• France's news in English

Opus Dei members in court for 'brainwashing'

AFP · 22 Sep 2011, 10:51

Published: 22 Sep 2011 10:51 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Two members of the secretive Roman Catholic society Opus Dei were to appear in a Paris court on Thursday after a woman claimed they brainwashed her and kept her illegally as a domestic servant.

Catherine T., who has asked not to be identified by her family name, said she joined a hoteliers' school in northeastern France in 1985, aged 14, which she later discovered was run by associates of Opus Dei.

She said she was forced to take vows and made to work as a domestic servant for virtually no pay. Opus Dei has said it was "not involved in the charges being brought" and had "nothing to be guilty about."

The organisation, which is branded a dangerous sect by some critics, came to wide attention after featuring in the blockbuster novel and film "The Da Vinci Code". The case comes after a nine-year investigation.

She said the group compelled her to take vows of obedience, poverty and chastity and for the following 13 years gave her jobs with organisations that her lawyer Rodolphe Bosselut said were linked to Opus Dei.

She said she was made to work 14-hour days, seven days a week, cleaning and serving. Staff paid her a salary and then reclaimed money from her by making her sign blank cheques, supposedly to pay her room and board, she alleged.

She added that staff accompanied her wherever she went, including on visits to the doctor. On these occasions she was taken to see an Opus Dei doctor who prescribed tranquilisers that left her "senseless".

Catherine weighed only 39 kilogrammes (86 pounds) in 2001 when her parents rescued her from the group. Lawyers first took legal action that year alleging "mental manipulation" among other charges.

The charges agains the two Opus Dei members and the University and Technical Culture Association (ACUT) -- which ran the school -- are for "undignified punishment" and for not declaring her as an employee.

Story continues below…

The ACUT has said it has nothing more than a "cultural link" with Opus Dei.  

The colleges's lawyer, Thierry Laugier, has previously said that "There is nothing to this case," and insisted that Catherine T. "was paid according to the work she did."

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Where exactly in France are Calais migrants being sent?
Photo: AFP

Here's where the 8,000 migrants in Calais are heading.

The annoying questions only a half French, half British person can answer
Photo: Beery/Flickr/AFP

Being half French, half British is means you get asked a lot of questions (and some of them can be a little annoying.)

Migrants bussed out of Calais Jungle to all corners of France
All photos: AFP

Hundreds of migrants are being bussed across France on Monday ahead of the demolition of the Jungle camp.

The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
A Prophet. Photo: YouTube Screengrab

Looking for something to watch?

The must-see French films of the millennium - Part Two
Rust and Bone. Photo: YouTube Screengrab

The newest French films you need to see before you die (or alternatively when you get some spare time).

Election Watch
Presidential hopeful reckons a pain au chocolat is 10 cents

So France happily takes the pastry out of him.

French ministry of defence officials die in plane crash
Screengrab: eddydeg/Twitter

The French Ministry of Defence officials were killed on Monday when a light aircraft went down on the island of Malta.

Revealed: The ten most stolen cars in France
A Smart car in Paris. Photo: JR_Paris/Flickr

Thieves in France are getting a taste for luxury cars, it seems.

Analysis - France migrant crisis
Migrant crisis won't end with Calais 'Jungle' closure
All Photos: AFP

The Jungle camp may be being cleared but this won't be the end of the migrant crisis in France.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie 'to sell their French chateau'
All photos: AFP

Want to live where Brangelina got married?

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available