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Archives de sciences sociales des religions

128 | 2004

Maria Olivia Mönckeberg, El imperio del Opus Dei

en Chile
Santiago du Chili, Ediciones B Grupo Z Santiago de Chile, 2003, 714 p.
(index, illustr., annexes)

Angélica Thumala

Éditions de l’EHESS

Édition électronique Édition imprimée

URL : Date de publication : 1 octobre 2004
ISSN : 1777-5825 Pagination : 53-158
ISBN : 2-222-96754-6
ISSN : 0335-5985

Référence électronique
Angélica Thumala, « Maria Olivia Mönckeberg, El imperio del Opus Dei en Chile », Archives de sciences
sociales des religions [En ligne], 128 | octobre - décembre 2004, document 128.34, mis en ligne le 16
novembre 2005, consulté le 30 septembre 2016. URL :

Ce document est un fac-similé de l'édition imprimée.

© Archives de sciences sociales des religions


tente de proposer une typologie des attitudes as such has no property. The author researches
religieuses depuis l’abandon de la foi jusqu’à and makes public both the names and the activi-
sa réaffirmation malgré tout et le renforcement ties of the members of “la Obra” (the work). On
de la conscience religieuse dans l’épreuve. some occasions the reader is left with an after-
Yves Chevalier. taste of conspiracy theory, but the book is well
documented and provides abundant interview
material. A key contribution that it makes is its
account of a history that was unknown in Chile:
that of the arrival of the movement in Santiago
128.34 MÖNCKEBERG (Maria Olivia). and its growth among the upper class. M.O.M.,
El Imperio del Opus Dei en Chile. Santiago du herself a member of a traditional Santiago
Chili, Ediciones B Grupo Z Santiago de Chile, family, is intrigued by the reasons that have
2003, 714 p. (index, illustr., annexes). motivated a great number of her kin to join the
organization. Not only have school friends and
M.O.M. is a journalist with a distinguished
relatives joined Opus Dei but also the school of
career in the press of opposition to the regime of
journalism where she studied, the Escuela de
the now retired General Augusto Pinochet. She
Periodismo at the Universidad Catolica, was
worked for the magazine Ercilla (1973-1977)
founded by, among others, the first Chilean
and was co-founder of the legendary Hoy, where
Opus Dei priest, Jose Miguel Ibanez Langlois.
she was editor of the economics section between
M.O.M. provides rich descriptions of the expe-
1977 and 1981. This author is also co-author of
riences of two former classmates of hers at the
the book Crimen bajo estado de sitio about the
school of the Monjas Francesas who became
murder in 1985 of Jose Manuel Parada, Santiago
numerarias (a special condition within Opus
Nattino and Manuel Guerrero. After working for
Dei: a lay version of a nun). The book is gene-
the now disappeared centre-left newspaper La
rous in providing names, not only of the families
Epoca (1987-1990) she wrote El Saqueo de los
that welcomed Balaguer’s envoy, Adolfo Rodri-
grupos economicos al estado chileno (2001)
guez in 1950 and who helped him make his way
where she described the privatization of nationa-
among the upper sector of Chilean society, but
lized companies undertaken by the military
also of all the numerarios (lay “monks”), and
government as a political strategy destined to
super-numerarios (unlike numerarios they can
keep certain groups in power even after the
marry and have children) that arrived from
regime’s end.
Spain, as well as the names of those who joined
Following on from her research into the the movement in Chile, the companies they
origins of some of Chile’s main economic belong to and the commercial transactions they
conglomerates, the A. pursues in this, her latest have made on behalf of the movement, espe-
project, the task of unveiling the reality behind cially in buying and selling property. For Opus
what she calls Opus Dei’s ‘empire’, to highlight Dei, the latter is a matter of great importance
that the strength and extent of the movement’s since they own, among other properties, several
influence is much larger than commonly houses (where they provide accommodation for
believed. The author questions why Opus Dei students from outside Santiago as well as for
remained in the shadows since its arrival in the numerarios and numerarias) five schools,
country in 1950 until today, when, after discreet located in the richest areas of the capital (very
proselytism by its members and a focus on the popular among the elite), two schools in a poor
education of the elites it has gained undeniable area, and a private university that is, according
power. The beatification of the movement’s to the A., the symbol of the movement’s power.
founder, San Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer in Those unfamiliar with Opus Dei will learn
Rome in October 2002, attended by more than that the movement was granted the status of
300 thousand people, has not only helped legiti- Personal Prelature by John Paul II in 1982 and
mize the movement but has also encouraged its that it counts eighteen bishops among the 80
participants to more public exposure. thousand members it claims to have in the
The theme that runs throughout the book, a world. According to M.O.M.’s research two
thorough journalistic investigation prepared for thousand five hundred of them live in Chile. The
over a year, is the reluctance of the members of figure includes priests, numerarios, supernume-
Opus Dei to reveal their true aims or the organi- rarios and agregados (aggregates), people
zation’s internal dealings. Examples of the involved with the movement but who do not
mystery surrounding the movement are the follow the strict life plan that members follow.
alleged unwillingness of its members to identify The plan, in the case of numerarios, consists of a
themselves as such, as well as the sensitive issue daily routine that starts at around six in the
of the movement’s finances, which are managed morning with prayers and mass and continues
by individual members because the movement with each individual’s professional work, the


product of which is given complete to the move- gauche. Paris, L’Harmattan, 2003, 406 p.
ment. Also part of the life plan are the weekly (bibliogr., annexes).
practice of confession and the use of ‘disciplinas
y silicios’ (the self-infliction of pain by whip- Ce remarquable travail d’histoire des idées
ping the back and tying a leather band with small offre, pour la première fois en langue française,
metal attachments to the thigh). The intervie- une vue d’ensemble sur les origines du catholi-
wees explain the purpose of these practices is cisme de gauche en Allemagne.
self-perfection and try, in vain, to persuade the
A. that the rule of obedience is much more diffi- L’auteur commence en rappelant la figure
cult to bear than the discomfort produced by the étonnante de Franz von Baader, penseur catho-
silicio. lique conservateur du début du XIXe siècle et
philosophe romantique, qui va, bien des années
With the help of the testimonies of former avant le Manifeste Communiste, dénoncer les
and current numerarios and supernumerarios of maléfices du capitalisme et la condition misé-
both sexes, M.O.M. presents us with what rable des « prolétaires » (c’est lui qui introduira
would, in principle, explain the willingness to ce terme en Allemagne). Cependant, malgré
follow the rigorous life plan of Opus Dei: its quelques homologies structurelles et affinités
‘vocation’. Repeated in a standardized way by virtuelles, il n’y aura, au XIXe siècle, aucune
the interviewees, the ideals of Opus Dei appear convergence possible entre l’anti-capitalisme
extremely simple: sanctify yourself through catholique, romantique et passéiste, et celui,
work, “each one in their own job, in their home, radicalement progressiste, des socialistes : il
with their children, with their husband, with s’agit de visions du monde diamétralement
their family.” (p. 49). For the A. this simplicity opposées. Ceci explique aussi l’échec de l’éphé-
is, nevertheless, very powerful. Opus Dei has a mère rapprochement de l’évêque de Mayance,
strong cultural impact in Chilean society. Their Wilhelm von Ketteler, au mouvement socialiste,
schools and charitable works reproduce, as dirigé à l’époque (années 1860) par Ferdinand
M.O.M. shows, the patterns of stratification Lassalle : il était fondé sur un formidable malen-
predominant in the wider society: gender and tendu, qui allait bientôt se dissiper. Avec l’essor
class separations are strictly kept in the move- du mouvement socialiste et du marxisme, c’est
ment’s houses and educational institutions. la réaction hostile qui va prédominer dans le
These are important points to make. Yet no camp catholique, que ce soit avec l’encyclique
critique is elaborated beyond the presentation of Rerum Novarum, ou avec l’offensive anti-
these issues. Considering that the author’s inten- socialiste des jésuites allemands Heinrich Pesch
tion appears to be critical it is somewhat disap- et Viktor Cathrein.
pointing to find the only unfavorable commenta-
ries quoted in the book are either tangential (the Ce n’est qu’après la Première Guerre
famous theologian Von Balthasar is cited only in mondiale que va apparaître, dans l’Allemagne
regard to a comment he makes about Camino, de Weimar, un courant socialiste religieux. Ses
Balaguer’s famous book) or weak and outdated précurseurs sont des pasteurs protestants
(from the liberation theologian Jose Comblin). suisses, Hermann Kutter et Leonhard Ragaz,
partisans d’une lecture sociale de l’Évangile, qui
Despite its lack of analytical content, the voit dans le socialisme une préparation du
book conveys a good idea of the ‘moral climate’ Royaume de Dieu. Dans un article important de
among the upper class during the sixties and 1929, « Qu’est-ce que le socialisme reli-
seventies, their search for ways of realizing the gieux ? », Ragaz se prononce pour l’humanisme
Christian ideals learned in school and university de Marx contre le dogmatisme du « marxisme
through different vocations, and how some of établi », et légitime le socialisme non par la
them were drawn to Opus Dei. M.O.M.’s work science mais par un acte de foi, une espérance
is of great value as a document for a much- messianique. Deux courants politico-religieux
needed study of Chile’s religious culture and distincts vont se constituer dans cette
also as an unusual insight into the life of Opus mouvance :
Dei generally.
Angélica Thumala. I – La Fédération (Bund) des socialistes reli-
gieux d’Allemagne, fondée en 1926, qui se
réclame de Marx, mais se trouve divisée entre
les partisans des deux principales forces du
mouvement ouvrier allemand : les socialistes et
les communistes. Son président, Erwin Eckert,
128.35 PARAÏSO (Jean-Yves).
décide en 1931 d’adhérer au KPD (PC alle-
Catholicisme et socialisme en Allemagne mand), mais se trouve illico écarté de son poste
(1848-1933). Aux origines du catholicisme de et démissionne du Bund.