THEIR KINGDOM COME -- INSIDE THE SECRET WORLD OF OPUS DEI
1. Causes of Saints
ROME HAD RARELY SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THE MID-MAY 1992 INFLUX of pilgrims for a gala beatification that paralysed traffic for days, causing greater mayhem than usual in a city that often knows little else. All hotel rooms had been booked for months in advance. Charter flights landed at Fiumicino airport every few minutes carrying Catholics from sixty countries. More than 200 flights came from Spain alone. Meanwhile 2,500 buses from every corner of Europe converged on Via della Conciliazione, leading from Castel Sant' Angelo to St. Peter's Square. And a pair of cruise ships had anchored off Ostia with a full complement of South American pilgrims who during one week were bussed up to Rome daily.
The size of the turnout for raising to the altars one of the Church's most dedicated servants had surprised even the experts, and for the Vatican's right wing it offered heartening evidence that conservative Catholicism was alive, indeed thriving, and certainly thronging. No gathering quite so large had been seen in front of St. Peter's since June 1944, when Rome celebrated with delirium its liberation from Hitler's legions. The current celebration was not for the defensor urbis et salvator civitatis, Pius XII, who died in 1958 and still had not been beatified, but for one of his lesser domestic prelates. His name was Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, the founder of Opus Dei. Escriva had begun his lifetime of service to the Church as an ordinary Spanish priest. He died in 1975, when seventy-three, in his office at the Villa Tevere, across the Tiber in Viale Bruno Buozzi, less than five kilometres from the Vatican, and though not even a bishop he held more power than most cardinals.
On the third Sunday in May 1992, John Paul II would confer the rank of Blessed upon him, a distinction that placed the Spanish prelate in the waiting room of saints. Such a spiritual honour was cause for great rejoicing among Opus Dei's 80,000 members and the thousands of others -- according to Opus Dei, they could be counted in the millions -- from every walk of life who, thanks to the Founder, had encountered Christ. During his own lifetime, Escriva had encouraged his followers to call him 'Father'. Now he was their Father in Heaven where, assured Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, Escriva's successor as head of Opus Dei, 'he' continues to concern himself with all his children'. 
Several ecclesiastic authorities have stated that this mystical and even thaumaturgical priest had done more to restore and strengthen the Catholic faith than any other since St. Ignatius of Loyola. For these same authorities, it was a matter of grace that Josemaria Escriva should be beatified in near record time -- not quite seventeen years after his death -- as even in death he continued through miracles to recast the aura of mystery enveloping the Catholic Church. Furthermore John Paul II was said to be determined to push through Escriva's canonization during what remained of his pontificate. But why such haste? The record for speedy canonizations is held by Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury who was murdered in 1170 and made a saint twenty-six months later. 'But that was a political job if ever there was,' commented Professor Terence Morris of Winchester, a student of fast sainthoods. The same could be said of the Escriva affair. It was another 'political job'.
John Paul II believed without exaggeration that the Church of Rome was confronted with its most serious crisis since the Protestant Reformation. Papal authority was under attack. He blamed much of the dissension on the Second Vatican Council. Ever since, there had been insubordination and rebellion among the clergy. Leftist-inspired Liberation Theology and notions of a Cosmic Christ were threatening the established orthodoxy. The Pope's authority to appoint the bishops he wanted was roundly contested in many of the more influential dioceses. The role of women was being re-examined against his will, the use of condoms openly recommended by some bishops, and the obligation of celibacy challenged. While dissension reigned within, from without he saw a threat in the worldwide reawakening of Islam.
Under these circumstances, Opus Dei was a valued ally. And so, John Paul II accepted the thesis that Escriva had founded his Obra with divine assistance, the result of the Aragonese priest's ability to commune with God. The 'divine inspiration' had come, in 1928, at a time when the social structure of Spain was facing dislocation. Ideologically, the inspiration was authoritarian. Opus Dei had thrived under Franco. Opus Dei's leadership, one is left to conclude, was only too aware that even the most guileful of strategies is of itself useless unless backed by power and authority to implement it. Opus Dei knows how to create an illusion and it has amassed considerable power. Beatification of the Founder -- and hopefully his later canonization -- was part of that illusion, for it demonstrated papal approbation and proved it was at the centre of power within the Church. It was understandable, therefore, that as preparations for the Sunday ceremony progressed towards their culmination, the mood at the Opus Dei headquarters in Viale Bruno Buozzi bordered on ecstasy. Only one worrisome hitch existed. The Italian police had been told that the military arm of ETA, the Basque separatist organization, was planning to kidnap the remains of Father Escriva and hold them to ransom. ETA was the most experienced terrorist organization in Europe. But it was said to be short of funds and so Opus Dei, which it accused of flagrant ostentation, seemed a natural target. 
The Italian police took the threat seriously. Although the list of ETA atrocities was long, its most spectacular act had been to place a bomb in the centre of Madrid, a few days before Christmas 1973, which blasted Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, the Spanish premier, along with his car, clear over a five-storey building onto the balcony of another building in the next street, killing him, his chauffeur and his bodyguard. Carrero Blanco had been Opus Dei's protector, appointing ten of its members to his last cabinet, while another five of his nineteen ministers were known Opus Dei supporters. His assassination had curtailed -- though not for long -- Opus Dei's political influence, and this only months before General Franco was due to hand over the reins of state to the future king, Juan Carlos de Borbon.
Notwithstanding the new ETA threat, on the Thursday before the beatification ceremony the remains of the Founder were removed from the prelatic church in the Villa Tevere and transported to the imposing Basilica of Sant' Eugenio, at the western end of Viale Bruno Buozzi. The simple hardwood coffin, covered by a red mantle and surrounded by thickets of freshly cut roses, was placed on a catafalque in front of the altar where it was to remain on public view during the entire week of celebrations and afterwards returned in public procession to the Villa Tevere for its encasement inside a reliquary under the altar of the prelatic church. The ETA threat never materialized.
From dawn on the appointed Sunday, under a ceramic blue sky, the air scented with pinewood from the Vatican gardens, St. Peter's Square began to fill with pilgrims. L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, estimated their number at 300,000. Raised six steps above the paving stones, the papal dais was covered by a golden canopy to provide shade for the frail Pope. No less than forty-six cardinals were on hand to assist him and more than 300 bishops. Among the pilgrims were Santiago Escriva, the Founder's younger brother, Giulio Andreotti, the Italian senator-for-life who had been seven times premier, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The two-and-a-half hour ceremony was transmitted live by Italian television to networks in thirty countries, mainly in Latin America.
Beatified alongside Father Escriva was a former slave woman, Josephine Bakhita, whose heroic virtues had been hitherto unknown to the world. She was a Dinka from southern Sudan, born in 1869. At the age of ten she had been carried off by slave traders who sold her into a lifetime of misery. The last of her four masters, a Turkish army officer, had offered her as a gift to the Italian consul in Istanbul. The consul brought her to Venice where she became a nun, living in a convent until her death in 1947. At the very moment the Pope conferred the title of Blessed on them giant tapestries fixed to the facade of St. Peter's were unfurled to reveal their larger-than-life portraits. A roar of applause broke out and spontaneously the crowd started singing Christus vincit.
Behind the pomp and ritual was an extremely serious message. Wherever the Church of Rome turned in search of new souls she was confronted by a rising Islam, whose leadership, though divided, was relatively rich and resolute. With 1,200 million adherents compared to 965 million Catholics, Islam was growing fast. It had become the second largest religion in France, Italy and Spain. Immigration and proselytizing was adding daily to its numbers throughout Europe and the Americas. More than 5 million Muslims lived in the United States, 5 million in France, 3.5 million in Germany, 2 million in Britain, 1 million in Italy. These figures, however, represented little more than informed guesswork as the flood of illegal aliens made it impossible for legislators to count accurately the number of Muslims moving into the heartlands of Europe and America.
The significance of the Vatican's message was in the identity of the two people chosen for beatification. Sister Josephine Bakhita had been converted by force to Islam and then, freedom restored, had chosen Christianity. Christians in southern Sudan, the Dinkas in particular, were being persecuted by Islamic fundamentalists from the north. News of her beatification was banned by Khartoum. Nevertheless, she became a symbol of hope for oppressed Christians and a warning to Khartoum that the 'harvest of suffering' in the south could turn against it. Nine months later, the Pope would make his visit to Khartoum.
As for Blessed Josemaria, after Communism he would have viewed Islam as the most serious threat to the Church. Coming from Upper Aragon, concern for the Moor was part of his heritage. Escriva's successor, Alvaro del Portillo, had seen the outbreak of sectarian war in the Balkans as a sign that Islam was again surging westwards, edging Europe closer to the abyss.
Seen from another angle, hurrying the Founder down the road to sainthood fitted perfectly into John Paul II's preparations for the Great Jubilee he planned at the end of the second millennium. He believed that canonizations showed the vitality of the Church in modern times. Making Escriva a saint was like presenting Christ with a trophy, proof that 2,000 years after His ascension there were still believers who followed His footsteps to the point of perfection. This was esoteric logic of a sort that not everyone could accept or comprehend. Indeed, to many outside the faith the custom of elevating departed servants to heavenly councils might seem a little strange, not to say unreal, and irrelevant to the worship of God. But inside the Vatican the making of saints is a serious business. Those raised to the honours of the altars -- Vatican-speak for beatification -- become icons of faith. At a time when the Church is losing priests icons of faith are sorely needed. During the previous twenty-four years, since 1969 in fact, more than 100,000 men had left the priesthood, with the result that by the early 1990s, 43 per cent of all Catholic parishes had no-one to administer the sacraments. 
In the earliest days, a saint was someone who died for his faith. The first was Stephen, a Greek-speaking Jew chosen by the apostles to care for poor widows in the church at Jerusalem. Stephen was arrested for heresy and brought before the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish council of the time. At the end of a brave but perhaps unwise speech in his own defence he accused the Jewish leaders of killing God's son. For this blasphemy he was stoned to death.
With Emperor Constantine's Edict of Milan (323), unrestricted Christian worship was authorized throughout the empire and the harvest of martyrs significantly decreased, and so saint-making criteria underwent a first important change. Thereafter, saints were mainly recruited from among the leading patriarchs. The first thirty-six popes were made saints, along with a number of outstanding monks and even the occasional hermit. Later, in the Middle Ages, it became fashionable to raise the founders of religious orders to sainthood. But it was only in the fourteenth century that the procedure known as 'canonization' -- the inscribing of a name on the canon, or list, of saints -- was finally conceived. Concurrently appeared the distinction between beati -- those venerated locally or within a religious order -- and sancti -- those canonized by the Pope as figures worthy of universal veneration.
The saint-making procedures underwent further refinement in 1588, when Sixtus V, the so-called 'Iron Pope' and architect of the modern Curia, remodelled the Roman Church's central government, creating fifteen Congregations -- the Vatican's equivalent to government ministries. Each Congregation was henceforth headed by a cardinal. Six of the newly created Congregations oversaw the Church's secular administration, and the rest supervised spiritual affairs. Among them was the Congregation of Rituals, which was made responsible for canonizations. By the reign of Urban VIII (1623-44) the power of the Pope had become so strong that veneration which failed to receive his nihil obstat -- literally, no opposition -- was forbidden. Not until 1917, however, were the procedures for canonization formally incorporated into canon law -- the law of the Church. New canonizations remained quite rare and were subject to a painstaking investigative process. For 500 years, no more than 300 new saints were placed on the canon, and the procedures changed little until 1983, when John Paul II completely overhauled them.
The person John Paul II chose to implement his reforms was Cardinal Pietro Palazzini, an ultra-conservative and staunch ally of Opus Dei. He had worked with Father Escriva and was a frequent dinner guest of the Founder's successor. Knowing that Escriva's cause for sainthood was high on Opus Dei's agenda, John Paul II's choice of Palazzini as Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints was therefore unusual. As a hardened professional of the Curia, Palazzini had been around the Vatican for what seemed like forever. He had joined the Curia under Pius XII, been promoted archbishop by John XXIII, and continued to rise in the hierarchy until receiving his cardinal's hat from Paul VI. The aims of the 1983 overhaul which John Paul II asked him to implement were threefold: to make canonization less costly, more rapid and more productive for the Church.
The rules governing the saint-making process when Father Escriva died required a five-year pause from the date of death before a candidate's cause could be introduced. Every candidate for sainthood must have a sponsor, whose first step is to petition the local bishop, referred to in ecclesiastical language as the Ordinary. If the Ordinary accepts that the cause has merit, he initiates what is known as a 'Process Ordinary'. It is designed to furnish the Congregation for the Causes of Saints with all the necessary material to make a final decision. In addition to a biography and list of witnesses, the petition has to be accompanied by a number of letters from religious and civil authorities praising the candidate's attributes. Normally, a postulator (literally, one who demands or nominates for election) is appointed for the Roman phase of the proceedings -- that is, after the Ordinary has submitted his Positio. But Opus Dei was in a hurry.
Escriva's remains had hardly been laid to rest in the prelatic church when Alvaro del Portillo called in one of Opus Dei's most effective media experts, Father Flavio Capucci, and asked him to become postulator general -- in other words, the project coordinator. With its all-encompassing foresight, Opus Dei had added Capucci's name sometime before to the Congregation's list of acceptable postulators. Father Capucci had known the Founder personally and as a former editor of Studi Cattolici, a religious magazine published by Opus Dei in Milan, he had interviewed Karol Wojtyla when he was still Archbishop of Cracow. Portillo gave Capucci two years to prepare a postulation file that would be presented to the Ordinary once the cause was officially launched. Opus Dei hoped to have Escriva's beatification wrapped up by 1990, and his canonization in the bag before the end of the millennium.
Shortly after Capucci's appointment, Opus Dei priests began visiting episcopal sees around the world, asking bishops and cardinals for letters supporting Escriva's cause. While this was being done, a decision was taken on which Ordinary to petition. Normally a sponsor should petition the Ordinary of the candidate's 'home diocese', in Escriva's case Saragossa, where he had been ordained. But, except for a few weeks, he had hardly undertaken any pastoral duties there. The first twenty years of his pastoral mission were spent in Madrid. In 1947, however, Opus Dei had moved its headquarters to Rome, so Opus Dei's hierarchy opted in favour of the Ordinary of Rome. The choice was made with good reason. The Ordinary of Rome is the Pope, and he was well disposed to Opus Dei. The, Ordinary of Rome operates in diocesan affairs through his vicar. At the time, the vicar of Rome was Cardinal Ugo Poletti, a long-time friend of Father Escriva. And so, on 14 February 1980 -- five months short of the minimal five-year waiting period -- Don Alvaro del Portillo formally requested Cardinal Poletti to open the beatification proceedings. The petition was accompanied by the file compiled by Father Capucci. The file contained the seven books and collections of homilies written by the Founder during his lifetime, and 6,000 laudatory letters from religious and civil authorities throughout the world. These included 69 cardinals, 241 archbishops and 987 bishops -- one-third of the world episcopacy -- while among the civil authorities who praised Escriva's saintliness was Italy's pre-eminent post-war statesman Giulio Andreotti.
Cardinal Poletti officially accepted to launch Escriva's candidature for sainthood one year later. Since most Opus Dei members lived in Spain, the bulk of the investigative work would have to be undertaken from Madrid. The vicar of Rome, therefore, requested that the Process Ordinary be opened simultaneously in the two capitals. This was done in May 1981. Opus Dei provided a list of witnesses who had personally known the Founder and who could address the question of his saintliness 'from birth until death'. The postulator general also turned over a list of people considered 'manifestly hostile to the cause' and therefore not objective witnesses. The Rome and Madrid diocesan tribunals held a total of 980 sessions and took evidence from 92 witnesses, half of them Opus Dei members. The transcripts ran to 11,000 pages.
To be eligible for sainthood a candidate must have caused the posthumous occurrence of at least two miracles. Authentication by the Congregation of a first miracle permits the candidate to be beatified. Only after authentication of a second miracle can sainthood be accorded. In more recent years, the task of authenticating miracles has been the mandate of the Consulta Medica, a group of sixty medical experts. All men, all Italians living in Rome, half are practising specialists and half are department heads of a medical faculty. On average they examine forty cases a year. They approve less than half. They are sworn to secrecy and each of them receives a fee of $500 per expertise.
In Escriva's case, a group of Spanish medical experts first sifted through Opus Dei's records of several thousand purported miracles kept at the regional vicariat in Madrid. One was selected. It had taken place in 1976, one year after the Founder's death. The fateful event that provided the key for the Founder's beatification was the 'sudden, perfect and permanent healing' of a Carmelite nun, Sister Concepcion Boullon Rubio. The Opus Dei file related that she was on the threshold of death, afflicted by multiple, painful and spreading tumours, one of which had attained the size of an orange. Then seventy years old, the patient was resigned to death, but her fellow sisters began praying daily to Escriva for help. Defying scientific explanation, she was cured in a single night, once again being able to lead a normal life without requiring special medical attention. She was examined by the experts in 1982. She died on 22 November 1988 at eighty-two of an unconnected cause. The Consulta Medica accepted the Madrid panel's findings without question.
The investigative phase concluded, the Congregation's scribes then had the task of drafting the Positio super vita et virtutibus, a 6,000-page document that took three years to complete. One-third of the document concerned the testimony of witnesses. Almost half of the evidence presented came from Portillo and Javier Echevarria, Opus Dei's vicar general who had been a member since his mid-teens. Only two pages were given to Escriva's critics. In spite of this on 9 April 1990 the Congregation for the Causes of Saints announced its recognition of Father Escriva's heroic virtues, an important step on the way to sainthood. The decree was signed by the Congregation's new prefect, Cardinal Angelo Felici, as Cardinal, Palazzini -- who was about to turn eighty -- had retired. The Holy See announced that the findings of the Positio super vita permitted it to proceed with the beatification 'in all serenity'.
Not everyone shared this view. A few weeks later the Vatican press corps learned by an indiscretion that two of the nine judges on the Congregation's beatification panel had requested a suspension of the proceedings. This revelation was confirmed by L'Osservatore Romano one week before the beatification ceremony. It added, however, that when the relator general examined their reasons, and after consulting an 'ample and exhaustive' complement of information, he rejected the motions.
The leak to the press had left Father Capucci fuming. Speaking before the beatification, he emphasized that the ten-year investigation conducted by the saint-making Congregation had provided 'absolute proof of heroic exercise of virtue',  and dismissed allegations that the Prelature had set out to purchase Escriva's beatification, noting that this could hardly have been the case as the cost of the proceedings had not exceeded $300,000. 
Capucci was above all angered by a Newsweek article written by Kenneth L. Woodward.  Woodward charged that Opus Dei had broken the rules by pushing through the Founder's cause so quickly, and inferred that the Founder himself was hardly the sort of person to whom you would entrust your soul. Questions concerning the wisdom of proceeding with such a controversial beatification were not easily brushed aside. They came from cardinals and archbishops, and respected theologians. Most significant among them was the Archbishop Emeritus of Madrid, Cardinal Vicente Enrique y Tarancon, as much of the groundwork for the Positio ordinario had been completed during his archiepiscopacy. But Tarancon had shown at best lukewarm enthusiasm for the cause. In 1983 John Paul II transferred his archiepiscopal functions to a newly appointed cardinal, Angel Suguia Goicoechea, an unabashed Opus Dei supporter.
Tarancon said he failed to see the need for 'such unseemly haste', particularly when the beatification of John XXIII, whom he judged a more charismatic and providential figure, was progressing nowhere near as fast. By referring to Papa Roncalli, Tarancon went straight to the heart of the matter. Regarded by many Catholics as an extremely human pope, Roncalli was the initiator of the Second Vatican Council and it was well known that Escriva had harboured serious misgivings about the council. Escriva's quick elevation to sainthood, therefore, would be seen as a boost for pre-Vatican II orthodoxy, at the same time heralding a further move away from the reforms of the kindly Roncalli and his successor Paul VI.
Cardinal Tarancon's remarks widened an already open wound within the Church upon which Professor Juan Martin Velasco, one of Spain's leading theologians, was quick to throw salt. The beatification of Escriva was a 'scandal' that would 'weaken the credibility of the Church', he warned. 
'We cannot portray as a model of Christian living someone who has served the power of the state and who used that power to launch his Opus, which he ran with obscure criteria -- like a Mafia shrouded in white -- not accepting the papal magisterium when it failed to coincide with his way of thinking. Although Opus Dei's present leaders portray themselves as paladins of papal authority, it wasn't like that under Paul VI, at the time of the Council. Beatifying the "Father" means sanctifying the Father's Opus, including all its negative aspects: its tactics, dogmas, recruiting methods and manner of placing Christ in the midst of the political and economic arenas,' he said.
Velasco also cast doubt upon the credibility of Sister Concepcion Boullon Rubio's miracle, pointing out that the Rubio family was closely linked to Opus Dei. (Sister Concepcion's cousin, Mariano Navarro-Rubio, a minister of finance and governor of the Banco de Espana under Franco, was an Opus Dei supernumerary.) Adding more salt, Velasco disclosed that 'the team of medical experts formed to authenticate the miracle were from the University of Navarra, which belongs to Opus Dei.' 
Opus Dei claimed that the professor's remarks defamed not only Opus Dei but also the Pope. 'All phases foreseen under the applicable canons of law were scrupulously, respected [and] anyone who wished to be heard had only to send a written application to the [beatification] tribunal,' an Opus Dei statement maintained. To suggest that the medical panel belonged to Opus Dei was going too far. 'No medical expert from the University of Navarra was a member of the authentication board, which is part of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Two specialists from the University of Navarra did contribute to the medical file [that was supplied to the Consulta Medica] but their work was limited to purely technical aspects and absolutely separate from the judgement as to the inexplicable nature of the cure,' the statement said. 
This response amounted to an artful selection of reality. It neglected to mention, for example, that the president of the Consulta Medica was Raffaello Cortesini, a Roman member of Opus Dei. Professor of experimental surgery at the University of Rome, Dr Cortesini was, moreover, heading a project to open an Opus Dei teaching hospital in the Italian capital. In 1975 he had felt so moved by Father Escriva's death that he had written an obituary for the Italian newspaper Il Popola, describing the Founder as 'a man who loved freedom'. 
The revelations contained in Newsweek were almost too weird to be believed. Woodward had interviewed Father Vladimir Felzmann, a former Opus Dei priest. A British national of Czech origin, Felzmann had known Escriva while studying in Rome. He had lived at the Villa Tevere and worked on the translation into Czech of The Way, a collection of spiritual maxims written by the Founder when a young priest. Felzmann, who had devoted twenty-two years of his life to Opus Dei, had since become director of pilgrimages and youth chaplain for the archdiocese of Westminster, in London.
Felzmann disclosed that in November 1991 he had written to the Vatican's pro-nuncio in London, Archbishop Luigi Barbarito, stating that he wished to furnish the Congregation for the Causes of Saints with information he felt might at least delay the beatification. A few days later, Barbarito informed Felzmann in writing that his letter had been forwarded to Rome. Felzmann heard nothing more from Barbarito and never received a call from the Causes of Saints.
Three of the allegations made by Felzmann were particularly fascinating for they revealed a curious twist of mind for someone portrayed as having lived heroically the virtues of faith, hope, charity, prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude. Escriva once remarked to Felzmann that Hitler had been 'badly treated' by world opinion because 'he could never have killed 6 million Jews. It could only have been 4 million at the most'. Felzmann further noted that Escriva had felt such deep disgust for Vatican II's liturgical changes that he considered defecting to the Orthodox Church until discovering that their churches and congregations were 'too small for us'. Felzmann's third revelation -- that Escriva had an 'idiosyncratic concept' of the truth -- was so unexpected as to seem almost derisory. Felzmann insisted that Escriva's ethic had left an indelible mark upon the institution. Citing an example, he said parents were systematically 'tricked' concerning the vocations of their children. He also alleged that business deals involving what the Founder called pilleria (dirty tricks) were justified on the grounds that 'our life is a warfare of love, and for Opus Dei all is fair in love and war'.
In the matter of making saints, these were serious accusations. But Felzmann's disclosures were cast aside. Opus Dei described them as the work of a misfit attempting to justify his departure from a compassionate and caring family. The Opus Dei press office offered two reasons why Felzmann had not been called to testify. First, he did not really know Escriva. Second, Felzmann was 'inconsistent' because 'there are documents (the latest dated 1980 when Felzmann was 41 years old) in which he testifies to the Founder's outstanding virtues: love, humility, faithfulness to the Pope, etc. In Felzmann's own words, "He is a saint for today, a saint for ever".'
Abiding by the Founder's maxim that 'all is fair in love and war', Opus Dei employed every trick in the book, including trampling over people's reputations, to steamroller the beatification through. The case of Dr. John Roche, a lecturer in history of science at Oxford's Linacre College, illustrated the extremes to which it went. Roche had joined Opus Dei in Galway at 22 and remained a member from 1959 to 1973.
In September 1985, Roche wrote to Cardinal Bernadin Gantin, prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, expressing concern that 'if Monsignor Escriva were beatified, the resultant scandal could damage the credibility of the whole process of beatification'. He proposed to submit evidence.
Gantin's reaction was to ask the Vatican's nunciature in London to find out more about Roche. On 14 October 1985, the Vatican's charge d'affaires in London, Archbishop Rino Passigato, replied to the Congregation's secretary, explaining that Roche was 'affected by serious psychological disorders' and was most probably being exploited by 'third parties who have the perfidious intention of harming the Church and the Apostolic See by attacking Opus Dei and its Founder'. Roche had never met nor even spoken to Monsignor Passigato, and he denies having suffered from any such psychological disorders, so it is hard to imagine where the archbishop might have obtained his information.
When Roche received no reply, on 27 May 1986 he wrote to Cardinal Palazzini, who at that time was still overseeing the Causes of Saints. He told the cardinal he had a 'dossier on the life and works of the Founder of Opus Dei. It includes testimony from many former members who knew Monsignor Escriva personally, as I did.'
Palazzini replied promptly, pointing out that Roche had sent his letter to the wrong address, as the cause had not yet reached his Congregation. He suggested the letter should be re-addressed to Monsignor Oscar Buttinelli, an official with the Regional Tribunal for Latium at the Vicariat of Rome. As it turned out, Palazzini had already written to Buttinelli, warning him to expect an approach from Roche. 'For years, Signor Roche has been engaged in a campaign of calumnies against Opus Dei; any eventual information he might send you concerning the Servant of God will have to be weighed for its reliability,' Palazzini stated. 
Unaware of Palazzini's correspondence with Buttinelli, Roche was more than pleased by the cardinal's apparent interest. Confidently, he enclosed in his letter to Buttinelli a brief biographical note on himself and several remarks attributed to Escriva, intending them to be a preliminary sample of the information he could provide. Roche said Escriva frequently commented to those close to him that he 'no longer believed in Popes or Bishops, only in the Lord Jesus Christ,' and that 'the Devil was very high up in the Church'. As an example of Escriva's disdain for the post-Vatican II Church he cited an article appearing in Cronica, a confidential in-house publication, which stated: 'There is an authentic rottenness [within the Church], and at times it seems as if the mystical Body of Christ were a corpse in decomposition that stinks.'  Roche's letter was politely answered. He was told there was no need to send further material as the Congregation for the Causes of Saints 'knows all about you'. 
Of the nine judges on the beatification panel, eight were Italian, which was contrary to custom, which holds that a majority should be of the same nationality as the candidate. Monsignor Luigi de Magistris, director of the Vatican gaol, was one of the two who requested a suspension of the procedure because he wanted more light shed on Escriva's spiritual discernment. 'There were certain depositions which seemed excessive. Notably, one witness affirmed that Escriva was frequently in a state of ecstasy, particularly when travelling on trains,' he commented. He also thought it an abuse of privilege that Alvaro del Portillo, Escriva's confessor of thirty years, had been permitted to give evidence and asked -- to no avail -- that his 800 pages of testimony be excluded.
The other 'dissenting' judge was the only Spaniard on the panel, Monsignor Justo Fernandez Alonso, rector of the Spanish Church in Rome. He requested a suspension because he was disturbed that 'many witnesses had not been heard'.  The relator general dismissed both requests. The Vatican had decided that the procedure must go forward, and so forward it went.
In spite of Opus Dei's determination, what at first glance appeared to be a simple journey of an Aragonese cult figure towards sainthood had turned into a nightmare. No other beatification in recent times had engendered such controversy. For thousands, Escriva was an evident worker of miracles, while for others he was a charlatan. To make some sense of this contradiction and better understand the movement he founded a visit to Escriva's birthplace offers a good beginning.
1. In his homily at a Requiem Mass for Father Escriva on 26 July 1975, Monsignor del Portillo stated: 'Our Father is with God in our House in Heaven.' [Source: Opus Dei Newsletter No. I, p. 4, published by the Vice-Postulator of Opus Dei in Britain, 1989]
2. Opus Dei denied knowledge of this incident. When asked if it had received such a warning, its UK information officer replied, 'the answer is probably [sic] that there was no such warning'.
3. Patrick Welsh, 'Is Sexual Dysfunction Killing the Catholic Church?' The Washington Post, 8 August 1993.
4. William D. Montalbano, 'Pope to Beatify Controversial Spanish Priest', Los Angeles Times, 16 May 1992.
5. Patrice Favre, 'Le pape beatifie le Pere de l'Opus Dei', Le Courrier, Geneva, 16 May 1992.
6. The article appeared in 13 January 1992 edition of Newsweek. Kenneth L. Woodward has written a book, Making Saints - How the Catholic Church Determines Who Becomes A Saint, Who Doesn't and Why, Simon & Schuster, New York 1990.
7. Interview in Il Regno.
8. 'Beatification du fandateur de l'Opus Dei -- Toujours des polemiques a propos d'Escriva de Balaguer', APIC Bulletin No. 357, 23 December 1991.
9. 'L'Opus Dei de Belgique refute les "declarations polemiques" concernant la beatification de Mgr Escriva de Balaguer -- Une reponse aux assertions critiques du Professor Velasco', APIC Bulletin No. 8, 8 January 1992.
10. Salvador Bernal, Monsignor Josemaria Escrivta de Balaguer -- A Profile of the Founder of Opus Dei, Scepter, London 1977, p. 284.
11. Letter of Cardinal Pietro Palazzini to the Rev. Mgr Oscar Buttinelli, 10 June 1986.
12. Letter of Dr. John J. Roche to Mgr Oscar Buttinelli, 28 July 1986.
13. Perer Hebblethwaite. 'New evidence surfaces in Escriva canonization', National Catholic Reporter, Kansas City, 22 May 1992.
14. 'Une beatification au forceps', Golias No. 30, summer 1992 (Lyons), p. 90.