BEYOND THE THRESHOLD by Maria del Carmen Tapia


A Life in Opus Dei
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 A disturbing indictment of the methods and ethos of Opus Dei, from a devout Catholic who spent 18 years in the organization and worked at its highest levels. Opus Dei, a worldwide Roman Catholic society for professional lay men and women, founded in Franco's Spain by Fr. JosÇ Mar°a Escriv† de Balaguer (who died in 1994), now boasts over 70,000 members and has the high regard of Pope John Paul II. Controversy has surrounded ``The Work'' (Opus Dei means ``the work of God'') from its earliest days. Its penchant for secrecy and repeated allegations of cultlike manipulation have led many priests and bishops to be wary of the organization. Tapia's account will do much to increase these misgivings. She tells how in 1948, when working at the prestigious Council for Scientific Research in Madrid, she was persuaded to separate from her family, break off her engagement to her fiancÇ, and enter Opus Dei's inner circle of celibate ``numeraries.'' For five years, she worked closely with Escriv† in Rome and then spent almost ten years as head of the Women's Section in Venezuela. She fell from favor for questioning some of Escriv†'s directives and adopting a more open attitude. In a suspenseful final section she describes being called back to Rome, where she was held incommunicado and forced to endure attempts to break her of her ``bad spirit.'' After her final expulsion, Opus Dei tried to obliterate any evidence of her presence in the organization. Tapia describes members' uncritical adulation of the autocratic Escriv†, the fierce psychological pressure to recruit new members, and the complex system of informers within the organization. She also notes the toll these elements take on members, including nervous breakdowns and suicides. Her account is all the more compelling in view of Opus Dei's current attempts to force Escriv†'s canonization. Avoiding facile sensationalism, Tapia's relentlessly detailed chronicle shows how idealism can lead to the repression of basic human rights.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-8264-0937-7
Page count: 388pp
Publisher: Continuum
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1997