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Spiritual girl: Madonna’s shifting beliefs

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Madonna's love/hate relationship with the Roman Catholic Church took a new twist in April when she spent more than an hour at an Opus Dei center — a Catholic organization cast as the villain in "The DaVinci Code."

This recent flirting with her childhood faith is somewhat ironic, considering how the "Material Girl" has never been shy to criticize or intentionally shock Catholic sensibilities. For example, the Daily Mail reported in 2006 that her concert tour that put her in a mock crucifixion complete with a crown of thorns had upset the Vatican. "Cardinal Ersilio Tonino, speaking with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI said: 'This time the limits have really been pushed too far. This concert is a blasphemous challenge to the faith and a profanation of the cross. She should be excommunicated.'"

That same Daily Mail article recounted how Madonna was also called blasphemous for her 1989 video "Like a Prayer," which included statues crying tears of blood.

Back in 1991, the Deseret News' own Chris Hicks reviewed her "Truth or Dare" video as "an amazing example of self-worship."

Her worship habits, however, took another turn when, as Newsweek reports, "she turned to Kabbalah in 1996 when she was pregnant, exhausted from Evita, and looking for an anchor. Since then she has reportedly donated at least $18 million of her personal fortune to the Kabbalah Centre."

The Los Angeles Times explains that the Kabbalah Centre is a "Los Angeles-based spiritual organization that mingles ancient Jewish mysticism with the glamour of its celebrity devotees." The Times said the center "is far and away the most well-known proponent of kabbalah, an esoteric Jewish movement that traces its roots to the Zohar, a holy book followers believe was written by a rabbi 2,000 years ago to explain the mysteries of the universe."

A Deseret News story in June 2004 covered an ABC "20/20" interview in which Madonna bristled at suggestions that her interest in Kabbalah was just a trend: "I'm a little bit irritated that people think that it's like some celebrity band wagon that I've jumped on, or that, say, somebody like Demi (Moore) has jumped on," she said on "20/20." "We don't take it lightly."

But even in her newfound faith — or expanded faith, Madonna still clung on to Christianity to some extent. New York magazine noted that while celebrating Jewish High Holidays and the Shabbat with her Kabbalah friends, "she presents a confusing tableau: Still a Catholic, she often appears with a gigantic cross hanging from her neck, the size of the one in her Desperately Seeking Susan days, and carries her adopted -Malawian son, on whom she's usually placed a yarmulke."

Madonna's connections to Malawi, one of the poorest nations in Africa, set the stage for her alleged disaffection with Kabbalah.

In April 2010, Madonna laid the first brick for a girl's school in Malawi. The $15 million Raising Malawi Academy for Girls was to help approximately 500 orphans and was supposed to open this year.

It won't.

As The Guardian reports "it has turned into a legal quagmire." Construction never began and eight workers are "suing her for unfair dismissal and non-payment of benefits."

But this is just one of the many problems Madonna's charity Raising Malawi is having according to the Newsweek article. Newsweek recounted a multiplicity of alleged unaccounted funds, possible mismanagement and more related to the charity's partner, the Kabbalah Centre.

The Daily Mirror reported most of the money meant to fund the charity "was allegedly spent on the Kabbalah Centre's offices in LA. Madonna has now removed directors of Raising Malawi. Among the axed board members is Michael Berg, a co-director of the Kabbalah Centre. Two other ditched board members, John Larkin and Rachel Almog, also had links to Kabbalah. There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing from any board members."

The Daily Mirror quotes an unnamed source as saying, "She has invested so much into Kabbalah so she was devastated by these damning accusations."

As FoxNews said, "So what's a former pop queen to do? Flirt with another religion, of course."

In April, Madonna spent about 90 minutes at the Opus Dei center in Orme Court in Britain, according the Daily Mail. Her spokesman had nothing to say, but the Mail's unnamed source said she "has always been intrigued by Opus Dei."

Opus Dei is not, however, a different religion from Catholicism. According to its own website, it is a Catholic institution that teaches that people can grow closer to God through everyday life. Its profile has been raised again recently by another movie, this one featuring its founder, Saint Josemaría Escrivá. The film, “There Be Dragons,” unlike " The Da Vinci Code," is a more positive about the organization that Dan Brown's conspiratorial fantasy.

Madonna also seems to be positive about the Catholic organization. But it isn't that clear that meeting with Opus Dei means that she has indeed abandoned Kabbalah. She has, however, abandoned or been abandoned by her most recent boyfriend over matters of faith.

The Daily Mail reported May 9 that 24-year-old Brahim Zaibat, a Muslim, has split with the 52-year-old Madonna, supposedly over her devotion to Kabbalah. "Brahim's family had told him they did not want him going to Kabbalah meetings and wanted him to stick to his Muslim beliefs, which caused some rows," a source told the Daily Mail.

EMAIL: mdegroote@desnews.com TWITTER: degroote