A (Slightly) Less Glib Swipe at The Nascent Opus Dei Wing of the Conservative Party

by matttbastard

Rob Boston of Church & State Magazine:

Long the scourge of progressive Catholics, Opus Dei, with an estimated 80,000 members worldwide, has enjoyed a close relationship with the church’s conservative hierarchy, serving, as one writer put it in the mid 1980s, as a “holy mafia” to promote far-right views on “culture war” issues.

[…]

Opus Dei does not publish a directory of members but is known for its interest in targeting the rich and powerful. Over the years, rumors have surfaced that certain high-profile Catholics might be members. Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel A. Alito have been fingered as possibilities. There is no proof in either case, but Newsweek magazine reported in 2001 that Scalia’s wife has attended functions at the Catholic Information Center, and his son Paul, a Catholic priest, has spoken there.

[…]

[Opus Dei founder Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer]’s critics were less than pleased with his fast-track to sainthood, noting that in 1958, Escriva had written a fawning letter to Francisco Franco, the fascist dictator of Spain, congratulating him for extending official recognition to the Catholic Church.

The May 28, 1953, missive reads, “Although alien to any political activity, I cannot help but rejoice as a priest and Spaniard that the Chief of State’s authoritative voice should proclaim that, ‘The Spanish nation considers it a badge of honor to accept the law of God according to the one and true doctrine of the Holy Catholic Church, inseparable faith of the national conscience which will inspire its legislation.'”

The letter asks God to bestow on Franco “abundant grace to carry out the grave mission entrusted to you.”

Opus Dei members subsequently ingratiated themselves into important positions in the repressive Franco government. Alberto Moncada, a Spanish journalist who has researched the period, says Opus Dei operatives were entrusted with turning around Spain’s anemic post-war economy, but the effort collapsed after numerous scandals.

The group also flourished under dictatorships in Chile and Argentina during the 1950s and ’60s.

Now, I don’t want to erroneously drop the other ‘F’ bomb on former Opus Dei spokesperson (and current “active” OD member) turned Conservative Party candidate Nicole Charbonneau Barron. But even someone normally allergic to tinfoil (such as yours truly) can recognize how some might say this ideological marriage of convenience between far-right-and-even-further-right positively screams “hidden agenda” (in a number of different languages, including Latin). Oh, and re: historical parallels between Franco and Harper: draw your own conclusions, true believers.

I just hope the phrase “holy mafioso” enters the Canadian political lexicon sometime before October 14th.

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So Much For The ‘Mass-Market Paperback Conspiracy’ Vote (Although Maybe There’s an Opportunity To Make Inroads With the ‘Master and Servant’ Crowd…)

by matttbastard

CBC News:

A Conservative candidate running in a Montreal South Shore riding is a past spokeswoman and current member of Opus Dei, a secretive Catholic organization.

Nicole Charbonneau Barron, who is running for the Tories in Saint-Bruno-Saint-Hubert, is an active member of the ultra-orthodox society.

The Conservatives were not aware of her affiliation when she was chosen as a candidate, the party’s Quebec campaign spokesman Jean-Luc Benoît told newspaper La Presse.

[…]

Barron granted media interviews in 2006 as Opus Dei’s Montreal spokeswoman, at a time when a controversial film inspired by Dan Brown’s worldwide bestseller The Da Vinci Code was released in movie theatres.

The South Shore resident told francophone TV network LCN the movie was a caricature of the Catholic institution, and only a portion of Opus Dei members practised self-mortification, which features prominently in the film.

Risking eternal damnation for indulging the flesh, Gilles Duceppe nearly creams his chinos at the news:

Referring to the discovery that Nicole Charbonneau Barron, the Conservative candidate for St. Bruno-St. Hubert, a riding on Montreal’s south shore, was the former spokesperson for the group, Duceppe called Opus Dei a “secret society” with a “narrow ideology” that doesn’t fit with a modern Quebec.

“Those people are against a lot of things that are generally accepted in Quebec,” he told reporters in Quebec City. “That candidate said very openly that self-whipping is a sacrifice they have to make. I question such practices.”

Hmm. Not to defend everybody’s favourite shadowy ultra-orthodox papal sect, but, um, what’s wrong with a little self (or *ahem* mutual) whipping every now and then (between consenting adults, of course)? One hopes the Quebec BDSM community respectfully requests further clarification from M. Duceppe.

Related: A fairly balanced profile of Opus Dei from TIME Magazine; Opus Dei’s Canadian homepage.

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Elizabeth May on the Sidelines

by matttbastard

For most of the day on Monday, the front page of Progressive Bloggers was absolutely dominated by one topic: the decision rendered by the consortium of Canadian broadcasters to deny Green Party leader Elizabeth May a spot in the national leadership debate.  The consortium, a coalition of 5 Canadian broadcasters that controls participation in the debate, claims that despite the Greens having reached the bar set last election (having a sitting MP, controversial former Liberal candidate, Blair Wilson, in Parliament), 3 of the 4 other parties have threatened to pull out of the debate if May is allowed to participate.  The Globe quotes NDP spokesperson Brad Lavigne as stating “[The NDP] said we would not accept the invitation to participate because the Greens did not have an elected [emphasis mine] member of Parliament and that Ms. May had endorsed [Liberal leader Stephane] Dion as prime minister”. 

The Conservatives offered a similar line of spin: May is running in Nova Scotia (specifically, in star cabinet minister Peter MacKay’s riding) unopposed by a Liberal candidate, and, according to the Globe, “could throw her support to [the Liberals] at the end of the campaign.”  Indeed, as noted by the Globe, May has already raise some eyebrows by sending out a mass email in which she pledged support to a Liberal candidate running against Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. Regardless, the Greens are, obviously, fuming at what they see as the latest round of Calvinball on the part of Canada’s broadcast gatekeepers, with May calling yesterday’s announcement “anti-democratic, closed door, backroom decision making” while astutely pointing out that the other national party leaders and broadcast executives involved “are all men”–a sharp jab at the blatant disparity in gender on display among the principles involved, optics that may play more of a factor in today’s post-Clinton/Palin political landscape than in recent electoral contests.

Yours truly has in the past been critical of May and the Greens’ own arguably ‘anti-democratic’ maneuvers to gain a foothold in Parliament, be it by courting Wilson or via friendship arrangements made with Dion and the Liberals.  With that said, the other national leaders (including Stephane Dion, who, despite his party’s claim of support for the Greens’ inclusion, said yesterday that “I would like her to be there, but I will not participate if Stephen Harper is not there”–not exactly a ringing endorsement for “fairness”) are betraying obvious fear of what may be the wild card party of the 2008 election campaign.  Support for the Green Party has been steadily increasing in key ridings, and could provoke a split on the left (and, thanks to the Greens’ classical liberal economic platform, potentially bleed Conservative votes in environmentally-conscious BC) if the party can successfully court Canadian voters beyond the Greens’ standard constituency. 

As former Liberal strategist Scott Reid observes, “[i]f [May] successfully assembles a coalition that adds disaffected voters to her environmentalist basse, she could become a green Ross Perot–stealing support from others, altering the campaign’s core narrative and unpredictably affecting the result.”  May claims that she doesn’t care who Canadians vote for, as long as they vote, but it goes without saying that she is going to fight to get as many votes cast her way; it makes sense, then, that the 4 other party leaders want to limit May’s national exposure as much as possible.  However, by placing May and her party front and centre in what has fast become the first media firestorm of the 2008 election campaign, the scheme seems to have backfired spectacularly. 

Whatever happens, it seems apparent that Elizabeth May has emerged as a serious political player, and, come October 14th, may indeed prove to be, in the words of Reid, “the most dangerous woman in Canada.”

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers