election: Opus Dei pulls strings
Barry James in Vatican City, Sify.com
Monday, 11 April , 2005
of the unanswered questions about next week's secret conclave to
elect the next pope is how much influence will be wielded by "the
Work," the conservative Roman Catholic organisation called
the Opus Dei.
two cardinals among the 115 electors belong to the organisation,
which counts more than 80,000 followers around the world and has
often been referred to in Spain, the country where it was founded
in 1928, as "God's Octopus."
it had an extraordinary degree of access to Pope John Paul II, and
enjoys the support and encouragement of many of the most powerful
cardinals, including Camillo Ruini, the prelate deputed to run the
diocese of Rome, who is seen as a strong contender to become the
last year opened proceedings to declare the Opus Dei's second leader,
Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, a saint.
Paul II canonised the Opus Dei's founder, Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer,
in 2002, an extraordinarily brief 27 years after his death, at a
Vatican ceremony attended by more than 40 cardinals.
late pope promoted several conservative groups, such as the Legion
of Christ and Communion and Liberation. But he was extremely indulgent
toward the Opus Dei, which he gave the unique status of personal
prelature, enabling it to operate anywhere in the world outside
the control of local bishops and making it accountable only to the
1998, the pope gave the Opus Dei's theological school in Rome the
title of pontifical university, putting it on the same level as
the prestigious Gregorian University run by the rival Jesuits.
signs of approval and support have enabled the Opus Dei more authoritatively
to counter criticism that it is a manipulative, secretive and sectarian
ultra-conservative Church within the Church, and that it has erected
a stifling personality cult around its founder.
of the criticism comes from other, less conservative sections of
the Roman Catholic Church.
Opus Dei members are encouraged to seek spiritual perfection in
their daily life and work. Its core members, known as numeraries,
also hold down jobs in civilian life but take vows of chastity and
obedience, whip themselves at least once a week and live in gender-segregated
communal houses where their lives and thoughts are closely monitored.
the past, some bishops have sought to prevent the Opus Dei from
"fishing" too aggressively for new members on university
campuses and alienating them from the affection of their families.
the Opus Dei calls itself a lay organization, it has its own order
of priests to whom members are obliged to turn for confession and
Opus Dei numeraries are invariably highly educated and polished,
and often influential in their respective fields. The organization
is wealthy -- it has a 17-story headquarters building in central
New York with separate entrances for men and women and segregated
Dei priests and laymen hold high office in the Vatican bureaucracy
known as the Curia. They include Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the Vatican's
powerful press spokesman.
of the two Opus Dei cardinals, Julian Herranz (the other is Juan
Luis Cipriani Thorne of Lima, Peru) is known to invite other prelates
to frequent discussions at a Roman villa owned by the organisation.
of the members of the immediate circle around the late pontiff and
many of the metropolitan bishops have close links with the Opus
Dei, which some observers say is the only group well-organised and
powerful enough to have a significant influence on the conclave.
Vatican recently confided Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, archbishop
of Genoa, with the task of combating heresies contained in Dan Brown's
best-selling The Da Vinci Code, in which an Opus Dei bishop
orders an Opus Dei monk (there is no such thing) to carry out a
thriller certainly made people aware of the organisation, but other
books, such as Beyond the
Threshold by Maria del Carmen Tapia, who said she was Balaguer's
secretary, claim to give a more accurate if highly critical account
of life inside the Opus Dei.
views expressed in the article are the author's and not of Sify.com.
to original article.
Posted April 12, 2005