NEW YORK -- At the height of Da Vinci Code mania there was sign at the door of the Murray Hill Conference Center asking visitors if they wanted to learn the truth about the "real Opus Dei."
Visitors received a cheery information pamphlet. Staffers also had answers ready for those asking edgier questions that usually sounded something like this: "Is this the world headquarters of Opus Dei, the place where that albino monk Silas lived who murdered all those people in Dan Brown's book?"
Actually, visitors were told, Opus Dei has no monks and its world headquarters is in Rome. The only local member named Silas is a Nigerian-born stockbroker who lives in Brooklyn -- with his wife.
The siege did include moments of humor, said spokesman Brian Finnerty. One visitor pointed at the 17-story Manhattan tower and asked, "Is it true you have a torture chamber up there?" The doorman quipped, "You don't know nothing. The torture chamber's in the basement."
Life goes on at the corner of Lexington Avenue and 34th Street. But for Opus Dei loyalists, life after "The Da Vinci Code" will never be the same and that is probably a good thing, said Monsignor Thomas Bohlin, the group's leader in America.
It's crucial, he said, that Opus Dei members were able to do dozens of media interviews during the uproar surrounding the book and the movie, he said. This gave Opus Dei a chance to open up and respond to its many critics.
"There are people who still say that we are like a fundamentalist sect," said Bohlin. "For some people we're the Masons, we're crypto-Fascists, we're who knows what. ... We know that it's going to take time for people to figure out who we are and what we are and what we can become here in America."
The story of Opus Dei ("Work of God") began in 1928, when a Spanish priest named Josemar