The Centre for Investigative Journalism
The Centre for Investigative Journalism

Spiritual Abuse: Coercion and forced labour in the powerful Catholic organisation Opus Dei

Opus Dei, a conservative group of Da Vinci Code fame, is one of the most powerful organisations in the Catholic Church. Its influence extends beyond religious circles. High-profile Opus Dei members include the late Luis Valls, former president of Banco Popular, Patrick Njoroge, former governor of the Central Bank of Kenya, and Guillermo Lasso, the president of Ecuador until last year. In the US, the Catholic Information Centre, an event space run by Opus Dei priests, has been closely tied to the conservative takeover of the US judiciary.

The elite status of the Opus Dei’s membership has fuelled speculation about the group’s influence in business, education and politics around the world. But far less known are the women — only women — whose domestic work has propped up Opus Dei’s activities for decades.

Financial Times journalist Antonia Cundy uncovered the accounts of 16 women who accused Opus Dei of enslavement. Recruited as young girls from rural and working-class backgrounds on the premise of receiving an education, the women said they were coerced into domestic servitude — in effect modern slavery — through a rigid system of psychological control. When they eventually managed to leave Opus Dei, they had nothing to their name.

Cundy shares her experience of tracking down victims who by the nature of their experience have little to no digital presence, and the sensitivities and nuances of gaining their trust to report on institutional religious abuse.

Read the investigation in full: The Opus Dei Diaries. 16 March 2024. The Financial Times. 

3 July 2024 – Spiritual Abuse: Coercion and forced labour in the powerful Catholic organisation Opus Dei


Antonia Cundy

Antonia Cundy is a multi award-winning special investigations reporter at the Financial Times, focused on exposing abuses of power. Before joining the FT in 2022, Antonia worked as a freelance foreign correspondent and investigative reporter.
  • 3 July 2024 10.30–11.30
Location: LG02