Sunday, January 30, 2005

Some links in Canada

Riverviewcentre in Montreal, a student centre and residence for young men to study, meet friends, pray, and learn heavy stuff about the Catholic Faith. It is located next to McGill University
Others in Canada include:
Fontenige Centre is a student residents in Montreal for women. It has sponsored social projects in the third world, particularly in Latin America, where they have taught children and helped repair churches.

Chilawee camp for girls
Hawthorn School for girls in Toronto
Ernescliff College in Toronto
Boisgomin Centre in Quebec City
Valrideau in Ottawa
Glenwood Centre in Vancouver



The Priestly Society of the Holy Cross is an association of
diocesan priests which is united to the Prelature of Opus Dei. This
article about the Society is a belated response to a suggestion I
received some time ago from my beloved friend, the late Msgr. Raul del

Readers of Clergy Report may not know of this Society. There are
two reasons for this: first, activities organized by the Priestly
Society of the Holy Cross -- such as monthly days of recollection,
workshops, retreats -- have only barely begun in the archdiocese and in
a relatively small way. Second,priests who have attended tend to label
these activities "Opus Dei." This is understandable; the Priestly
Society, though distinct, is inseparable from Opus Dei. Opus Dei is
better known and its name is shorter and simpler.

An Associative Bond

If a priest of the archdiocese, for example, belongs to the
Priestly Society, it is inevitable that he will be referred to as having
"joined Opus Dei." This is not accurate; the distinction is fundamental
to the nature of the Priestly Society. A priest incardinated in a
diocese is not a member of the Prelature of Opus Dei and can not join
the Prelature. Priests of Opus Dei are those who, having been called to
the priesthood by the Prelate of Opus Dei from among the lay members of
the Prelature, are ordained for the Prelature.

The "Declaration Concerning Opus Dei," published by the Sacred
Congregation for Bishops explains it this way: "The Priestly Society of
the Holy Cross is an association which is inseparably united to the
Prelature. Priests of the diocesan clergy who wish to strive for
sanctity in their ministry in accordance with the spirituality of Opus
Dei may form part of this association. These priests, by virtue of
their membership in the association, do not form part of the clergy of
the Prelature. They remain, to all effects and purposes, under the
jurisdiction of their own Ordinary, whom they will inform, if he wishes,
of their membership in the association."

Msgr. Alvaro del Portillo, the Prelate of Opus Dei and the President
General of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, explained in an
interview that clergy pining the Priestly Society do not in any way lessen
their dependence on the local ordinary -- quite the reverse: "This merely
associative bond...does not place them under the jurisdiction of the
Prelate of Opus Dei. Nor does it break, or in the slightest way weaken, the
bond which these priests have with their respective dioceses and their own
Ordinary....The spiritual and ascetical assistance they receive from the
Priestly Society of the Holy Cross leads them, among other things, to
maintain an exemplary attitude of availability regarding the requests of
their ordinaries and the needs of their dioceses."

Msgr. Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, repeatedly affirmed that
priests who join the Priestly Society have only one superior -- their
bishop. There is no internal hierarchy for them in the association.

He said: "The diocesan priests who make legitimate use of the right
of association to become members of the Priestly Society of the Holy
Cross do so solely because they desire to receive personal spiritual
help. They act in a manner entirely compatible with the duties of their

"When a priest joins the Priestly Society, he neither modifies nor
abandons any part of his diocesan vocation. His dedication to the
service of the local Church in which he is incardinated, his full
dependence on his own ordinary, his secular spirituality, his solidarity
with other priests, etc., are not changed. On the contrary, he
undertakes to live his vocation to the full, because he knows that he
must seek perfection precisely in the exercise of his obligations as a
diocesan priest."


The spirituality of Opus Dei -- shared by the Priestly Society of
the Holy Cross -- emphasizes the value of the everyday circumstances of
life; they are the means God uses to make us holy. Love for God
transforms them from merely human events into supernatural treasures.
Msgr. Escriva preached:"

Understand this well: there is something holy, something divine
hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you
to discover it....There is no other way. Either we learn to find our
Lord in everyday life, or else we shall never find him. That is why I
tell you that our age needs to give back to matter and to the apparently
trivial events of life their noble, original meaning. It needs to place
them at the service of the Kingdom of God; it needs to spiritualize

It should be easy for a priest to turn all the circumstances and
events of his life into occasions of meeting Christ; but experience
teaches us that both priests and lay faithful need to be supported,
encouraged, and guided in their spiritual life, if this sanctification
of daily life will ever go beyond wistful daydreaming. The Priestly
Society provides this kind of support for diocesan priests, just as the
Prelature of Opus Dei does for lay people.

Thus, in addition to receiving the general spiritual guidance which
the bishops impart to all clergy through personal conversations,
pastoral letters, instructions and preaching, the members of the
Priestly Society receive personal spiritual direction which respects and
complements that common guidance. This personal spiritual direction, so
strongly recommended by the second Vatican Council, helps foster the
priests life of piety, his love for souls, his reverence and obedience
toward his own bishop, his concern for vocations to the seminary.

Those who seek the spiritual support provided by the Priestly
Society are encouraged to use the traditional means recommended for
centuries in the Church: daily mental prayer, spiritual reading and
study of Sacred Scripture, examinations of conscience, the Rosary and,
of course, daily Mass, the root and summit of interior life.


The activities organized by the Priestly Society are those familiar
to the diocesan clergy: days of recollection, retreats, workshops, etc.
Of course, they are open to all secular priests who want to attend them.
There are several five-day retreats every year, conducted by priests of
Opus Dei. Retreats are held at Arnold Hall Conference Center (Pembroke,
MA); St. Mary's Villa (Sloatsburg, NY); and Don Bosco Retreat Center
(West Haverstraw, NY).

There is a monthly afternoon of recollection in Manhattan,
conducted by priests of Opus Dei, at St. Thomas More Church at 65 East
89th Street in Manhattan.

Further information about the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross
and the activities organized for diocesan priests can be obtained by
calling or writing to Fr. Bradley Arturi, 99 Overlook Circle, New
Rochelle, NY 10804. Tel. (914) 235-1201.

Reprinted with permission of Clergy Report, Office of Pastoral Research
and Planning, Archdiocese of New York, 1011 First Avenue, New York, NY,
1002-2134; March/April 1990


The Roman Academic Centre of the Holy Cross is a centre for advanced
ecclesiastical studies, composed of the Roman campus of the Faculties of
Theology and Canon Law of the University of Navarre (Spain), a corporate
work of the Prelature Opus Dei. This campus, which offers at present
the courses of the second and third cycles, grants the corresponding
academic degrees of Licenciate and Doctorate, with full canonical
validity, in conformance with the Decree Dei Servus (9.1.1985) of the
Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education.


The Roman Academic Centre has been made possible, to a large extent,
thanks to the work of research and teaching of the Faculties of Canon
Law and Theology of the University of Navarre, established in 1959 and
1964, respectively, by the Founder of Opus Dei, the Servant of God Msgr.
Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, and erected canonically in 1960 and 1969.
Msgr. Escriva was also the founder and the first Grand Chancellor of the
University. The history of the new Centre, however, goes back to the
forties. When the Founder of Opus Dei moved to Rome in 1946, he
nurtured the hope of establishing near the See of Peter, an academic
institution for the ecclesiastical sciences. He took the opportune
steps with a view to this objective, which was fulfilled -- with the
paternal blessing of the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II -- by Msgr.
Alvaro del Portillo, Prelate of Opus Dei and the present Grand
Chancellor of the University of Navarre.


The central objective of the Roman Academic Centre of the Holy Cross is
to foster, with a spirit of service to the Church and faithfulness to
her Magisterium, teaching and investigation in the ecclesiastical
sciences, as well as the formation of specialists in theology and canon
law. The Centre seeks to attain its objective in cooperation with other
institutions of higher learning. It fosters interdisciplinary exchange
with other fields of scientific knowledge, with their particular methods
of research, so that the various disciplines, and specially the
theological and canonical sciences, may enrich and help one another,
joining in a common effort to confront contemporary problems and needs.
Following the indications of Vatican Council II, the Roman Academic
Centre of the Holy Cross sets for itself the following aims, among many

- to offer a preparation which unites professional competence and
intellectual development with the improvement of apostolic and
missionary spirit, which the students should maintain and develop while
they complete their studies here, never forgetting the pastoral or
teaching duties which they will have in their native countries;

- to develop greater sensitivity to cultural and human problems which
should be brought into focus with christian criteria, taking into
account ethnic differences;

- to foster love for the truth, through disciplined search for,
faithful adherence to, and generous transmission of the truth;

- to place the specific task of teaching or investigation within the
broader perspective of the cultural and spiritual life of the person;

- to prepare experts and scholars in the ecclesiastical sciences, so
that they may work with scientific spirit, coherent faith and sincere


The Roman campus of the Faculty of Theology has as its specific aim to
foster a deeper study of Catholic doctrine, recognizing the harmony
between faith and reason in the search for the truth, and seeking the
solution to human problems by the light of Revelation. At the same
time, the Faculty attempts to form scholars in the science of faith, who
will promote theological research, cooperate in the Church's mission of
preaching the Gospel, and be able to recognize ideologies, systems and
methods which are not in accord with christian faith. It seeks,
therefore, to provide the students with a solid knowledge of christian
Revelation, through the study of Holy Scripture, and the documents of
ecclesiastical Tradition and of theology, so as to enable them to
resolve the particular problems of different cultures according to the
light of Revelation, in their work of investigation and teaching, or in
undertaking the various tasks of evangelization and catechesis.


The Roman campus of the Faculty of Canon Law proposes to study the law
of the Church, harmonizing the knowledge and value of the canonical
tradition with the most recent contributions of juridical science,
within the present theological and canonical setting of the Church. In
effect, the promulgation of the new Code has constituted the beginning
of a process of renewal of the laws of the Church: its canons leave wide
disciplinary margins in the determination of the particular norms the
bishops' conferences and the respective diocesan bishops of each country
will promulgate. These new laws call for a greater effort in the Church
to prepare experts, who will be able to help in the pastoral government
of the bishops -- in the respective particular churches -- with their
technical knowledge, placed at the service of the People of God.


The Academic Assembly of the Centre is composed of the Professors of
Theology and Canon Law. They have been teaching, up until now, in the
Ecclesiastical Faculties of the University of Navarre and in various
Pontifical Universities in Rome. Since the establishment of the
Faculties of Theology and Canon Law of the University of Navarre, its
professors have combined specialized investigation with cooperative
efforts and interdisciplinary exchanges. All this work has been
collected in many publications, which help in the preparation of the
students and the progressive improvement in the quality of teaching.


The Roman Academic Centre of the Holy Cross is provisionally located in
a building adjoining the Church of San Girolamo della Carita in the
Piazza di Santa Caterina della Rota, which is near the Palazzo Farnese,
one of the most distinguished areas of Ancient Rome. The primitive
church of San Girolamo della Carita was constructed in the 5th century
above the place where this illustrious Father and Doctor of the Church
resided during his stay in Rome. In the 16th century, this site became a
centre of irradiation of the spiritual, doctrinal and pastoral reforms
undertaken by the Council of Trent. It witnessed a true renewal in the
life of the Church, thanks to a group of diocesan priests who resided in
the building adjacent to the church. Among them was Philip Neri, around
whom were gathered many revered figures of that era, men full of
spiritual and apostolic zeal: Charles Borromeo, Camillus de Lellis, John
Leonardi, and others.


Through the teaching and scientific investigation of the Roman Academic
Centre of the Holy Cross, the Prelature Opus Dei hopes to contribute to
resolving the compelling need which is so much felt in the entire
Church: the need for priests, religious, and laymen who will join their
thorough intellectual, spiritual, pastoral and apostolic preparation
with faithful adherence to the indications of the Roman Pontiff and the
college of bishops. The Prelature aspires, at the same time, to
encourage investigation in the ecclesiastical sciences, in accord with
the Magisterium of the universal Church and in cooperation with the
particular churches in their work of evangelization of men and cultures.

General Director Rev. Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, Ph.D.
Via S. Girolamo della Carita, 64-00185 Rome, Italy
Tel. 654-3752

U.S. Representative: Rev. C. John McCloskey, III
330 Riverside Drive, Nev York, N.Y. 10025
Tel. (212) 222-3285


The Roman Atheneum of the Holy Cross is a center for higher studies
in ecclesiastical sciences. It was established by the Holy See through a
decree issued by the Congregation for Catholic Education on January 9,
1990, and is entrusted to the Prelature of Opus Dei.

The Atheneum's history can be traced back to 1946, when the
Venerable Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, moved to Rome. He
planned an institution for ecclesiastical sciences close to the Holy
See. This dream became a reality after his death in 1975, through the
efforts of Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, the Prelate of Opus Dei, with the
blessing of the Holy Father, John Paul II.

The institution began in 1984 as the Rome campus of the University
of Navarre. Through the above mentioned decree of 1990, it was
officially established as an atheneum or independent university.

Classes and research are conducted at two facilities in the center
of Rome, the Sant'Apollinare building and the San Girolamo della Carita
building. Both locations have a long history as centers of
ecclesiastical learning and priestly formation.

Within the Departments of Theology and Philosophy, students may
pursue three levels of university education. Cycle I, called
institutional studies, may be undertaken to obtain the bachelor's
degree; Cycle II corresponds to the specialized licentiate; and Cycle
III to the doctorate.

The Roman Section of the Department of Canon Law of the University
of Navarre continues to provide licentiate and doctorate courses.

The Atheneum is open to men and women, clergy and laity, who fulfill
the admission requirements of the respective departments. The academic
titles awarded by the departments are fully recognized by ecclesiastical

The Atheneum publishes a number of collections of scientific works
on specific topics of Theology, Philosophy, and Canon Law, and also the
following journals: Annales Theologici, Ius Ecclesiae, Acta Philosophica.

The financial costs of the Atheneum are covered in part by numerous
donations, large and small, coming from all over the world.

Students at the Roman Atheneum can select from a variety of living
arrangements. Diocesan seminarians may choose to reside in Sedes
Sapientiae, an international ecclesiastical college directed by the
Prelature of Opus Dei.

For further information and application materials, please contact:
Rev. C. John McCloskey
34 Mercer Street
Princeton, New Jersey 08540
Telephone/Fax: (609) 497-0906

To contact the Atheneum directly:
Piazza S. Apollinare, 49
1-00186 Roma
Via S. Girolamo della Carita, 64
1-00186 Roma
Telephone: 654-37-52
country code is 39, city code is 06
Fax: 689-70-21

Filial love among priests and bishops is rooted
in the Sacrament of Holy Orders

(Special Report on Seminarians Conference)


Last week, 44 diocesan seminarians from the United States and Canada
gathered together to experience the loving sacramental bond of Holy Orders
and to share in the joys of fraternal, priestly service to God and His
Universal Church in a spirit of total trust in the Holy Spirit and
unbreakable unity and oneness with the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, and
all Church bishops.

The ninth annual Seminar For Seminarians, which was entitled "John
Paul II Speaks To The Church of The United States," was held at the Arnold
Hall Conference Center in Pembroke from March 27-31. The seminar was
sponsored by The New England Theological Forum, an educational service
activity of priests of the Opus Dei Prelature and priests of the dioceses
of New England.

Candidates for diocesan priesthood had a rare opportunity to become
acquainted with each other, to get to know bishops and cardinals on a
personal basis and to gain first-hand knowledge about "the shared sense of
responsibility and fraternity between generations of men who have
answered the call of the Lord to His service in the priesthood."

parishes and dioceses to become families,
priests must have filial affection
and love for their bishops.'


Uplifting experience

The seminarians prayed, studied, reflected and recreated together in a
relaxed, home-like setting on beautiful retreat grounds. Uplifted by an
indivisible family tie - one priesthood serving one Lord and one people -
the seminarians joined hearts and minds and entered into the homilies and
addresses of Pope John Paul II during his pastoral visits to the United
States and his talks with American bishops during their "ad limina" visits
in 1983 and 1988 as well as their most recent visit with the Holy Father,
early last month.

The seminar was anchored on the words: "Ubi Petrus ibi ecclesia - Where
Peter is, there is the Church." Cardinal Bernard Law told the seminarians
how precious they are to the Holy Father, Peter's successor and Vicar of
Christ. While attending the conference of American bishops in Rome last
month, Pope John Paul II said that by their presence, the American bish-
ops placed all American priests and seminarians even closer to his own

Rev. Sal M. Ferigle, founder and director of the seminar, said that one
of its main purposes is to foster a sense of priestly fraternity rooted
in the sacrament of Holy Orders for those who are preparing for the
priesthood. "You could see a wonderful sense of unity developing," said
Father Sal. "The seminarians didn't see Cardinal Law and Cardinal Hickey
only as Princes of the Church; they experienced their human dimension and
they now can look to them as priests, older brothers or even fathers."

Father Sal also said that no priest with a sense of family is ever
alone. "A priest must be a family man," said Father Sal. "For parishes and
dioceses to become families, priests must have filial affection and love
for their bishops."

Two-way conversations

Matthew Lee, a seminarian from the Washington, D.C. Archdiocese, has
attended each of the last four seminars at Arnold Hall. He is drawn to the
intimate atmosphere of the seminar. "The speakers with their pastoral
experiences have such credibility," he said. "The atmosphere is really
unique. It is friendly and caring. lt gives you the one-to-one feeling of
having a two-way conversation with a friend."

The seminar program consisted of nine study sessions featuring an
impressive list of speakers. For instance, Most Rev. Donald Wuerl, Bishop
of Pittsburgh, talked on Priests for the Third Millennium; Cardinal Law's
theme was entitled The Centrality of the Eucharist; Most Rev. Thomas V.
Daily, Bishop of Palm Beach, Fla. and former Auxiliary Bishop of the
Archdiocese of Boston, spoke on The Ministry of the Word; James Cardinal
Hickey, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., addressed The Importance of Good
Catechesis; and Most Rev. Thomas J. Welch, Bishop of Allentown, Pa.,
lectured on The Family.

rich sacramental life bring the Christ's
infinite power to catechesis.

Also making presentations at the seminar were Rev. Msgr. William F.
Murphy, Archdiocese of Boston Secretary for Community Relations;
Michael Pakaluk, from the Clark University Department of Philosophy; Rev.
David Q. Liptak, chairman of the theology department at Holy Apostles
Seminary in Cromwell, Ct. and Father Sal M. Ferigle, director of the
Seminar for Seminarians.

Monsignor Murphy made a presentation on Social Justice. Mr. Pakaluk
spoke on The Role of the Laity. Father Liptak examined The College and
University: Environment of Faith and Father Sal lectured on the Sacrament
of Penance.

Illuminating message

Bishop Daily, speaking on The Ministry of the Word, used the addresses
homilies of the Holy Father to illuminate his message. He challenged the
seminarians to be fearless in their ministry of serving Christ and His
people. "You are leaven to be used for the sanctification of the world,"
said Bishop Daily. "You have the gifts and talents from God to transform

Bishop Daily also told the seminarians that there is no cure for
schisms. He encouraged them to become holy men and then they will be come
credible witnesses of the gospel message. He also said that unity with
their bishops and the Apostolic See strengthens faith and builds the

Cardinal Hickey said prayer and rich sacramental life bring Christ's
power to catechesis. "Catechesis without the sacraments is cold " said
Cardinal Hickey.

The Cardinal Archbishop of Washington, D.C. stressed the importance of
prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and he said that Eucharistic Adoration
is a treasure of our faith that infuses Catechesis with Christ's life. He
also asked the seminarians to imitate Mary and use her as their model.
"Faith without devotion to the Mother of God is like food without salt,"
said Cardinal Hickey.

Spiritual starvation

He also said that people are starving for spiritual nourishment. "The
task is to bring all people into communion and to intimacy with Jesus of
Nazareth, not just in touch with Our Lord and Savior."

The Cardinal also implored the seminarians to be totally faithful to
the teachings of the Church. "God's people have a right to receive the
fullness of all that the Church teaches," said Cardinal Hickey.

"Instead of refashioning Christ, we want to allow Him to refashion

'Prayer time before the Blessed Sacrament was key'

The seminarians began each day in individual and communal prayer
before the Blessed Sacrament, for as long as one hour and 45 minutes begin-
ning with silent Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Following
Eucharistic Adoration, there was the Liturgy of the Hours, morning prayer
and then a preached meditation with more time for reflection.

These were tender moments when barriers faded away, hearts were joined
and the warmth of fraternal affection united all in attendance with each
other through Christ. "The prayer time before the Blessed Sacrament was
the key to every day of the seminar," said Father Sal. "Everything flowed
from that. The special mood of being relaxed and feeling at home grew out
of the time people spent in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament."

Jim McManamy, a seminarian from Toronto, Canada, said the seminar was
refreshing and down to earth. "We are comfortable with ourselves and we
are comfortable with our vocations," he said.

McManamy also said he experienced a sense of the Church breadth and
depth. "We feel love, support and fraternity," he said. "Each of us has
been made aware that the Church is so much bigger than each one of us and
our particular diocese. It is universal!"

The seminar spread truth, enkindled fervor, cultivated optimism,
increased hope, deepened trust, multiplied joy and widened the scope of
priestly fraternity. Father Sal turned to the words of Pope John Paul II
when the Holy Father visited Harlem while touring the United States in 1979
to capture the bursting spirit that came alive during the Seminar for
Seminarians at Arnold Hall in Pembroke. The Holy Father proclaimed that we
are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song," said Father Sal. "That
same joy is evident here this week at Arnold Hall. Just look around. Look
at the faces you see!"

God is in command and the Holy Spirit will triumph over all. That
hopeful proclamation was exclaimed last week to 44 seminarians scattered
around the United States and Canada.

This article was originally published in the April 7, 1989 edition of
"The Pilot", Boston, MA.

Lay movements move past earlier criticisms, into mainstream

Catholic News Service (CNS)
Friday, January 14, 2005

By Cindy Wooden

Enthusiasm and exaggeration have marked the development of Catholic lay movements and the opinions of the movements' critics in the 40 years since the Second Vatican Council.

The exaggerations and failures that Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, now president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, described in a 1999 council meeting as "childhood diseases" even have led to some of the groups being labeled "cults."

Exclusivity, adulation of the movement's founder, dedication to the group to the exclusion of one's family or work, and excessive control are among the common criticisms.

Addressing the same 1999 meeting, Pope John Paul II acknowledged the criticisms, but said "every human work needs time and patience for its required and indispensable purification."

In 1994 the pope dedicated dozens of his general audience talks to the topic of lay people in the church, and he highlighted the right of Catholic laity to form associations for their own spiritual good, for evangelization and to coordinate their charitable work.

Working with parish priests, local bishops and the Vatican, he said, were necessary signs that a group or movement was serious about "ecclesial harmony and cooperation" and that it recognized the legitimate and necessary role of pastors in helping the groups discern what is proper, healthy and Catholic.

The groups, he said, "must always maintain a concern for unity, avoiding rivalry, tensions, tendencies to monopolize the apostolate or to claim a primacy of place that the Gospel itself excludes."

Guzman Carriquiry, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, told Catholic News Service that when members find growth, support and fellowship in a group "you cannot ask members of a movement not to be grateful for that movement and not to love the founder."

"At the same time, they cannot deny the gifts present in other movements," he said. "None of the charisms found in any movement have value unless they lead to the same place: holiness."

In the modern world, many people have a hard time understanding why anyone would give up some of his or her individual freedom to accommodate someone else or to pursue a specific goal, Carriquiry said.

"But freedom does not mean breaking every bond," he said. "My ties to my friends, my family and my community help me exercise my freedom in a way that recognizes I am dependent on God."

Several of the movements have been accused of forcing members to confess their sins in public, a practice all of the groups say is misunderstood.

Many of them have adopted practices based on the monastic tradition - called "emendatio" - of periodically acknowledging one's faults and shortcomings in a gathering of the community.

But it is not sacramental confession, and group leaders are obliged to exercise control to ensure that the practice - meant to encourage humility, to recognize that everyone struggles to live holy lives and to provide support - does not lead to humiliation, a violation of privacy or scandal.

Members of the personal prelature of Opus Dei - lay people and priests - generally have an opportunity for the "emendatio" once each week.

Msgr. Joaquin Llobell, an Opus Dei priest and professor of canon law, said the practice always must be voluntary and must never be exaggerated.

"Humility and sincerity are one thing, but they cannot be allowed to be separated from common sense," he said.

An individual confession of sins to a priest with a guarantee of secrecy and the possibility of anonymity "is the church's preference" for the sacrament, he said.

The Opus Dei "emendatio," he said, does not take the place of sacramental confession, which members are encouraged to seek once every week.

The things shared in the small groups are not sins, he said, but struggles and failures.

"For example, I may say, 'This week I never managed to say my afternoon prayers on time. I'm so disorganized. Please pray for me.' But I do not recount those sins which belong in a confessional," he said.

Msgr. Llobell said he would not recommend the practice to any group that includes children or teenagers and, he said, it is imperative that the group leader be mature and prepared. "There is a risk that sharing spirals out of control with a recounting of more and more serious things, things that should be kept private," he said.

The moderator also must ensure that no one feels forced to share. Although the practice has long been part of the weekly Opus Dei gatherings, no one is forced to share and many do not, the Spanish monsignor said.

"In my community, some people have not shared in 20 years - especially the Anglo-Saxons. We Latins are so much more open," he said. "As a part of the church, we are like a family, and like a family, we share many things. But there are some things you just don't share with the whole family."

Measures to ensure that group sharing did not become group confession were written into the Neocatechumenal Way's statutes, which were approved by the Vatican in 2002.

The Way, as it is known, does not consider itself a lay movement, but rather a parish-based process of faith formation. The statutes said that the members periodically celebrate the sacrament of penance "according to the rite of reconciliation for several penitents with individual confession and absolution."

As for the group sharing, the statutes said, "people share freely the experience of what God's grace is accomplishing in their life and the difficulties which may have occurred are expressed, respecting the freedom of a person's conscience."

Giuseppe Gennarini, responsible for the Neocatechumenal communities in the United States, told CNS that participants "confess only to a priest." The group sharing, he said, is not sacramental but rather serves to build community and provide support.

Gennarini said that sometimes visitors, who do not know the history of an individual group, have been shocked at what they heard people sharing.

"I have been involved in a community for almost 35 years, and naturally we share the experiences of our lives. The members of the group are very dear friends," he said. "What is appropriate to share after 10 years together might not be appropriate after just 10 weeks."

But in every group the sharing is voluntary, he said. "There is no gun pointed at anyone's head."


Why Ruth Kelly's faith and her politics cannot be separated

London Times on Line
January 29, 2005
OPUS DEI? Ruth Kelly? The Da Vinci Code? The Secretary of State for Education?

Of all the stories one could not have predicted to hover around the fringes of the news in early 2005 as the new Labour Government approached re-election, the association between a rather brilliant new education secretary and what the newspapers characterise as a shadowy cadre of elite Roman Catholic ultras certainly takes the biscuit. What next? Will Peter Hain, the Leader of the House, be found to be a former member of South Africa’s white-supremacist Broederbond? Will the Lord Chancellor be exposed as a Freemason, or the Children’s Minister as a Satanist?
And much of the reporting, Ruth Kelly must feel, has been unfair. Opus Dei, it is true, can be linked to many in the Francoist Establishment in 20th-century Spain; but some of its members opposed Franco bravely. And so far as they were a political force at all in Madrid, they were in many ways a modernising influence — nothing like the sinister and murderous organisation depicted in The Da Vinci Code, a work of pure fiction. Opus Dei in Spain consisted of clever and clubable achievers, not secret torturers.

Nor are they today. There is no fairminded reason for the Education Secretary to feel embarrassed about her association with Opus Dei in 21st-century Britain. Though elements of secretiveness have always surrounded the organisation, its members (like the Freemasons) are respectable people who intend through associating together and subscribing to their organisation’s guiding principles, to be a force for good.

Though Opus Dei’s instincts have consistently been for authority, continuity and order, they are not mindless reactionaries. These men and women are distinguished by intellect and achievement. The network does not impose judgments on its members; it has no blueprint or secret plan for history, just a set of shared convictions; and Ms Kelly may reasonably feel that she has no need to distance herself either from contemporary Opus Dei, or even from its past.

All the same, I think that in yanking her quite so violently from obscurity to power, the Prime Minister may be taking more of a risk than he realises. And I suspect that Ms Kelly understands this better than he does.

The success of The Da Vinci Code has been phenomenal. Senior politicians tend to let the tidal flows of popular culture slosh around rather beneath their notice, but this fundamentally silly but vastly engaging book has taken the Western world by storm. Rocketing sales may be evidence of more than its readability and gripping story. I wonder whether our era of relative godlessness may have brought with it a new susceptibility towards cults, supersititions and conspiracy-theories of every kind. Headlines about Ms Kelly and The Da Vinci Code chime with a public mood: people whisper of secret conclaves and a hidden hand in the affairs of state.

How should Ms Kelly dispel these anxieties? An excellent start was made — and then disowned. We do not know who it was who spread the rumours at the time of her promotion, but we must now assume it cannot have been Ms Kelly, because she has categorically denied them.

It was said she had told the Prime Minister that there were certain ministerial posts she would feel unable to accept because they would involve a clash, or the appearance of a clash, with her religious beliefs. The rumours mentioned Health and International Development, because of Catholic beliefs about abortion and contraception.

When I read these rumours I gave a silent cheer. At last — a politician with the integrity and intellect to understand what Rocco Buttiglione (the EU Commissioner-designate whom the European Parliament threw out) failed to see: there are real conflicts between some Christian, Muslim and Judaic beliefs, and the mainstream of secular modern European politics.

Some years ago, as Times parliamentary sketchwriter reporting a Commons debate on stem-cell research, I offended a number of religious readers by suggesting that just as we require MPs to declare any financial interest which might touch legislation passing through the House, so we should require MPs whose religious affiliation touched a topic of debate to declare that affiliation. A stake in the future of one’s immortal soul strikes me as having at least as much potential to affect one’s judgment as, say, a stake in the financial results of a pharmaceutical company involved in stem-cell research. Both should be declared, I said.

I was serious. I still believe it. If an MP makes an impassioned speech on the ease with which medical research can proceed without using fertilised human eggs, I think we deserve to know whether he or she is a Catholic. A conviction that stem-cell research is wicked in the eyes of God may have influenced his or her judgment. It may not have done so, of course, just as share ownership may not prejudice an MP’s view of legislation touching the value of the shares. The point about declaration is that is allows us to weigh for ourselves the MP’s judgment, in light of what we know about his interests. If the MP feels that his judgment may then be seen in a poor light, he can absent themselves altogether from the debate.

So ‘Good for you, Ruth!’, I thought when I read that there were ministerial posts she would avoid. She had understood that her faith would devalue her credibility in these areas; or bring her into conflict with her own Government’s policies.

It was disappointing, then, when Ms Kelly denied that she had ruled herself out of any ministerial job on religious grounds. Instead she is anchoring her position in the time-honoured — and thoroughly dubious — assertion that she knows how to distinguish between faith and politics. Ms Kelly insisted in an interview with the Daily Mirror that her faith was a private matter which had nothing to do with her job. “I have a private spiritual life and I have a faith. It is a private spiritual life and I don’t think it is relevant to my job,” she said.

What? That is wholly inconsistent not just with the whole drift of Opus Dei’s work, but with Christ’s teaching. Of course one’s faith, and the moral code anchored in it, is relevant to one’s job. It is impossible to read the Gospels in any other way. Would Ms Kelly serve in a Cabinet legislating for the slaughter of the firstborn on the ground that her own views of right and wrong were private? If now she is to serve in a Cabinet which tolerates the slaughter of what she believes to be the “unborn child”, how can she possibly say she could occupy a ministerial post in the department responsible because her faith would not be “relevant” to her job?

She has rejected a suggestion that her religious beliefs could affect the way she carries out her role in government in relation to sex education. How so? Does a believer not believe religion has lessons in this area? And, more importantly, at a time when the status of “faith” schools is a vexed question, can Ms Kelly really stay dispassionate in the tussle between those who do and those who do not believe that the State — and the taxpayer — should be sponsoring faith-based education?

I admire Opus Dei and I admire Ruth Kelly’s refusal to dissociate herself from the organisation. But if there is a single belief which breathes clearly through all Opus Dei’s short history it is that God, faith, work and the world are all one. The worry is not that some big cheese in Opus Dei is telling the Education Secretary what to do. Opus Dei is not like that. The worry is that Ms Kelly thinks her God is telling her what to do, for that is what she ought to think if her faith is sincere. She should stay with Opus Dei and stay in politics. But the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs would have been a wiser posting.

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Don't judge Ruth Kelly's spirituality by what The Da Vinci Code says

(Filed: 19/01/2005)
There's nothing sinister about Opus Dei, says former member Christopher Howse

When I was a member of Opus Dei, a certain sort of person was beastly to me because they hated Opus Dei. "Aha," they would say, if I made a mistake, "typical Opus Dei!" Opus Dei-baiting was like Jew-baiting.

No hidden agenda: Ruth Kelly

Since I left, in 1988, the same kind of people have been much nicer, on the assumption that I loathe Opus Dei as much as they seem to. I don't loathe it at all. My departure was to do with me rather than them. I didn't like getting up early and things. But I have never since met a group who are kinder, more patient or less motivated by personal ambition.

I can understand, though, why Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, doesn't want to be written off as a mere chip off the Opus Dei block. She should be condemned for her politics, if they are despicable, not for her choice of spiritual advisers.

Just at the moment, the serial on Woman's Hour is a novel called The Gowk Storm, set in 19th-century Scotland. The village dominie or schoolmaster is driven out by the local elders because he is a Roman Catholic.

He is believed to be capable of anything. One old woman saw with her own eyes how he bewitched a fish in her frying-pan and made it jump on to the floor. Of course. And the vilification of Opus Dei is just like the routine disgust with Roman Catholics in Britain in the 19th century.

In fact, Roman Catholics can look pretty strange to outsiders. In their churches they display carvings of a dying or dead man with no clothes on, nailed to a cross. As they enter their pews, they make obeisance or curtsy towards a metal box under a veil which contains nothing but what looks like a round bit of bread. Ghosts figure large in Catholic belief. Until recently, they called one of the gods they worship the "Holy Ghost".

All right, the preceding paragraph was a parody of ill-motivated observation. I know that Catholics only worship one God. The Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit (or Ghost) are three persons in one God. That's what the C of E believes, too. But it is not easy to explain simply.

Similarly, it is not easy to explain to a post-Freudian secularist that ascetical practices – penance, fasting – are not exhibitions of self-hatred. The one thing everyone wants to know about Opus Dei is whether they beat themselves with knotted cords. The inquirers hope that this is a bit of kinky sex they can hear about.

Cardinal Newman (1801-90) used to beat himself a bit. "Taking the discipline," he called it. Fr Faber, a fellow member of the Catholic congregation of priests called the Oratorians, made excuses about taking the discipline, saying it was bad for his health. Perhaps that sort of practice is impossible in the modern world.

I can't say I go in for beating myself. All Catholics are, however, bound by their religion to do some penance every Friday in honour of the Passion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday – that dying man nailed to the cross. Catholics believe he isn't dead. They talk to him, same as you'd talk to the cat, only they really think he understands.

I want to say what Opus Dei is really about, but there's The Da Vinci Code to deal with first. The chief baddy in that bad book, you must know, is called Silas, an albino Opus Dei "monk" who kills people.

But no members of Opus Dei are monks, they are ordinary civilian women and men, and they seldom kill anyone. Albinos are admitted as members, as available. So are black people, and were welcomed a long time before a lot of other white churchy people recognised them as equals.

A few facts, then. Opus Dei was founded in 1928 by a Spaniard called Josemaria Escriva. He was recently declared a saint. The Catholic Church fully approves of Opus Dei, which has about 80,000 members round the world. Its chief function is to remind lay Christians that by their baptism they have a vocation to seek holiness, which is to say, friendship with God. Ordinary people, Opus Dei declares, do not have to become monks or nuns to find God; they can offer to him their daily work.

Most members are married folk. A very few are priests. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor has just asked Opus Dei to take on a parish in Hampstead, but the people who go to church there will not be Opus Dei members any more than people who go to a church run by the Jesuits are Jesuits.

What do members of Opus Dei do? They pray in the morning and in the evening. They go to Mass every day, as pious Catholics do. But most of the day is spent working, as anyone has to, and with their families. All the time, they are aware that they are in the presence of God and, as his children, inwardly offer him the things they do during the day, cheerfully. It sounds nice enough to me and almost makes me want to join up again. Perhaps they are too normal for me, though.

Anyway, because Opus Dei wants lay people to be responsible for their own actions, it never gives members any orders or advice about their professional or political lives. That was the great taboo when I was a member: you could ask for advice about praying but would never dream of asking about voting.

We wouldn't just shop at a grocer's because it was run by a member. So Opus Dei doesn't boast of having a specific MP or plumber as a member. It's up to the member. There is such a thing as privacy. Perhaps he might be hounded out of his job by those playground bullies.

I've noticed that when people leave organisations, they can make a hobby of slagging them off, thus proving their own superiority. But the Catholic Church is a big place, hence the name. Christians are meant to be seeking unity and loving one another, so the Bible says, not denouncing anyone who follows a slightly different way from their own.

Even the chief inspector of schools rather bafflingly called this week for us to be "intolerant of intolerance", so I think multi-cultural tolerance should at least extend to a voluntary association of committed Catholics like Opus Dei.