October 25, 2005


You can trust them to sell you a car: a review of Opus Dei by John L Allen (Piers Paul Read, 23/10/2005, Daily Telegraph)

What was radical about Escrivá's project was the sanctification of labour. Men such as St Francis of Sales or St Alfonso Ligouri had reminded the laity that they too were called to be saints, but the emphasis was on prayer and liturgical devotions. Escrivá insisted that work itself is a God-given vocation, whether it be as a postman or a merchant banker. You can confidently buy a second-hand car from an Opus Dei dealer: more importantly, writes Allen, the educational institutes it sponsors in Africa "could help shape a generation of African leaders who know what it means to bring their personal integrity into their public roles".

Allen's book debunks the negative propaganda. It was the enthusiasm of Pope John Paul II, not Opus Dei lobbying, that led him to make Opus Dei a "personal prelature" and put St Josemaría Escrivá on the fast track to canonisation. Opus Dei has not infiltrated the structures of power in the Church: there are more Jesuits in the Vatican and the Episcopate. Neither is it rich, "at least not by the standards of other organisations in the Catholic Church". And it doesn't have a preferential option for the well-heeled: "many of its corporate works are aimed at the poor".

Why, then, has Opus Dei received such a bad press? Its ethos is inevitably "a sign of contradiction" in a hedonistic and self-indulgent society. The animosity from within the Church derives from the conflicting views of the role of the Church following Vatican II. At the time, the superior of the Jesuits, Pedro Arrupe, "symbolised the new post-Vatican II ethos, calling his Jesuits to be 'men for others', which in practice sometimes meant joining movements for peace and justice", while "Escrivá walked another path, insisting on the primacy of traditional forms of prayer, devotion, and the sacramental life". Making Opus Dei a "personal prelature" and Escrivá a saint "seemed like a clampdown on the Jesuits - almost as if a torch was being passed". As Allen points out, some of Opus Dei's harshest critics were once Jesuit priests.

Folks who show the rest of us how selfish we are can't be popular--we crucified Christ didn't we?

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 25, 2005 12:40 PM
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