Summary: Bishop Manuel Aringarosa, president-general of Opus Dei, surreptitiously receives a cell phone call while aboard a transatlantic flight. His unknown (to readers) caller tells the bishop that Silas has located the keystone within the Saint-Sulpice. Aringarosa is excited by the news, “feeling dwarfed by the events he had put into motion.” Meanwhile, Silas readies himself for his part in the plan to meet “those who threaten God with force” with “immovable and steadfast” force.
Analysis: Much of this chapter is given over to Aringarosa’s meditations on the nature of Opus Dei. It sets forth much of the information about the organization related earlier in this Analysis. (Readers may fairly wonder whether Brown included such neutral, factual information in a preemptive—and, as it transpired, largely unsuccessful—effort to deflect criticism of his novel from conservative Roman Catholic quarters.) One detail about the Opus Dei headquarters in New York City—which does, indeed, stand at 243 Lexington Avenue (http:www.opusdei.us/art.php?p=15822)—that Brown chooses to highlight is the separate entrance for women, who are obliged to remain “acoustically and visually separated” from men while inside (p. 30). This detail anticipates one of the novel’s key theses: that Christianity in general and Roman Catholicism in particular, encourage an unhealthy divorcing of the masculine and feminine elements in spirituality and in life as a whole. (Readers, of course, are left to evaluate this claim of the book for themselves.)
As of this NovelGuide’s writing, the website of the Opus Dei Awareness Network, www.odan.org, about which Aringarosa ruefully reminiscences, was still live and updating its content of “frightening stories from former Opus Dei members who warned of the dangers of joining” (pp. 32-33). Against such attacks, Aringarosa reiterates the claim that Opus Dei is a “personal prelature” of the Pope—at the time of the novel’s writing, Pope John Paul II (1920-2005; elected to the papacy in 1978). A “personal prelature” is an institution with clergy and lay members who perform specific pastoral activities. “In 1982, John Paul granted Opus Dei the status of a ‘personal prelature,’ and it remains the only one in the church [as of 2006], meaning that it has its own bishop who reports directly to the pope”
This chapter also offers some tantalizing glimpses into Silas’ motivations: he views his life in Opus Dei as some manner of atonement for his past. “For the last decade, he had been following The Way, cleansing himself of sins… rebuilding his life… erasing the violence in his past” (p. 34). The irony of now resorting to violence (i.e., the four murders, culminating in Saunière’s) is not lost on the albino monk; however, he considers it necessary for doing the work of God. Silas stands in the (sadly) long tradition of Christians (and extremists of other religions, as well) who have justified violent deeds in the name of God. Theologically minded readers may well wonder whether a supposedly omnipotent God can truly be “threaten[ed]… with force” from mere mortals, as Silas seems to believe (p. 34).