Monday, 23 January 2012

Misrepresenting Opus Dei

A number of correspondents have told me, some privately and one in a comment on the blog, that I have misunderstood, and therefore inadvertently misrepresented, Opus Dei.

I am assured that numerary members of Opus Dei do not take vows in the way religious do, and of course I accept that. In fact I never said that they did, but I realise it might have been inferred from my talk of commitment to the Evangelical Counsels.

However, I am also told that they are not particularly committed to the Evangelical Counsels; that is to say, no more than to all the virtues, which like the rest of the laity they strive to live.  One of them wrote, for example: So, the answer is that the Evangelical Counsels don’t apply to me any more than to you.

I am clearly missing or misunderstanding something here, because my recollection is that when I was invited to join the Opus Dei some 33 years ago, some stress was laid on the Evangelical Counsels and the commitment to them that was part of being a numerary member.  Particularly, the commitment to chastity was not just a commitment to chastity in the way all the laity are committed to it.  It was a specific commitment to lifelong celibacy.  I really don’t think I have got that wrong, as it was fairly pivotal in my decision not to join, and I have also been told by my correspondents that nothing has changed in the interim.

That commitment to celibacy does strike me as something over and above the normal commitment to chastity required of the rest of the laity, which may be pursued in either the single or the married state (typically first the one, then the other, as in my case).

I have probably extrapolated too much from that difference: clearly some of those who are members of Opus Dei think so.

I should make it clear that it is no part of my intention to attack or denigrate Opus Dei.  In all years I went to their various centres in London (Kelston, Netherhall, Westpark) I only ever encountered sound Catholic teaching and reverent liturgy - and lots of good formation and good fun.

As ever, I am happy to apologise for any misunderstanding or misrepresentation, and of course any members of Opus Dei who wish to clarify this further are welcome to comment here, or to email me privately.

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