Did Rome stop Opus Angelorum?


A German housewife, Marianne Poppenwimmer, addressed a complaint to the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger:

“We are a parents’ association consisting of 21 families, all of whom have children or other family members who have been hurt by the Opus Angelorum. The damage is in some cases so great that those concerned are in psychiatric clinics, and at the early age of 29 or 30 now need nursing care and are unfit for work. Medical reports confirm that these young people were in good mental health before they came into contact with the OA. I also know of three Catholic marriages which have broken up because of the Opus Angelorum. We parents find it very wrong that for over 40 years now this organization has been able to exist under cover of the Catholic Church and has not been forbidden by the Vatican.”

“The number of families in the Parents’ Association for Opus Angelorum Victims has risen to 30. And although Rome issued a decree concerning the OA in June 1992, the problems have not yet been solved, inasmuch as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith did not ban the Opus Angelorum as the organization’s opponents had hoped. It merely prohibited all those teachings peculiar to the OA and the scripts and rituals concerned, emphasizing that these were alien to the Holy Scriptures and the Church’s tradition.

“The OA and its teachings are based on a so-called private revelation. From visions she had had, Gabriele Bitterlich (1896-1978), a Tyrolean housewife who originally came from Vienna, and is greatly venerated by the organization as The Mother, described the names, characteristics and appearance of hundreds of angels and demons and the never-ending battle between them. Apparently 80,000 manuscript pages can be attributed to her, and from these various publications have been composed and made available to members.

“According to OA theory, in order to achieve salvation, human beings must actively join the angels in their battle against the demons – which means, in concrete terms, joining the Opus Angelorum. That these inspirations were of a supernatural nature is not very plausible, as there are indications that spiritism and esoteric literature, above all occult Jewish cabbala teachings, played a certain role in the Bitterlich family. Some of Mother Gabriele’s angels bear the names of cabalistic Sefirot, like the titles of the chapters in Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, but also names like Yahweh, which, according to Jewish tradition, are reserved solely for God.

“Apparently by 1949 Gabriele Bitterlich had already received a calling to the Work of the Holy Angels. With its strange rituals, dedications and consecrations to guardian and other angels, and to atonement, the Opus Angelorum spread like a spider’s web in the Catholic Church, taking hold of priests, religious and lay persons and sometimes causing divisions within religious communities. Only branch associations of the Opus Angelorum have been officially recognised by the Church, such as the Guardian Angels Brotherhood founded in Innsbruck in 1961, the OA priests’ communities, now apparently established in almost 60 dioceses the world over, and the Order of the Regular Canons of the Holy Cross, an order rich in tradition but extinct until it was revived by the OA élite. The Opus Angelorum itself has been given no legal recognition.

“Strict secrecy is regarded as of the utmost importance in the OA, so membership, with the exception of the 160 male and 150 female members of the Holy Cross Order (1992 figures), can rarely be proved. In 1993, Fr Hansjörg Bitterlich, Gabriele Bitterlich’s son, who at the time was still superior of the Holy Cross Convent of St Petersberg in the Tyrol, spoke of almost 10,000 regular members, and added that a further million people were close to the Opus Angelorum. The OA itself has claimed that about a dozen cardinals and more than 50 bishops have become members. With their help the organization is pressing for influence in the Church, although it is doubtful whether all these church dignitaries are acquainted with and approve of OA writings like the Handbook. As early as 1988, when Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, Archbishop of Munich, forbade Opus Angelorum activities in his diocese, an ex-member warned on Bavarian television: I think the danger for the Church is very great. I really believe that, step by step, the OA intends to occupy key positions in the Church and make it into an Opus Angelorum Church.

“The OA is not short of money. In a raid on its Anápolis branch in Brazil burglars got away with a fortune in cash and gold ingots – according to police reports. Large and small donors are regularly approached for contributions with evident success, and legacies are deliberately sought. As Bishop Henry Soden-Frauenhofen, formerly auxiliary in Munich, once put it, in the OA you have to know an angel or a demon that has a hunch about lucrative inheritances.

-“One of the main accusations made against Opus Angelorum is that it estranges young people from their families, and induces a fear of demons which some members cannot cope with. The new generation of priests is usually trained in remote places, at Anápolis in Brazil, for example, where the organization has its own college for religious. Opus Angelorum clergy tell novices that they are in contact with each novice’s respective angel, and with the words your angel commands you demand obedience and readiness to atone. Even a journalist who is well disposed to the organization, Heinz Gstrein, says in his book on the Opus Angelorum that he would not advise anyone to associate with it who was not mentally robust and steadfast in faith as unfortunately too many short-sighted exorcists and extremists are at work there at the moment.

“Bishop Henry Soden-Frauenhofen called the OA a sect, referring to a definition by a Vatican synod in the autumn of 1995. Sects, he said, are groups which believe in additional revelations or prophetic messages other than the Bible. They have authoritarian structures and practice certain kinds of brainwashing and mind-control. They induce feelings of guilt and fear. Soden-Frauenhofen stated his clear and unequivocal conclusion: All these characteristic elements of a sect apply to the Opus Angelorum. Expert opinion, whenever it has been possible to obtain OA writings, which were kept secret from the outside world for a long time, has been devastating. Johann Auer, a theologian from Regensburg in Germany, was inclined to put the ideology in OA writings down to paranoid schizophrenia.

Above all the Opus Angelorum Handbook, which turned up outside the organization for the first time in 1986-87, is rooted in magic and superstition. It also reflects racist and political discrimination. It names special demons for gypsies, Merinin; for all Jewish commerce and trade, Ahasver; in all Jewish quarters, Chanastai; and for red workers Nepher, whereas none are named for other ethnic groups or for fascists. Women come off very badly . Of Dragon, the Father of the Furies, it is said: He let woman loose on the world as a ‘female devil, one with the demon who dominated her and was inherent in her and whom she made wholly her own’. For the former Bishop of Innsbruck, Reinhold Stecher, the Handbook is a reversion to an age obsessed with witch-hunting.

“The measures contained in the Vatican’s decree of 1992, above all the prohibition of the use of the Bitterlich manuscripts and the rituals based on them, especially the angel consecrations, were seen by some as a death-blow for the original Opus Angelorum spirituality. Hansjörg Bitterlich, the priest and son of the foundress, was the head of the Angels’ Castle (Engelburg) at St Petersberg in the Tyrol until 1992.

“When in an interview he severely criticized the Vatican for banning the OA Handbook, he had to leave the community and now heads a splinter group. The new OA leadership signaled obedience to Rome and was apparently able to convince the Vatican delegate appointed to oversee the Opus Angelorum, the Swiss Dominican Benoit Duroux, of the organization’s continued right to exist.

“But although since 1992 the new OA leadership has obviously tried to avoid causing even the slightest upset, news of the fate of families split by its activities, or reports from former members that brainwashing is still going on, have repeatedly caused a stir.

“Above all the case of a young nurse, Eleonore Berger, has focused attention on the Opus Angelorum in Austria and Germany. Since she joined the OA in 1990 and moved to Petersburg Castle, her family or former friends have received no sign of life from her. Recently, however, she gave the Linz church paper an interview in which she rejected all rumors that the Opus Angelorum wanted to keep her from her family. She had broken off contact with them of her own free will, she said, so that no one would stand in the way of her vocation.

“Many of those who know the Opus Angelorum will find it difficult to believe that its members have renounced their former beliefs. They suspect that the majority of OA members continue to hold on to the Bitterlich tenets and are sticking to their intention to infiltrate the Church.”


A good example that Marianne Poppenwimmer is correct and that Opus Angelorum has not stopped spreading its Gnostic ideas of angels, is Mother Angelica and her order of nuns. 

Only a few months ago, on December 2, 2007 Mother Angelica and her Community consecrated themselves to their Guardian Angels, using the Opus Angelorum formula. In fact, Opus Angelorum spent a year of preparation with her Community to do this.  In Mother Angelica’s own web site she sights the Opus Angelorum web site as the source of her consecration. 

With its headquarters at the medieval Petersberg Castle in the Tyrol, to which only members or their guests have access, this association, which is sworn to strict secrecy and the rejection of all modernistic tendencies in the Church, puts one in mind of Umberto Eco’s novel, The Name of the Rose. Its members practice an external, over-zealous piety which has brought the Opus Angelorum many conservative sympathizers, but what has caused far greater unease is hidden under the surface: a very peculiar angel-demon doctrine and a way of inducing fear and exercising power.

The Opus Angelorum Handbook lists 243 demons together with 412 angels. One of the former, Schebarschenoth, sends his rays from the Planet Neptune and works with Adonai Melchim and Naschim, the shot-putter. He is the demon of the Great Chaos, who disrupts laws, confuses heavenly constellations in the universe, prevents children’s bones from developing properly, causes circulation trouble and glandular malfunction.

In another passage we hear of the magic rectangle which each demon spans over creation and fills with numbers behind which demons stand. Demons, we are told, are able to radiate through people, usually midwives, peasant women, gypsies, errand girls and old and vindictive peasants. Certain animals such as grey, tortoise-shell and black cats, speckled and black hens, pigs and short-haired dogs, bluebottles, rats and snakes are particularly receptive to demonic rays.

Although a recent examination of Opus Angelorum scripts shows that they contain a not inconsiderable number of contradictions, there may well be people who are capable of believing all this. But most are inclined to ask what all this has to do with Catholic Christianity.