Sunday, May 21, 2006

Opus Dei Unveiled

Secretive and cult-like or divinely inspired and misunderstood? A conservative organisation within the Roman Catholic Church, was thrust into an unforgiving spotlight because of the way it was portrayed in Dan Brown’s thriller, "The Da Vinci Code."

Opus Dei claims the depiction is much more fiction than fact, and that it is terribly misrepresented in book. Now, for the first time in its 80-year history, Opus Dei leaders grant unprecedented access to The History Channel as they seek to reveal the truth and unravel the myths surrounding this exclusive and powerful group.

Opus Dei Decoded explores the spiritually demanding and sometimes controversial lifestyle its 85,000 members pledge to maintain.

Founded in 1928 by Spaniard Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, its mission encourages members to find God through work and daily life. With the support of the Franco government, the organization became the most important conservative political and religious force in Spain. Its power and influence found favour with the Holy See when, in 1982, its legal status in the Church was changed to that of a personal prelature – guided by its own statues and answering directly to the Pope.

Opus Dei’s allure is predicted to grow as Pope John Paul II made its founder a Saint on October 6, 2002.

Opus Dei members can be found in 61 countries. The majority of its adherents are lay professionals; doctors, lawyers, journalists and politicians who are also mothers and fathers.

Another fraction is comprised of priests. The organisation’s most orthodox members commit to a celibate life, live in Opus Dei residences, give the majority of their income to the organisation and regularly practice corporal mortification, the infliction of self pain as a holy act of sacrifice.

Members at all levels pledge their service to the organisation for life. Opus Dei Decoded speaks with and gains insight from several current members as they demonstrate how Opus Dei has guided them on a positive spiritual path.

But throughout its modern history, many members have parted ways with organisation; some with a favourable blessing, others felt they were forced out, and a select few sought refuge through traumatic interventions.

Some of Opus Dei’s harshest critics paint a portrait of aggressive recruiting, inequality of the sexes, alienation from families and borderline mind control. Two of these critics are Dianne and Tammy DiNicola, a mother and her daughter who is a former Opus Dei member. They founded the Opus Dei Awareness Network, an organisation to inform the public of what the DiNicolas’ see as the dangers of Opus Dei.

Opus Dei Decoded takes viewers from Opus Dei’s United States Headquarters, to its stronghold in the Midwest and to its lifeblood inOpus Dei’s upper brass, Cardinal Julian Herranz Casado, Father Thomas Bohlin and Father Hilary Mahaney confront accusations that Opus Dei is a secret and clandestine cult; have undue influence and power in government and a pocketbook that controls the Vatican. They also explain the premises and meanings of Opus Dei teaching and practice.


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