itself and remain a simple plastering of the facade? I can only express my skepticism in this regard given the presence of Opus in most parts of the Catholic world, with numerous episcopates under its power, with its overwhelming influence in the parish and with the control of a wide network of colleges, universities and theological centers.

Juan Jose Tamayo He is a liberation theologian. His latest book is Compassion in an Unjust World (Editorial Fragmenta, 2021).

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