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OPUS DEI SIR,--Those who have been following the discussion in your correspondence columns about Opus Dei may be interested in a brief account of what hap- pened last term in Oxford. Earlier in the year Opus Dei acquired the very valuable site of Grandpont House near Folly Bridge in order to build a hostel for 200 men undergraduates, which it hoped to open in 1962. The site was bought and planning permis- sion asked from the City Council before the views of the University had been ascertained. The omission confirms Mr. Bergonzi's comment upon the alarming manner in which Opus Dei ignores and by-passes the University Catholic chaplaincy. The most super- ficial inquiry in that quarter would have revealed to Dr. Masia and Father Burke (the two representatives of Opu., Dei who conducted the negotiations) that their plan depended upon the University's permis- sion, since in Oxford undergraduates can only live in lodgings or hostels licensed by the University. Inquiry would also have revealed—for the Chap- laincy is well acquainted with the ways of the Uni- versity—that such permission was unlikely to be granted. Nor was it. And the future of the Grand- Pont House site is now very uncertain.
The reasons given for the University's refusal have not been made public, but it is reasonable to sur- mise that among others they included disapproval of the creation of what was bound to become an institution for the propagation and inculcation of a Particular body of doctrine and dogma, thus cutting across not only the college system, but, more seriously, the whole modern liberal conception of a university as a place where opinions are formed by the free play of intellectual inquiry. It is significant that Opus Dei has had scarcely any support from the Catholic clergy and laity in Oxford, who, with °ne or two exceptions, regard its incursion as tact- less' maladroit, and ill-advised. Most of them are heartily relieved at the University's decision to dis- courage an alien organisation which could scarcely have failed to harm the reputation of the Catholic Church in Oxford.
Incidentally one of the principal arguments advanced by Opus Dti for building a hostel is the difficulty which Afro-Asian undergraduates are said to have in securing lodgings; and a high proportion of those housed in the new hostel would have been such people who, it is argued, would thus be pre- vented from abandoning 'western values' and turn- ing to Communism. Oxford certainly has no cause 'Or complacency in such matters but it is curious that Opus Dei should have selected one of the two university cities in Great Britain, where thanks to the college system this particular 'problem is less acute than almost anywhere else. Can it be that Opus Pei, like the Jesuits in former times, wishes not Only to help the depressed classes but also to gain a foothold in a place( which is generally believed, rightly or wrongly, to contain an unusually high proportion of potential future lop people'?
It is not cowardice but a desire to avoid the blasts of personal propaganda over the Christmas season which prompts me to sign myself truthfully but generically as—Yours faithfully, TUTOR OXONIENSIS