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'Opus Dei Is Not a Sect'
Father Gerard Sheehan defends his organization from recent criticism
Javier Espinoza (Javier21a)     Email Article  Print Article 
Published 2006-03-21 11:37 (KST)   
Father Sheehan in front of the St. Thomas More parish in London.
©2006 J. Espinosa
Opus Dei is not an obscure sect thirsty for power and money that bans members from reading books and discriminates against women, says Father Gerard Sheehan, a member of Opus Dei for 28 years. On the contrary, it is "very boring."

Opus Dei, which means the "work of God", is a Roman Catholic organization founded in Spain by Jose Maria Escriva in 1928. It promotes the idea that people are called to lead priestly, saintly lives through ordinary existence.

However, in recent times certain publications such as the The Da Vinci Code (book and movie), for example, has presented Opus Dei as a secret, malignant sect within the walls of the Vatican willing to destroy those who oppose the classical teachings of the Church.

How did you enter Opus Dei?

When I was 19 years old I made the decision to join, but at the same time I felt attracted, there were things I wasn't comfortable with. I felt a call from God to change, but at the same time you feel reluctant.

Opus Dei is accused of being something extraordinary, a dark place in the Catholic Church.

The more people come to us in search of the extraordinary the more disappointed they are going to be. They will find we are very dull, very boring. It's not really as special as I hoped it was going to be.

Some people accuse the organization of banning books.

It doesn't prohibit. It says to everybody "your mind is a living organism just like your body and what you put into it affects you." So, we tell people to be careful with what they put in.

Opus Dei is an obscure sect, they say.

That is becoming less sustainable. One thing is the church itself clearly says Opus Dei is not a sect, but part of the Catholic Church. That accusation is laziness. It means you haven't phoned the Catholic Church. Calling it a sect is a loaded term.

Opus Dei is said to put women in minority roles.

That is very amusing because the press also likes to make a lot of the fact that the Secretary of Education in the U.K. [Ruth Kelly -- Ed.] is connected with Opus Dei. So, you can't have it both ways. No man in Opus Dei has gone any way near government in this country.

It is widely known that people regard the Catholic Church as being a player in power and politics.

Human beings have a responsibility for the society in which they live. Catholics, human beings, have the same responsibility. There is a certain movement that says you can have beliefs as long as they don't influence politics, so they try to exclude Catholics and Christians from political life. However, it is not an official Christian voice, but men and women who want to change the world. I think there is another agenda there, which is the exclusion of faith from public life.

Author Robert Hutchinson writes Opus Dei has become "the financial power of the Catholic Church."

John Allen, a journalist for the National Catholic Reporter, says that all of this business of the influence of Opus Dei in the church is all exaggerated and he gives figures for it. He puts together however much influence he thinks Opus Dei might have worldwide and compares it with General Motors or another Diocese. This idea of super wealthy, super powerful is not the case.

A former Opus Dei member, Alvaro de Silva, says the organization is not normal "because you cannot go to the movies and you have to go to confession once a week."

So anybody who doesn't go to the movies and goes to confession is not normal? It is true that some people don't go to the movies in Opus Dei. Is he being paid by Hollywood? So "normality means go to the movies."

Julian Cardinal Herranz, a member of Opus Dei in the Roman Curia, says that "Opus Dei has become a victim of Christianophobia."

Opus Dei is like a totem pole, a point of reference. Whether you know much about it or not, you very often define yourself inside and outside the Church according to your opinion or relationship with Opus Dei. If you consider yourself a devout catholic, then, although you don't know anything about Opus Dei, you are in favor of it. If you are anti- Catholic, then you are against it.
Opus Dei Awarenes network
http://www.odan.org/

Opus Dei site
http://www.opusdei.org/
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Javier Espinoza

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