ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
SOCIETIES: OPUS DEI
Aired December 9, 2003 - 19:00 ET
COOPER: Well, tonight we continue our look at "Secret Societies,"
and the controversial Roman Catholic group Opus Dei. Now you may
have heard of the group if you read the best seller the "Da
Vinci Code" which paints a picture of secretive organization
with a dark side. But members they are following the light of God
to be saint in everyday life.
COOPER (voice-over): Opus Dei, Latin for work of God, was founded
in 1928. Its 85,000 members around the world practice a conservative
brand of Catholicism. Their motto, posted on their Web site, "Finding
God in work and daily life."
PROF. THOMAS GROOME, BOSTON COLLEGE: They would prefer Catholic
people, lay people, to bring their faith into the workplace, into
the marketplace of life. Now, what could be more admirable than
COOPER: Opus Dei says there's nothing secret about their organization.
Critics, however, say Opus Dei has a darker side. They point to
ritualistic self-abuse some members engage in. The bestselling novel
"The Da Vinci Code" paints an unflattering portrait of
Opus Dei though its members say that it is pure fantasy and has
nothing to do with their faith.
COOPER: Last night we tried to bring you this next interview but
we had some technical problems for which we're sorry. You're about
to meet a woman named Tammy DiNicola. As a college student she joined
Opus Dei in Boston. You'll also meet her mother, Dianne, who started
what she calls the Opus Dei Awareness Network because she believed
the group was cult-like and she wanted to warn other people. Tammy
is no longer part of Opus Dei. I spoke with both of them a short
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Is it really fair, though, to call it
a secret society? I mean, on their Web site they say there's nothing
secret about us. I mean, they have a Web site. You know, they do
charity work. They do good works. Where's the controversy?
TAMMY DINICOLA, FORMER MEMBER OF OPUS DEI: Well, the controversy
is in what they are actually doing behind closed doors and it's
very cult-like in their practices.
DIANNE DINICOLA, CO-FOUNDER, OPUS DEI AWARENESS NETWORK: Opus Dei
has an underside that hurts people and tears people apart from their
COOPER: What does the membership entail? I mean, I understand at
one point, I guess, you were giving all your money to the organization?
Is that true? And there's also -- they talk about self- punishment
or self-penance. How does that -- how does that happen?
T. DINICOLA: They have, besides giving over all of your salary
and your letters to be read both going and coming and all your reading
and books and everything, they directed you to use the cilis which
is a spike chain. [Tammy holds up the
The purpose of it is penance and trying to identify with the sufferings
of Christ and offering that up for the different people that you
want to join Opus Dei.
COOPER: So it's sort of a metal or barbed wire things with spikes
that you put around your leg, is that it?
T. DINICOLA: Yes. You put it around your thigh and you tie it on
for two hours each day. Most days of the week.
COOPER: And then there's something else called the discipline.
T. DINICOLA: Yeah. And then this is the discipline. [Tammy holds
up the discipline.] This
is what you use -- you whip yourself on the buttocks with this once
a week. Even within Opus Dei they would talk about how the founder
was so zealous in using these that he would splatter the bathroom
walls with blood.
COOPER: Tammy, let me ask you, I mean, there are those who say,
OK, look, you know, that's not my cup of tea, using an item like
this to flagellate myself but are they harming any other people?
Are you making those kind of charges?
T. DINICOLA: The harm is that they -- the way they get people to
use these items, it's one thing if somebody chooses to use it, but
if you're told that this is the only way you're going to be faithful
to God then there's a lot of guilt and fear that's involved.
COOPER: Let me ask you finally, you know, there are those who say
look, faith takes many forms and if some people want to express
their faith in this way through this organization, what's so wrong
T. DINICOLA: Well, I would say do it without manipulation and deception.
Lay out all the details of membership ahead of time instead of deliberately
holding it back. And then let people, you know, after six months
or 18 months make a decision at that point whether they want to
stay or leave without the guilt and without the deception and without
the orchestration that goes on behind the scenes.
COOPER: All right, Tammy and Dianne DiNicola, we appreciate you
joining us. Thank you very much.
T. DINICOLA: Thank you.
D. DINICOLA: OK. Thanks for having us.
COOPER: We're now joined by Cathy Hickey who's been a member of
Opus Dei for 30 years. Cathy, thanks very much for being with us.
Now, Tammy was a numerary. You are a supernumerary. You have a family,
you have kids.
CATHY HICKEY, OPUS DEI MEMBER: That's right. I've got seven children.
COOPER: How is Opus Dei different for you than her experience?
HICKEY: It's the same vocation for everybody. I don't think it
is different. The difference between a numerary and supernumerary
is really a difference of availability. If you're married and have
a family you can't uproot yourself and leave but numerary vocations,
you really -- they could be asked, would they be willing, they would
be asked, they have the freedom to say no, would you be willing
to go to another country?
Would you be willing to start Opus Dei in another place? And for
the most part because they're trying to do the will of God, they
will probably say yes but they have the freedom to say yes.
COOPER: The mother of that woman Tammy, Dianne, basically said
that she felt it was sort of like a cult.
HICKEY: You know, every -- that's so silly. I mean, I've heard
that said and it's a silly thing to say in a way. Every path is
different. Everybody has to choose their own path. Maybe it wasn't
Tammy's path. Because particularly it's not so easy to be a member
of Opus Dei. I mean, to join -- when she said six months, you know,
they should be able to decide in six months -- well, it's longer
than that. You have to be a certain age. You have to be living in
the work and they can say, will this woman be able to do it?
COOPER: And how do you explain why you want to be part of it? What
is it? Is it something you were searching for or is it something
that you found in Opus Dei that you couldn't find elsewhere?
HICKEY: Well, I'll tell you my own experience. When I met people
in Opus Dei, I thought, they have something that I want. They were
just delightful. They were happy. They were fulfilled. And as I
got to know them and admired them, I thought, this is what I want.
And then I had found through the years it's just -- it's a wonderful
path to God. There are many paths to God. For me, Opus Dei was the
one. It was a great help in raising my family. It's just been wonderful.
COOPER: Well, Cathy Hickey, we really appreciate you coming in
and talking about it. Thank you very much. It was a pleasure to
HICKEY: It was a pleasure to be with you. Thank you so much.
COOPER: All right. Well, our series "Secret Societies"
continues tomorrow. We're going to look at Yale University's ultrasecret
Skull and Bones considered by many to be America's most exclusive
secret society. Captains of industry and presidents past and present
have been Bonesmen. Is it a stepping stone of power or a glorified
frat house. We'll tell you or at least we'll try to find out tomorrow.