Thought Reform
Thought Reform


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I just read your information on the Opus Dei unofficial homepage.  It is 
refreshing to read.  I was a member of Opus Dei for about 1 1/2 years.  It 
was an awful experience.  I am a convert to Catholicism from Presbyterianism. 
 I joined the Catholic church basically because of the sacraments,
particularly the eucharist.  I felt then and still do now, that Catholicism
is the fulfillment of Christianity.  But this does not denounce
Protestantism.  It merely helps us to see perhaps more of Christ, especially
in the spiritual life.

After being Catholic for about 6 months, I discovered Opus Dei and it
appealed to me because of the Orthodoxy.  I was married at the time with one
child and another on the way.  They were very friendly, but a llittle
controlling.  I didn't think anything of it especially coming from an
alcoholic home.  It was somewhat comforting to have the "truth." It was also
a great boost to the ego to be welcomed to such a group as this.  It also
coincided with many of my leftover Protestant tendencies, to be a part of a
group that was exclusive, ie the wheat, but none of the chaff.

After joining and beginning the process of receiving my courses one on one
with my spiritual director, I began to feel very uncomfortable.  Many of the
things being taught like "holy coercion" and their various ideas on doing
apostolate, I began to see that they really saw themselves as the Church. 
This really bothered me being a convert.  I had joined the church and had
pleaded allegiance to the teachings of this church, the body of Christ.  But
the church, like a father, has some big "no nos" on its sides, no murder,
etc, but has left many other things up to the freedom of the individual. 
The rosary is not mandatory; it may be helpful to some people in their
devotion, but the church does not require this for salvation.  Lets look to
the common ground, instead of placing yokes on people that the church does
not do.

After seeing some of these problems, I sought to dialogue with my contacts
in the work on these issues.  You don't dialogue with these people on these
things.  They are RIGHT.  If you don't see things their way, there is
something wrong with you.  Finally I decided it was time to get out.  It was
eating up all of my mental energies fighting with them in my head after each
meeting with them.  I told them I didn't think I had a vocation to the Work. 
They then responded with informing me that it was a sin to doubt my vocation
to Opus Dei.  I asked how this could be, seeing it wasn't a sacrament like
my marriage,etc.  They then responded that it was worse to doubt my vocation
to Opus Dei than to doubt my marriage.  A bell went off in my head.  This
was scarey.  I told them that was it; I was leaving.

What happened next began the worst two years of my life and it still  creeps
up and touches me even now at the end of this two years.  They informed me
that I had psychological problems and that was why Opus Dei did not "work"
for me. It was so hard for me to accept them because I didn't see things
clearly.  I trusted these people explicitly.  As you wrote in your web page,
they are good people.  They are devout Catholics.  I believed what they said
and crucified myself over and over again whenever I disagreed with them
about anything.  If you don't see things their way, you are either too
filled with pride, or don't pray enough or many other things.  It is mind
control at it's best.

I finally sought counselling.  I had to ask the counsellor if I was crazy. 
It was like being deprogrammed.  I felt so guilty anytime I even mentioned
anything derogatory toward the work.  My mind was so screwed up.  I had
become so scrupulous and legalisitc after the Work.  Even today, two years
after leaving, I struggle with seeing God as a loving Father.  When I
encounter difficulties in my spiritual life, I blame myself and don't allow
God to love me.  Opus Dei got inside my head and its very difficult to
remove them from my relationship with my heavenly Father.  Instead of
hearing His words of forgiveness, I still have the words of Opus Dei echoing
in there that I'll never be happy if I leave them.

Yes, you are right.  There is something wrong with their way of dealing with
people.  When I left and went through severe anxiety and depression as a
result of my hating myself over leaving, I felt NO COMPASSION from them
whatsoever.  I know they mean well and have no conception that they are
hurting people.  This is because they see and hear only through Opus Dei
glasses.  They can't allow things to be out of their control.  Where's the
room for the Holy Spirit?

I am sickened and saddened by my experience with Opus Dei.  God is teaching
me so much through it, but it has definately been my dark night of the soul. 
Pray for those in the Work and especially those, like me, who have left.  It
has been very painful to rebuild my spiritual life, but I wasn't planted in
good soil.  It was rocky and full of thorns.  Now, God can replant me in
good soil and water me with His grace and love.  Sincerely, Karin

P.S.  Two books which have been very helpful to me these last 2 years have
been, Hannah Whitall Smith's book, The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life
and Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God.  Perhaps you
could mention these books to any others who might write to you concerning
their own bad experiences.

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