From thearchives - Published from 1982-96, Fidelity magazine was the predecessor of Culture Wars.
Gabriele’s Angels: The Opus Angelorum (OA) Can be Dangerous to your Spiritual Health
by Inge Bluemel
From the July/August 1991 issue of Fidelity magazine
It is a sign of the times that our discernment of spirits is vanishing and that more and more Christians are turning to questionable spiritual movements, cults, and sects. Instead of testing the spirits, according to the rule of St. Paul, “test everything and retain what is good,” all too many Christians allow themselves to be influenced by “apparitions” and private revelations without judging them according to Holy Scripture and the teaching of the Church. In keeping with this trend, Two Marian-oriented Catholic publications (Fatima Family Messenger, April-June l991 and Mary’s People, March 31, l991) have been giving free publicity to the so-called Opus Angelorum (AKA: Work of the Holy Angels) without apparently knowing that the Church has expressed grave reservations about this movement.
Based on 80,000 pages of private revelations, which a pious woman by the name of Gabriele Bitterlich allegedly received from heaven, the Opus Angelorum was founded in Austria in the years shortly after the Second World War. Attracted to the various retreats and days of recollection sponsored by the OA, the unsuspecting faithful are lead more and more deeply into a spirituality which is quasi-Masonic in its degree-based structure – from the promise to the guardian angel at the lower end to the angelic consecration in the middle to the consecration of atonement at the upper level. The goal is to become an “alter angelus.”
Just how dangerous becoming pseudo-angel can be, especially to young people, can be seen from two recent examples. One mother of a young lady who fell into the hands of the OA had the following to say on Bavarian television:
Our daughter was at one of the OA retreats in Altoetting. Father Herman Precht brought her home after the retreat in his car although she had a return train ticket with her. In addition to Father Precht there were another priest and two OA assistants in the car. They spent two and an half hours trying to persuade me and my husband to let her join the Opus Angelorum. We wanted her to get an education, but Father Precht said, “You can’t let her go to college. The devil is lying in wait for her there. In school she’ll be surrounded by demons” (Heiner Boberski, Das Engelwerk, Salzburg: Otto Mueller Veriag, l990, p. 112).
Close by the wall surrounding St. Petersburg Castle (the Austrian headquarters of the Opus Angelorum) a girl lies in a rumor-encircled grave. One former member of the Opus Angelorum, however, remembers the real story:
Annemarie was in love with an OA priest. Just how far she went in expressing this love is hard to say. She was, at any rate, disappointed in love, so disappointed in fact that she saw no way out of her predicament. As a result she declared to Frau Bitterlich that she was going to kill herself.
After making this declaration she disappeared from Petersburg Castle, where nothing was done either to persuade the girl to change her mind or prevent her from carrying out her threat. When it grew late and she still hadn’t returned, a number of OA priests began combing the surrounding woods for traces of the missing girl. From the very beginning it was clear that no one was going to call the police.
On the following morning, after searching the woods (or at least giving the appearance of searching the woods), we all knelt in the chapel in front of the Blessed Sacrament. At that point George Blasko (the priest in charge of the OA) came in and said that Annamarie’s body had been found in a mountain stream. She was found lying face down in the water and floating nearby was a bottle of poison. Since the scene of the crime wasn’t far from St. Petersburg Castle, I wanted to go there and see for myself. I was prevented, however, from doing this by the “superior brothers.” If anyone was interrogated by the police, I wasn’t aware of it.
When Annamarie was buried, they said that she had been suffering from severe depression. I still don’t believe that. She was looking for understanding and human warmth and instead was driven to suicide by Mother Bitterlich’s icy mysticism (Boberski, p. 101).
The members of the OA are only gradually acquainted with the “revelations” of the organization. The best known book of the OA is the so-called Kalendarium, a two volume work of around 800 pages. Analogous to the daily feast days of the saints, the Kalendarium lists for each day a particular angel with its name, as well as the color of its robes, its special task and even its own special tools. The book gives the impression of being a collection of imaginative legends which find expression in abstruse and often absurd doctrines.
To give just one example, the angels of the highest choir, the Seraphim, possess as a reflection of the divine Trinity three heads. According to the testimony of the OA priests, the Kalendarium, is on the same level as the New Testament and is, in fact, the continuation of the New Testament for our times.
At OA retreats one gets the following “spiritual” advice: it is important to dust thoroughly because demons are at home in dust. It is also important to keep your room neat because you guardian angel won’t remain in a sloppy room. If the OA member is considered worthy enough, he is led from these beliefs deeper and deeper into the realm of the occult and made aware of the OA radiation doctrine. A few examples will suffice.
Some regions are inhabited by the so-called Diaradiators, namely, people who devote themselves to Black Magic so that demons can radiate through these people in order to cause damage. This demonic radiation can also cause environmental damage of various sorts, water pollution, soil contamination and various maladies for radiation-sensitive plants and animals. One should, therefore, be on guard against black and gray cats, as well as black hens, pigs, and short-haired dogs, just to mention a few dangers. The dangers of spiritual radiators are not limited to the animal kingdom; Midwives are just one example of a particular occupational group that positively teems with Diaradiators.
In l961 the bishop of Innsbruck (in whose diocese St. Petersburg Castle, the headquarters of OA is located) gave his approval to the founding of a “Brotherhood of the Guardian Angel,” a branch of the OA, in his diocese. Various bishops followed suit by granting approval for the founding of priestly associations of the OA in their dioceses. In l976, the bishop of Augsburg granted permission to print the Kalendarium, a permission which he nevertheless withdrew in l988.
In l983 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger working through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith demanded that 1) in promoting devotion to the holy angels the OA had to submit to the teaching of the Church, 2) that they were forbidden to promulgate any cult of the holy angels which made use of names which came from the writings of Mother Bitterlich, 3) that they could not require of their members an oath of silence, and 4) that they had to adhere strictly to all liturgical norms, particularly those forbidding the reception of communion several times on one day. As with the latter day Medjugorje enthusiasts, the grave warning on the part of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith was explained away and in fact, interpreted as an endorsement.
In l986 quite by chance the until-then top-secret Handbook of the Demons fell into the hand of Church authorities, who had been kept unaware of its existence. As a result of this discovery, Cardinal Ratzinger commissioned the German dogmatic theologian Professor Johann Auer to do a new study of the OA. The up shot of this study was that in l988 the German Bishops Conference recommended that measures be taken against the OA, which in turn lead to an administrative order by Cardinal Wetter of the Diocese of Munich, which in turn was followed by statements from other dioceses.
In l990 the entire Austrian Bishops Conference issued a statement condemning the erroneous teachings of the OA.
The conclusions which Prof. Auer draws in his recent examination of the writings of the OA speak for themselves:
In my l977 evaluation I attempted to indicate the illogical confusion in these writings by reference to similar phenomena in the Cabala. After my most recent work with the writings of the OA, this time with ten books, I have to confess that I am inclined to believe that the entire thought of the OA is traceable to paranoid schizophrenia, a schizophrenia characterized by an inability to form abstract concepts and an inability to preserve the boundaries of these concepts (over-generalized thinking). To be as frank as possible, I am suggesting that the authorities in Rome send these writings to a good Catholic psychiatrist for evaluation in this area. As a theologian, I am, I must confess out of my depth and unable to give a rational judgment because the writings lack all rationality.
In an article which appeared in the 4 September l990 issue of Theologisches, a conservative German Catholic magazine, Father J.P.M. van der Ploeg, O.P., a Dominican theologian at the University of Nijmegen in Holland, accused the OA of attempting to introduce into the Church a teaching on the angels “that is bound up with superstition and the occult, and of doing it as far as possible from the public eye and only in secret among the initiated.” “Modernism,” he continued, “makes its appearance now openly and is shouted from the rooftops. It is especially for this reason that the teaching of the OA, which is intended only for esoteric circles, is a danger to the Church. The bishops, therefore, are doing us all a favor, by warning the faithful against it” (521).
Critics of the OA are frequently chided for being obsessed with negative phenomena in the Church and spreading tales of scandal. However, often the only way to heal a sore is by opening it up. A cancerous growth doesn’t go away if it is ignored. Rather it begins to metastasize and spread throughout the entire body. Member of the Work of the Angels are found of saying that the only thing that has any spiritual merit is offering it up and keeping your mouth shut. Au contraire, we as Christians are called through our Confirmation to fight for the faith and the truth.
The Catholic faith is threaten not only by those who want to subtract from the teaching of the Church, i.e., the modernists, but also by those who want to pile on top of that teaching abstruse fantasies, superstition, and occult practices. St. Paul spoke of those in his own time and throughout history who “couldn’t bear sound teaching” and as a result “turned to fables.” We need to face this danger directly – no matter which end of the religious spectrum it comes from.
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