Friday, May 19, 2006
Opus Dei - A Cult?
Had to include a graphic of Rick Santorum (R-Opus Dei)
There is a huge fuss over the role Opus Dei plays in Dan Brown's novel (and now movie) 'The Da Vinci Code'. But what exactly is Opus Dei and how did it come about.
Opus Dei (the work of God) is a lay Catholic organization that was founded in 1928 by Spanish Catholic prienst Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer (now Saint Josemaria). There is a lot of religious 'politics' involved with St. Josemaria and Opus Dei. First of all, Opus Dei was made a 'personal prelature' by Pope John Paul II. This means that Opus Dei enjoys autonomy from local bishops, a privilege no religious order enjoys. As far as St. Jose, well he was put on a fast track to sainthood. During the beatification process some witnesses had questions about Father Escriva suitability for sainthood. Father Escriva was accused of having a bad temper, that he was cruel, that he was vain, that he was close to Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, that he was pro-Nazi and that he was so dismayed by the Second Vatican Council that he even traveled to Greece with the idea that he might convert to the Orthodox religion. He apparently did not care for Pope John XXIII. He has been criticized for his attitudes towards women. Others wondered whether Opus Dei is a cult and asked whether they use 'brainwashing' techniques to recruit members?
Though he doesn't believe Opus Dei is a cult, Father James LeBar, who has been the Archdiocese of New York's consultant on cults for some 20 years told ABCNEWS.com that some of Opus Dei's practices resemble those used in cults: "Yes, because they do use practices that were prevalent in the 1950s in all Catholic orders, [though] many of the orders have done away with them, the close supervision ... " he says.
Pope John Paul II supposedly wasn't interested in hearing criticisms of Father Escriva. More about Father Escriva can be found here.
Opus Dei is controversial enough that there is even a dedicated 'Opus Dei Awareness Network'. ODAN claims Opus Dei even has a forbidden book list. Authors such as Sinclair Lewis, Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, John Updike and Allen Ginsberg may not be read unless permission is obtained from the Prelate of Opus Dei in Rome.