From thearchives - Published from 1982-96, Fidelity magazine was the predecessor of Culture Wars.
Second Fall of the Angels
by Inge Bluemel
From the September 1992 issue of Fidelity magazine
On June 25 of this year hardly a week after the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had issued its statement on the Opus Angelorum (OA), I found myself on a train heading west toward Germany by way of Innsbruck, and traveling directly beneath the OA headquarters in St. Petersburg. It was pouring rain, as if the heavens had opened all of their flood gates over the Inn valley. Scrapes of cloud hung like crepe over the mountain peaks and floated by the castle, which sat upon its mountaintop like a king on his throne. Off to the other side of the Inn river valley, white mist rose and covered the sheer rock walls where, according to the words of Mother Bitterlich whose writings from the spiritual formation of the Opus Angelorum the cliffs “swarmed with evil spirits.”
On June 19, the worst fears of the Opus Angelorum came true. The death blow described by Opus Angelorum press secretary Ritzinger in a television discussion two years ago hit them square in the back of the neck. On June 19, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued its judgment. A crucial sentence at the heart of this statement pronounces a clear condemnation on the OA: “The angelology which is typical of the Opus Angelorum, as well as certain practices which have been deduced from this teaching, are alien to both Holy Scripture and the tradition of the Church, and as a result cannot serve as a basis for the spirituality and activities of the groups which have the approval of the Church.”
Was it possible that the demon Astaroth, whose “attacking light” (according to OA Handbook of the Demons) “is visible over Rome,” had a hand in this?” The daily angel responsible for June 19 (according to the OA Kalendarium), St. Gethuliel, who one is told “can laugh like a silver bell” is probably laughing out of the other side of his mouth now. And not even St. Ophajim, the “angel of the love of God in Creation,” who is also responsible for the day of June 6, couldn’t prevent the fact that with one stroke of the pen hundreds of carefully confected angels and demons, including those who since the fall of the angels “were still clutching at the stars and beaming their messages to earth,” were swept away into complete oblivion.
It was almost as if a second fall of the angels had taken place, a fall of the fallen Bitterlich angels who were swept away not into Hell, which has a genuine existence, but rather back into the morass of the teeming, pathological imagination fro whence they sprang full-blown.
As of June 25, officials at OA headquarters at the mist-enshrouded St. Petersburg castle wrapped themselves in silence. On June 22 in a radio interview, Press Secretary Ritzinger claimed that it would be premature of the OA to issue a statement. He reprimanded the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by claiming that their decree was “not a distinguished way” of treating a religious community. The extent of the decree, Ritzinger warned, was still unclear, and Ritzinger went on to claim that the statement was bound to cause Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Congregation’s prefect, problems farther down the road.
“It will be necessary to correct this decree,” prophesied Ritzinger, and then he let loose with an arrogant remark to the effect that “Ratzinger isn’t God.” One is forced to ask at this juncture how remarks of this sort jibe with the constant assertion on the part of the OA leadership that the OA is an organization which is especially loyal to the Church.
“Rome,” according to Dr. Erich Leitenberger, the editor-in-chief of the Austrian Kathpress in its June 24 edition, “has declared with admiral clarity that both the teaching and the practice of the controversial Opus Angelorum are out of bounds.” He continues,
“In an age which many have become weary of an exaggerated rationalism and many more have thrown sound reasoning, which is a gift from God, overboard, things tend to become murky. The extraordinary success of the whole weird New Age Movement, with its ‘shamans of service’ and its more or less absurd promotion of Self-discovery, Self-actualization, and Self-healing gurus is only understandable in this light. The current intellectual scene is positively swarming with infestations of every possible kind of spirit; ‘neo-pagans’ propagate ‘old gods’; and in virtually every bookstore books on magic and the occult sell like hotcakes. It’s almost as if Jesus Christ hadn’t really liberated us from the clutches of the powers of this world. In the world of the contemporary religious/occult supermarket, we see the triumph of the principle: ‘Religion, yes; God, no!’ … This neo-religious phenomenon is obviously no stranger to the internal affairs of the Church, as is proven by the whole Opus Angelorum incident. Here too the central position of the salvation and the liberation brought about by Christ is overshadowed by a dualistic world view in which the main event is the battle between good and fallen angels. It is especially consoling that the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith wasn’t deceived in this regard by the lip service which the OA pay so regularly and hypocritically to both the Pope and Rome.
Since the time of Herr Ritzinger’s unfortunate pronouncements on the radio, the leadership of the OA has issued an official communiqué in which they once again emphasize their obedience and their fidelity to Rome. In light of this declaration, it is necessary to clarify the meaning of the four points in the decree, and thankfully His Excellency Heinrich von Soden-Frauenhofen, ordinary of the Munich-Freising Archdiocese, has done just this.
The Bishop reminds us that the OA had not been following the decree issued by the Pope in l983. Whether they continue to ignore the present decree remains to be seen. At any rate, it must be extremely painful for the OA to have to admit that the entire body of writings produced by “Mother” Bitterlich, for whose canonization they pray in public, had to be jettisoned as incompatible with the Catholic Faith. The have to recognize, with a clarity that must strike them as painful that they have been up to now on the wrong road, and that it is now their duty to turn back to the terra firma of solid Church teaching.
A delegate from the Holy See with plenipotentiary powers has been appointed to “oversee the implementation of the above mentioned norms” as well as to clarify the connection between the OA and the Order of the Regular Canons of the Holy Cross (whose membership consists of practically only OA members). According to unofficial reports circulation at the time of this writing (July 6, l992), the Rev. du Roux, O.P., a consultant for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith , has taken on the job of overseeing the implementation of the decrees and is planning to move into the St. Petersburg castle to accomplish this. His reputation for being “sharp” will probably stand him in good stead in keep track of things at St. Petersburg.
Perhaps in his spare time, while not overseeing the implementation of the decree, he can also find out how the 80,000 manuscript pages written by Frau Bitterlich actually came into existence and how the extensive Handbook came to be written within a period of two months. On OA retreats we were told that “an angel stood behind her and commanded: ‘Write!’ … The angel didn’t give her a moment’s peace, and she had to write almost continuously for the entire time.”
The delegate from Rome will most certainly not only devote his scrutiny to St. Petersburg alone; in addition, he will have to oversee operations in the order’s provincial houses in places like Scheffau in the Tyrol; Schondorf in Bavria; and their houses in the Americas. He will have to devote his time as well to the Fraternity of the Guardian Angel, which was founded in Innsbruck, and their carefully guarded membership lists, as well as looking into other far-flung operations which are based on the now-forbidden “angelic consecrations.”
As early as l988, I expressed my reservations concerning the OA in a letter to the editor, which was published in the Una-Voce-Korrespondenz. I would at this point like to reiterate my concluding thoughts as I expressed them then:
“The OA would be a great thing a genuine help for the faithful in the ongoing spiritual warfare which surrounds them. However, the OA in my opinion has to be ‘purified.’ The faith is not only threatened by those who want to subtract from the teaching of the Church but rather by those as well who want to place on top of the faith a superstructure of abstruse fantasies, superstitions, and occult formulae. St. Paul described in his time something which recurs throughout salvation history. Men no longer bear ‘sound teaching’ and ‘turn to myths.’ We should stand guard against this danger, no matter form which direction it comes.”
It is the duty of the bishops throughout the world to protect the purity of Church Teaching and to proceed consistently against religious abuses of every sort – whether against heresy or liturgical abuse. Then the multitudes who are looking for the supernatural, which in many areas is no longer apparent in our liturgies, won’t succumb to the temptation to chase after every dubious “apparition” and, as a result, fall into the hands of unscrupulous “seers” and other false prophets.
Declaration of His Excellency Heinrich von Soden-Frauenhofen, Auxiliary Bishop of Munich-Freising,
On the Decree of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
On Opus Angelorum issued June 6, l992
In light of the history of mendacity and misrepresentation which characterized the dealings of the Opus Angelorum in the past, (cf. Fidelity articles by Inge Bluemel, July/August l991, and Rev. J.P.M. van der Ploeg, November l991), the ordinary of the archdiocese of Munich-Freising on June 24, l992, felt compelled to issue the following declaration concerning both the condemnation of the Opus Angelorum by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued on June 6, l992, and the subsequent Official Communiqué, issued by OA in response.
The June 6, l992 decree of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith concerning the so-called Opus Angelorum is a much-welcomed clarification.
It makes unmistakably clear that the closely interconnected organizations associated with the Opus Angelorum, as well as their teachings concerning the activity of the angels and demons and their connection with the universal work of salvation accompanied by Jesus Christ, are not compatible with the teaching of the Catholic Church and that for years now they have not been following the l983 rulings issued by Pope John Paul II.
The strictures issued in l988 by the Archbishops of both Munich-Freising and Passau, as well as those issued by the Austrian Bishops’ Conference have been dramatically confirmed by this decree.
Those responsible for the direction of the Opus Angelorum deliberately withheld important OA writings, specifically the Handbook of the Opus Angelorum, from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the time of its first investigation. Rome’s verdict of l983 had the specific intention of providing guidelines which would lead the OA to a healthy relationship with the Church. In the new decree, which takes into account those writings previously withheld, both the extraordinary teachings of the OA and all of the expression in the area of spiritual and organizational practice are explicitly forbidden. In doing this, Rome has provided an emphatic correction to the false impression disseminated by the Opus Angelorum that they are an organization which is particularly faithful to the teaching of the Church.
The decree makes clear that the exact opposite is the case. The Opus Angelorum has functioned as a secret society, and has become deeply involved in magical and occult practices which totally misrepresented the faith of the Church. As a result of this, certain people were kept in fear and manipulated for the purpose of the organization. Especially important in this regard is the explicit prohibition in the decree banning the so-called “consecration to the angels.” By making use of the occult practice of “mystical marriage with the angels” -- an idea by the way which is traceable to the Jewish Gnostic Kabbala – the Opus Angelorum was involved in a pertinacious way in violating the consciences of its members.
Nevertheless, in spite of the clarity of the decree opposing both the organizations surrounding the OA and especially its leadership, great vigilance is still necessary. Our chief fear is that OA will continue to hold fast to its beliefs and at the same time redouble its efforts to camouflage them as well. Because this group considers itself as the apocalyptic final stage in the Church, it would not be surprising if many members of the OA simply dismissed the decree of the Congregation and continued to pursue OA goals in full disregard of what Rome has ordered.
Those, however, who have followed the Opus Angelorum with good will and the best of intentions should now feel encouraged by the decision from Rome to separate themselves completely from the OA and its activities.
Comments of His Excellency Heinrich von Soden-Frauenhofen, to the Official Communiqué of the Opus Angelorum responding to the publication of the June 6, l992 Decree of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
The Official Response of the Opus Angelorum will be designated by italics hereafter:
Official Response, Point 1:
The decree is addressed directly to the Work of the Holy Angels as an “institute of the Church,” as an “association which has been recognized by the Church.” Therefore, it cannot possibly be a question of a prohibition of the Work of the Holy Angels as such.
Response of Bishop Soden-Frauenhofen to Point 1:
The Opus Angelorum is not an “institute of the Church” or an association “which has been recognized by the Church,” rather it is a self-appointed, catch-all coalition of organizations without any ecclesial standing. The name “Opus Angelorum” has become the common designation in the relevant literature and administrative correspondence.
Examples of associations under the jurisdiction of the bishop which are covered by the use of the term “Opus Angelorum” are the Fraternities of the Guardian Angel, first founded in Innsbruck in l981, and the Priestly Association of the Holy Cross in the Work of the Holy Angels, which was first founded in Augsburg in l969. The regular canons of the Holy Cross, which was newly taken over by the priests of the Opus Angelorum, in an order under papal jurisdiction.
The Decree of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith can not dissolve the “Opus Angelorum” because this organization never existed canonically in the first place.
Official OA Response, Point 2:
The Opus Angelorum may and should foster and spread the veneration of the Holy Angels in the Church.
The restrictive measures of the decree regulate the use and dissemination of precisely specified portions of writings proper to the Work and practices which derive from them, namely, from the angelology proper to the Work which is not reducible to the written Word of God by rather is known only from private revelation.
Response of Bishop Soden-Frauenhofen to Point 2:
The implementation of the Roman decree in communities under Episcopal jurisdiction is the duty of the respective local ordinaries. For the Order of the Holy Cross, the delegate named by the Holy See is Responsible.
Official OA Response, Point 3:
The Work of the Holy Angels confesses itself openly to the Word of God, as it is presented in Holy Scripture and Tradition by the Living Magisterium of the Church (cf. Dei Verbum 10), as the foundation of all Christian spirituality, especially that of the consecrated life. Likewise the Work stands in fidelity and obedience to the Holy Father and the directives of the decree from (sic) June 6, l992, even as every member promised at the (sic) entrance into the Opus Angelorum.
Response of Bishop Soden-Frauenhofen to Point 3:
Whether the Opus Angelorum remains faithful and obedient to the conditions of the Decree of June 6, l992 remains to be seen. The crucial statement at the heart of the judgment issued by the Congregation on September 24, l983 entailed the following judgment: “In fostering devotion to the holy angels, the Opus Angelorum must adhere to the teaching of the Church as well as that of the Church fathers and doctors.” The Handbook of the Opus Angelorum, which was discovered in l988, most certainly does not fulfill these conditions. The leadership of Opus Angelorum, however, made no attempt to distance itself from the content of this book, but rather saw its prohibition as “a death blow” for the OA, as evidenced in the Club 2 broadcast over ORF, the Austrian Radio Network, on April 5, 1990.
Knowledge of the writings of the Opus Angelorum was a necessary precondition for those who wished to make an oath of consecration to the angels. The content of these writings, however, goes far beyond the teaching of the Church on the angels. Recent teaching materials disseminated by the OA make clear that their current practices were in clear defiance of the l983 prohibition issued by the Vatican.
The Vatican prohibition of the OA vow of silence, to give just one example of this defiance, was not obeyed, nor was the prohibition against the so-called “Communions of Reparation.” It remains to be seen, then, whether the OA protestations of loyalty to the Holy Father become and more credible in the wake of the most recent Vatican decree.
The condition for admission into the Opus Angelorum was the consecration to the guardian angel. In this oath, the candidate promised to take the hand of his guardian angel and “never again” let it go. As of the promulgation of the Decree of June 6, all such consecrations to angels have been explicitly forbidden.
Taking an oath of consecration to the point of a “general consecration of reparation” has been up until now the precondition for admission to the Fraternity of the Guardian Angel. The same thing was true of the Priestly Fraternities of the Order of the Holy Cross. One has to conclude, therefore, that all of the members of the already named canonical communities have been bound as a result of their consecrations to the “private revelations” of Frau Bitterlich.
Official OA Response, Point 3:
The interpretation and implementation of the several determinations of the decree will follow upon agreement with and in collaboration with the Holy See.
Response of Bishop Soden-Frauenhofen to Point 4:
As in Point One of their official communiqué, the OA here gives the impression that the new decree of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is a personal directive issued to the OA alone, one which doesn’t concern the Church public at large until some type of agreement has been reached.
The bishops of the world will not let themselves be influenced by measure in their respective jurisdictions. The machinations of the Opus Angelorum in the past decade have caused more than enough concern about those patrons and members who have joined the OA with the best of intentions.
Culture Wars •