Self-flagellation of John Paul II: the Opus Dei Connection
Self-flagellation of John Paul II
The M+G+R Foundation
RELIGIOUS ASCETICISM [Self Mortification]
The Serious Consequences of its Abuse
BACKGROUND and PURPOSE of DOCUMENT
Ascetic practice, a common characteristic of many religions, may be defined as:
The practice by which the body (the physical component of a human being)] is subjected to the soul (the spiritual component of a human being).
This is attained through the voluntary denial of physical pleasures, superfluous needs and bodily comforts. The most common practice is periodic fasting. The most severe, spiritually dangerous and not of Divine origin (0) form of asceticism is self flagellation.
Because certain individuals derive a perverse sexual pleasure from flagellation, then abstaining from normal sexual pleasures to indulge in deviant sexual pleasure such as masochistic flagellation, instead of edifying the soul, it contributes to its destruction.
As Campbell Oman (1) proposes, it is quite possible that the first original practice of asceticism came into being from a desire of self humiliation before the invisible powers - to invoke them as well as to expiate the neglect of their obligations.
Throughout the centuries, those who with great devotion devoted most of their lives to observation and meditation, realized that through the practice of asceticism they obtained unexpected merits and benefits of supernatural origin and magnitude.
The purpose of this brief survey is to: (a) Illustrate how those benefits, obtained by means of ascetic practices, can be, and are being utilized to secure material benefits, precisely denying the original intent of such practices; and (b) Assist and encourage the faithful to avoid such pitfalls.
Be Aware: This misapplication of supernatural graces, sooner or later, will bring upon the abuser, and even the innocent victims of such deviation, grave consequences.
DEVELOPMENT of CENTRAL THEME
Abuses of Divine Graces
Once again, the system of sublime merits which was provided by God in His Omnisapient Creative Design for man, has been placed at the service of evil by fallen man. We shall use two common examples of the misuse of the Creative Design of God, in an effort to convey this concept.
Tasting Ability The system created for a human to be able to discern tastes provides, among other benefits, the secondary opportunity of giving great pleasure in the tasting of something that is very pleasant to that particular individual.
The misuse of the Tasting Ability results in: Obesity, a multitude of biochemical disorders and a psychological dependence on oral satisfaction.
The most sublime of the physical-spiritual capacities of a human is the system designed by God so that, in union with the Supreme Creator, the human race may be perpetuated. Thus, man becomes an integral participant of creation itself.
In one single system God combined: (a) The biological system to produce another human being; (b) The system to profoundly bond the physical-spiritual relationship between a man and a woman who, by becoming "one flesh", co-create, with Divine participation, a new human being; and (c) A pleasurable and relaxing method to physically express an intense spiritual communion with the spouse.
The misuse of the Erotic Capacity results in: Complete moral and physical decadence to the extreme of promoting the abortion of the result of a sexual union/experience because it is considered a mere a disposable byproduct.
Consequences of the Abuses The use of any of the mechanisms created by God to sustain His Creation outside the intended context, i.e., against the Divine designs, will yield, sooner or later, detrimental results.
Most specifically: The use of ascetic practices for the purposes of accumulating material wealth and consolidate temporal power is against Divine Laws. (2)
When we pursue the accumulation of material wealth and the acquisition of temporal power, regardless under the guise it is done to hide the true intentions, we are refusing to be dependent on God and base our security on the material world. This is precisely the reverse of the Divine Plan for humanity. (2)
This behavior also violates the First Divine Commandment (3), deny all the Divine Blessings (4) and bring upon the abusers all the woes which our Lord Jesus Christ willed upon the spiritually deviant (5).
Details About A Great Abuse Being Perpetrated Utilizing Religious Asceticism
When the human body is subjected to a rigorous physical fitness program, it assumes great strength and physical development. This is the logical result of the system created by God for the physical body. Such physical strength and endurance may be used to serve good or to serve evil. The decision on how to utilize such gifts rests in our hands.
Once the physical body is subjected to the spiritual body as the result of ascetic practices, the soul grows and automatically acquires certain supernatural benefits and powers which may be used to serve either good or evil. This is why our Lord Jesus Christ spoke in parables (6) and warned us against casting pearls to the dogs (7).
If the austerities practiced are done under the mantle of piety and religiosity, the apparent holiness that accompanies such behavior, not only draws popular admiration, but also much temporal power. Many ambitious and power hungry men are drawn to ascetic practices with the only purpose of acquiring and enjoying such earthly advantages.
The spiritual benefits associated with ascetic practices may be used strictly to serve evil and against God. Let us not forget that Lucifer fell when he rebelled against God but, the power inherent to his original condition before his fall was not lost after the fall. He kept it and uses it for evil.
A Flagrant and Serious Example If the ascetic practices are legitimized through the falsification of pious intentions, the results are worse: Ecclesiastical Masonry (8), which, as an invisible cancer, penetrates the furthest recesses of the fabric of the Church until it finally takes control of its temporal Nervous System: The Vatican.
The leaders and sympathizers of the Ecclesiastic Masonry give the appearance of being very religious and pious, thus, by the time the other members and the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church realize what is taking place, it will be too late. They will find themselves already enmeshed in their cancerous fabric and any overt action by them to protect themselves and protect the integrity of the Church will give the impression of disobedience and ecclesiastical scandal.
This is why when the real antiChrist manifests itself, it has to be recognized for what he really is: The falseChrist. That is: He who appear to be but is not.
Why does God allow this situation to develop?
For the same reason that He allows other evil to be manifest in the world: Because the free will that God granted His human and spiritual creatures "shall not be violated" by order of a Divine Decree.
It is inevitable to note that, of all religious organizations within and in the periphery of the Church, there is one which, according to a multitude of reports and personal observations, appears to exhibit those characteristics (9).
We say appears because discretion is the byword of its members and sympathizers.
Therefore, like with the detection of sub atomic particles, their presence and influence may only be detected by inference and, shall we say, their subtle interference in world affairs.
It may be a coincidence but, by functioning essentially independently of the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy and surrounding the Supreme Pontiff with its members, to the point of constituting the official voice of The Vatican, the Opus Dei has essentially gained control of the Roman Catholic Church, thus, propitiating the fulfillment of certain Biblical prophecies related to The End of These Times (10).
NOTE Added on August 29, 2001 [Memorial of Martyrdom of John the Baptist] and expanded on July 26, 2004 (Memorial of Sts. Anne and Joaquim):
Imagine if H.H. John Paul II was entrapped by such deceit. By the time he would realize what happened it would be too late. Maria del Carmen Tapia and others have been able to free themselves from the enemy's yoke after many years but, unfortunately, H.H. John Paul II has not been able to do so. In there lies the secret of the living Martyrdom of his transitional Pontificate.
For those who have been led to believe that the Pope is a superhuman creature and not subject to the failings of all humans, we suggest that they become familiar with the Church History and Tradition, beginning with the history of all Popes from the time Peter became the first Roman Pontiff in the year 42 A.D., approximately nine years after (11) the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
May those who have ears to hear, hear!
Notes: (0) St. Mark 5:1-5, 1 Kings 18:25-28
(1) "Místicos, Ascetas y Santos de la India"' John Campbell Oman, Editorial Posada, S.A., México, 1987. Original: London 1903.
(2) St. Matthew 6:24-34
(3) Exodus 20:2-3; St. Luke 10:26-27; St. Matthew 22:36-40; St. Matthew 6:19-21;24,27,31-34; etc.
(4) St. Luke 6:20-23; etc.
(5) St. Luke 6:24-26; etc.
(6) St. Mark 4:11-12
(7) St. Matthew 7:6
(8) Ecclesiastical Masonry - Does not refer to the traditional Masonry established in Lodges centuries ago.
(9) "Las Puertas del Infierno", Sección 9 Ricardo de la Cierva, Editorial Fénix, Toledo, 1995
(10) Revelations 13:11-13; Daniel 9:24-27; St. Matthew 24:15
(11) Please note that there was not "an official" Pope and yet the world survived because the true Foundation Rock is Jesus Christ Who Was, Is and Will Ever Be Forever, Amen!
Copyright 2000 - 2004 by The M+G+R Foundation. All rights reserved.
Originally published on November 10, 1995.
John Paul II’s Penitential Practices: The Opus Dei Connection
Posted on January 30, 2010 by William Lindsey
John Paul II and the Opus Dei Bishop of Rome,
Alvaro del Portillo
John Paul II and Alvaro del Portillo
As a supplement to what I posted here recently about Pope John Paul II’s penitential practices, I’d like to offer readers a brief overview of some resources for further study. These resources focus on a particular topic—namely, the use of self-flagellation and other penitential practices such as wearing chains with sharp points that dig into the skin (cilices) by a contemporary Catholic movement, Opus Dei.
Since not all readers may be aware that there is at least one group in the contemporary Catholic church which encourages its members to whip themselves, to wear cilices, and to sleep on the floor or on boards, I’d like to draw attention to the important body of literature that has developed to study and critique Opus Dei’s penitential practices in recent years. It’s also significant that John Paul II was closely connected to Opus Dei and actively promoted and protected this controversial religious group—about which more below.
Opus Dei Headquarters in New York $75 million
It’s clear to me from the response to the revelations about John Paul’s practice of self-flagellation that this is a topic which elicits strong attention among Catholics and others interested in the spiritual life today. Cindy Wooden’s summary of the story of JPII’s penitential practices at the National Catholic Reporter website, to which my previous posting links, has attracted a thread of lively commentary, most of it strongly critical of the use of practices of self-mortification such as whipping oneself in the contemporary church.
The response to the revelation that JPII practiced self-flagellation at this and other Catholic online threads suggests to me that I am perhaps justified in the conclusion I reached in my previous posting about this topic: that is, that the sensus fidelium finds such practices of self-punishment not merely difficult to understand and justify, but downright abhorrent. As my previous posting notes, it’s also clear to me that, from the center of the church, from the inner power circles of the church’s ruling elite, there’s an equally strong presupposition that the faithful will be awed when they learn that the previous pope beat himself and slept on the floor to do penance.
The disparity between the narrative about sanctity in the contemporary church that the center wishes to impose (and rehabilitate, since it’s an essentially medieval narrative), and where many Catholics find themselves in our practice of the faith today, is striking. It does not bode well for the future of the church.
For many of us, there is a clear and self-evident line from the gospel narratives about the life of Jesus to the witness provided by Archbishop Oscar Romero, Jean Donovan, and Sisters Dorothy Kazel, Ita Ford, and Maura Clarke. At the same time, for many of us, the line from the life and practice of Jesus to the revelations about Pope John Paul II’s practice of self-flagellation is anything but self-evident.
That those releasing this information about the former pope expect Catholics to be bowled over (in a positive sense) by the revelation that John Paul beat himself indicates something—something crucially important—about how decisively out of touch the center has gotten with the rest of the people of God. Far from silencing all critics of the process of canonization for JPII, the revelation that he practiced self-flagellation has succeeded only in raising serious red flags among many of the faithful about the sanctity of the previous pope—and, by inference, about the march backwards he and his right-hand advisor, Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict, instituted in the church following Vatican II.
Opus Dei and Practices of Self-Mortification
For those seeking more theological background about the practice of self-flagellation, wearing cilices, sleeping on the floor or on boards, and so forth, in the church today, I highly recommend a rich trove of articles at the website of the Opus Dei Awareness Network (ODAN). As the ODAN site notes, ODAN is a “worldwide community of people who have had painful experiences as a result of their association with Opus Dei.”
In a moment, I’ll point to a number of sources that provide information about precisely what the Opus Dei movement is and does. Before I do that, though, I want to draw attention to the striking parallels between Opus Dei’s penitential practices and those employed by JPII—parallels that should not be surprising, once one realizes how closely aligned with this secretive movement the former pope was, and how much he protected the movement against its detractors.
As the ODAN site notes, Opus Dei actively promotes practices of corporal mortification for its lay and ordained members. It does so in response to the insight of its founder, Spanish priest Josemaria Escrivá, that pain is blessed and purifies the soul: in his 1939 spiritual guide for Opus Dei members entitled The Way, Escrivá wrote, “Blessed be pain. Loved be pain. Sanctified be pain. . . Glorified be pain!”
And so the Constitution (article 147) of this religious movement dictates that its members should wear a cilice (the chain with sharpened points to inflict pain) at least two hours daily, “for the purpose of chastising the body and reducing it to servitude,” and that they shall sleep on the floor to mortify the flesh.
The ODAN website contains numerous articles providing first-hand testimony by former Opus Dei members about its penitential practices, with reflections about the harm these practices inflicted on those who have now broken with the Opus Dei movement. These include, for instance, an article entitled “Making Modern-Day Martyrs Using Medieval Methods” by a former lay member of Opus Dei, Sharon Clasen.
Clasen notes that a secret internal Opus Dei document provides eyewitness accounts by Fr. Alvaro del Portillo, who succeeded Escrivá as head of Opus Dei, about Escrivá’s practice of self-flagellation. Portillo notes that on at least one occasion when he was in the room in which Escrivá flogged himself, the floor was covered in blood following the more than 1,000 whip-blows Escrivá gave to his back.
For Clasen, the revelation that Opus Dei encouraged—indeed, demanded—such practices of its followers, in imitation of the founder (“glorified be pain!”) created cognitive dissonance. She was attracted to a movement that she understood to provide lay Christians a way to follow Jesus in their workplaces and everyday lives.
But she soon found that there was a perplexing streak of “cruel self-mutilation in Opus Dei” that seemed to run in precisely the opposite direction—not towards the inner freedom that is a hallmark of the Spirit’s presence in a Christian’s life, but towards a psychological dependence on self-mutilation:
What first attracted me to Opus Dei was the message that ordinary Christians could sanctify their work in the middle of the world. However, this new knowledge about ecstasies and cruel self-mutilation confused me. I thought I had joined a lay organization, but more and more it was revealing itself to me to be a religious organization. It went against my nature to do violence to myself as Escriva had done, but I dismissed my inner voice and trusted the judgment of my spiritual director. Trying to emulate the founder, I found some tiny metal safety pins and pressed them into the knots of my whip in order to inflict more pain. Feeling guilty for doubting my vocation, I whipped my back with more pain as a way to punish myself. While it is true that some who have suffered much pain have achieved greatness, it is also true that great suffering can cripple people inside. Those who become crippled might believe that they would not be able to survive in the world without Opus Dei’s walking stick.
As Clasen notes, though Opus Dei seeks to downplay the centrality of practices of self-mutilation in its spirituality—“It’s just like getting the body in shape for a marathon”—there is abundant testimony by former Opus Dei members proving the importance of self-flagellation and other penitential practices to Opus Dei’s spirituality. Clasen cites a 2005 account by former Opus Dei member John Roche, “Whips, Spiked Garters, and Bloodshed . . . ,” who states,
As a member of Opus Dei, I was expected to undertake a weekly discipline of private self-flagellation 40 strokes with a waxed, corded whip. We were encouraged to ‘draw a little blood’ and frequently told how ‘the Father’ the founder of the organisation drew so much blood that he spattered the walls and ceiling with it.
In 1988, a Spanish former member of the movement, Agustina López de los Mozos Muñoz, wrote a similar statement about the penitential practices of Opus Dei, noting that her spiritual advisor told her that these are especially important for women, who need to “keep their bodies in check” by denying themselves comforts that might lead to temptation.
In another article entitled “How Opus Dei is Cult-Like” at the ODAN website, Clasen suggests that Opus Dei relies on such extreme penitential practices in order to strengthen the authoritarian control of the group’s leaders over its members. She relates the use of practices of pronounced self-mortification in Opus Dei to Steve Hassan’s BITE model of mind control, as that model is set forth in his study Combating Cult Mind Control (Sommerville, MA: Freedom of Mind Press, 2000).
Hassan notes that cults succeed in controlling the minds of their members by controlling behavior (B), the information available to members (I), the thought processes of members (T), and their emotional states (E). In Clasen’s view, Opus Dei’s insistence on the use of self-punishing devices like the cilice and on practices like self-flagellation is consistent with cultic groups’ attempts to control the minds of their members by controlling their behavior, emotions, and thought processes.
What Is Opus Dei?
There’s a vast body of literature about the Opus Dei movement—a growing body of literature. In what follows, I want to point to only a handful of important resources that may be of use to those seeking information about this secretive, worldwide religious movement, which has strong connections to highly placed and powerful economic and political elites, as well as to the Vatican.
1. An indispensable resource for those seeking an overview of Opus Dei is Michael Walsh’s book Opus Dei: An Investigation into the Powerful Secretive Society within the Catholic Church (NY: HarperCollins, 1992 and 2004).
2. Frank Cocozzelli, a contributor to the Open Tabernacle site, has published important work on Opus Dei at various websites, including Talk to Action. Frank’s article “The Catholic Right, Part Two: An Introduction to Opus Dei” notes the fascist roots of this movement in Franco’s Spain, and the fact that Opus Dei is “openly more concerned with the economic self-interest of ‘friends’ who already have superfluous wealth and power, often at the expense of the economically less powerful.”
As Frank notes in articles entitled “Opus Dei Declares War on Religious Freedom” and “The Catholic Right’s Art of Constructive Schism—Part 1,” there appears to be a deliberate strategy on the part of Opus Dei to create schism within the contemporary Catholic church, in order to purge the church of “dissident” Catholics who continue to promote the collegial model of church set forth in Vatican II’s documents and the social justice teachings of the church.
3. A valuable discussion of Frank Cocozzelli’s analysis of the “constructive schism” that Opus Dei appears to be promoting in the church is also found at the Wild Reed blog, maintained by another Open Tabernacle contributor, Michael Bayly. Michael’s analysis focuses on a highly placed Opus Dei member in the United States, Jesuit Fr. John McCloskey, whom journalist Chris Suellentrop calls “the Catholic Church’s K Street lobbyist” in a 2002 Slate article noting the ease with which McCloskey travels in elite circles. As Suellentrop indicates, “That focus on elites is a hallmark of Opus Dei . . . .”
4. Opus Dei’s strong ties to both the intelligence communities of some Western nations, and to the Vatican bank, are studied in an important December 2009 posting by another Open Tabernacle contributor, Colleen Kochivar-Baker. As Colleen notes, John Paul II made Opus Dei his own personal prelature in the midst of troubling revelations about financial wheelings and dealings by the Vatican Bank. (Frank Cocozzelli’s introduction to Opus Dei also notes that this “highy secretive and ultra-conservative group” was the personal prelature of JPII.)
5. As Fr. James Martin notes in an America article entitled “Opus Dei in the United States,” Opus Dei is the only personal prelature in the church, a designation that gives it the status of religious communities that can operate freely across geographical boundaries. Its critics have wondered why what is ostensibly a lay movement would require such freedom and status.
Fr. Martin also notes critics’ concerns that John Paul II “rigged” the canonization process of Opus Dei’s founder Josemaria Escrivá, preventing the usual process of testimony by those with information critical of the saint-to-be, including allegations that Escrivá had pro-Nazi sympathies.
6. More recently, a number of journalists including Danielle Truszkovsky have uncovered strong indicators of Opus Dei’s ties to influential anti-gay groups in the United States like the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). Truszkovsky notes that NOM shares an office in Princeton, NJ, with the Witherspoon Institute, identified by ODAN as an Opus Deil affiliate. Louis Tellez, Witherspoon’s president, is on NOM’s board, and is also an Opus Dei member. There are strong suggestions, many NOM watchdogs believe, that among the financial backers NOM does not wish to disclose as it works to roll back gay rights in the U.S. is Opus Dei.
As this brief overview suggests—and there are many more resources available for those seeking information about Opus Dei and its practices—the confluence of John Paul II’s penitential practices and those of this secretive, influential right-wing Catholic group which JPII personally protected and promoted raises troubling questions.
For many of us, those questions drive right to heart of the push to have Pope John Paul II canonized.
John Paul II: “Santo Subito” or “Aspetta Un Attimo?”
Posted on January 27, 2011 by frankcocozzelli
Originally posted at Talk to Action.
On January 14, 2011 The New York Times reported that the late Pope John Paul II will be beatified (able to be venerated, the last step before sainthood) this Spring by the Catholic Church.
Four days later the Times also reported disturbing news that should give the Church pause: On the late pontiff’s watch, the Vatican warned Irish bishops “…that the Vatican had reservations about mandatory reporting for both “moral and canonical” reasons” adding the threat that “bishops who failed to follow canon law procedures precisely might find that their decisions to defrock abusive clerics would be overturned on appeal by Vatican courts.”
When the late Pope John Paul II was being laid to rest some in the crowd in Saint Peter’s Square chanted “santo subito! – Italian for “sainthood now! But in light of recent news some of them might now be thinking “aspetta un attimo!” or, “wait a minute!”
As the Associated Press recently reported:
DUBLIN (AP) – A 1997 letter from the Vatican warned Ireland’s Catholic bishops not to report all suspected child-abuse cases to police – a disclosure that victims’ groups described as “the smoking gun” needed to show that the church enforced a worldwide culture of covering up crimes by pedophile priests.
The newly revealed letter, obtained by Irish broadcasters RTE and provided to The Associated Press, documents the Vatican’s rejection of a 1996 Irish church initiative to begin helping police identify pedophile priests following Ireland’s first wave of publicly disclosed lawsuits.
The letter undermines persistent Vatican claims, particularly when seeking to defend itself in U.S. lawsuits, that Rome never instructed local bishops to withhold evidence or suspicion of crimes from police. It instead emphasizes the church’s right to handle all child-abuse allegations and determine punishments in house rather than give that power to civil authorities.
Almost immediately, conservative spin machines such as Fox News and NewsBusters sprung into action, claiming that the letter was no smoking gun (NewsBusters is a project of the Media Research Center which was founded by Catholic Right activist L. Brent Bozell III). Other sources attributed the Times’s reading of the letter to “vagueness.”
But on January 20, 2011 the organization BishopAccountability.org released a 1984 letter to the Diocese of Tucson Arizona regarding an abusive priest that may well serve to clear up any vagueness:
“…under no condition whatever ought the afore-mentioned files be surrendered to any lawyer or judge whatsoever. The files of a Bishop concerning his priests are altogether private; their forced acquisition by civil authority would be an intolerable attack upon the free exercise of religion in the United States.”
“…make known immediately and with clarity that no priest’s files will be sent to any lawyer or judge whatever.”
More importantly, was John Paul II the source of these instructions? If so, there is no saintly quality to such directives.
It is true that John Paul was a charismatic leader. But he was also dogmatic and divisive. He also elevated Opus Dei and other secretive reactionary groups were elevated within the hierarchy. One of these, the Legionnaires of Christ, whose founder Marcial Maciel was a favorite of the late pontiff, was forced into retirement because of decades-long incidents of sexual abuse. This too was part and parcel of his papacy.
As I have argued in the past, the real issue is accountability, which, in turn, speaks to the issue of the separation of church and state. There are no exemptions from the criminal laws of the United States for religious leaders and institutions.
More than his immediate predecessors, John Paul II attempted to directly effect orthodox notions of morality upon secular societies, especially within the United States. Economic issues took a back seat to biological issues. Those politicians who supported more reckless forms of capitalism were often unchallenged by Church leaders as long as they tended to oppose abortion rights, marriage equality and embryonic stem cell research. And to that end, the late pontiff stacked the hierarchy with dogmatists — even those with backgrounds of rampant sexual abuse or the cover-up of abuses.
And that is why I say to those Catholics who still say of John Paul II. “santo subito”: Would a saint have ignored or covered-up priestly pedophilia?