Editorial note: Betty Clermont’s meticulous reporting on the role of Opus Dei in Republican politics and the wider conservative intellectual milieu is important to understand. As a large trans-national arm of the Catholic Church, Opus Dei has become one spoke in a larger wheel of think tanks, universities, law schools, and other ideological venues that promote a regressive agenda within the secular realm that President Donald Trump’s latest Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, subscribes to and has promoted for many years. For further reading, we also suggest “The Court of God: How a Catholic Secret Society Took Over SCOTUS” by Raul Diego and “An Opus Dei Court?” by the Institute for Public Accuracy.
by Betty Clermont
Opus Dei first gained notoriety because of the group’s portrayal in The Da Vinci Code. Unfortunately, the reality is more disturbing than a fictional mad and murderous Albino monk.
The Opus Dei website states its “mission is to spread the Christian message that every person is called to holiness and that every honest work can be sanctified.” Non-Catholics are welcomed as “cooperators” who “assist the educational and social undertakings promoted by the Prelature.” All memberships are secret except if self-revealed or through official positions held in Opus Dei organization.
Executive Vice President of the Federalist Society Leonard Leo, board member of Opus Dei’s Catholic Information Center, can take credit for installing four members of the Supreme Court: John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. It is Leo who prepares Trump’s “list of judges and the people that he’s put on the bench.” That now includes Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
Its finances are also secret. An official organization of the Catholic Church, in the U.S. Opus Dei gets a 501(c)(3) tax code as a “religious” organization. Donors not only receive a tax deduction, but their names and amount of donations are secret. Opus Dei’s outlays are equally opaque.
At the top of the organizational structure, “Opus Dei is an efficient machine run to achieve world power,” stated investigative reporter Penny Lernoux in her book, People of God (1989).
“Opus Dei members control … a large number of banks and financial institutions,” Martin A. Lee, author of books and articles on far-right movements, wrote in 1983.
“Opus Dei uses the Catholic Church for its own ends which are money and power” noted Robert Hutchison in the introduction to his book, Their Kingdom Come: Inside the Secret World of Opus Dei. “The problem is Opus Dei’s hidden power. [In practice] Opus Dei operates as it wishes, where it wishes, in total obscurity, with or without papal consent, unburdened by any form of oversight,” Hutchison stated.
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Opus Dei’s Reach is Global
Hutchison notes that Opus Dei controls the finances (p 363) of the Vatican, an autonomous city state immune to any civil authority save its own. The Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA) handles the Vatican’s investment portfolio, some commercial real estate and “large amounts of unregistered cash in offshore accounts,” according to the well-connected Vatican reporter, Edward Pentin. APSA’s investments are “hidden behind layer after layer of false fronts and holding companies,” noted John F. Pollard in Money and the Rise of the Modern Papacy (p 149).
APSA is also the Vatican’s treasury and central bank. “APSA has accounts and deposits of its own in central banks all over the world: the U.S. Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the Deutsche Bundesbank, the Bank of Italy, the Bank for International Settlements, and others,” noted veteran Vatican reporter, Sandro Magister, quoting from a report by Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s financial monitors.
The Vatican Bank “has financial relations with more than a hundred countries; it has banking ties with forty of these and has links with financial entities across the European Union,” stated Vatican attorney Jeffrey Lena.
Control of the U.S. Judiciary
Leonard Leo can take credit for installing four members of the Supreme Court: John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. “As executive vice president of the Federalist Society, Leo has been the quiet architect of a pivotal shift to the right throughout the federal judiciary” including “dozens of lower court federal judges across the country.” In fact, as of July 7, Trump has appointed 194 of 792 federal judges, or 24% of the total.
That now includes Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
Leo is on the board of directors of Opus Dei’s Catholic Information Center located at 15th and K Street, two blocks from the White House. The Center is “a rallying point for ultra-conservative Catholics eager for a voice in the secular halls of government power” and “advances a hard-right political agenda,” according to Church and State, Americans United for Separation of Church and State’s magazine.
The Department of Justice
Before his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in January 2019, Attorney General Barr completed a questionnaire. On page 4, he listed a former position as “Director of the Catholic Information Center (2014-2017).”
Larry Kudlow is Trump’s director of the National Economic Council. Plutocracy is “just what America needs,” Kudlow wrote in December 2016. “Putting the incredibly wealthy in charge of the U.S. government” is described as Kudlow’s great idea.
Kudlow is one of Fr. John McCloskey’s notable converts to Catholicism. McCloskey was director of Catholic Information Center from 1998-2002.
While Mick Mulvaney was director of Trump’s White House Office of Management and Budget, his visitors included Jeff Bell, architect of Reaganomics, and another member of Opus Dei. Bell told ProPublica that his meeting with Mulvaney covered “religious and political matters.”
Even if Trump loses the presidency, the above men and their unknown but powerful elite Opus Dei members will still be planning for their next opportunities to exert their malevolent influence in the highest government offices.
If we are to have a meaningful democracy and not a government run by and for narrow interests for a privileged few, we must look behind the curtain at institutions like Opus Dei and the power they wield.