Islam Is Not Alone in Producing Fanatical Sects - Roman Catholicism Has Its Own ; Opus Dei Has Sided with the Powerful against the Weak, Both Theologically and Politically
Hari, Johann, The Independent (London, England)
This summer, the beaches of the world are awash with The Da Vinci Code. It's a daft, mediocre thriller - but it contains two words that matter: Opus Dei. The novel depicts this strange sub-strata of the Catholic Church as the Pope's secret police. According to the author, Ron Brown, they are a mad, murderous mob who pick off the enemies of their own brand of ultra-conservative Catholicism.
Big deal: it's fiction. But Brown has performed a valuable service. He has reminded the public about the existence of an authoritarian, ultraconservative cult that will play a key role in picking the next Pope - one of the world's most powerful men - and has been intimately involved with some of the ugliest fascist regimes since the Second World War. They want to make the Vatican an even more hardline campaigning force, battling the "evils" of contraception, homosexuality and divorce. In developing countries, their influence will mean the difference between life and death for thousands of poor people.
There has been much discussion over the past two years (rightly, in my view) of the totalitarian strains within the Muslim world. The word "Islamofascism" was coined by Christopher Hitchens to describe the fanatics who seek to repress moderate Muslims and demonise secular democracies. Unfortunately, there has been far less discussion about the totalitarian strains - just as real - within other faiths.
Anybody who has studied the history of the Vatican knows that it has long harboured totalitarian elements, manifested from the Spanish Inquisition to Pope Pius XII's complicity in the Holocaust. Do we really think those dangerous instincts have vanished from Christianity?
Opus Dei emerged from this tradition, and it is growing stronger every day. If we do not discuss this, we risk feeding the Islamophobic idea that Islam is uniquely prone to fanaticism.
The group preaches a brand of Catholofascism. If this sounds like a piece of journalistic hyperbole, then you should peruse the history of Opus Dei. Founded by Josemara Escriva, an obscure Spanish lawyer-priest, in 1928, it immediately targeted the rich and powerful for recruitment, because they are "more important" and "more influential". The sect quickly became a supporter and key power player within General Franco's fascist Spain, with its members holding (amongst several other cabinet positions) the finance portfolio.
As Opus Dei spread beyond Spain throughout South America, it became a player in a string of fascist tyrannies, most notoriously Augusto Pinochet's murderous Chilean junta. They opposed trade unions and were used as a tool by the Vatican to suppress more democratic and socially concerned strands of Catholicism.
Its religious philosophy is described by Robert Hutchison, an award- winning journalist who studied the movement for many years, as "totally authoritarian". The founder's strange book The Way - the inspirational text for Opus Dei - encourages members to keep their membership entirely secret, even from their families. "Remain silent, and you will never regret it," Escriva declared.
All members must report and fully confess to an Opus Dei official at least once a month. The group prescribes strict hierarchy and unquestioning obedience. Maxim 941 of The Way demands "unreserved obedience to whoever is in charge" of the sect.
Opus Dei has consistently sided with the powerful against the weak, theologically and politically. It revels in …
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Publication information: Article title: Islam Is Not Alone in Producing Fanatical Sects - Roman Catholicism Has Its Own ; Opus Dei Has Sided with the Powerful against the Weak, Both Theologically and Politically. Contributors: Hari, Johann - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: August 13, 2004. Page number: 31. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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