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Maureen Dowd made a comment in her New York Times column today that Rick Santorum is attracted to Opus Dei’s asceticism. Few Americans know anything about Opus Dei because it was founded in Spain where it eventually took control of the post-war clerico-fascist Franco government. Mostly Spaniards, therefore, have written “insider” accounts which reveal the true nature of this organization.

The context in which the above group of Opus Dei members operated in politics was a correction of the Spanish economy mandated by international financial organisms and directed at ending the previous model of self-sufficiency or autarchy. The adjustments took place in a regime where public criticism or opposition by organized labor was not allowed. Things did not go well for the network of interests and enterprises woven around the "Work", as they internally called the institution. Mostly led by people without experience, the group ventures into the realms of finance, publishing, and international trade, ended in internal and external conflicts, spectacular failures, and a reputation for immorality and arbitrariness that have subsequently characterized the business ventures of men whose mentors proclaimed the idea of sanctification of work. Criticism grew to the point that at the end of the 1960s, [founder, Fr. Josemaria] Escrivá decreed the suppression of auxiliary enterprises or "common works" in internal terminology. The scandals around Matesa, Rumasa, and so many other affairs are full of Opus Dei names. Opus Dei authorities had presented the supernumerary member José María Ruiz Mateos as a model father and businessman, and an outstanding benefactor. He was suddenly excluded from the list of acknowledged members after public controversies with other members whom he blamed for his fall. (Jesus Ynfante, Opus Dei. Así en la tierra como en el cielo, Grijalbo Mondadori, 1996)
The above was quoted by Alberto Moncada, "La Evolucion del Opus Dei en Espana" (Ponencia al VI Congreso Español de Sociología, A Coruña, 1999) and translated by the Opus Dei Awareness Website which deals mostly with the trauma of former members. Interestingly, Moncada also notes “the sympathy of many Opus Dei officers and some civilians for the February 21, 1981 coup d'etat attempt was apparent. General Armada, one of the masterminds of the coup, is close to Opus Dei, ‘Military men, by the very fact of their being that, already have half the vocation to Opus Dei,’ Escrivá used to preach.” This information can be ominous in view of a recent report by veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh of a disturbing outlook he found at top levels of the U.S. military:
“We're gonna change mosques into cathedrals. That's an attitude that pervades, I'm here to say, a large percentage of the Joint Special Operations Command [JSOC, the Black Ops Force which assassinated Bin Laden]" Hersh further claimed that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Vice Admiral William McRaven and others in the JSOC were members of the "Knights of Malta" and "Opus Dei," two little known Catholic orders. “They do see what they're doing - and this is not an atypical attitude among some military - it's a crusade, literally,” Hersh reportedly continued. “They see themselves as the protectors of the Christians. They're protecting them from the Muslims [as in] the 13th century. And this is their function.” He added that members of these societies have developed a secret set of insignias that represent “the whole notion that this is a culture war” between religions.

Luckily for us Anglophones, Robert Hutchison’s book, Their Kingdom Come (Thomas Dunne Books, 1997, 2006) “details Opus Dei’s preparations for what the organization regards as Christendom’s inevitable showdown with radical Islam” while being “an organization every bit as fundamentalist on the Christian side as [some branches of Islam are] on the Islamic side.”

 “I first heard of Opus Dei in the 1960s,” wrote Hutchison, a Canadian financial journalist residing in Switzerland, “when a Swiss banker friend informed me it was one of the major players in the Eurodollar market. A religious organization speculating in overnight francs and next week’s dollars? That did not sound right at all.”

While Hutchison delineates in painstaking detail how Opus Dei came to control the Vatican, “how John Paul as archbishop of Cracow, Poland -- and many other bishops -- were brought into Opus Dei’s network” up to the present where the president of the Vatican Bank Ettore Gotti Tedeschi is Opus Dei and the eminence grise behind the current pope “had a passion for the stock market” and was trained at the Opus Dei-run Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, the real threat is the danger Opus Dei poses to the United States.

 “What give Opus Dei its importance is the influence it wields and also that it deploys its immense financial resources…Opus Dei knows very well that money rules the world and that religious hegemony of a country or a continent is dependent upon obtaining financial hegemony.” Hutchison quotes Javier Sainz Moreno, professor of Law at Madrid University. (pp 261-262)

The New York Times ran an article titled “Bishops Were Prepared for Battle Over Birth Control” on February 9. “Seven months earlier, [the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops] had started laying the groundwork for a major new campaign to combat what they saw as the growing threat to religious liberty, including the legalization of same-sex marriage. But the birth control mandate, issued on Jan. 20, was their Pearl Harbor,” wrote the excellent religion correspondent, Laurie Goodstein. An accurate description of the battle, but the strategy for war, according to a New York Times Magazine article published in December 2009, had already been formulated the previous September when “about 60 prominent Christians assembled in the library of the Metropolitan Club on the east side of Central Park.” Attendees included “more than half a dozen of this country’s most influential Roman Catholic bishops….At the center of the event was Robert P. George, a Princeton University professor of jurisprudence and a Roman Catholic who is this country’s most influential conservative Christian thinker.” The professor is also closely associated with Opus Dei.

The Times Magazine article continues: “As a starting point, George had drafted a 4,700-word manifesto that promised resistance to the point of civil disobedience against any legislation that might implicate their churches or charities in abortion, embryo-destructive research or same-sex marriage.” It’s obvious, therefore, why it was essential for the bishops to link contraception and abortion by declaring that birth control and morning-after pills are “abortifacients” - a “truthiness” now carried forth by the Religious Right without question by GOP voters as to why this seemingly eternal verite had never been preached to them before as similarly the evils of abortion had never been a political campaign issue for them until 30 years ago.  

George’s 2009 Manhattan Manifesto’ssection on Religious Liberty reads:

[P]ersons claiming these "rights" [i.e. abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage] are very often in the vanguard of those who would trample upon the freedom of others to express their religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.

We see this, for example, in the effort to weaken or eliminate conscience clauses, and therefore to compel pro-life institutions (including religiously affiliated hospitals and clinics), and pro-life physicians, surgeons, nurses, and other health care professionals, to refer for abortions and, in certain cases, even to perform or participate in abortions. We see it in the use of anti- discrimination statutes to force religious institutions, businesses, and service providers of various sorts to comply with activities they judge to be deeply immoral or go out of business.

In recent decades a growing body of case law has paralleled the decline in respect for religious values in the media, the academy and political leadership, resulting in restrictions on the free exercise of religion. We view this as an ominous development, not only because of its threat to the individual liberty guaranteed to every person, regardless of his or her faith, but because the trend also threatens the common welfare and the culture of freedom on which our system of republican government is founded. Restrictions on the freedom of conscience or the ability to hire people of one's own faith or conscientious moral convictions for religious institutions, for example, undermines the viability of the intermediate structures of society, the essential buffer against the overweening authority of the state, resulting in the soft despotism Tocqueville so prophetically warned of.1 Disintegration of civil society is a prelude to tyranny.

It is a tribute to the confidence (obedience?) of the bishops in Robert George how closely they follow the script as illustrated by a sampling of the prelates’ screeds since Jan. 20:

•    “We cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law.” Bishop Peter Libasci, Manchester, N.H.

•    Obama's mandate “may only be the beginning of a historic attack on religious freedom.” New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

•    “It is an outrageous situation,” because Obama was “excluding blocks and groups of people from participation in the common good.” Washington D.C. Cardinal Donald Wuerl

•    The administration is assuming power to define what “religious faith is and how believers should express their faith commitments.” Opus Dei Archbishop Jose Gomez

•    “When the government tampers with a freedom so fundamental to the life of our nation, one shudders to think what lies ahead.” Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan

•    The mandate is “like a slap in the face” that says “To Hell with you!” to Catholics and religious freedom. The administration has “inextricably linked [health care reform] to the zealotry of pro-abortion bureaucrats.” Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh

•    Forcing Catholic organizations to choose between following Obama’s mandate and Jesus’ mandate “strikes at the very heart of the right to religious liberty on which our country was founded.” Bishop William E. Lori, Bridgeport, Conn.

•    “The HHS mandate, including its latest variant, is belligerent, unnecessary and deeply offensive...” Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput

•    “This year, the Catholic Church in the United States is being told she must 'give up' her health care institutions, her universities and many of her social service organizations. This is not a voluntary sacrifice.” Chicago Cardinal Francis George

These are in addition to the remarks noted by E. J. Dionne which “cast administration officials as communist-style apparatchiks intent on destroying Roman Catholicism” or “suggest to faithfully married Catholic women and men who decide to limit the size of their families that there is any moral equivalence between wanting contraception coverage and visiting a prostitute.” Dionne attributes these comments to “rightwing” bishops as if they were the exception, but doesn’t point out they were made by the prior and current presidents of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) elected by the majority of their peers.

Opus Dei's financial hegemony comes from its worldwide "membership" of Masters of the Universe such as Peter Sutherland, a Chairman of Goldman Sachs International, until June 2009 he was chairman of BP, he was a director of the Royal Bank of Scotland, on the steering committee of the Bilderberg Group, an Honorary Chairman of the Trilateral Commission, etc. Sutherland is on the advisory board of one of Opus Dei's "feeder" school for business executive and financial advisor to the Vatican.

The financial resources needed to carry this campaign through to Election Day are virtually unlimited due to the Catholic Church’s 501 (c) (3) status as a religious organization with the IRS. Unlike 527s, PAC, and even SuperPACs, no disclosure of contributors' names – foreign or domestic – or the amounts donated are necessary. Domestic contributors also receive a tax deduction and all the money spent is both tax exempt and need never be disclosed. Every single organization listed by the bishop in the Official Catholic Directory, even the infamous Bill Donohue’s Catholic Leaguesponsored by Cardinal Dolan as head of the New York archdiocese. So as not to be considered partisan campaigning, the money just has to flow into all the front organizations claiming to be anti-abortion/contraception, anti-gay marriage and in favor of religious liberty.

While Rick Santorum has correctly been linked to Opus Dei, that doesn’t mean he automatically gets their support or that of the hierarchs of Catholic Church which actually are kind of inseparable at this point. Catholic prelates were brutal in their attacks against John Kerry in 2004 while blatantly defending George W. Bush’s record as the former governor with the worst record of executions in the country and the former president who took us to war under false pretences.

The only “official” Catholic response so far in this presidential campaign has been the support for Romney provided by five former U.S. ambassadors to the Vatican in early January.   The Church/Opus Dei will support whichever candidate supports the plutocracy and is electable. Of course, when and if they think that a Religious Right Catholic already close to Opus Dei has a chance of being president, Santorum will never again suffer from a lack of funds.

Originally posted to Betty Clermont on Sun Mar 18, 2012 at 10:04 AM PDT.

Also republished by Pro Choice.

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