Right-wing Catholic cult, Opus Dei, accused of exploiting women

Josemaria Escriva

by Barry Duke

FOUNDED by Josemaría Escrivá, above, now a saint, Opus Dei has long been accused of secrecy, elitism, cult-like practices, and political involvement with right-wing causes, such as the rule of Francisco Franco in Spain.

Now the organisation, according to Religion News Service, is being accused by a group of women of labour exploitation, as well as abuse of power. Often minors at the time, they laboured under “manifestly illegal conditions” that included working without pay for 12 hours-plus without breaks except for food or prayer, no registration in the Social Security system and other violations of basic rights.

The women are demanding financial reparations from Opus Dei and that it acknowledges the abuses and apologises to them. They also want those responsible punished.

A total of 42 women have lodged a complaint with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. One is Lucia Gimenez, 56, who joined the Catholic group in her native Paraguay at the age of 14 with the promise she would get an education. But instead of math or history, she was trained in cooking, cleaning and other household chores to serve in Opus Dei residences and retirement homes.

For 18 years she washed clothes, scrubbed bathrooms and attended to the group’s needs for 12 hours a day, with breaks only for meals and praying. Despite her hard labor, she says:

I never saw money in my hands.

The complaint says that the Argentine and Paraguayan citizens worked for the movement in Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Uruguay, Italy and Kazakhstan between 1974 and 2015.

Opus Dei – Work of God in Latin – was founded by the Spanish priest Escrivá in 1928, and has 90,000 members in 70 countries. The lay group, which was greatly favored by St John Paul II, who canonized Escrivá in 2002, has a unique status in the church and reports directly to the Pope.

According to RNS the women in the complaint have one thing in common: humble origins. They were recruited and separated from their families between the ages of 12 and 16. In some cases, like Gimenez’s, they were taken to Opus Dei centre in another country, circumventing immigration controls.

They claim that Opus Dei priests and other members exercised “coercion of conscience” on the women to pressure them to serve and to frighten them with spiritual evils if they didn’t comply with the supposed will of God. They also controlled their relations with the outside world.

Most of the women asked to leave as the physical and psychological demands became intolerable. But when they finally did, they were left without money. Many also said they needed psychological treatment after leaving Opus Dei.

Said Sebastián Sal, the women’s lawyer:

The hierarchy (of Opus Dei) is aware of these practices. It is an internal policy of Opus Dei. The search for these women is conducted the same way throughout the world. … It is something institutional.

The women’s complaint also points to dozens of priests affiliated with Opus Dei for their alleged:

Intervention, participation and knowledge in the denounced events.

The allegations in the complaint are similar to those made by members of another conservative Catholic organisation also favoured by St John Paul II, the Legion of Christ. The Legion recruited young women to become consecrated members of its lay branch, Regnum Christi, to work in Legion-run schools and other projects.

Those women alleged spiritual and psychological abuse, of being separated from family and being told their discomfort was “God’s will” and that abandoning their vocation would be tantamount to abandoning God.

Pope Francis has been cracking down on 20th-century religious movements after several religious orders and lay groups were accused of sexual and other abuses by their leaders. Opus Dei has so far avoided much of the recent controversy, though there have been cases of individual priests accused of misconduct.

Josefina Madariaga, Director of Opus Dei’s press office in Argentina, told the AP.

We do not have any official notification from the Vatican about the existence of a complaint of this type. If there is a traumatic experience or one that has left them with a wound, we want to honestly listen to them, understand what happened and from there correct what has to be corrected.

She added that all the people currently “working on site are paid,” adding that some 80 women currently work for Opus Dei in Argentina.

However, she said:

In the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, society as a whole dealt with these issues in a more informal or family way.

Opus Dei has made the necessary changes and modifications to accompany the law in force today.

Beatriz Delgado, who worked for Opus Dei for 23 years in Argentina and Uruguay, said she was told that

I had to give my salary to the director and that everyone gave it. … It was part of giving to God. They convince you with the vocation, with ‘God calls you, God asks this of you, you cannot fail God.’ … They hooked me with that.

So far, the Vatican has not ruled on the complaint and it’s not clear if it will. A Vatican spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for information.

If there is no response, the women’s legal representatives say they will initiate criminal proceedings against Opus Dei:

For human trafficking, reduction to servitude, awareness control and illegitimate deprivation of liberty.

Complete Article HERE!

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