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National Public Radio (NPR)
SHOW: Weekend All Things Considered (8:00 PM ET) - NPR
October 6, 2002 Sunday
LENGTH: 873 words
HEADLINE: Canonization of Josemaria Escriva
ANCHORS: HOWARD BERKES
REPORTERS: DUNCAN MOON
HOWARD BERKES, host:
It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Howard Berkes.
The founder of a controversial Catholic group was made a saint today.
Josemaria Escriva was a Spanish priest who founded the group known
as Opus Dei in 1928. The organization now has 80,000 members, including
Pope John Paul's spokesman. It has risen steadily in power and prestige
and is a favorite
of the pope, who has publicly praised in the group. But its membership
in the United States is relatively small, only 3,000 members, and
some accuse Opus Dei of being a secretive cult. NPR religion correspondent
Duncan Moon reports.
DUNCAN MOON reporting:
In Latin, 'opus dei' means work of God. And its newly sainted founder
charged its followers to focus every aspect of their lives, especially
their work, to honor God and serve their fellow man. The group espouses
a strongly conservative brand of Catholicism that demands adherents
sharply prioritize their lives, giving up anything that gets in
the way of service to God. Critics of Opus Dei say that sounds OK
in theory, but that there is a dark side to the organization. They
accuse Opus Dei of being secretive, manipulative and of using mind-control
techniques to force members to submit to its will.
Sharon Clayson(ph) was one of the organization's numeraries, members
who take vows of celibacy and live in special housing with other
numeraries of the same sex. She says that when she was first recruited
she had no idea what she was getting into, but that as she was pulled
in deeper many of her freedoms
were taken away and she found herself being stripped of her individuality
and ability to make decisions for herself.
Ms. SHARON CLAYSON (Former Member, Opus Dei): They control every
aspect of your life--your behavior, the information that is available
to you, your thoughts and your emotions. You have to hand over all
your money from your job, presents that you get from your family,
any money that you get from
your family. And then even after five years of being a member, you
have to hand over your inheritance. They read all your mail, your
incoming and your outcoming mail.
MOON: In the end, Clayson left Opus Dei after her sister had a serious
accident. She says the director of her group restricted her visits
to the hospital, even though her family needed her, especially her
Ms. CLAYSON: First of all, she thought she was going to lose my
sister, and then she thought she'd already lost me, so she--it was
MOON: Clayson says the director told her that Opus Dei had now become
her family and her first responsibility. Clayson says a light went
off in her head and she packed her bags and went home.
Opus Dei denies their techniques are inappropriate. They say, on
the contrary, their program is transforming people's lives and that
those who don't find value in it are welcome to leave at any time.
Also, two-thirds of members are not numeraries, like Sharon Clayson;
most are supernumeraries, like
Michael Barvik(ph), who live in their own homes and can marry and
have children. Barvik is the director of a Washington, DC-based
Opus Dei program that works with inner-city youth. He says in an
era when the media and the Internet have created an information
overload, Opus Dei helps bring clarity and purpose
to his life, and he says sacrificing personal desires to better
serve God and his fellow man is not onerous but cathartic and liberating.
Mr. MICHAEL BARVIK (Opus Dei Member): Just because you, as an individual,
may have talents that allow you to be an ace when it comes to debate,
an ace when it comes to football and an ace when it comes to student
government doesn't mean that you necessarily need to pursue all
those things. Because in the end is the goal to make myself number
one for the sake of being number one or is there a higher goal,
which the work, Opus Dei would say, is service to others? And so
there is a prioritizing. It's not just structure for the sake of
MOON: But while Opus Dei has been growing rapidly abroad, especially
in southern Europe and Latin America, its growth has been slow in
North America. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and associate editor
of the Catholic magazine America, says much of that can be attributed
to cultural differences.
Mr. JAMES MARTIN (Jesuit Priest; Associate Editor, America): I think
that some of their philosophies, shall we say, of religion do strike
people as--I don't want to say anti-American, but for most people
Opus Dei represents characteristics of the church that strike people
as deeply against the American grain; for example, their emphasis
on secrecy, their emphasis on delineating the sexes in terms of
their roles, their very aggressive recruiting tactics that strike
some people as cultlike.
MOON: Whether those differences can be overcome is a point of debate.
Supporters see some vindication in the canonization of Josemaria
Escriva, and hope it will stir further interest in Opus Dei and
help swell its ranks. But critics and former members like Sharon
Clayson hope the canonization will
turn the media spotlight on the Opus Dei they know and warn prospective
members to be wary. Duncan Moon, NPR News, Washington.
LOAD-DATE: October 7, 2002