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Peculiar Holy Work

Posted in Atheist, belief, Christianity, culture, faith, Government, history, humanity, life, politics, random, religion, thoughts with tags , , , , , , , on December 4, 2009 by chouck017894

Back in October of 1928 a Spanish priest named Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer founded a group known formally as The Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei.  Monsignor Escriva alleged that while on retreat in Madrid the bells of a nearby church began to peal and suddenly God made him see Opus Dei in a vision.

Since that time Escriva’s “path of sanctity” has garnered considerable controversy with its alleged elitism and misogyny, and particularly in its apparent right-leaning politics which the Francois Government of Spain approved while in power.  Escriva’s group had grown rapidly, spreading from Spain into other European countries—especially fascist-style governments.  And through the last decade of the twentieth century and first decade of the twenty-first its influence has infiltrated Latin America and the United States.

Recent studies have shown that there are  more than 3000 Opus Dei members in the United States, with prime concentrations in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Colorado, Arizona, Texas and California.  Their centers are commonly situated near large college campuses, which makes it convenient for attracting new members.  But Opus Dei insists that they do not actively recruit or indulge in proselytism; they simply present themselves as a “distinct brand of spirituality.”  Yeah.

In a democratic culture such as in the United States, it is recognized that groups that operate under a shield of secrecy are interested only in their own advantages and welfare, not society in general.  So  it is more than a bit distrubing when Opus Dei members continually sidestep any efforts from the curious to get straightforward answers regarding their practices and corporate activities.  This, of course, is denied, but in 1995, for example, when a journalist sought a copy of Opus Dei’s constitution and statutes he was give a copy written in technical church Latin.  That’s the approved way of  “doing God’s work” apparently. 

The claim is that Opus Dei is a lay organization, but the strong emphasis on “commitments,” obedience and hierarchy seem more like the poorly disguised replication of clerical regimentation.  Indeed, male “numeraries” are encouraged to consider ordination to priesthood.  Women numeraries, on the other hand, are expected to devote themselves to domestic duties such as cleaning the men’s centers and cooking for them.  It’s all according to Paul, the self-appointed apostle to Jesus, who said that  it pleased God for women to be subservient to men.  Thus female members are embraced as “family” to make their work more appealing.

As in typical cults, those who take up commitment to Opus Dei—the numeraries—are expected to turn over their income  from which is doled out a stipend  for personal items.  For this favor they are expected to follow a daily routine that includes Mass, personal prayer, devotional readings, and in some cases physical mortification.  The cult-like behavior is seen also in isolation of members from former friends, and even a member’s incoming and outgoing personal mail is monitored.  Personality changes are the norm; generally the change is in the person becoming more  secretive and withdrawing from their immediate family.  The dedicated who endure this rationalize it away by saying, “You can’t become a saint alone.”

In 1982, God’s top representative in the Vatican granted Opus Dei the canonical status of  “personal prelature,” which allowed it juridical operation much like Catholic religious orders without regard for geographic limits.  That pope-recognized status, however, makes it somewhat questionable how the organization can legitimately claim to be a lay organization.

Add to this that Escriva who died in 1975 got rushed into “sainthood” in 1992—a mere seventeen years later!  There was open questioning by some at this unprecedented move and considerable distrust arose when numerous  persons were prevented from testifying at church tribunals that were deliberating on Escriva’s life.  Kept smothered were little character frailties such as having a nasty temper and what some had said were his “pro-Nazi tendencies.”

As mentioned earlier, there are more than 3000 Opus Dei centers in the United States and they sponsor such  noble sounding activities as outreach programs for the poor, retreat houses, programs for married Catholics, and educational programs for children.  On the other hand, the organization keeps such a secretive approach that even though Opus Dei is active in nearly every large archdiocese in the nation, the Catholic leadership routinely declares that they have no knowledge or contact with them!

Strange spirituality.  Makes one wonder, should we be concerned about the imbalance in the U.S. Supreme Court Justices where today six of the nine are Catholic?

Manufacturing a Miracle

Posted in agnoticism, Atheist, Bible, Christianity, culture, history, humanity, life, logic, random, religion, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2009 by chouck017894

In December 1854, as Pope Pius IX ruled over the Vatican, the bishops from all parts of Catholic dominance were called to Rome to establish a new twist in devotion to Jesus as Christ the Savior.  In an elective process of collected bishops it was decided, with only four dissenting votes, that when Mary had died she had been raised bodily from the dead and “ascended into heaven.”   With this set in place as official church declaration Mary would henceforth be addressed and worshiped as the “Immaculate Conception.”   All this was made official despite the fact that there is not one line in original scriptures that ever implied that Mary was “immaculately” conceived—or, for that matter, that she could make atonement for sin because she was at the foot of the cross at her son’s crucifixion—“her heart pierced with grief.”  With this allegation made official, the terms “Sacred Heart” and “Queen of Heaven” became ingredients of the church’s religious phraseology.

Although nothing in any original writings of the early Christian movement had ever presented any such storyline, Pope Pius IX proclaimed that the Immaculate Conception must “be believed firmly and constantly by all,” and that any dissenter is “condemned” and “separated” from true Christianity!  (Pope Pius XII would echo the same declaration of the Assumption in 1950.)

The faithful today are not troubled that this declaration of “assumption” simply reinstated much older Pagan concepts.  The Greek grammarian Apollodorus (flourished 2nd century BCE) stated in his history of Greek religions, On the Gods, that Bacchus (symbolizing the reproductive force of Nature) carried his mother to heaven.  And according to the Roman poet Ovid (43 BCE-17 CE), Bacchus addressed his mother as Thuone, the feminine of Bacchus’ Latin name Thyoneus, meaning “the lamented one.”  Thus Thuone was the Pagan lamenting goddess–the role reinstated with Mary’s 1854 papal promotion—a role complete with all the attributes and honors once given to the Babylonian/Assyrian goddess Ishtar and the Roman goddess Juno (and other similar Pagan goddesses).

Only a mere four years after Mary’s promotion, in 1856, a fourteen year old peasant girl, Marie Bernadette Soubiroux, declared that she had eighteen visions of the Virgin in a grotto at Lourdes, France, which occurred from February 11 through July 16.  One of the more peculiar aspects of this miracle is that the Virgin is said to have repeatedly referred to herself as the Immaculate Conception—a precept initiated by the church only four years before!  The Lourdes grotto quickly became a shrine, and by 1862 the faithful were assured that they were justified in believing in the reality of the apparitions.  A basilica was built upon the rock of Massabielle where the visions were said to have occurred.  Twenty-one years after the spate of apppartitions, 1876, the basilica was consecrated and a statue of the Virgin was solemnly crowned.

The Catholic Encyclopedia thus assures the faithful that devotion at Lourdes was “…founded on the apparitions of the “blessed Virgin” to a poor 14 year old girl, Bernadette Soubiroux.”  It does not mention that the timing of these apparitions could not have been better for the politics of the church.