The other night, on his MSNBC program Hardball, Chris Matthews featured a religious movement within the Church known as Opus Dei. Actually, what it's called is a "personal prelature," the first of its kind in the Church, a model of lay apostolate with its own jurisdiction, its members being clerical and lay, married or single.
Much has been written about them, and whatever I say here will assume that the reader has heard something about them. A link to the MSNBC page be found by clicking here.
My own feelings about them are mixed. The name "opus dei" used to refer to the Divine Office, and it still does. The founder, St Josemaria Escriva, would have known this. Personally, I think it's damned arrogant for them to appropriate it for themselves. (Just couldn't come up with your own name, could ya, now?) The MSNBC article also blames some of the reputation for "secrecy" on the fact that an FBI agent who was caught spying for the Russians was a member of Opus Dei. Well, sorry, but they got that label a long time before that. I've heard at least one personal account from a former perspective member to that effect. But only one.
The question has arisen, then, as to whether or not they are a "cult." It's entirely possible they have some of the characteristics of a cult, and were it not for their ultimate accountability to the Holy See, they probably would be outright. Then again, the same might be said of most religious orders, particularly those who live in cloister. In the end, part of the issue may be that they are a new model in the life of the Church, with a few kinks yet to be worked out. And so, there's a pamphlet out there called "A Parent's Guide to Opus Dei," to warn parents of certain excesses supposedly prevalent within the movement.
I don't think it was really necessary for the founder, St Josemaria Escriva, to be canonized so quickly. A pope who expressed his eagerness to canonize married couples, and then who got the fast track? Makes you wonder.
To their credit, they do a great job running the Catholic Information Center here in downtown Washington. I get books there all the time, and sometimes I go to daily Mass there. All the priests I've ever met from them are dedicated and devout. Most of the lay members used to strike me as a bit too docile, but that appears to be changing.
Whatever the future holds for such movements, they're obviously not for everybody.