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Josemaría Escrivá/Controversy

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Alleged statements

Monsignor Vladimir Felzmann, a former Opus Dei priest claims to have overheard Escriva make several controversial statements to a close friend. Felzmann sent several letters to Father Flavio Capucci, overseeing the proceedings of the nine judges of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The letters were reviewed and later ignored due to Felzmann's previous statements of admiration for Escrivá. The alleged statements by Escrivá include: "Vlad, Hitler couldn't have been such a bad person. He couldn't have killed six million. It couldn't have been more than four million." and "Hitler against the Jews, Hitler against the Slavs, this means Hitler against Communism."[1] On the other hand, Álvaro del Portillo, the former Prelate of Opus Dei, said that any claims that Escrivá supported Hitler were "a patent falsehood," that were part of "a slanderous campaign".[2] He and others have stated that Escrivá regarded Hitler as a "pagan", a "racist" and a "tyrant".[3]

Many other concerns rose during Escrivá's nomination for sainthood, mainly denoting an ill-tempered behavior of Escrivá. Father Capucci, the postulator over the nomination for Sainthood described the chief criticisms that surrounded Escrivá's attitude. They included: "he had a bad temper, that he was cruel, that he was vain, that he was close to Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, that he was pro-Nazi and that he was so dismayed by the Second Vatican Council that he even traveled to Greece with the idea that he might convert to the Orthodox religion"[4]

One of the most controversial accusations made by the opposition to Opus Dei is that Escrivá was active in bolstering the support of Fascist regimes,[5] including that of Francisco Franco and Augusto Pinochet in Chile. Peter Berglar, a German historian and member of Opus Dei argued that connecting Opus Dei with fascist regimes is a "gross slander,"[6] and there were notable members of Opus Dei, such as Antonio Fontan and Rafael Calvo Serer, who were vocal critics of the Franco regime. Journalist Noam Friedlander state that allegations about Opus Dei involvement in the Pinochet regime are "unproven tales."[7] Escriva's close collaborators were unanimous that Escriva despised dictatorships.[8][9][10]

Report of discordance among canonization judges

A Newsweek article by Kenneth L. Woodward claimed that, of the nine judges of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints presiding over Escrivá's nomination for sainthood, two requested a suspension of the proceedings and did not approve the cause. The two judges were said to be Archbishop Luigi de Magistris, deputy head of the Vatican's Sacred Penitentiary, and Msgr. Justo Fernandez Alonso, rector of the Spanish National Church in Rome. However, José Saraiva Martins, Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, denied that there was a dissenting vote.[11] The Vatican also stated that the Medical Consultants for the Congregation unanimously affirmed that the miraculous cure of a cancerous state of chronic radiodermatitis in its third and irreversible stage in a certain Dr. Nevado was "very quick, complete, lasting and scientifically unexplainable". After six months, the Theological Consultants, according to the Vatican, also unanimously attributed this cure to Escriva.[12]

Primary critics of Escrivá

Many opposition groups and individuals have emerged both before and after the canonization of Escrivá. They include the Opus Dei Awareness Network (ODAN), a collaboration of former members which has taken a strong stance against Opus Dei and its allegedly violent practices. Former Opus Dei members who were refused a hearing during the nomination for sainthood of Escrivá include Maria del Carmen Tapia, Father Vladimir Feltzman and John Roche. John L. Allen, Jr. however says that their views are countered by many other ex-members, the present members, and the estimated 900,000 people who attend activities of Opus Dei. He says that the interpretation of the facts "seems to depend upon one's basic approach to spirituality, family life, and the implications of a religious vocation."

The letter to Francisco Franco

On May 23, 1958, Escrivá sent a letter to General Francisco Franco of Spain which said:

Although a stranger to any political activity, I cannot help but rejoice as a priest and Spaniard that the Chief of State's authoritative voice should proclaim that, "The Spanish nation considers it a badge of honor to accept the law of God according to the one and true doctrine of the Holy Catholic Church, inseparable faith of the national conscience which will inspire its legislation.[13]

This has been seen by his critics as a support for Franco, but supporters deny this. John Allen said that a pro-Franco interpretation cannot be sustained. The most that can be said, he says, is that he was neither anti-Franco nor pro-Franco. On the other hand, in the latest book by Julian Herranz titled En las afueras de Jerico, he says that Escrivá was against dictatorships.

  1. Anonymous: A creepy scrape with the Da Vinci Code set, The Daily Telegraph (UK), January 18, 2005
  2. del Portillo 1996
  3. Pilar Urbano (1995). "El hombre de Villa Tevere". Retrieved 2007-01-28. 
  4. Sylvia Poggioli: Controversy over the canonization of Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, National Public Radio (NPR), October 6, 2002; mirrored by
  5. "Decoding secret world of Opus Dei". BBC News. September 16, 2005. Retrieved 2006-11-27. 
  6. Berglar 1994
  7. Noam Friedlander. "What Is Opus Dei? Tales of God, Blood, Money and Faith". Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  8. del Portillo 1996
  9. Echevarría Rodríguez 2000
  10. Julian Herranz 2007
  11. "Politics, Religion, Democracy: Opus Dei and the Vatican". Retrieved 2009-08-25. 
  12. Vatican Congregation for Causes of Saints. "Chronology of the Cause for Canonization of Josemaria Escriva". Vatican. Retrieved 2009-08-25. 
  13. Letter Escrivá to Franco in English and Spanish.

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