Murderous cult? Or not?

Cardinal Mahony Announces San Antonio Archbishop Jose Gomez As Successor

In a different media environment, I suspect that the big Catholic news of the week would be the Opus Dei affiliation of Archbishop Jose Gomez, named to succeed the archbishop of Los Angeles. This story about the move, in the Los Angeles Times, actually isn't that bad. I'm particularly pleased that it includes a discussion of how unhelpful the labels "conservative" and "liberal" are when it comes to religious life. To be sure, that discussion comes after the use of the labels, but it's better than nothing.

The story explains that Gomez, born in Monterrey, Mexico, was ordained an Opus Dei priest in 1978 and was named archbishop of San Antonio in 2004. Here's how the story explains what Opus Dei is:

Opus Dei was founded by Saint Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer in Spain in 1928. Escriva held that sainthood could be achieved by anyone by carrying out everyday tasks extraordinarily well.

We could have used a bit more description, I think. But it's the next paragraph that's just spectacularly awful:

The movement, which enjoys a unique status at the Vatican, was depicted as a murderous cult in Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code," which Opus members and the Vatican have denounced as defaming the church.

Wow. I mean, yes, I guess that Opus Dei was depicted as a murderous cult in an inexplicably popular work of bad fiction. And yes, members did object to that depiction. But, well, this isn't really the best time to bring out the journalistic "he said, they said" is it. Or, as the folks over at Catholic Culture opined:

There are only two possibilities here. Either Opus Dei is a murderous cult, or Dan Brown's portrayal is defamatory. To say that "Opus members and the Vatican" object to the portrayal is to suggest that other people-- more objective people-- don't see a problem with the depiction.

Just a bit of harmless entertainment: I'm going to tell the world that you belong to a murderous cult. You won't object, will you? C'mon, be a sport! Where's your sense of humor?

It's OK to present alternative views of Opus Dei, but one of them shouldn't be self-proclaimed fiction.

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