Opus Dei, an official institution of the Catholic Church, at the top is a secret society of international bankers, financiers, businessmen and their supporters. Their goal is the same as other plutocrats – unbridled power – except they use the influence of the Catholic Church and its worldwide network of institutions exempt from both taxes and financial reporting requirements to advance rightwing parties and governments.
A year after Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s elevation as head of the Church and his many appointments, the dust has settled. Three cardinals have emerged as the most powerful in this papacy; all have close ties to Opus Dei. Two now control all Vatican finance.
Still the most exhaustively researched book written about “The Work” as it is referred to by its members, Their Kingdom Come (1997, 2006) by Robert Hutchison, a Canadian financial journalist, traces the growth of Opus Dei financial power “by all available means” - deception, dirty tricks, even “physical muscle” like poisonings which mimic heart attacks. “What gives 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,” Javier Sainz Moreno, professor of Law at Madrid University, told Hutchison. One of their goals was to control the Vatican’s wealth, now closer than ever to being realized.
Like many religious cults, the members at the bottom are sincere believers that Opus Dei is the path for personal holiness. Many are “numeraries,” men and women vowed to celibacy who live in communal residences and hand over their earnings to the organization. This creates workers totally dedicated to their assigned tasks, assures a steady stream of revenue and makes it difficult for members to leave. “Supernumeraries” are married and live independently but are still required to make large contributions and send their children to Opus Dei schools if available. At all levels, the names of the lay members are secret unless self-disclosed. Opus Dei also has an order of publicly identified priests and prelates.
Opus Dei's only "charity" is founding schools, mostly business schools and student centers at the world’s leading universities to train and recruit a continuous supply of professionals dedicated to Opus Dei/Catholic goals. Opus Dei is “significantly connected to 479 universities and high schools,” according to journalist Michael Walsh based on a confidential report submitted to the Vatican in 1979.
Opus Dei’s flagship university is in Navarre, Spain. Its graduate business school, IESE, founded in 1958, “has growing alliances in key areas such as Latin America, China and Eastern Europe, campuses in Barcelona, Madrid, and New York City and teaching facilities in Munich and Sao Paulo,” according to a 2012 report in the Economist. They also operate a global network of MBA schools per Bloomberg.
Probably Opus Dei’s largest financial institution is Banco Santander S.A., “the largest bank in the Eurozone by market value and one of the largest banks in the world in terms of market capitalization.” Santander funds Opus Dei schools. "Santander's interest in higher education is a deep interest, long term, because we understand that at the university are studying the leaders who will run the country in the future,” explained a company official.
“Opus Dei pursues the Vatican’s agenda through the presence of its members in secular governments and institutions and through a vast array of academic, medical, and grassroots pursuits. Its constant effort to increase its presence in civil institutions of power is supported by growth in the organization as a whole….Their work in the public sphere breaches the church-state division that is fundamental to modern democracy,” wrote Gordon Urquhart author of The Pope’s Armada: Unlocking the Secrets of Mysterious and Powerful New Sects in the Church (1995).
“It's widely known that Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas belong to Opus Dei - and that Chief Justice John Roberts may also be a member,” stated Matthew Fox, a former priest, progressive theologian and author of more than 23 books.
“They're in the CIA, the FBI,” said Fox. “Daniel Ellsberg recently told me that some of the ranking commanders of our military are also Opus Dei,” Fox stated in another interview. Veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh made a similar observation. “Hersh stated that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Vice Admiral William McRaven and others in the Joint Special Operations Command (the group responsible for the assassination of Osama Bin Laden) were members of the Knights of Malta and Opus Dei. ‘They see themselves as protecting [Christians] from the Muslims….And this is their function.' Hersh 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.'”
The New York Times noted in 2012 that an Opus Dei boy’s prep school “has become the popular school for a small clique of Washingtonians”: Rick Santorum; lobbyist and former U.S. Senator (R-FL), Mel Martinez; Sect. of Defense Chuck Hagel; the infamous FBI spy and Opus Dei member Robert Hanssen’s boss, former FBI director Louis J. Freeh; NOM founder Maggie Gallagher and National Review editor Kate O’Beirne.
Fox said that both Santorum and Newt Gingrich are members but that doesn’t guarantee Opus Dei/Catholic Church backing. These organizations will support whichever Republican candidate has the best chance of winning regardless of his religious affiliation. That’s why the endorsement by five former U.S. ambassadors to the Vatican of Mitt Romeny in early January 2012 before the primaries signaled that “big money” had already chosen the GOP presidential nominee.
Robert P. George, a Princeton University professor closely associated with Opus Dei, changed the landscape of U.S. politics. Neocon politico Deal Hudson stated that "If there really is a vast, right-wing conspiracy, its leaders probably meet in George's basement." Referred to by the New York Times as “the country’s most influential conservative Christian thinker,” it was George's study conducted in the late 1990s showing that allegiance to the Republican Party depended not so much on religious affiliation as the frequency of church attendance which Karl Rove used to direct support for George W. Bush into pulpits, church bulletins, parking lot pamphlets and mailing lists taken from parish rosters.
After the Religious Right lost the 2008 Presidential Election, it was George who drafted the November 2009 Manhattan Manifesto introducing the theme of “religious liberty” as the new battle cry for the 150 Christian leaders who signed it. “We see [the struggle for religious liberty] in the use of antidiscrimination statutes to force religious institutions, businesses, and service providers of various sorts to comply with activities they judge to be deeply immoral....We view [restrictions on the free exercise of religion] as an ominous development, the overweening authority of the state,” they declared.
George is NOM (National Organization for Marriage) board chairman emeritus. “NOM, the Catholic Church and Knights of Columbus are responsible for funding nearly 65 percent of all anti-equality efforts in Minnesota, Maryland, Washington State and Maine.”
Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) and supernumerary declared last month that liberal and women’s studies professors should be “taken out and shot.” He had previously called for the murder of Hillary Clinton.
Opus Dei Influence in the Vatican (It’s the Money, Stupid)
The emptying of church pews in Europe has been reported for decades. In the U.S. Catholics are roughly 22-24 percent of the population. The latest poll conducted in Feb. 2014 by the Public Religion Research Institute showed that the percentage of Catholics who are non-Hispanic white is down to 60 percent. Of those, the majority (58 percent) attended Mass only a few times a year, seldom or never. Considering the lower average income of Latinos and that around 90 percent of Sunday collections remain in the parish, it is not the people in the pew providing the funding for Catholic organizations to mount scores of court challenges to Obamacare (at what cost to taxpayers?), lobby against women’s health care and same-sex marriage legislation, obstruct every state’s expansion of statutes-of-limitations which would favor survivors of child sex abuse nor pay almost $3 billion in legal costs and settlements to the Church's victims of sex abuse in the past eight years.
Nor can the Vatican maintain its inestimable wealth from Third World Catholics.
After a year of concentrated activity to make sure his assets are better managed and under his control, including the creation of four commissions, the hiring of six international consulting firms which service the plutocracy together with appointments of trusted allies, Pope Francis established the Secretariat of the Economy this past Feb. 24.
He appointed Australian Cardinal George Pell as its head reporting directly to him. With “authority over all economic and administrative activities within the Holy See and the Vatican City State,” this makes Pell de facto manager of the entire Roman Curia since he holds the purse strings.
After becoming an archbishop, Pell invited Opus Dei to establish themselves in Melbourne and then Sydney. Under Pell’s patronage, “Opus Dei's star is on the rise, it is said, and that of others - including other more established groups within the Church - is sinking,” Sydney Morning Herald’s religious affairs columnist wrote in January 2002. This reporter saw “signs of a new elitism….a clerical culture is being encouraged in which there is a highly select ‘in’ crowd around Pell.”
Pell has maintained a close relationship with Australia’s conservative PM, Tony Abbott, and his party for decades. Days before Pope Bergoglio appointed Pell on April 13, 2013, to his “G8” group of cardinals who would advise the pope on “governing the Church,” Pell attended a “Gala Dinner” celebrating the Melbourne-based Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) an “ultraconservative think tank.” Rupert Murdoch was guest of honor and Abbott the keynote speaker. (Murdoch was awarded a papal knighthood by Pope John Paul II for “promoting the interests of society, the Church and the Holy See.")
From Bergoglio's point of view, Pell has sound business experience. “[Pell’s] archdiocese's assets have nearly doubled since 2004 to over $1 billion at the end of 2013....Since Pell became archbishop in 2001 the archdiocese has paid out $6.8 million to settle 82 claims for sex abuse according to figures provided by the archdiocese's business manager - an average of $83,200 each," reported one Australian newspaper. “The disturbing consequence of this strategy, adopted widely in the Catholic Church, is that Catholic leaders effectively accepted that human worth can be measured by economic price. They accepted that the priority of the Church lay in the market where its task was to preserve and enhance its financial resources,” noted another Australian publication.
Pell is permanently relocating to Rome and will probably reside in the "grand apartment" he has used in the past at the Australian Church's guest house in Rome recently refurbished at a cost of “between $30 million and $85 million.”
As regards clerical sex abuse, Pell said the Church had been a victim of "smears," and he had refused communion to gay and lesbian parishioners. All Bergoglio’s appointees share his worldviews.
Along with the Secretariat of the Economy, the pope also created a new Council for the Economy which “will consider policies and practices and to prepare and analyze reports on the economic-administrative activities of the Holy See.” This council is comprised of eight prelates and seven laymen “reflecting various parts of the world.” As we have seen a year after the pope named his G8 “from the five continents of the world” only those close to Opus Dei have advanced in power; the rest have hardly been heard from since. Tokenism is becoming evident in all of Bergoglio’s group appointments. By all accounts, all power rests firmly in the pope and those close to him.
The Council for the Economy will be coordinated by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, another member of Bergoglio’s G8. Marx was the invited speaker for 300 guests of Opus Dei at a meeting held in the Deutsche Bank, Germany’s central bank. He has presided at Masses celebrating Opus Dei’s founder, Josemaria Escrivá, and visits the Opus Dei center for university students in Munich.
The Work is said to be very powerful in Germany’s financial capital of Frankfurt. Der Speigel observed that “There is hardly a German bishop who does not regard the organization with favor."
After his appointment as coordinator of the Council for the Economy, Marx told the press that the Vatican’s “real bank” would no longer be the IOR (Institute for Religious Works commonly referred to as the Vatican Bank) but will be the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), the department which, up to now, has primarily managed the humongous Vatican securities and property holdings. Whether or not this decision is a result of pressure from financial regulators on Bergoglio and his predecessor to “clean up” the IOR or else the bank would be prohibited from engaging in international transactions, remains to be seen.
Opus Dei/Vatican may have been preparing for this shift under the guidance of Peter Sutherland, managing director and chairman of Goldman Sachs International, former chairman of BP Oil and member of the International Advisory Board of IESE, the flagship Opus Dei graduate business school. Sutherland has been a Vatican consultant for years and was appointed by Bergoglio to the supervisory board for APSA.
In the event that APSA comes under the same regulatory pressures as the IOR, Banco Santander already “offered its availability” to the Vatican months ago. I suspect that this Opus Dei banking group will handle any Vatican financial dealings which, if exposed, would threaten the carefully constructed public image of Pope Francis since it already has the reputation of being ethnically-challenged. (see “Banco Santander S.A.Fined $200 Million for Advice Failings,” “Banco Santanger, The Epitome of Bankster Evil” and “Huge Eurobank, rated ‘Britain’s worst,’ now accused of gouging U.S. consumers.”)
One of the seven cardinals in addition to Marx named to the Council for the Economy is Houston’s Daniel N. DiNardo. The rest come from Peru, France, Mexico, Italy, Hong Kong and South Africa. As with so many of the pope's other appointments, three of the cardinals have “words and deeds regarding clergy sex crimes and cover ups” which are “deeply troubling”: DiNardo, Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico and Wilfrid Fox Napier of South Africa.
Houston is the center of the U.S. petro-chemical industry. In 2007, Archbishop DiNardo was elevated to the rank of cardinal – the first American city to be so recognized for its importance since Los Angeles was given a cardinal in 1952. The current prelate of the Los Angeles archdiocese, Jose Gomez, headed the Opus Dei regional headquarters in Houston. Gomez was appointed to lead the Church in Los Angeles the same month (April 2010) that Archbishop Thomas Wenski, who had given the invocation at the 2008 Republican National Convention, was put in charge of Miami.
The plutocracy now had the right hierarchs to represent their interests in three U.S. cities with close commercial ties to Latin America.
With “vast oil reserves,” in Mexico, Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Guatemala, Cuba looking to increase foreign investment and a pope from Argentina, Latin America will be an increasingly important area of “evangelization” for the Church.
Catholic reporter Rocco Palmo referred to a group who met in Mexico City as the “A-list prelates.” The meeting held this past November was cosponsored by the Knights of Columbus, and Supreme Knight Carl Anderson addressed the group. Attendees included:
- Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, coordinator of the G8, has become the pope’s right-hand man, “some might say vice pope.” Rodríguez Maradiaga is “the leader of Opus Dei” in Honduras which “participated actively in the 2009 coup against the constitutional [and progressive] president, Manuel Zelaya.” “Active members of this clan are making intromissions in Honduran national politics.” “Honduras now has the highest homicide rate in the world fueled by the drug trade and government corruption. Only 2 percent of murders are solved.” Rodríguez Maradiaga blamed "the Jews"for the scandal arising from clerical crimes.
- Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the only American on the G8, is a faithful supporter of Opus Dei and has sponsored the canonization of the priest who “established an Opus Dei presence among students and professors at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology” between 1946 and 1956. Metropolitan Boston now has more than eighty colleges and universities attracting thousands of students from around the world. Like Cardinal Marx, O’Malley celebrates special Masses commemorating Opus Dei founder, Josemaria Escriva, and visits the Opus Dei (male only) center at Harvard.
- Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet was reconfirmed by Bergoglio as president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. Prior to Pope Ratzinger’s departure to Mexico and Cuba in 2012, Ouellet said, “Latin America is recognized as a leader on the current international scene....Aren’t Latin American countries going through economic processes involving exportation to various markets on the one hand, and attracting foreign capital on the other?” The week after Ratzinger returned to Rome, Mexican President Felipe Calderon met with Cuban President Raul Castro and Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega to discuss “deepening the dialogue on trade and investment between the two countries,” including “the extraction of shared oil resources” in the Gulf of Mexico.
- Laymen Guzmán Carriquiry Lecour, reconfirmed by the pope as secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, is a member of Opus Dei, Bergoglio’s “close friend” and “highest ranking layman at the Vatican.” Having been founded in Spain, Latin America was the first target of Opus Dei expansion in the 1950s.
- Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput is to be host to the pope’s October 2015 trip to the U.S. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has invited the pope to address the full Congress and Pres. Obama invited him to the White House. The pope’s visit is a “thank you” for Chaput’s exemplary service to the plutocracy as leader of the U.S. bishops’ assault against Kerry in 2004 and Obama in 2008. As head of the Denver archdiocese until 2011, Chaput gained the support of local moguls, turned out faithfully Republican priests from his two seminaries, obstructed justice for victims of clerical sex abuse and founded a nationwide campus ministry and influential media empire.
- Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron might seem like an odd choice until we remember that Wojtyla removed the Cayman Islands, where the Vatican has its own financial facilities, from its geographical diocese of Kingston, Jamaica, and put it under the authority of his close ally, Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida. The Cayman Islands remained attached to the Detroit archdiocese after Maida’s death. Similarly, the Turks and Caicos Islands, another offshore haven for those who wish to hide their fortune from tax collectors and regulators, are a “mission” of Opus Dei Cardinal John Myers of Newark. The chancellor for this territory, Bishop Peter Baldacchino, was just moved from Newark to Wenski’s Miami archdiocese.
- Peruvian Opus Dei Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, also named to the Council for the Economy and the most senior Opus Dei hierarch, was present to “welcome” Gomez as archbishop of San Antonio in 2005 and to Los Angeles in 2010.
The prelate of Wall Street, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Wenski and Gomez were also present at the November meeting in Mexico City. In January, Bergolgio named Rodriguez Maradiaga, Cipriani Thorne and Gomez as additional members of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. Also in January, the pope gave the annual “state of the world” address to diplomats assigned to the Vatican and it was “noted with interest, even astonishment, that Europe was barely mentioned beyond its role as a destination for poor migrants.”
Laymen appointed to the Council for the Economy
Pope Bergoglio has verbally attacked the global economic system as based on a “god called money,” and has urged international financiers to break down “the barriers of individualism and the slavery of profit at all cost.” Yet again and again, Bergoglio has appointed those who labor for the plutocracy to manage his own wealth. Widely reported as “cleaning up” Vatican finances, the pope has never appointed any forensic accountants or other specialists from any law enforcement or government regulatory agency whose expertise is curbing unethical/illegal finance to advise him about the notoriously dishonest Vatican finances. The seven laymen on the Council for the Economy reflect this.
- Joseph F.X. Zahra, coordinator for the laymen, is a former director of the Central Bank of Malta, former chairman of Bank of Valletta plc., Maltacom plc., and Middlesea Insurance plc.
- Jean-Baptiste de Franssu is chairman of INCIPIT, a mergers and acquisitions consulting firm. He was CEO of Invesco Europe, an investment management company.
- John F. Kyle retired in 2008 as vice president and treasurer of Imperial Oil Ltd., Exxon Mobil’s Canadian subsidiary.
- Enrique Llano Cueto was an audit partner of KPMG and then lead partner responsible for major clients in the public and private sectors. (See “KPMG Facilitated the Financial Fiasco”)
- Jochen Messemer is a former partner of McKinsey & Company (1993-2003). (See the list of criticisms resulting from McKinsey's advice to the world’s largest firms) He is chairman of the board of Ergo International Ltd.
- Francesco Vermiglio was a board member for Banco di Sicilia and Bank of Valletta (Malta).
- George Yeo was Minister of Finance for Singapore and a Brigadier-General in the Singapore Armed Forces. He was a visiting scholar to Peking University and remains a visiting scholar at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. He is on the advisory board of Harvard Business School and Opus Dei’s graduate IESE Business School.
Yeo’s appointment, along with Hong Kong Cardinal John Tong Hon, to the Council for the Economy indicates Opus Dei/Vatican’s increasing interest in the Pacific Rim. South Korean Archbishop Andrew Yeom Soo-jung was just elevated by Bergoglio to cardinal and the pope is scheduled to visit South Korea to participate in Asian Youth Day this August.
Paul Bui Van Doc was recently named archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City in the hope that he “may ease the relationship between the Holy See and Vietnam,” one of the few countries which doesn’t have diplomatic relations with the Church. Bui Van Doc has encouraged dialogue between the two governments. On March 22, the pope met with Nguyen Sinh Hung, president of the Vietnam parliament.
Opus Dei has been in Tokyo since 1958, Hong Kong 1981 and Singapore 1982. The Work “embraced” South Korea and Vietnam in 2008.
Sex Abuse Commission
Cardinal O’Malley was named to Bergoglio’s new commission on child sex abuse which was announced in December. Details were withheld until the day before Pres. Obama left for his trip to Europe which would include a visit with the pope. (Gerald Slevin, a rare independent Catholic blogger, made this “catch.” Please read his perceptive and astute "Pope Picks Abuse Panel On Eve Of President Obama’s Visit".)
Five women were also named to this commission including one who was raped by a priest when she was 13. As victim’s advocate Fr. Thomas Doyle stated, the new commission is “another promise waiting to be broken”:
[Fr. Hans] Zollner said the commission will look into Church law to see what has worked then make recommendations. That says it all. The pope and the commission could save a lot of time and effort because this has already been figured out, and the answer is short: Not much has worked….So it seems that to avoid having to confront and do something about the real issues facing the Church, the commission will be asked to reinvent the wheel.
Over the past three decades, a massive amount of research has been done into every aspect of clergy sex abuse….The vast majority of this research has been done and continues to be done in the United States. The whole nightmarish cesspool would not have been uncovered were it not for the bravery and determination of the American victims. Yet the only American on the commission is a cardinal.
The same day Obama was at the Vatican (March 27) Bergoglio also met with Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian bishops’ conference. The next day, the conference announced its policy as regards clerical sex abuse – “with backing from the Vatican” – stating they are not obliged to inform law enforcement officials if they suspect this crime has been committed. Notifying civil law enforcement agencies has been recommended over and over again by victims and their advocates as one of the necessary reforms the Church has to make if they are really serious about protecting children.
Also on March 28, the American bishops’ conference released the results of a yearly audit they are mandated to conduct under their own "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," adopted in 2002 following that year’s national headlines about pedophile priests. “Of particular concern are four dioceses that would not allow any audits to take place and the fact that ‘most’ dioceses do not allow or conduct audits of parishes or schools, where most reporting of abuse is thought to occur, the auditors write.”
On April 2, The Irish Times reported:
Claims made by the Vatican in a submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) last December were so inaccurate, it prompted Minister for Justice Alan Shatter to write to Rome seeking clarification.
The Vatican asserted to the UNCRC that the four religious congregations [of nuns] that ran Magdalene laundries in Ireland were willing to pay part of a compensation scheme developed by the State for women who had been in the laundries.
However, two of the religious congregations concerned have since repeated their unwillingness to contribute to any compensation scheme for the women.
Recall Bergoglio’s recent interview: “"The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility. No-one else has done more. Yet the Church is the only one to have been attacked.”
On March 31, Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby, and his family were granted a private meeting with the pope even though his employee retirement plan – partially funded by the company – “held more than $73 million in mutual funds with investments in companies that produce emergency contraceptive pills, intrauterine devices, and drugs commonly used in abortions.” Green “thanked the pope for underlining the importance of religious freedom.” Green said Bergoglio “asked when the ruling was going to come down,” referring to Hobby Lobby's case before the U.S. Supreme Court where the company is challenging Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate.
Kudos to former Fox News correspondent and member of Opus Dei, Gregory Burke, Vatican senior communications adviser for brilliantly manipulating the news. Burke said during an interview with the Washington Post, “I would love to bring some Roger Ailes into this job,” but Burke has been doing just fine. What was the most prominent headline about the Church in the past two weeks after Obama meeting the pope and the formation of a sex abuse commission? “Pope Francis Removes German ‘Bishop of Bling.’”
Although Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst had tendered his resignation last October and the committee formed to investigate the matter had not yet reached its conclusion, the day before Obama arrived at the Vatican it was announced that the pope was accepting Tebartz-van Elst’s resignation. The day following the Obama visit, the bishop was granted a private meeting with Bergoglio (no hard feelings?). As a German newspaper reported, “Former Limburg Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst can look forward to a good pension.”
(Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America (Clarity Press, 2009))