Bill Rancic Defends His Wife Giuliana After Fashion Police Controversy: 'I Tried to Get Them to Release the Footage' 42 years, 2,191 covers and 55,436 stories from PEOPLE magazine's history for you to enjoy
- #FBF: All of Trump's Most Controversial Tweets, All in One Place
- Read the Cover Story: Prince Harry: Finding My Purpose
- When Is Mother's Day 2016?
- Why the Pre-Med Student Who Found Prince Dead Could Face Drug Charges
- What Is Suboxone? Addiction Expert Explains This New Treatment for Opiate Addiction That Might Have Saved Prince
On Newsstands Now
- Matthew McConaughey: In His Own Words
- Jessa Duggar's Wedding Album
- Brittany Maynard's Final Days
Pick up your copy on newsstands
Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine
People Top 5
LAST UPDATE: Tuesday February 10, 2015 01:10PM EST
PEOPLE Top 5 are the most-viewed stories on the site over the past three days, updated every 60 minutes
- May 08, 2006
- Vol. 65
- No. 18
The Real Opus Dei
In the Da Vinci Code They're a Villainous Bunch of Zealots. But Actual Members Claim They're Harmless and Merely Devout. A Look at a Once-Secret Group
At the time, DiNicola was a member of Opus Dei, the Roman Catholic group depicted as the shadowy, murderous villains in the literary blockbuster The Da Vinci Code. The movie version—starring Tom Hanks and due May 19—only renews the controversy over Opus Dei, an organization known in the past for its secretiveness—and suspected of having friends in very high places. Tammy DiNicola left in 1990 after two years, claiming fellow members recruited too aggressively and tried to cut her off from her own family. Indeed, her parents have organized a network of disaffected former members.
The Opus Dei portrayed in Code is an even more extreme clique personified by Silas, an albino monk who whips himself bloody and slaughters people to protect Christianity's alleged secrets. But that character, and the presentation of Opus Dei in general, "is completely outrageous and completely removed from reality," says Brian Finnerty, the group's American spokesman. He says that despite disgruntled former members like DiNicola, life in the group today is not nearly as gothic as some make it out to be. Opus Dei—Latin for "God's work"—"is like a personal trainer for the spiritual life," says Finnerty. "We try to give people extra help to come closer to God in their everyday lives."
So is Opus Dei as sinister as a killer fanatic or as harmless as a personal trainer? Interviews with members and ex-members suggest the truth lies somewhere in between. Founded in 1928 by Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, a Catholic priest who believed people needed a way to be spiritual seven days a week, Opus Dei claims some 85,000 members around the world. In 1982, Pope John Paul II named the group a "personal prelature"—a sort of diocese without boundaries—conferring the Vatican's approval.
"When you join Opus Dei you make a promise to God and say, 'I want to deepen my relationship with you,'" says Fiorella Simoni de Cannon, 36, an environmental scientist from Arlington, Va. As one of the group's so-called supernumeraries, she lives with her husband and says she has an otherwise ordinary life while adhering to practices like daily prayers, meditation and personal sacrifices (she takes stairs instead of elevators, for instance). She's up early to pray or attend Mass, but some days she's too busy to stick to all of her rituals. "When that happens, you miss the graces that come with them, but nobody asks, 'Why weren't you in church?'" she says. "Nobody knows because it's so personal."
That's not quite true for a minority of hard-core members known as numeraries, who pledge to be celibate and live in Opus Dei houses. They pay no rent but hand over as much as 50 percent of their salaries and must ask for permission to leave the group. "We ask for the shirt off our members' backs because people need to be more generous," says a TV journalist who has been a member for 20 years and prefers to remain anonymous. The journalist practices mortification—wearing a spiky band called a cilice around his thigh and whipping himself with a lash called a discipline (see box). "They are slight irritations and small reminders of the suffering of Christ," he says.
Still, that's a far cry from the bloody, baroque world of The Da Vinci Code, which Fiorella Simoni de Cannon, for one, finds amusing. For her, joining Opus Dei was one of the best decisions of her life. "It just fits," she says. "It feels like home. It's God's way of telling me, 'This is the way I want you to be.'"
- Fannie Weinstein/Arlington,
- Silvia Sansoni/Rome,
- Pete Norman/London.
Treat Yourself! 4 Preview Issues
The most buzzed about stars this minute!