Decoding Opus Dei
Special Report: Decoding Opus Dei
Hidden in the shadows of the catholic church for decades, Opus Dei is being forced into the spotlight by The Da Vinci Code craze.
The movie is made up. But the secretive group is very real, so are the details about how members discipline themselves using a special whip and a razor-sharp device that cuts into their leg. Many members live in Massachusetts and say their lives are nothing like The Da Vinci Code.
Father Jose Ruisanchez of Newton says, "We don't wear any habits or any special insignia, it would be the equivalent of wearing a sign saying 'I want to be a saint.'"
Father Jose is proud to be a member of the group, started eighty years ago by a Spanish priest later canonized by the Pope.
Opus Dei has more than 85,000 members worldwide, mostly working men and women. It's worth hundreds of millions of dollars and owns high priced real estate in the Bay State and around the world.
Father Jose says the code is causing confusion, "I'd rather preach the positive gospel message not to have to be defending yourself against all kinds of strange things all the time."
Many Opus Dei members pledge celibacy, hand over their earnings, and also practice a form of punishment called corporal mortification, where they inflict pain on themselves with a rope like whip called discipline and a sharp medal belt called a cilice.
Irene Dorgan, an Opus Dei member, says "It's nothing at all like its portrayed in the book, I don't know what the movie is gonna look like, but I read the book and its very perverted."
Irene gave 7News a rare inside look at Bayridge, an elegant brownstone in Boston's Back Bay.
It's a dorm like home, where women from area collages are introduced to the group.
Member Bridget Bourque, a 23-year-old law school student, says the group is not a cult, "They want to make sure no one is pressured or coerced, especially when you are younger."
But Tammy DiNicola of Pittsfield says she was heavily recruited by Opus Dei when she was a student at Boston College. She says after she moved into the group's mansion in Newton, she saw more of the twisted traditions made famous in the book.
Tammy says, "That's where they have boards in beds you sleep on, no pillow once a week...you have regular use of cilice and discipline."
Her mother Dianne, now heads ODAN, the Opus Dei Awareness Network. She says she had to fight to save her daughter from this group once praised by the Pope.
She says, "When an organization has a person's mind, it's a very hard thing to overcome." But those who have pledged their lives to Opus Dei say the message is simple.
Father Jose, believes, "We have a few strange things maybe, but that's part of serving God, serving God is always a little bit strange."
The Da Vince Code opens May 19, and Dan Brown's book remains on the best seller list.
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