CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH
2 October 2010
Your Eminence / Excellency,
More than thirty years ago, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith began to examine the theories and practices of the association called the Opus Angelorum (Engelwerk). At the present time, the Dicastery believes that it would be helpful for the Bishops of your Episcopal Conference to be informed regarding the developments which have taken place in these years, so that they may exercise effective oversight in this area.
I. The initial examination was brought to a conclusion with the publication of a letter on September 24, 1982, communicating certain decisions approved by the Holy Father (AAS 76 , 175-176); this letter was followed by a Decree entitled Litteris diei of June 6, 1992 (AAS 84 , 805-806).
In essence, these two documents stated that, in promoting devotion to the Holy Angels, the members of the Opus Angelorum were to follow the doctrine of the Church and the teaching of the Church Fathers and Doctors. In particular, the members were not to make use of the “names” of angels derived from the alleged private revelations attributed to Mrs. Gabriele Bitterlich and they were not to teach, spread or make use of the theories originating from these alleged revelations. Furthermore, they were reminded of the duty to follow strictly all liturgical laws, in particular those relating to the Holy Eucharist. The Decree of 1992 entrusted the implementation of these measures to a Delegate named by the Holy See and possessing special faculties; he was also given the task of regularizing the relationship between the Opus Angelorum and the Order of Canons Regular of the Holy Cross.
In the years that followed, the Delegate, Father Benoît Duroux, O.P., successfully completed the work entrusted to him. Today, thanks to the obedience of its members, the Opus Angelorum can be considered to be living loyally and serenely in conformity with the doctrine of the Church and with canonical and liturgical law. On March 13, 2010, given the advanced age of Father Duroux, Father Daniel Ols, O.P. was named Delegate, with the same powers as described in the Decree of 1992.
The process of normalization can be seen in particular in the following elements. On May 31, 2000, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith approved the formula of a consecration to the Holy Angels for the Opus Angelorum. Having received the positive opinion of this Dicastery, the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life approved the “Statutes of the Opus Sanctorum Angelorum”, in which, among other things, the relationship between the Opus Angelorum and the Order of Canons Regular of the Holy Cross was defined. According to the Statutes, the Opus Angelorum is a public association of the Catholic Church with juridical personality according to the norm of canon 313 of the CIC; it is joined to the Order of Canons Regular of the Holy Cross according to the norm of canon 677, § 2 of the CIC and placed under the direction of the Order in conformity with canon 303 of the CIC. The Constitutions of the Sisters of the Holy Cross were approved by the Bishop of Innsbruck. Finally, the Order of Canons Regular of the Holy Cross, whose central government had been named by the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life on October 30, 1993, was able at the beginning of 2009 to elect its own Superior General and the members of the General Council.
Therefore, in its present state, the Opus Angelorum is a public association of the Church in conformity with traditional doctrine and with the directives of the Holy See. It spreads devotion to the Holy Angels among the faithful, exhorts them to pray for priests, and promotes love for Christ in his Passion and union with it. Therefore, there are no remaining obstacles of a doctrinal and disciplinary kind which would prevent local Ordinaries from receiving this movement into their Dioceses and promoting its development.
II. At the same time, however, the Congregation wishes to draw the attention of Ordinaries to the fact that, in the course of these years, a certain number of Opus Angelorum members, including some priests who either left or were expelled from the Order of Canons Regular of the Holy Cross, have not accepted the norms given by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and seek to restore what, according to them, would be the “authentic Opus Angelorum”, that is, a movement which professes and practices all those things which were forbidden by the above-mentioned documents. The Congregation has learned that very discrete propaganda in favour of this wayward movement, which is outside of any ecclesiastical control, is taking place, aimed at presenting it as if it were in full communion with the Catholic Church.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, therefore, asks Ordinaries to be vigilant with regard to such activities, disruptive as they are of ecclesial communion, and to forbid them if they are present within their Dioceses.
Trusting that the members of your Conference of Bishops will take special care in putting into practice the indications given above, and with kind regards and prayerful best wishes, I remain
William Cardinal Levada
Luis F. Ladaria, S.I.