I was an assistant to Arbor's associate director, Raimundo Panikkar.
When I was introduced to him, I was quite surprised to find a priest in such a major cultural post.
I was even more surprised that he
was an Indian with a Catalonian accent.
Although only recently ordained and still a young man of twenty-eight, he
was highly regarded at the CSIC
as one of its founders.
Everyone considered him brilliant...
was kind, although extremely serious with the staff of Arbor
, with whom he
very seldom used more words than those essential for greetings and work.
"And that Dr. Panikkar is a priest of Opus Dei?"
And since I had such a positive opinion of Dr. Panikkar, I was angry to learn that he was an Opus Dei priest.
The possibility of talking directly with Dr. Panikkar
regarding Opus Dei
and its control of the CSIC
was little less than utopian...
An opportunity presented itself, however, when Dr. Panikkar
asked me to work the following Saturday, since he
had a backlog of correspondence that had to be answered.
After three hours of dealing with his
correspondence, Dr. Panikkar
suddenly said: "May I ask you why you work here?"
Astonished at the question, I said that I was planning to get married the following year and hoped to make my fiance's absence more bearable by working at something that interested me.
made no comment, and we resumed our work.
When we finished at lunch time, and I was locking the doors, he
started another conversation, this time about Barcelona, where he
had been recently.
"The weather was beautiful there," he
"I am not asking you to make your retreat under my guidance," Dr. Panikkar
"What I meant was that you can have a week off at that time."
There was an embarrassed silence on my part.
I did not know whether I should apologize because of my reply or how to pursue the conversation.
Finally Dr. Panikkar
broke the silence with the question:
"All right, all right," Dr. Panikkar
"Thank you for coming today.
I think that we will have to talk about this matter again.
And with his
usual formal smile, he
...when I came to work the following Monday, Father Panikkar
greeted me affably, saying he
was ready to resume our discussion.
"Would you please explain to me your negative attitude to Opus Dei?
I recounted all the things I had heard about Opus Dei
: that it was a "freemasonry"  because of its mysterious way of doing things such as not disclosing the identity of its members...
That Opus Dei
plotted to "capture" chairs at the university, hoping to preserve them for members and were ruthless about getting rid of anyone who was in their way ...
heard me out without betraying any emotion,  but his
reply, when it came, was forceful:
Somehow, the assurance with which Father Panikkar
spoke  was more convincing to me than the accusations I had just made.