Receiving increased support from the Vatican since the late 1970s, the organization has grown to more than 80,000 members in more than 80 countries. In 1950 the Vatican recognized it as a secular institute; in 1982 it was given the status of “personal prelature.” Its membership is now, therefore, considered a separate diocese with its own bishop.
Believing that a Catholic can lead a holy life without taking religious vows, lay members pledge to serve God in worldly vocations; roughly a third of the members live communally and celibately in Opus Dei centers. The movement seeks to promote traditional Catholic values and teaching and to oppose liberalism and immorality, and is noted for its emphasis on preaching to government officials, professionals, intellectuals, and business executives.
Opus Dei has been controversial among some Catholics because of its secretive nature, its emphasis on discipline, its conservatism and wealth, and its historical association with the Franco regime in Spain. This controversy became pronounced in 1992 when the Vatican, under John Paul II, beatified Escrivá; Escrivá was canonized in 2002.
Opus Dei is considered the most controversial group in the Catholic Church today!
The faithful of the prelature carry out their individual task of evangelization in the various sectors of society in which they live and work. Their apostolic work is not limited to specific fields such as education, care for the sick, or other forms of direct social aid. The prelature seeks to remind people that all Christians, whatever their background or situation, must cooperate in solving the problems of society in a Christian way, and bear constant witness to their faith.
To its members it is nothing less than The Work of God, the inspiration of Blessed Josemaría Escrivá, who advanced the work of Christ by promoting the sanctity of everyday life. To its critics it is a powerful, even dangerous, cult-like organization that uses secrecy and manipulation to advance its agenda. At the same time, many Catholics admit knowing little about this influential group. Moreover, because of the dichotomy of views on the group, and perhaps because of its influence in Vatican circles, it is difficult to find balanced reporting on Opus Dei.
Does Opus Dei advocate "corporal mortification" or "self-punishment"?
In modern times, mortification is associated with some Catholic and Eastern Orthodox monks, but Opus Dei advocates it for lay members in everyday life. An Opus Dei priest in St. Louis, Missouri (USA), The Rev. Michael Giesler, describes two methods of mortification: 1. The cilice, a sharp chain worn around the leg. 2. The "discipline" or flagellum, a small whip of knotted cords applied to one's back.