Pope Francis' "small coup" in limiting the power of Opus Dei

The members of that institution have great skills, relationships, and experience to "turn around" modifications.

Pope Francis' "small coup" in limiting the power of Opus Dei
The "little coup" accomplished by Pope Francis to curb Opus Dei's influence. Credit: UNAM

Due to the reform that Pope Francis made in a text called "To safeguard the charism", the institution's Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei will now have certain limits, such as reporting its finances and the education it offers to its priests; its leader is no longer a bishop, which means a small blow to the organization, so it will not be able to ordain priests from its group either.

According to Fernando Manuel González González, a researcher at the UNAM's Institute of Social Research (IIS), the above modification could reduce the parallel power that the hierarchical institution of the Catholic Church has had in recent years.

"The problem is that they are congregations, such as the Legionaries of Christ, which are used to playing in a very unethical way in general; they have enough elements of power to turn it around because the controls depend on the relationships they have in the curias."

It is one of the most conservative, powerful, and global communities of the Catholic Church, which had the exceptional condition of being an apostolic prelature; that is, a worldwide jurisdiction that was not accountable to the bishop of the territory in which its seat is located but directly to the Pope; an ecclesiastical institution governed by a prelate whose jurisdiction is not linked to a specific territory.

The condition of the exception made Opus Dei a "supradiocese," which obtained its privilege from Pope John Paul II, who had a great weakness for that religious group, and now faces certain limits from Pope Francis, of Jesuit origin and an ideology identified within the Catholic Church as leftist, narrated the author of the book, Marcial Maciel. Unpublished testimonies and documents (Editorial Tusquets).

The specialist pointed out that since it was founded in 1928 in Spain by the Spanish priest Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer (who aspired to become a marquis), it has expanded to at least 50 countries and arrived in Mexico in 1949, always linked to ecclesiastical power networks.

"It is an organization that has priests and what they call numeraries, who are people consecrated to the work, women who serve male priests in their homes. Some of them have degrees and doctorates, but one of their fundamental functions is to serve the men in different communities. They also have supernumeraries, who are married people, couples who serve the work, "he added.

According to the researcher, it is a tribute to the patriarchy, reinforced by the ecclesiastical patriarchy of the Catholic Church. It was supported by the national Catholicism of Francisco Franco in Spain and also helped Augusto Pinochet in Chile. "It is a very conservative institution."

González González detailed that the difference instituted by John Paul II is this condition of the apostolic prelature, that is to say, an ecclesiastical institution governed by a prelate whose jurisdiction is not linked to a determined territory.

It is the only one of all the Catholic congregations (Jesuits, Dominicans, even Legionaries of Christ) that is not accountable to anyone other than the Commission of Bishops and directly to the Pope. Opus Dei was unique in that it was organized in specific dioceses and had to report to the bishops of the area where it was located. From now on, it must go through the Sacred Congregation for Religious, which is now called the Dicastery of the Clergy (a generic denomination of the organisms of the Roman Curia), said the IIS expert.