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MEXICO: The Opus Dei amid the Legionnaires of Christ

I asked Raúl Escalante, a Mexican Catholic, what he thought about the Opus Dei and the Legionnaires of Christ. He replies: "I am uneasy about the roles of both the Opus Dei and the Legionnaires of Christ, both of whom are pragmatic in their use of market forces and political power for evangelical purposes (much like the Jesuits of yester-year).

Both organizations make efforts to alleviate poverty (the Legionnaires are outstanding), but both cultivate the upper classes, and thus have a stake in ensuring that they maintain their wealth and power. While extremely conservative in their religious beliefs, they are not so strict in censuring the behavior of their "flocks". To give an example, their schools are very rowdy, since many of the youngsters who attend are usually heirs to the most powerful business-people in the country and know it well (I heard of a professor who was suspended head-down from a third-floor window by a student who was about to fail a course).

I have no quarrel with the Opus Dei or the Legionnaires (my brother-in-law joined the latter at 19), but do not subscribe to the openly elitist way that they run their operations. I believe in social mobility through work and genius, (which is one of the reasons I admire US business culture); I don't believe in setting up clubby barriers to competition.

About the Opus Dei, I know very little other than stories told by friends who lived in the "Residencia de la Universidad Panamericana", and whom I studied with at ITAM ( the Monterrey Tehnological Institute, which has branches all over Mexico).. Some are funny (like the time someone dropped an Alka Seltzer in the basin of Holy Water and ran out of the Chapel crying that the Holy Spirit had revealed Himself [he was expelled]), others not so funny. In general, boarders had little personal privacy (rooms were searched periodically for pornographic materials, etc.), the atmosphere was controlled and rules strict (the TV remote was always held by a supernumerary), but lodgings were affordable, the food, good, and boarders were left alone except for the occasional invitation to an evangelical retreat".

My comment: Is it male chauvinism to call the Holy Spirit "he", or is it simply that "spirit" is masculine in Spanish? Pope John Paul II seems to favor the Legionnaires, although he plans to canonize Father Escrivá, founder of the Opus Dei, the required miracle having been accepted. I do not believe in such miracles, which in any case benefit only one person, not the millions of suffering. I wonder what both organizations think about the present Church crisis? The media tell us little of substance about that crisis. Clergy mechanically say that the Holy Father, etc,etc. He reportedly will not consider the problem of celibacy, but the clergy must be discussing it. I have been struck myself by the contrast between the public statements of the clergy, and the lively private discussions among themselves. It is like the contrast between bland diplomatic communiqués and the fierce private arguments before they are issued. A key problem is that vocations have dropped vertically. Many seminaries are almost empty, and the quality of those signing up is low. I would like to see a progressive American elected Pope, but the problem is to find one papabile.

Ronald Hilton - 4/23/02