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Depiction and Truth

Falsehood and Fabrication

The Da Vinci Code both fascinates and provokes its many readers. The fascination has to do with the convincing story line of a well-kept Christian secret. On the other hand, groups and individuals representing various ideologies feel that Brown's depictions of them borders on outright falsehood and fabrication. One such group depicted in the story, Opus Dei, has made a patent rejection of Dan Brown's characterization of them as withdrawn monks. Let's look at the issues according to the official Opus Dei line:

No Monastic Order

Monks—In The Da Vinci Code, all of the members of Opus Dei are depicted as monks, but in reality, there are no monks in the real Opus Dei, whose members are almost all lay people, with a sprinkling of priests. The group is not a monastic order. Also, the group is depicted in the book as being withdrawn from society, whereas, in reality, the group has an evangelist nature and hopes to persuade others to their cause by making a good example out of their daily work and lives. Some members of Opus Dei do choose to remain celibate and are called Numerary members. However, there are no vows involved.

Criminal Activity—The Da Vinci Code depicts members of Opus Dei as being involved in all manner of criminal activities, for instance, drugging and murdering people, and claiming that their unethical behavior is for the sake of the Church. In real life, however, Opus Dei members strive to live ethical lives, bound by the doctrines of the Catholic Church, which teaches that there is no justification for evil acts.

Wealth and Power—The Da Vinci Code also shows the members of Opus Dei involved in a serious struggle for wealth and power. However, wealth and power seem to be the opposite of the ideals for which members strive. In the words of the founder of the group, St. Josemaría Escrivá, “Opus Dei has no power, and wants no power, over any temporal activity. All it wants is to spread a Gospel message, to all men who live in the world, that God wants them to love Him and serve Him by, with and through their secular activities. It follows that the members of Opus Dei, who are ordinary Christians, work wherever and however they like. The only thing the Work does is to help them spiritually, so that they can always act with a Christian conscience.”

Corporal Mortification—The Da Vinci Code depicts Opus Dei members performing acts of mortification. The official Opus Dei line is that this is something that is not emphasized within Christian or Catholic doctrine, rather, small sacrifices are preferred, for instance, persisting in work when tired, or giving up some small pleasure. However, Opus Dei admits that some members do make use of the cilice and discipline, and state that such mortification has always been in keeping with Catholic tradition as a symbolic reference to Christ's Passion. The group claims that it impossible to sustain injury when performing self-mortification as the Church prescribes.


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