Opus Dei's Secret Revealed: It Takes Spies in From the Cold
The arrest of accused FBI spy Robert Hanssen shines a spotlight on Opus Dei, the enigmatic Catholic group he
BY: Eugene Kennedy
Perhaps Opus Dei has handicapped rather than helped itself by vesting itself in darkness.
That darkness may have spoken to Hanssen and may continue to attract other people to join because of the cloak it throws over their lives. It lives in the Dark Ages if, as reported on a Web site devoted to it, it allows women as "assistants ... who pledge celibacy, and are responsible for the care and cleaning of all Opus Dei residences."
Hanssen was a counterintelligence specialist, a man working in but against the bureau and the country, a man who made himself superior to his nation by finding a perch from which to spy on it. The word spy is instructive for, as we examine its family of meanings, we find that it is related to the Latinspex,
"one who sees." This, in turn, is the core ofdespicari,
"to look down on," "to despise."
The word secret leads us back to roots that mean "to set apart," to "be separate."
Here, then, the spy who separates himself from and looks down on his fellow Americans pledges himself to an organization in which he separates himself from and looks down on his fellow Catholics. It is not too much to suggest that, as with reported self-styled elites in seminaries, he despises them.
Pope John Paul II has spoken, in the context of social justice, of the "preferential option for the poor" but he has actually given it to the well-funded Opus Dei, granting it extraterritorial canonical status, making its members independent of bishops. He gave them a choice Roman location for their training house. He wants to endorse the good they may do but may not see how much they separate themselves from and look down on the Catholics who constitute the church as a People of God.
The secret spy and the hidden organization were made for each other. This case means that Opus Dei must give up looking down on us, open its books and its practices, and cleanse itself of habits that endanger it by attracting darkness-adapted spies to join.
The biggest flaw in this self-presenting diamond of an organization is basic: it misunderstands the church. Catholicism is a Mystery, but it can never be a secret.