Inside Opus Dei
First Published: May 18, 2006 11:43 AM EDT Credit: Access Hollywood
-- In “The Da Vinci Code,” Tom Hanks’ character has a powerful and secretive organization trying to keep him from finding out the truth about the Holy Grail.
The organization, known as Opus Dei — Latin for “the work of God” — allowed cameras inside their New York headquarters for the first time to try and uncover the truth about this mysterious arm of the Catholic Church.
The whippings? The power? The secrecy?
In reel life, a mysterious organization deep inside the Catholic Church called Opus Dei resorts to murder to keep an age old secret.
In real life, the movie has the 78-year-old controversial sect breaking their silence for the first time.
Being portrayed as murderers has Opus Dei fighting back.
“I’m pretty confident that people who see the movie are going to recognize the Hollywood touch,” said Father John Wauck, (pictured) an Opus Dei priest.
Opus Dei was created in Spain to help extend the holiness of Sunday church services into people’s ordinary work and everyday lives.
Most of the money the organization makes during their work week is kept within Opus Dei and memberships, for the most part, are kept secret.
Father Tom Bohlin, a vicar of Opus Dei, gave “Hardball’s” Chris Matthews the exclusive invite into the $60 million high-rise that serves 3,000 U.S. members.
“Tour buses come by now,” Bohlin said. “We put a box outside to see where people can take a brochure.”
The “Hardball” cameras go inside the classrooms, the chapel and the gym Opus Dei members use to help make both body and soul better together.
“Hardball” cameras also were allowed to see the simple rooms for out-of-town members known as “associates.”
“They make a residential retreat, quiet time to be alone with their Lord,” Bohlin said. “(They) turn off all the engines, the motors, the outside noise, and hear God as he wants to speak to us. The version of Opus Dei that appears in the novel, at least, is very sensationalized. It has nothing to do with the real Opus Dei.”
But that’s not quite the truth. In the film, the albino Opus Dei hitman, Silas, whips himself into a frenzy. Literally.
Some members do use a small whip during prayer called “Discipline” as repentance for sin.
Some devoted members even wear a spiked chain — called a cilice — around their upper leg for two hours a day to remind themselves of Christ’s pain.
Controversial or not, Opus Dei does not want their ultimate message to be clouded by Hollywood.
“Opus Dei is saying that the conversion of the secular world can not be done by a cast of people wearing roman collars standing on the outside wagging their fingers at them,” said John Allen, of the National Catholic Reporter. “It has to be done by laypeople who live and move inside that secular world. The jury is still out on whether or not that’s going to work.”
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