Sunday, January 22, 2006

Opus Dei on offense

Having just read Rome correspondent John Allen's fat book on Opus Dei (that's the title of the book), I'm wondering why the usually secretive group gave Allen so much access. He got to read eyes-only journals and the Opus Dei catechism (under controlled conditions, of course) and met with loads of Opus bigwigs. But why now?

Doh! The Da Vinci Code, dummy. With 24 million copies in print and a Tom Hanks blockbuster coming out, Opus finally has to come out of the ecclesial closet, explain their wierder-sounding practices (that whipping yourself thing, and the spiked band that celibate members wear for a few hours a day). Plus, in Allen they found a more sympathetic ear, since I think he went into his interviews presuming the hype around Opus Dei was more smoke than fire. And sure enough, he concludes that while Opus needs to do some PR work, they're not as bad as some fear. And Opus Dei's Rome spokesperson, Marc Carroggio, evidently agrees, giving the Zenit News Agency an entire interview about the book. (Publisher Doubleday must be thrilled. With 86,000 members and hundreds of thousands of admirers, Opus is bound to buy a boatload. Allen stands to do pretty well himself.)

I'm still not so thrilled with Opus. With only 86,000 members out of 1.1 billion Catholics--four bishops in the U.S. alone and an number of key Vatican positions--they wield entirely too much influence in the church for their numbers. They are still the only group given their own bishop, and their refusal to publicly identify their ministries gives me the creeps. (The former archbishop of Westminster Basil Hume required Opus to identify it's ministries in his diocese, but here in Chicago, you wouldn't know "Mid-Town Center" has anything to do with Opus Dei unless you also knew that the parish it's attached to is Opus.) Allen gives the group's reasons for this--"secularity," or not wanting to be identified as explicitly religious--but I'm not convinced.

In the end, I guess I should be thanking Dan Brown for flushing Opus out. Even though he wrote the most poorly researched, sensationalistic, and downright silly piece of pulp fiction since I don't know what, he actually managed to rattle Opus Dei enough that they decided to let a little light in.


At 8:17 PM, Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

I just read Dan Brown's 'Deception Point'. I can't believe I finished it, as it was like an incredibly unrealistic James Bond adventure, but in my own defence I have to say that I am on holiday and in blob-out mode. I think it should be compulsory reading for everyone who thinks that the Da Vinci Code seems like the 'truth'. Once they read 'Deception Point' they will realise that Brown is definitely into high fantasy as a fiction writer.


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