Mark Rees-Andersen, 28, is due in the Danish Maritime and Commercial Court
today to do battle with Roman Catholicism’s church within a church – the
Praelatura Sanctae Crucis et Operis Dei – to defend his patent and right to
the use of the Latin phrase Opus Dei.
The prelature, which in mixed English and Latin is known as the Prelature of
the Holy Cross and Opus Dei, and internationally abbreviated simply as Opus
Dei, is suing Andersen to the tune of DKK200,000 for his use of the term in
his game: “Opus-Dei: Existence After Religion”.
The organization is also calling for the court to ban Andersen’s use of the
term Opus Dei and for the websites opus-dei.co.uk and opus-dei.dk to be shut
The Opus Dei community was founded in 1928 by a Spanish priest. In 1982 it was
given the title of a personal prelature, with no geographical boundaries,
giving its own bishop jurisdiction over members irrespective of where they
are. As one of the very few Roman Catholic organisations, the prelature is
the personal responsibility of the pope, reporting directly to the pontiff
and not through normal religious channels.
“It’s not right that they can claim the sole right to the concept of a deity
and the right to define God. Opus Dei is a common concept that you cannot
demand sole rights to, just as you cannot demand exclusive rights to Jesus,
Christ, God or the Virgin Mary,” says Rees-Andersen.
Rees-Andersen’s wrangle with the Vatican comes as a result of a game he
developed with a university colleague while studying philosophy.
“It was really just a hobby, and nothing serious,” he says.
It took four years to develop the prototype for the strategy game in which
gamers try to develop the perfect world. The game, 5,000 copies of which
were produced in India, included the Opus Dei phrase as those playing have a
role akin to a deity. The game is currently available in some few outlets in
Germany, Britain, the United States and Canada.
Rees-Andersen has Danish patents on the logo and title of the game: “Opus-Dei:
Existence After Religion”. He also has internet domain rights to a British
and Danish site.
“It’s a nerdy game. But we developed it so that people who didn’t know much
about philosophy could learn,” Rees-Andersen says.
In 2009, however, he received a letter from Opus Dei’s Spanish region claiming
to have the rights to the Opus Dei brand throughout the European Union and
several other countries, urging him to stop using the concept and remove it
from all games.
“It was provocative. We had developed a small niche game for philosophers and
out came the artillery,” Rees Andersen says.
Denmark’s Patent Office handled that case, asking Opus Dei to prove that it
had actually used the logo – which it could not.
In 2010, however, the Praelatura Sanctae Crucis et Operis Dei decided to
subpoena Rees-Andersen at the Danish Maritime and Commercial Court, which
starts its hearings today.
Opus Dei argues that its organisation is known in over 70 countries and says
that it uses the name Opus Dei as a brand for its activities. Not least, the
organisation suggests, Rees-Andersen must have known about the organisation
as he has admitted to having read The Da Vinci Code, which names Opus Dei as
an on-going organisation.
Opus Dei wasn’t too happy about The Da Vinci Code either.
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