The Dirt on Opus Dei(Reprinted from the issue of April 27, 2006)
Secrecy! Conspiracy! Sadomasochism! Hidden links to the Pope! Dark rumors! Vast riches! Enormous power! Spanish! And worst of all, Catholic!
The last part is true, at any rate. Opus Dei is indeed a Catholic organization with Spanish roots, so it must be capable of every manner of sinister activity.
For decades the news media have created the impression that Opus Dei is a sort of Catholic version of al-Qaeda, at least as they portray al-Qaeda a huge, weird octopus of an outfit, with fanatical cells of members scattered everywhere, devoted to the blackest reaction and most bizarre rituals, ready to commit bloody crimes and even mild ascetic practices.
Having dealt with members of Opus Dei for 30 years, and having studied its literature, I can testify that its members do engage in an occult practice: They pray a lot, and they bring their piety to all sorts of ordinary jobs. Makes your blood run cold, doesnt it?
This was Dan Browns insight when he made the villain of The Da Vinci Code a sociopathic albino murderer who kills on command of an Opus Dei priest. Brown, who is pretty reclusive himself, wisely avoids interviews but insists that the novel is based on solid history and thorough research, which taught him that the Church has been lying about Jesus from the start, that it burned five million women for witchcraft in the Middle Ages, and so forth.
Most of Browns research consisted of lifting such howlers from another book, whose author brought a plagiarism suit against his publisher; Brown himself wasnt a defendant, but he should have been embarrassed. It appears, however, that he is pretty much impossible to embarrass, like people who report their conversations with extraterrestrials on talk radio midway between midnight and dawn. There is no sign that he has ever read, say, the New Testament.
To make a long story short no, it cant be done. Lets just move on. The aggrieved author lost his suit, Browns borrowing of his crackpot ideas was deemed no violation of copyright, and the movie version of his mega-bestseller (starring Tom Hanks, directed by Ron Howard) is ready for release.
So now Time magazine has done a cover story on Opus Dei, conceding that Browns assertions are a bit over-the-top and finding no evidence that its members commit murders more frequently than, say, members of Satanic sects. Nor can it be definitely linked to the events of September 11, 2001 (though it does oppose contraception). The truth will out.
If Time winds up making Opus Dei sound disappointingly innocuous after all, Terry Eagleton, writing in Harpers, agrees with Brown and then some. Eagleton is a veteran Marxist literary critic, raised Catholic, and if the Marxist dream has faded, he has kept his dialectical fangs sharpened. Now getting long in the fang himself, Eagleton fumes that the organization is right-wing, had ties to the Franco regime, and does not conform to Current Feminist Guidelines in separating the sexes, with gasp! males in authority. The gulags may be closed now, but you can bet that Eagleton will be the last to betray the Revolution.
Washingtons warriors have been turning on each other, with retired generals calling for the removal of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for gross mismanagement of the Iraq war and President Bush once more expressing the highest confidence in him. The more basic question is whether this war should have been launched in the first place; and lurking in the debate is the further question of whether the war should be extended to Iran.
Evidently the professional military men are deeply uneasy about this administration. Normally they tend to be conservative Republicans, so the situation is unusual; some civilian hawks are muttering about mutiny, revolt, and insubordination. But this misses the point; the officers want to win the war, and they think Rumsfeld and, by implication, Bush are losing it.
If only Bush were a Democrat! Then the Republicans in Congress and the media would know what to say about him. But partisanship being what it is, they fall back on the lame position that the Democrats are even worse, and in politics we must be realistic, face the facts, and settle for the best we can hope for under the circumstances, which is called the lesser evil.
Strangely enough, however, partisanship soon forgets itself and exalts the Lesser Evil as almost the Ideal. Think of a political convention, with all its paper hats, balloons, speeches, chants, and brass bands: Hooray for our Lesser Evil! Long live the Lesser Evil! May the Lesser Evil live forever!
Narnia on the Screen
Disneys recent film of the first of C.S. Lewiss Narnia novels, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, directed by Andrew Adamson, is now on DVD, and though I missed it in the theater, Im pleased to say that I find it a very creditable adaptation. The great lion Aslan is plausibly animated, with Liam Neeson supplying his splendidly resonant voice; he is well matched by Tilda Swinton as the evil Queen, beautiful, exquisitely sinister, and dangerous. The four children and minor characters are well played, though some, like the Beavers, are a mite too cute.
Having found the ballyhooed Lord of the Rings trilogy far too big and loud for my taste, I approached the climactic battle scene with misgivings; they proved unfounded. The attack of the miscellaneous monsters is thrillingly designed and directed against a magnificent landscape. And those wolves!
Still, I somehow doubt that Lewis would approve this production, but its hard to specify why; his stepson Douglas Gresham served as coproducer, so I doubt that it did great violence to his intentions. The storys Christian overtones are uncompromised, as far as I can see. The film has been the great success it deserves to be.
I sometimes think our coins should bear the legend In Caesar we trust SOBRANS. If you have not seen my monthly newsletter yet, give my office a call at 800-513-5053 and request a free sample, or better yet, subscribe for two years for just $85. New subscribers get two gifts with their subscription. More details can be found at the Subscription page of my website.
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the National Catholic Weekly founded in 1867
Reprinted with permission
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