Is the Da Vinci Code more fiction than fact in its portrayal of Opus Dei, the secretive Catholic organization?
by William Martin
With the flood of publicity likely from occur from The Da Vinci Code, Opus Dei, the organization cast as the ‘baddies’, are demanding cuts from the movie ‘so as not to offend Catholics’.
Whether the publicity will actually offend Catholics are just give Opus Dei some unwelcome attention is open to question. http://film.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,,1710298,00.html
“The Da Vinci Code’s depiction of Opus Dei is inaccurate, both in the overall impression and in many details” according to their web site http://www.opusdei.org/art.php?w=32&p=7017 and they are worried that the ‘inaccuracies’ will be also in the movie.
Is Dan Brown’s book more fiction than fact – as far as its representation of Opus Dei?
It is hard to know for sure, but there are a few things which do stand out in the midst of all the fuss. Opus Dei’s are trying to turn people’s attention to the good work of their members rather than the more controversial aspects of their lifestyle. Certainly their main guiding principle of ‘Finding God in Work and Daily Life’ is very appealing to many of us.
However, the practice of self-mortification by some of their members leaves them open to accusations of being a highly dubious organization. Opus Dei do not try to deny that this happens. Indeed their website attempts to justify self-mortification rather than disclaim it.
“Members of Opus Dei also attempt to respond generously to Christ’s invitation to take up the Cross by traditional Christian practices of self-denial, including, in some cases, use of the disciplines and the cilice.”
A cilice, by the way, is a spiked chain worn around the upper thigh for two hours each day.
One ex-member claims: “We were encouraged to ‘draw a little blood’ and frequently told how ‘the Father’ the founder of the organization- drew so much blood that he spattered the walls and ceiling with it.” http://www.odan.org/media_roche.htm
Yet Opus Dei claim “These practices of Christian asceticism are no more harmful to health than are athletic training or the diets followed by many to improve their health or appearance.” Which seems pretty out-of-touch, no matter how well-intended the explanation. They are clutching at straws to try and justify a bizarre medieval practice.
Of course members of Opus Dei are perfectly entitled to cause themselves unnecessary pain if they want, but they can hardly expect the rest of us to believe that this fits in with their attempts to live lives which are “peaceful and brimming over with joy.”
Although Opus Dei website tries to meet the issues raised by The Da Vinci Code head on; it makes no mention whatsoever of much longer-term assailant on their carefully crafted image.
The Opus Dei Awareness Network (ODAN) has been setup to help those who have been damaged by Opus Dei. “ODAN is a worldwide community of people who have had painful experiences as a result of their association with Opus Dei.” http://www.odan.org/
“ODAN challenges many of Opus Dei’s Questionable Practices because of the way they affect an individual’s personal freedom, choices and family life.
The following practices of Opus Dei are not common knowledge and need to be examined and questioned. The serious issues ODAN raises are based on a collection of first-hand personal experiences.
– Corporal mortification – Aggressive recruitment / undue pressure to join – Lack of informed consent and control of environment – Alienation from families”.
No doubt there are many good, well-meaning people at Opus Dei, but it seems likely at the very least that particular individuals have been abusing the power they gain from being members. The Catholic church has long shown itself to be appallingly bad a dealing with ‘bad apples’ in its midst. We only have to look at how it handled accusations of child abuse against its priests to see that (it just transferred the culprits). Whether it handles the darker aspects of Opus Dei properly only time will tell.
The Opus Dei Awareness Network (ODAN) claim that their information comes from first-hand personal experiences. Their claims, if proven, are therefore a much greater threat to Opus Dei than the Da Vinci Code. It would be good if ODAN could have some of the publicity going to Opus Dei. Perhaps then we would get some real answers out of Opus Dei and not just the media games and PR spin going on just now.
Maybe neither Opus Dei nor The Da Vinci Code are telling the truth. Perhaps it is ODAN.
William F Martin offers holistic ideas and advice. Check out these holistic blogs and articles.