Ex-Opus Dei Members Decry Blind Obedience

Dennis Dubro, 55, spent 17 years in Opus Dei before abandoning the group, and he disagrees with Carron. In his view, supernumeraries, those in the less-formal category of membership that allows people to have families and live in their own homes -- are clueless about the organization's real intentions.

"I was in levels of leadership and like an onion, the outer core never finds out about these things," Dubro said. Supernumeraries make up about 70 percent of the 87,000 members worldwide, with the core representing about 20 percent.

Dubro grew close to Opus Dei while he was a student at MIT, and he eventually became a numerary. Opus Dei sent him to Australia to oversee a boys dorm, which is when he started to question the organization.

"As you move into leadership, they test your obedience and see how loyal you are," Dubro said. He likened the experience to loyalty in the Mafia, saying that he became a puppet.

"You are expected to stand up and tell the world that you are acting in your own name when you carry out the secret indications of your directors," he said. Dubro became dismayed by the manipulative elements of the organization, from the complexity of its finances to its lack of transparency.

Easy to Join, Harder to Leave?

His disloyalty led to his departure, although he said Opus Dei doesn't let its members go freely, despite what it says.

"When you talk to your spiritual director about things like that [leaving], he tells you that you will go to hell if you abandon your God-given vocation," Dubro said.

In DiNicola's case, her parents became more and more concerned in 1989 when she turned down their invitation to come home for Easter. With the help of the local clergy and a psychologist, DiNicola spent hours in counseling.

She recalls the time as extremely painful, but eventually she came to wonder why, if Opus Dei's teaching focused on friendship, it entailed abandoning her family. In addition, she found the constant pressure to recruit new members misleading and contrary to the doctrine of spreading the good word through charitable work.

She distanced herself from Opus Dei and moved in with her sister, readjusting slowly to living independently again.

"I soon realized that Opus Dei had squashed my true emotions, and so every day was an emotional roller coaster ride for months," she said.

Opus Dei's Carron counters that things don't always work out in life.

"You have to understand, this is a lifelong commitment," she said. "Many people go into a lifelong commitment, whether it's Opus Dei or a marriage, and sometimes they don't quite gel, sometimes it doesn't work for them and they get out of it and it's very sad when it ends."

DiNicola interprets her departure another way.

"I feel like I have been healed of the abuse," she said. "I felt God showed me the truth."

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