On the Work of God (“Opus Dei“)
“Therefore, the Prelate shall not be honoured with the episcopal order.” —Article #4 of the recent (dated July 14, two weeks ago, but released July 22, five days ago)) letter from Pope Francis entitled “Ad charisma tuendum” [literally, “For the charisma safeguarding,” so, “For the safeguarding of the charism (of the Prelature of Opus Dei),” full text published below]. This article #4 of the Pope’s letter says the Prelate who leads Opus Dei shall in the future never be a bishop— “shall not be honoured with the episcopal order.” Many commentators have commented on the possible reason for this decision of Pope Francis: why will the head of the Prelature of Opus Dei in the future never be a bishop? As yet, no one has given an explanation which fully explains why this decision, and why it was taken at this time
“The Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the Divine Office or the Work of God (Opus Dei), is the daily prayer of the Church, marking the hours of each day and sanctifying the day with prayer. The Hours are a meditative dialogue on the mystery of Christ, using scripture and prayer.“—Definition of the “work of God” (“opus Dei”) as the daily prayer of the Church, “sanctifying the day” with prayer. That is, the “work of God (“opus Dei”), is the sanctification, the making holy, of the world (link)
“For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord shall so come as a thief in the night (‘ipsi enim diligenter scitis quia dies Domini sicut fur in nocte ita veniet‘)… Therefore, let us not sleep, as others do: but let us watch, and be sober (‘igitur non dormiamus sicut ceteri sed vigilemus et sobrii simus‘). —St. Paul, First Epistle to the Thesslaonians, 5:2 and 5:6 (link)
“The Lord’s triumph, on the day of the Resurrection, is final. Where are the soldiers the rulers posted there? Where are the seals that were fixed to the stone of the tomb? Where are those who condemned the Master? Where are those who crucified Jesus?… He is victorious, and faced with his victory those poor wretches have all taken flight. Be filled with hope: Jesus Christ is always victorious.” —St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, Forge, No. 660 (link)
“One must not always think so much about what one should do, but rather what one should be. Our works do not ennoble us; but we must ennoble our works… Spirituality is not to be learned by flight from the world, or by running away from things, or by turning solitary and going apart from the world. Rather, we must learn an inner solitude wherever or with whomsoever we may be. We must learn to penetrate things and find God there.” ― Meister Eckhart (link). Eckhart von Hochheim OP (c. 1260 – c. 1328), commonly known as Meister Eckhart or Eckehart, was a German Catholic theologian, philosopher and mystic, in the late 1200s and early 1300s. He came into prominence during the Avignon Papacy at a time of increased tensions between monastic orders, diocesan clergy, the Franciscan Order, and Eckhart’s Dominican Order of Preachers. In later life, he was accused of heresy and brought up before the local Franciscan-led Inquisition, and tried as a heretic by Pope John XXII. He seems to have died before his verdict was received (link)
“One of the great mysteries is what they call the mysterium iniquitatis—the mystery of evil. There is physical evil — the mystery of why innocent people die in hurricanes and tsunamis and so on — but then this maybe even more troubling issue of moral iniquity. Why does God permit it? The classical answer of our tradition is that God permits certain evils to bring out of them a greater good.” —Bishop Robert Barron (link)
Letter #93, 2022, Wednesday, July 27: Opus Dei
Imagine a world, a society, where the “work of God” is forbidden by the authorities.
But let us first ask: what is, really, the “work of God”? (In Latin, “opus Dei,” “opus meaning “the work” and “Dei” meaning “of God.”)
It is, as the second quotation above teaches, the “work” of sanctifying the world through prayer, sacrificial love, and the proclamation of the Risen Christ (and actually the work of bringing Christ into this world of space and time through the consecration of the Eucharist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass), and doing this in all times and places, unto “the ends of the earth,” that is, to the limits of the universe…
Why would any authorities forbid this great good?
The answer is a mystery.
The answer is that some authorities actually wish to reject God, and in doing so, to reject what is holy, what gives meaning and order to the universe (the Logos, that is, Christ), and instead — either for deep reasons, or for no reasons — to embrace… what is not holy, not meaningful, not ordered, not the Logos, not Christ.
We call this fact, this state of things — exemplified at times under the Roman emperors, who executed the early Christians by the tens of thousands, and exemplified again by other regimes through the ages, including the Soviet regime in communist Russia and eastern Europe — we call this state of things, following St. Paul (Second Letter to the Thessalonians, Chapter 2), the “mystery of evil,” of sin, of lawlessness — the “mysterium iniquitatis,” the mystery of iniquity.
The authorities in such a society would wish to hermetically “seal off” their world, their society, from any contact with the divine, with the eternal, with God — the transcendent holy.
Such a world would have no shrines, at least no active ones.
Such a world would have no sacraments, no “outward signs of inward spiritual realities,” because such societies would be ideologically materialistic, denying that the spiritual is real, and so condemning it as misleading people into endless pathways leading (they would say) nowhere… condemning religious faith as “the opium of the people.”
Opus Dei’s special charism
Some people have argued that the founding and development of Opus Dei, during the terrible conflict of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), when many priests and nuns in Spain were executed, greatly influenced the character and “charism” of the initiative.
Then after World War II, in a shattered and rebuilding Europe, Opus Dei saw that it was living in a secular society which increasingly frowned on public expressions of Christian faith. In other words, faith was to be lived in the family and in the parish, but not in the university, the business, the government…
For this reason, Opus Dei developed a “low profile”-style of being present in society without specifically acknowledging that the members were Catholic and members of Opus Dei.
Hence, the reputation of Opus Dei as a “secret society” within the Catholic Church — even “a church within the Church.”
This seems to have been in part the intent of some of the leaders of the group and their supporters and advisors.
Some Church leaders thought there might be a need for a structure that might survive a persecution, even if the public structures of the Church were eliminated by civil authorities. A “lifeboat Church,” as it were…
Of course, any Church structure, in order to survive, must have a bishop who can ordain priests to continue the sacramental life of the Church.
In this context, it is not entirely out of the realm of possibility that this document could be an official one, made public now and so known to the secular authorities who may wish to control or even oppress the Church, while a second, not-public protocol might exist which would assure that Opus Dei would be led by a bishop in a moment of necessity.
The recent letter of Pope Francis regulating some aspects of the government of the Prelature of Opus Dei, takes certain decisions in order to “merge” or “coordinate” the structure of the Prelature of Opus Dei (approved by Pope John Paul II in November, 1982) with the reforms Francis recently made in the structure of the Roman Curia.
Here below is the full text of the Pope’s decisions, with some quotations from other authors who attempt to interpret these decisions.—RM
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ISSUED “MOTU PROPRIO”
OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF
“AD CHARISMA TUENDUM”
In order to safeguard the charism, my predecessor Saint John Paul II, in the Apostolic Constitution Ut sit of 28 November 1982, erected the Prelature of Opus Dei, entrusting it with the pastoral task of contributing in a special way to the evangelizing mission of the Church.
Indeed, in accordance with the gift of the Spirit received by Saint Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, the Prelature of Opus Dei, with the guidance of its Prelate, carries out the task of spreading the call to holiness in the world, through the sanctification of work and family and social commitments by means of the clerics incardinated therein and with the organic cooperation of the laity who devote themselves to apostolic works (cf. cann. 294-296, CIC).
My venerable Predecessor stated that: “With very great hope, the Church directs its attention and maternal care to Opus Dei… so that it may always be a valid and effective instrument of the saving mission that the Church fulfils for the life of the world” .
This Motu Proprio is intended to confirm the Prelature of Opus Dei in the authentically charismatic sphere of the Church, specifying its organization in keeping with the witness of the Founder, Saint Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, and with the teachings of conciliar ecclesiology on personal Prelatures.
By means of the Apostolic Constitution Praedicate Evangelium of 19 March 2022, which reforms the structure of the Roman Curia in order to better promote its service in favour of evangelization, I considered it appropriate to entrust to the Dicastery for the Clergy the competence for all that pertains to the Apostolic See regarding personal Prelatures, of which the only one erected so far is that of Opus Dei, considering the pre-eminent task carried out in it, according to the norm of law, by clerics (cf. can. 294, CIC).
Wishing, therefore, to protect the charism of Opus Dei and to promote the evangelizing action carried out by its members in the world, and at the same time having to adapt the provisions relating to the Prelature to the new organization of the Roman Curia, I order the following norms be observed.
Art. 1. The text of Art. 5 of the Apostolic Constitution Ut sit shall henceforth be replaced by the following text: “In accordance with Art. 117 of the Apostolic Constitution Praedicate Evangelium, the Prelature depends on the Dicastery for the Clergy, which, according to the subject matter, shall evaluate the relative questions with the other Dicasteries of the Roman Curia. The Dicastery for the Clergy, in dealing with the various questions, shall make use of the competencies of the other Dicasteries through appropriate consultation or transfer of files”.
Art. 2. The text of Article 6 of the Apostolic Constitution Ut sit shall henceforth be replaced by the following text: “Each year the Prelate shall submit to the Dicastery for the Clergy a report on the state of the Prelature and on the fulfilment of its apostolic work”.
Art. 3. By reason of the amendments to the Apostolic Constitution Ut sit brought about by this Apostolic Letter, the proper Statutes of the Prelature of Opus Dei shall be suitably adapted upon the proposal of the Prelature itself, to be approved by the competent bodies of the Apostolic See.
Art. 4. While fully respecting the nature of the specific charism described in the above-mentioned Apostolic Constitution, it is intended to strengthen the conviction that, for the protection of the particular gift of the Spirit, a form of governance based on charism more than on hierarchical authority is needed. Therefore, the Prelate shall not be honoured with the episcopal order.
Art. 5. Considering that the pontifical insignia are reserved for those who are conferred the episcopal order, the Prelate of Opus Dei is granted, by reason of his office, the use of the title of Supernumerary Apostolic Protonotary with the title of Reverend Monsignor and therefore may use the insignia corresponding to this title.
Art. 6. As from the entry into force of the Apostolic Constitution Praedicate Evangelium, all matters pending at the Congregation for Bishops concerning the Prelature of Opus Dei shall continue to be dealt with and decided by the Dicastery for the Clergy.
I decree that this Apostolic Letter in the form of a Motu Proprio be promulgated by publication in L’Osservatore Romano, entering into force on 4 August 2022, and then published in the official commentary of the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.
Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 14 July 2022, the tenth year of the Pontificate.
 Cf. Preamble Ut sit.
Bulletin of the Holy See Press Office, 23 July 2022
Articles about the decision of Pope Francis regarding the Opus Dei prelature
Here is a good overview of this news from Catholic News Agency (link).
Pope makes changes to Opus Dei
Oversight and leadership changes meant to “safeguard its charism,” says Francis
By Courtney Mares (CNA)
July 22, 2022
Pope Francis issued a document July 22 that changed the oversight of Opus Dei. It also decreed that its leader, the prelate, can no longer be a bishop.
In the motu proprio the Pope confirmed the Catholic organization and urged its members to safeguard its charism in order “to spread the call to holiness in the world, through the sanctification of one’s work and family and social occupations.”
“It is intended to strengthen the conviction that, for the protection of the particular gift of the Spirit, a form of government based more on the charism than on hierarchical authority is needed,” Pope Francis wrote.
The motu proprio, known as Ad charisma tuendum (“To guard the charism”), contains six articles that went into effect on August 4.
Among the changes, the prelate of Opus Dei will no longer be ordained a bishop and the prelature will fall under the competence of the Vatican Dicastery for Clergy.
This change is in accord with the pope’s reform of the Roman Curia in the Apostolic Constitution Praedicate Evangelium.
Opus Dei is a personal prelature made up of lay men and women and priests founded by Saint Josemaría Escrivá in 1928. Escrivá called the organization Opus Dei to emphasize his belief that its foundation was a “work of God,” — or, in Latin, “Opus Dei.”
Msgr. Fernando Ocariz, the current prelate of Opus Dei, was not ordained a bishop when taking office in 2017, during the current pontificate. Both his predecessors, Javier Echevarría and Álvaro del Portillo, had been made bishops by St. John Paul II. The founder of the movement, St. Josemaría, died before the prelature was established.
In his response to the changes made by Pope Francis on July 22, Ocariz said: “It is a concretization of the Holy Father’s decision to place the figure of personal prelatures in the Dicastery for the Clergy, which we filially accept.”
While the prelate will no longer become a bishop under the changes, he will receive the honorary title of protonotary apostolic.
In his decree, Pope Francis also changed some of the text of Opus Dei’s constitution, Ut sit, which was issued by John Paul II in 1982.
For example, the constitution formerly asked the prelate to submit a report on the apostolic work of Opus Dei directly to the pope every five years. Under the new changes, the prelate will now be required to submit a report to the Dicastery for the Clergy every year.
Article six states that “all questions pending at the Congregation for Bishops relating to the Prelature of Opus Dei will continue to be treated and decided by the Dicastery for the Clergy.”
“The motu proprio reminds us that the government of Opus Dei must be at the service of the charism — of which we are administrators, not owners — so that it may grow and bear fruit, confident that it is God who works all things in all people,” the organization states on its website.
And here is a comment from the present head of Opus Dei, Mons. Fernando Ocariz, who (unlike his two predecessors) is not consecrated as a bishop.
Letter from Opus Dei’s Prelate on the motu proprio “Ad charisma tuendum” (link)
Monsignor Fernando Ocariz, Prelate of Opus Dei, writes about Pope Francis’ motu proprio “Ad charisma tuendum”
By Monsignor Fernando Ocariz
July 22, 2022
My dear children: may Jesus watch over my daughters and sons for me!
This morning the motu proprio of Pope Francis Ad charisma tuendum was made public, which modifies some articles of the Apostolic Constitution Ut sit to adapt them to the norms established by the recent Apostolic Constitution Praedicate Evangelium on the Roman Curia. It is a concretization of the Holy Father’s decision to place the figure of personal prelatures in the Dicastery for the Clergy, which we filially accept.
The Holy Father encourages us to fix our attention on the gift that God gave Saint Josemaría, so as to live it fully.
He exhorts us to safeguard the charism of Opus Dei in order “to further the evangelizing action carried out by its members,” and thus “to spread the call to holiness in the world, through the sanctification of one’s work and family and social occupations” (motu proprio “Ad charisma tuendum”).
I would like this invitation of the Holy Father to resonate strongly in each and every one of us. It is an opportunity to go more deeply into the spirit that our Lord instilled in our Founder and to share it with many people in our family, work and social environments.
Regarding the provisions of the motu proprio on the figure of the Prelate, I repeat what I have pointed out to you on other occasions: we give thanks to God for the fruits of ecclesial communion that the episcopacies of Blessed Alvaro and Don Javier have brought about. At the same time, the episcopal ordination of the Prelate was not and is not necessary for the guidance of Opus Dei.
The Pope’s desire to highlight the charismatic dimension of the Work now invites us to reinforce the family atmosphere of affection and trust: the Prelate must be a guide but, above all, a father.
I also ask you to pray for the work that Pope Francis has asked us to carry out in order to adapt the particular law of the Prelature to the indications of the motu proprio “Ad charisma tuendum,” remaining – as he himself tells us – faithful to the charism.
Your Father blesses you with all his affection,
22 July 2022
Comments from various observers gathered from the internet
Commentators greeted the Vatican’s new directives concerning Opus Dei’s ecclesial oversight with varying analyses of both their causes and their effects. Here is a sampling:
(1) Eric Sammons:
Eric Sammons at Crisismagazine.com, in a July 23 article entitled “Did Opus Dei Just Receive a Slap on the Wrist from the Pope?” (link)
“The most important change is that now the Prelate will no longer become a bishop. This is significant for a number of reasons. First, having a bishop in charge of the prelature gives it a certain prestige and authority. Second, not having a bishop as Prelate creates a greater dependence upon the Vatican. Opus Dei will always have to ask for a bishop to perform ordinations, for example. A bishop also has a certain freedom of movement in the Church that a priest, even one designated a ‘Supernumerary Apostolic Protonotary,’ does not have. This appears to be another step by the pope to further his goal of greater centralization of the Church at the Vatican (in spite of his outward calls for “synodality”).
“Most observers see these changes as a ecclesial slap at the prelature, although no one’s really sure why this slap occurred. Opus Dei has always been publicly supportive of Pope Francis, so it’s not like he’s correcting a (perceived) wayward group like his actions directed toward traditional Catholics.
“Speaking of traditional Catholics, I’ve seen more than a few of them a little too happy about this motu proprio. They are noting that even if you are subservient to Francis, he’ll still come after you. I think this attitude misunderstands the work of Opus Dei, as well as shows a certain uncharitableness. (…)
“Now I realize that Opus Dei has a reputation for being ‘conservative,’ and that’s well-deserved. So maybe that’s why this pope is suspicious of them and wants to keep them in check. But if that’s true, then he misunderstands Opus Dei as much as some traditional Catholics do.”
(2) John Allen:
John Allen at Cruxnow.com (link):
“Though the Pope insisted the changes are intended to protect the founding charism of Opus Dei, in terms of church politics, it’s inevitable that many people will see them as a way of, well, clipping Opus’s wings. (…)
“Under John Paul II, Opus Dei was sort of the Kissinger of the Catholic Church. John Paul relied a great deal on Opus, and like clockwork, once a decade he found a way to express his gratitude: In 1982, he made Opus Dei a ‘personal prelature,’ to this day the only such entity in the church; in 1992, he beatified the founder, Josemaría Escrivá; and in 2002, John Paul canonized Escrivá. (,,.)
“Opus Dei may not be the 800-pound gorilla under Pope Francis that it was under John Paul, but it’s not going anywhere. Granted, it’s not everyone’s cup of coffee — but then, can you think of any personality or group that matters in the Catholic Church which actually is?
(3) Fr. John Zuhlsdorf:
Fr. John Zuhlsdorf on Fr. Z’s Blog (link)
“First, despite the early talk about decentralizing power from Rome, what we have seen again and again is concentration of more and more control in Rome. If this reign of Francis is about anything, it is about centralizing control.
“Second, the structure of the ‘personal prelature’ was often thought of as a solution for traditional groups, including the SSPX. This, therefore, does not bode well for any traditional group. In other news, water is still wet.
“Third, this could also smack of caudillo-like revenge: more and more it seems that members of Opus Dei are not entirely thrilled with all that Francis does.
“Fourth, if there was a suggestion in the texts of the Council that there could be structures like Opus Dei, it seems that the ‘spirit of Vatican II’ disagrees. But you have to have gnostic-like secret knowledge of the ‘spirit of V2’ to manuver through the special accompaniment that Opus Dei is receiving.
(4) Pedro Gabriel:
Pedro Gabriel at wherepeteris.com (link):
“The reactions from the usual suspects were swift and predictable. Fixated as they are in reading every Church affair through the lens of their own preoccupations, influential online voices of the traditionalist movement are now claiming that this decision was meant to end the possibility of solving the rift between traditionalists and the Holy See by establishing personal prelatures—similar to Opus Dei—for groups like the FSSP, the ICK, or even the SSPX (…)
“In their exercise of papal tea leaf-reading, they don’t consider that this decision may actually be connected to the recent reforms of the Roman Curia promulgated through Praedicate Evangelium. They don’t acknowledge the possibility that this resolution may be a way for Pope Francis to help Opus Dei better use their ‘charism’ in the Church, and that it is more concerned with ‘promoting an evangelizing action’ than with ‘hierarchical authority.’ And yet, this is exactly the reasoning Francis gives in Ad Charisma tuendum. By seeing this move as a ‘downgrade,’ or a way to centralize power and control, the Pope’s critics show they have the kind of worldly mindset that Francis seeks to correct.”
(5) Society of St. Pius X (SSPX)/Nicolas Dehan:
As of this writing, the Society of St. Pius X has not commented specifically on the recent motu proprio.
However, the website of the American SSPX contains an extensive article (link) by Nicolas Dehan in which he seems to question the reputatution for Catholic “conservatism” of Opus Dei , saying Opus Dei’s “lay spirituality” is fully compatible with that thrust of the Second Vatican Council to grant a greater role in the Church to the laity, and also rasising questions about the process that led to the canonization of Opus Dei’s founder, Josemaria Escriva.
In his long report, Dehan seems to also question the justification for Opus Dei’s head, the Prelate, being ordained a bishop in the first place.
“…in his homily delivered during a Mass of thanksgiving three days after the beatification, Cardinal Sebastiano Baggio, Church Chamberlain, would treat and explicate this:
“For the blessed Josemaria Escriva, unity with the Church is not something external but the very essence of all authentic apostolates. (…)
“A unity which found its rightful institutional expression in the erection of the Opus Dei into a Personal Prelature and which its Prelate’s ordination to the Episcopacy served to demonstrate how anchored it is to the very source of apostolic unity; (for) the collegiality of bishops — cum Petro et sub Petro — is based on the collegiality of the apostles.”
“The ‘pastoral phenomenon’ [of Opus Dei] is the heritage of the apostles. This is what had to be said so as to claim that it was done via apostolic authority.”
[End, Articles and comments about the Pope’s decision regarding Opus Dei]