Bishop confirms connection to group

New book reports Opus Dei link

Kansas City Star/October 19, 2005
By Bill Tammeus

A new book due out Nov. 1 identifies Bishop Robert Finn of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Catholic Diocese as one of four Opus Dei bishops in the United States.

Finn confirmed his connection to the conservative organization in a statement issued Tuesday.

Opus Dei, by John L. Allen, Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, reports that Finn, Bishop Nicholas DeMarzio of Brooklyn, Archbishop John Myers of Newark, N.J., and Archibishop José Gomez of San Antonio are connected to the organization, which encourages Catholics to practice their Christian principles in their workplaces.

Opus Dei has received considerable notoriety in recent years, largely because of the villainous way Dan Brown characterized it in his novel, The Da Vinci Code. Critics have called it a secretive, right-wing group, and Allen has said Opus Dei doesn't do a good job explaining its purposes and activities.

The Rev. Thomas P. Rausch, professor of Catholic theology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, said that Opus Dei "is not considered by most Catholics as one of the more progressive movements in the church. It tends to be very secretive, extremely clerical in its governance in spite of its claim to be in harmony with the Second Vatican Council. …

"Technically, it is a 'personal prelature,' which means that all members of Opus Dei are responsible for their life and mission, not to the local bishop, but to the Prelate, presently Bishop Javier Echevarría."

In an e-mail, Allen on Tuesday said Finn confirmed to him that he "is a member of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, which is a society for priests run by Opus Dei." The Opus Dei Web site ( ) describes the Priestly Society as "an association of clergy intrinsically united to Opus Dei." The society has about 4,000 members, the site reports, while Opus Dei itself has about 85,000 members among the roughly 1 billion Catholics worldwide.

Allen said he is "certainly not suggesting that Opus Dei calls his (Finn's) shots as a bishop, which I don't believe it does. But the fact that he's a member is now a matter of public record." Allen said only about 40 bishops out of 4,500 around the world are connected to Opus Dei, the literal translation of which is "the work of God." (Sometimes Opus Dei is simply called "the Work.")

Finn, who became bishop earlier this year when the Vatican accepted the resignation of Bishop Raymond Boland, has not talked about his Opus Dei connection in previous interviews with The Kansas City Star . But in response to requests for comment on Tuesday, Finn issued a statement that said:

"I haven't seen John Allen's book on Opus Dei. He contacted me some months ago to ask my permission to list my name among bishops who are associated with the Work. I said yes.

"I became familiar with the Work in the mid-1990s and went to days of 'recollection' they have offered for diocesan priests. I benefited — then, as now — from spiritual direction from a priest of the (Opus Dei) prelature. Later I became a 'cooperator' in the Work and, in recent years joined the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross. (A cooperator is someone who wants to help Opus Dei without being a member.) Of course, most people don't speak publicly of all the details of their spiritual life, their prayer and spiritual challenges, except with their spiritual director."

Finn said that an Opus Dei priest has come to Kansas City three to four times a year in recent years to talk about the organization "to lay men and women and to diocesan priests."

In a recent interview with a British book publisher, Allen said Opus Dei calls for a demanding and "highly structured life. For those suited to it, life inside Opus Dei is rewarding, fulfilling and a pathway to God. Those not cut out for it, however, can wind up feeling ground down and abused. …"

Opus Dei has gained a reputation for being so concerned with secrecy that many of its documents are in Latin. That tendency toward secrecy has sometimes meant the organization hasn't responded effectively to ill-founded rumors about it.

Some critics have called the way it recruits members manipulative, especially of young people.

It also has a reputation for treating women as second-class citizens by assigning them primarily to custodial tasks.

But, as Allen notes in his book, Opus Dei's strict spiritual disciplines — including, at the extremes, mortification of the body — also create deeply committed people who are eager to live out their faith zestfully.

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