Matt’s Opus Dei FAQ

Originally Published: 18 October 2002
Last Revised: 9 January 2015
Moved to WordPress: 23 May 2015


I’ve come across a lot of posts on the internet regarding Opus Dei. Many of them reflect a good understanding of the organization and its mission. Others less so. It’s my intention to offer a clear explanation of Opus Dei and to clarify many misconceptions that exist about its nature, structure, mission and methods. I don’t intend to engage in debate on these matters. I’ll simply offer explanations to the best of my ability.

This FAQ contains both fact and opinion. Where I believe the facts don’t give the whole story I’ve tried to include a context in which to interpret them. You may or may not agree with my interpretation. That’s where the opinion part comes in.

I’m willing to answer any sincere question you have. To ask a question, just email me and I’ll respond as soon as I can. If I think your question would be of general interest I’ll post my answer on this page.

This FAQ was originally published on my now defunct blog, Trust the Truth, on October 18, 2002. I wrote and published it without the knowledge, approval, or involvement of anyone in Opus Dei. Since that time, it has been read by thousands of people from all over the world, including members of Opus Dei whose job it is to provide accurate information about Opus Dei in the media. I have not received any significant objections to what I have written. Rather, both those who are friendly toward Opus Dei and those who are opposed have written to express their thanks for presenting a balanced portrait of the organization. I have tried to respond to the constructive comments I’ve received by noting the different perspectives they represent throughout the FAQ.


I’m speaking for myself in this FAQ. I don’t represent Opus Dei in any official or unofficial capacity. I have not sought, nor have I received, any official or unofficial endorsement, approval, sanction, encouragement, support or authorization from Opus Dei. I simply want to provide accurate and useful information to those who want to know more about the organization.


All opinions and any errors or omissions are solely my responsibility.

All material on this page is Copyright 2002-2017 Matthew G. Collins. All rights reserved worldwide.

You are free to quote from this page under the following conditions:

  1. You give proper attribution.
  2. You do not modify my statements in any way.
  3. Text without context is pretext. So don’t quote me unless you present my comments in context.
  4. You do not attempt in any way to change their evident meaning.
  5. You must not, under any circumstance, represent this FAQ or any part of this FAQ as:
    i. the “official” or “unofficial” position or work of Opus Dei; or
    ii. having been produced with either the official or unofficial approval of Opus Dei; or
    iii. otherwise having received any official or unofficial endorsement, approval, sanction, encouragement, support or authorization from Opus Dei.


This is a permanent work in progress. You can contribute by asking me a question via email and I’ll respond as soon as I can. I continue to update the FAQ as people ask questions and make suggestions, and I have maintained complete editorial control over it. You can email me at the address below. You’ll have to fill in the address in your email program because I’ve displayed it as an image to minimize spambots from harvesting my address.

1. Who are you, what makes you so knowledgeable about Opus Dei, and why should I trust what you say?

2. What is Opus Dei?

3. What’s Opus Dei all about?

4. What is “apostolate?”

5. What does membership in Opus Dei entail?

6. I’ve heard people in Opus Dei refer to “the plan of life.” What’s that?

7. What’s a supernumerary? Is it a really good numerary? And what’s a numerary?

8. Why are the men’s branch and the women’s branch separate?

9. Why does Opus Dei refer to its chapels as “oratories?”

10. Are Opus Dei and “the Work” the same thing?

11. What relationship does a member of Opus Dei have with the parish he or she lives in?

12. I’ve heard that members of Opus Dei are forbidden to confess to a non-Opus Dei priest. Is that true?

13. What’s “fraternal correction?”

14. Why do Opus Dei priests say Mass in Latin in centers of the Work?

15. Isn’t Opus Dei only for the “professional elite?”

16. What are the “norms?”

17. I’ve heard that Opus Dei supported Franco and Hitler. Is that true?

18. What is an “annual course?”

19. Why do Opus Dei members have so many kids?

20. You mean Opus Dei prohibits its members from using birth control?!

21. I heard Opus Dei spent over $1,000,000 getting Escrivá canonized. What’s with that?

22. Do members of Opus Dei take vows?

23. What is a “circle?”

24. What is a “cooperator?”

25. Who can attend the apostolic activities offered by Opus Dei?

26. What are some of the apostolic activities offered by Opus Dei?

27. Where can I find all the technical “nits and grits” about Opus Dei?

28. Where can I get a copy of the statutes?

29. What is a “corporate work of apostolate” of Opus Dei?

30. What corporate works of apostolate does Opus Dei run in the United States?

31. Why do Opus Dei spiritual directors read the mail of numeraries?

32. Do members of Opus Dei have to confess their sins publicly?

33. How do you respond to charges that members of the Work make friends only so they can get them to join Opus Dei?

34. What are the cilice and discipline? What are they for? Who uses them?

35. Does Opus Dei keep records of what people discuss in spiritual direction, and is it confidential?

36. Is all work “equally sanctifiable?”

37. Why do I need spiritual direction?

38. What distinguishes a supernumerary member of the Work from other lay Catholics who are trying to sanctify their ordinary lives and to bring other souls to Christ?

39. Can a member of a third order join Opus Dei?

40. Why do you call the prelate of Opus Dei “the Father” and St. Josemaría “our Father?”

41. Is Mel Gibson a member of Opus Dei?

42. What is the “Preces?”

43. Why is Opus Dei so secretive?

44. How does one join Opus Dei?

45. Does Opus Dei pressure people to join?

46. What about the children of members? Are they pressured to join?

47. “The Da Vinci Code” says some pretty negative things about Opus Dei. What about that?

48. Do members of the Work have to have books approved by their spiritual director before reading them?

49. What about all the horror stories about life in Opus Dei?

50. What is a supernumerary or associate priest?

51. Why was this FAQ missing from the Internet for so long?

6 thoughts on “Matt’s Opus Dei FAQ”

  1. Generally I don’t read article on blogs, however I would like to say that this write-up very pressured me to take a look
    at and do so! Your writing style has been surprised me.
    Thank you, quite great post.


  2. John A Lombardi said:

    Like Matt Collins, I’m a former supernumerary of the Work ( the colloquial word for Opus Dei), and have a heartfelt appreciation for its founder, Msgr St Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer’s concept of living holiness in ordinary life. I left Opus Dei as the result of a series of long discussions with my spiritual directors, both saintly numeraries, after belonging to the Work for some years. The requirements of Opus Dei are very demanding, and it was clear over time that I was not called to be a supernumerary. The Work teaches ( rightfully, I believe), that the Holy Spirit calls members to a vocation in Opus Dei, and that it is not for everyone. Matt’s excellent presentation of the teachings and practices of the Work are completely accurate. I can say that my faith has been strengthened by participating in its activities. The priests are all fine minds, who provide great counseling in both confession and in preaching at Mass. There are no real “shortcuts” to one’s relationship with the Lord Jesus. I can recommend to anyone who is interested to investigate it. St Josemaria’s book, The Way, published by Scepter Press, is a superb starting point.


  3. Alan Robinson said:

    These answers are excellent. Two things. I think Opus Dei has changed since I first knew it in the mid-1980s – the Da Vinci Code helped a lot. It is far less – in fact – not at all secretive. I can remember asking questions and just not being taken seriously and not being given a proper answer, this was with the older Numeraries.Things have changed. My only real criticism about vocation is that the Directors don’t seem (certainly in my case) to be searching enough in really finding out about background, “views”, personality etc. I think if they had done more questioning I would not have joined and then left (very amicably) years later. They would have rejected me as being quite unsuitable. Faults on both sides ? I am sure there were. I would still say that Opus Dei is a family which really look after sincerely and seriously its members and I still admire and follow much of the teachings I received. God Bless them.


  4. Why do the letters to “the Father” from supernumeraries have to be written and then given to a numerary without being sealed in an envelope first? I find that a violation of privacy, and a lack of trust!


    • Ines, it’s been a long time since I wrote a letter to the Father, and I had forgotten about the practice. I would clarify, though, that it’s more of a suggestion than a requirement. I know that I did write some letters to Don Alvaro (St. Josemaria’s successor) and sent them directly to him via mail, and I received at least two responses. I was never corrected about sending it directly to him. I agree with you that it seems like a violation of privacy, and that’s why I didn’t do it that way. I don’t want to put words into their mouths about why they suggest that method. like I said, it’s been many years since I’ve written to him, and I’d forgotten about that practice, so I really can’t answer.


  5. Thanks for preparing this Matt. God bless.


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