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Sunday, January 29, 2006



I've never been misquoted in U.S. Catholic, however I have been misquoted in the Michigan Daily. I had a similar experience, the conversation was a long one, and they took the stupidest thing I had said, out of context, and used it as a quotation. Argh. I guess technically they words were mine, however the meaning was not.


Your last sentence is exactly my experience. BTW, still on for the end of Feb? I'll send out an email a little later.


You write, “I have always been repelled by the way in which Opus Dei lives out the charism, particularly the numeraries. I value what they contribute to the Church, but I have serious doubts as to whether what they practice is really a lay vocation.”

Well, there is not a “single way” to live the lay vocation because the Catholic laity are involved in many different spheres of life. Surely many have found a spiritual home within the Catholic Church in the personal prelature of Opus Dei and the various Apostolic Movements. Opus Dei and the new Apostolic Movements have been approved by competent ecclesial authority, including the Holy Father. This fact should help put your conscience at ease whether or not their charisms and what they practice are “for the laity.”

Just as Catholic culture needs to be “caught” rather than “taught”, so too is it with the different spiritualities within the Church. They are gifts from the Holy Spirit. Not all receive these types of gifts. A variety of spiritualities is a great good. I hope that it is safe to guess that you are at least equally repelled by the way many (nominal) Catholics live their lay vocation.



I think you have misunderstood my point.

First, realize that my main purpose was to clarify the problems of the journalist's article, not an in-depth examination of the spirituality of Opus Dei.

Second, don't read into my mention of being "repelled" as anything other than what the word literally implies. Namely, that *I* was not drawn to these charisms. They weren't for me in the same way that CL is. But I never suggested that the same holds true for others. It may be for them. It wasn't a judgment about the value of these charisms or those that do follow them.

So as you can see, I do not suggest there is a single way to live the lay vocation. I don't think that at all. Many of the posts on this blog would make no sense if I thought that way. But that these movements have been approved by the Church doesn't mean that they have been "certified" as being "lay" in terms of their spirituality. Frankly, I've had lengthy discussions with members of Opus Dei about my specific difficulties in seeing their charism as an expression of lay spirituality and they quite often have seen serious validity in my comments. Personally, I think Opus Dei seems far more akin in some aspects to the old religious order / third-order model than at first blush. But that they might not in fact be the "lay spirituality" that many think they are, doesn't mean that their charism isn't of value to the Church or its individual members. No more than the judgment that is now often made that the spirtuality Francis de Sales offered lay people was less a lay spirituality than what Opus Dei constitutes.

I've known knowledgeable priests who are familiar and open to the lay movements make similar comments about the Memores Domini of CL (who are similar to the consecrated laity who are members of Regnum Christi, which I know you are more familiar with) and I cannot deny that they are right in that these are quasi-religious orders in some respects.


Sure, I understand that your "repullsion" is simply your reaction. That's fine. Personally I have a similiar reaction to the Catholic Charasmatic Movement. It's not my cup-O-tea.

However, your challange of "serious doubts as to whether what they practice is really a lay vocation" is what I wanted to address. Let me add that, in the Movements, nearly all have concecrated as well as non-consecrated members. (I'm not certain if Opus Dei has the state of consecration, per se.) Not all members of these groups have the vocation to the consecrated life. Yet, both the non-consecrated as well as the consecrated live the particular charism of Holy Spirit given through the particular founder.

It is true that consecrated life is not religious life. I wouldn't call it a "quasi-religious order." However, it is similiar to religious life in many ways including an intense prayer life and a life dedicated to Apostolates in the Church. It is different, certainly, that the consecrated do not wear a habit, etc.

I know that some (and I'm not "accusing" you) approach the Movements and do not distinguish between the consecrated members and the non-consecrated members.

Regardless of the different approaches to "lay spirituality" I think that it is safe to say that "lay spirituality" should be more than "what can I do to help Father?" and "what liturgical roles can I assume?" I think that the Movements are all on the right track in this regard.



It's called a numerary in Opus Dei.

We will just have to disagree on this one. I do think that in time, some of the lay movements will change their form and become recognized more in the classical sense as religious orders. Certainly not all. And I realize many in the lay movements get offended when they hear talk like this. As much as you have said that you have wanted to address my assertion that I have doubts about whether Opus Dei's charism (as lived out, in particular by the numeraries) is a lay spirituality, but I haven't seen it in your responses. The lack of clericalism isn't the same thing as being lay in one's spirituality. Similarly, not wearing a habit, or caling what amounts to as the evangelical counsels by names other than vows, doesn't strike me as the distinguishing characteristic between being a religious order or not one.

My comment is very specific to Opus Dei and I gather you may not be very familiar with them. If you like to discuss it further, I'd be happy to do so, but I'm a bit puzzled why you are so concerned.


Well, I'm concerned because I see these new ecclesial entities as real "bright lights" for both the Church and the world. I think much criticism both inside the Church (e.g. doubts about how the live out their particular charism and jealously because they are growing while some more established groups are diminishing) and outside (e.g. accusations of "elitism" or "cult") are rooted in not understanding them the way the Church understands them. Surely, they are not above criticism and purification. For this reason they have Curial and Ecclesial oversight etc. The Neo-Catecheumenical (sp?) Way got "slapped" recently by Rome on their "unique liturgy", for example.

Neverthless, all should work together in harmony by supporting one another and speaking well of others. I am neither Opus Dei nor CL but I'm not going to go into a froth (I'm not saying your are, but some do) if their way of approaching things diverges from an RC way of approaching things.

To say that some may transform into religious orders is "far out" to say the least because Religious Orders (Dominicans, Franciscans) are based on a Rule from their founder. Sure, I'm nitpicking here because I sense that you use "religious order" in the sense of religious institute, rather than the specific sense of religious institutes being comprised of Religious Congregations (e.g. S.J. or L.C.) and Religious Orders. As far as my "reading" of these new Movements and Opus Dei goes, they are all self-conscious that they have no aspirations to religious life, per se. For those who feel called to religious life in particular, many do indeed offer this option. For example, L.C. is the religious congregation that has the same charism of R.C.

Pointed: Opus Dei is comprised mostly of lay members who live ordinary lives in the world and have families and careers, etc. This reality has been approved by the Church. Men and women are free to jpersue this path if they wish. This should put to rest any doubts on the validity of their "lay spirituality." If the Church did not scrutinze and approve then doubts are legitimate. if they diverge from their "rule" then doubts are legitimate as well.


Yes, you are right that I am using religious order in a broader sense.

I must say that I think your fundamental point that I shouldn't doubt the validity of their "lay spirituality" because the Church has approved them is not well founded. First, the Church has approved many of the movements still in a provisional sense (i.e., their fruits are still being tested). But I don't think in recognizing these movements the Church has rendered some authoritative opinion on whether the spirituality is in fact lay or not. Maybe I'm wrong in that. But I don't think so. I'm not saying I am questioning the legitimacy of their charism or whether people are drawn closer to Christ and His Church through their sharing of their charism. But I don't see how my questions or concerns threaten these facts. I too see the movements as bright lights. But I would want anyone to feel free to probe as hard as they see fit. I don't think the movements are so fragile as to crumble under such questions. If I could ask St. Escriva some questions about Opus Dei, I'd ask him some very pointed ones. But I'd also be open to the answers.


Well, if you challange (question?) —I'm sure not wholesale (I hope) but in particular aspects — Opus Dei's "lay spirituality" then it must follow that you challange the "diocesan spirituality" of Opus Dei's priests as well. Opus Dei's priests are diocesan, not religious.



I'm not sure the point of continuing this conversation, because I don't get the feeling you entertain the possibility of the questions I would raise.

But Opus Dei's priests are not diocesan priests, or at least not in the most traditional understanding of that idea. They are incardinated to the prelature (and answer to the prelate of Opus Dei), not for a diocese. It is true that there are diocesan priests who join the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross (and are considered by Opus Dei, as a result, members of Opus Dei), but those aren't who people normally think of when they are talking about an Opus Dei priest. Now does this necessarily square with maybe their canonical status? Maybe not. But I'm not discussing points of canon law here.

But more to the point, say that I am questioning such a dimension in some fashion. Why does it disturb you so?

Justin Walters

"Kovacs, who looked into both Opus Dei and Regnum Christi before settling on CL, says a sense of community is often lacking in some parishes, which is why he turned to a movement for support."

I agree that the sense of community if often lacking. But a fear of mine is that movements such as CL can detract from the potential community in a parish. I have no experience of CL so you can set me straight here. I am concerned for the parish that loses the rich resource of those people who commit themselves (exclusively?) to CL or other movements. These are people who have a strong sense of their need for community, the very people who nourish the hungry, the so many hungry that there are in our parishes today.

What about leaning on CL for strength, for strong community, but trying to continually give this back to your parish? Maybe that's already a precept of CL? I would be thrilled to hear that it is. A constant effort to stay intimately involved in your parish, otherwise what are you saying about parishes anyway? I really feel that we're called to learn from these movements and try to integrate their strengths into the parish. Think of how many people are starving for this.


Those who are members of the Catholic Movements are usually the ones who are most involved in parish life. From my experience they integrate their spirituality into the local parishes very well. It is NOT a zero-sum gain: "what is given to the movement is taken away from the parish." However, there is resistance in some parishes, mostly from those who organize activities that others are not attracted to.

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