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Opus Dei: An Objective Look Behind the Myths and Reality of the Most Controversial Force in the Catholic Church

Allen, John L., Jr.

235 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0385514492 / ISBN 13: 9780385514491
Published by Doubleday, NY, 2005
Used Condition: Very Good Plus Hardcover
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1st printing. 403p. index Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 48801

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Opus Dei: An Objective Look Behind the Myths...

Publisher: Doubleday, NY

Publication Date: 2005

Binding: Hard Cover

Book Condition:Very Good Plus

Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good Plus

Edition: First Edition.

About this title

Synopsis:

The first serious journalistic investigation of the highly secretive, controversial organization Opus Dei provides unique insight about the wild rumors surrounding it and discloses its significant influence in the Vatican and on the politics of the Catholic Church.

Opus Dei (literally “the work of God”) is an international association of Catholics often labeled as conservative who seek personal Christian perfection and strive to implement Christian ideals in their jobs and in society as a whole. Founded in Spain in 1928, it now has 84,000 members (1,600 of whom are priests) in eighty countries. But far from running bingo nights at local parishes, Opus Dei has become a center of controversy and suspicion both within and outside the Church. It has been accused of promoting a right-wing political agenda and of cultlike practices, aggressive recruiting, brainwashing new recruits, and isolating members from their families. Its notoriety escalated with the publication of the runaway bestseller The Da Vinci Code (Opus Dei plays an important and sinister role in the novel) and with the previous pope’s much-debated canonization of its founder (often linked with Francisco Franco’s facist regime) and the discovery that convicted FBI spy Robert Hanson was a member of Opus Dei.

With the expert eye of a longtime trusted observer of the Vatican and the skill of an investigative reporter intent on uncovering closely guarded secrets, John Allen finally separates the myths from the facts in Opus Dei. Granted unlimited access to the prelate who heads the organization and to Opus Dei centers throughout the world, Allen draws on a wealth of interviews with current members, as well as with highly critical ex-members, to create an unprecedented portrait of the activities, practices, and intentions behind its veil of secrecy. Allen reveals the remarkable power that Opus Dei commands in shaping Vatican policy and presents a detailed look at the full extent of its network, which includes people in key positions in politics, banking, academia, and other influential arenas. He even describes the arcane rituals—including self-flagellation—performed to preserve and promote a spiritual tradition strange and unsettling to modern sensibilities.

For years, Opus Dei has been the subject of conspiracy theories and dark, uninformed speculation. Opus Dei sets the record straight.

Review:

For readers of The Da Vinci Code, John Allen's book on Opus Dei may be something of a revelation. One opens it expecting to find at the very least GPS coordinates pinpointing albino monk training camps. Or perhaps full disclosure of untold wealth flowing through offshore bank accounts. Instead one finds exhaustive research, interviews and careful analysis that reveal a group alive with ideas and purpose, but a bit short on sinister plans. Removing the sense of mystery surrounding Opus Dei may not serve future thriller writers well, but the journey is fascinating in its own right. Allen's biography of Opus Dei is also necessarily a brief biography of Saint Josemaría Escrivá, born in Spain in 1902, whose vision of the sanctification of work gave birth to Opus Dei, or "The Work" as its members call it. The idea of finding sanctification through work was not original to Escrivá, but the power of his vision certainly brought it to a fuller realization within the Catholic church. Allen explores this central idea that "one can find God through the practice of law, engineering or medicine, by picking up the garbage or by delivering the mail, if one brings to that work the proper Christian spirit." For Escrivá sanctification flowed in equal measure both in and outside the walls of the church. Much of Allen's own work getting to know Opus Dei is done with numerous, wide-ranging personal interviews, from the halls of the Vatican, to Africa, to U.S. suburbs. Allen is also careful to include voices of ex-members. He recognizes the best way to dispel the aura of mystery surrounding Opus Dei is to shine a bright light on it, and with a remarkable degree of cooperation from Opus Dei itself, that is exactly what he does. His aggressiveness in countering conspiracy theory with information reaches its apex in the only slow-going chapter in the entire book, a survey of Opus Dei's financial holdings and activities where a double-shot of cappuccino is recommended before attacking the endless lists detailing financial information. Ultimately, Allen's work comes across as a balanced, perceptive inquiry into a group that, while perhaps not preferring the center stage limelight, does not suffer greatly when exposed to it.--Ed Dobeas

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