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.