When "The Da Vinci Code" comes out on the big screen in May portraying Opus Dei as a murderous cult, the group will counter with a video with positive testimonials from some of its members.
"I suspect 'The Da Vinci Code' is going to do more good than harm," said the Rev. John Paul Wauck, a professor at Holy Cross, Opus Dei's pontifical college in Rome. "People are going to take the trouble to find out more about Opus Dei, and that's a good thing."
At its headquarters in Manhattan, N.Y., Opus Dei now has a box of informational literature for fans of the book. One of its members in Rome has a new Web site, dedicated to making fun of the novel.
" 'The Da Vinci Code' is a comedy of errors," Wauck said. "You're probably better off watching 'Monty Python and The Holy Grail' for all the information you get in 'The Da Vinci Code.' "
The book and movie feature an albino Opus Dei monk named Silas, an assassin who ritualistically beats himself. Some Opus Dei members do in fact beat themselves with a cord to remind themselves of Jesus' pain. But they said that they never hurt themselves and that this was an ancient Catholic tradition practiced by people such as Mother Teresa.
Cathy Hickey, a mother of seven, is a member.
"Opus Dei is for ordinary people to sanctify their ordinary lives and to really live good lives and raise good families -- normal people," she said.
Opus Dei, which means "God's work" in Latin, runs charity programs and gives its members coaches to help them become everyday saints.
This small group seems to have outsized influence. Its U.S. headquarters cost $70 million. The pope's chief spokesman is a member, and the group's founder was named a saint only 27 years after he died.