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Vatican writer's fair and balanced assessment of Opus Dei

The National Catholic Reporter's Rome correspondent John Allen is about to publish a study of Opus Dei that challenges its common depiction as a secretive and sinister cult within the Catholic Church.

An interview with Allen in Newsweek focuses on the book's role as an answer to the view of Opus Dei in Dan Brown's best-selling thriller, The Da Vinci Code. Opus Dei, it says, is a secretive society of men and women who have sought political power to further the interests of a wealthy elite.

The book, and Allen, have been praised by conservatives who are normally hostile to the National Catholic Reporter.

Beliefnet's resident Catholic blogger Charlotte Hays has welcomed the book, anticipating that "it might not get [her] blood boiling."

She quotes Allen's explanation for widespread hostility towards Opus Dei: "In the 1930s and '40s [Opus Dei] experienced some enormous, extremely bitter rivalries with the Jesuits [because] some young Spanish men were deciding not to become Jesuits and signed up with Opus Dei instead. And this was, I think, the initial source of tension, that there was this perception that Opus Dei was kind of poaching ... Some Jesuits began circulating, from my point of view, really outlandish charges against Opus Dei, things like they had secret tunnels under their centres, they were engaging themselves in bizarre rituals like crucifying themselves on crosses in Opus Dei centres."

Allen has been quietly urging all parties in the Church to adopt a more open-minded attitude to each other for some time. Following a symposium in San Antonio last year, Allen observed that the liberal Catholics present spoke of the need for dialogue "with secularity, with the young, with different cultures", but were "not even ready for dialogue with the different cultures present in their own Church".

"In one session, it was mentioned that a new bishop in Austria comes from Opus Dei, and the gasps were audible, as if he had said the bishop was a member of the Nazi party or the Klu Klux Klan," he recalled.

Decoding Opus Dei (Newsweek/MSNBC 24/3/05)
A Fair Shake for Opus Dei? (Loose Canon/Beliefnet 29/3/05)
Dialoguing with missionaries in San Antonio (National Catholic Reporter 29/10/04)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Opus Dei
John L Allen: The Word From Rome (National Catholic Reporter)
Demonising Opus Dei (Online Catholics)
Opus Dei prestige on display at centenary event (National Catholic Reporter 18/1/02)

Cause opening for Opus Dei second saint (CathNews 3/3/04)
Opus Dei founder canonised (CathNews 8/10/02)

30 Mar 2005