Opus Dei: The Vatican-Pentagon Connection

By Frank Morales | 1 January 2009
The Shadow

(Credit: Michael Baird / Flickr / CC BY-SA)

While visiting New York City last spring, Pope Benedict surely visited the offices of his “personal prelature”—the Opus Dei organization. Most certainly, he marveled at their spanking new 17-story national headquarters, an imposing red brick building on 34th and Lexington, which the highly secretive Catholic lay organization purchased for a cool $69 million back during all the hoopla over the Da Vinci Code, a timely public relations boon to their efforts. Opening for business during the fateful year of 2001, at the dawn of the new crusades against the oil-rich Islamic infidels of Eurasia, Opus Dei and its elite backers—most prominently Pope Benedict—have since continued to manifest a singular Holy Coincidence of agendas with Bush administration foreign policy … particularly the kind that does not always make the headlines.

Opus Dei, Decoded

Opus Dei is arguably the most powerful and virulent exponent of the fundamentalist religious fervor sweeping the globe; only this time it’s Catholic fundamentalists we’re talking about, hard-liners who trace their origins back to the Holy Inquisition and the bloody Crusades. These guys make Jerry Falwell and his Protestant come-latelies look like Little Leaguers. Now mind you, they have a somewhat different opinion of themselves. According to their website, “Opus Dei is a Catholic institution and adheres to Catholic doctrine, which clearly condemns immoral behavior, including murder, lying, stealing, and generally injuring people.”

It was in 1928 Spain that Catholic priest José María Escriva de Balaguer founded the Opus Dei organization. As spiritual advisor to General Francisco Franco, Balaguer chose and trained the elite members of the dictatorship the general established after the Spanish Civil War in 1939, placing him and his Opus Dei at the center of authoritarian power.

Later, Balaguer was sent to the Vatican, and from there he worked to spread the influence of Opus Dei—especially to Latin America, where it sought to carry out its ongoing campaign to tame those Liberation Theology priests, condemned for appreciating Marxist analyses and opposing right-wing military dictatorships.

Balaguer, who was fast-tracked into sainthood in 2002, concocted a series of axioms for a radically right-wing, anti-women lay movement which has over the years aligned itself with some of the most brutal dictatorships in modern times, including that of Augusto Pinochet’s Chile in the 1970s. Most recently, it supported the 2002 aborted coup in Venezuela. While exceedingly sophisticated in its political and business practice, Opus Dei is profoundly anti-modern in its ideology. Half of Franco’s cabinet, back in the dark ages of World War II, were members of Opus Dei.

These were also formative years for Josef Ratzinger—the future Pope Benedict. Though he was never a member of the Nazi party, as a seminarian Ratzinger, was briefly enrolled in the Hitler Youth in the early 1940s. In 1943 he was conscripted into an anti-aircraft unit guarding a BMW plant outside Munich. Later, he was sent to Austria’s border with Hungary to erect tank traps. After being shipped back to Bavaria, he apparently deserted. When the war ended, he was an American prisoner of war.

In 1982, the Opus Dei organization became a personal prelature of the Vatican—that is, a separate church entity beholden only to the Pope. From that moment on, Opus Dei members escaped the authority of the bishops in the territories in which they reside. Consequently, they function as a sort of instrument of Vatican social control—bringing to mind another Vatican body that ruled with religious terror in the Spain of the 16th Century before imposing and exporting its fanaticism to the universal Church: the Inquisition.

Although Opus Dei is a part of the church’s structure, it’s not like traditional dioceses, which are defined geographically, but instead by its “worldwide purpose”—to dominate the church and selected governments while promoting extremist policies. With roughly 88,000 members worldwide, including about 2,000 priests, the organization spans some 61 countries, including roughly 3,000 members in the United States.

Estimated to hold assets of about $3 billion, the free-floating personal prelature, which purports to do “the work of God” (“Opus Dei” translated), is beholden to no one but the Pope, whose personal spokesman, Cardinal Joaquin Navarro-Valls, is also an Opus Dei member. Appointing its own priests and bishops to rule over the lay membership, it runs 15 universities, seven hospitals, 11 business schools and a great number of primary, secondary and technical schools, functioning as an underground force for political reaction within the Catholic church.

The organization’s membership includes elite elements who wield influence at the highest levels of government, the Vatican, and the Vatican Bank. The individuals that Opus Dei chooses to recruit for membership are the cream of American, European and Latin American society. They include owners of big multinational companies, the press and finance institutions, as well as figures at the highest levels of the world’s most powerful governments. US Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel A. Alito have rumored links to Opus Dei, as do Sen. Sam Brownback and former Rep. Rick Santorum.

One current Opus Dei member worth noting is Joseph E Schmitz. A former Pentagon inspector general, he became chief of operations for Blackwater Worldwide, the private security firm, back in 2005. While at the Pentagon, he’d been tasked with the job of overseeing all war contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. His connection to war profiteers became well known. At least $2 trillion went “missing” from the Pentagon during his watch. Shortly after Schmitz exonerated his friends in the war industry, he announced that he was going to work for Blackwater, where he is today.

In a 2004 speech Schmitz said, “No American today should ever doubt that we hold ourselves accountable to the rule of law under God. Here lies the fundamental difference between us and the terrorists.” Aside from his membership in Opus Dei, Schmitz is also a member of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a Christian militia formed in the 11th century, before the first Crusades, with the mission of defending territories that the Crusaders had conquered from the Muslims. The Blackwater leadership apparently think they are following in that tradition.

To target our own nation’s brightest students, Opus Dei runs off-campus housing and centers around Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.; Brown University in Providence, RI; Princeton University in New Jersey; and numerous other elite universities and business schools. Situated out front of these institutions, along with military recruiters, they troll for the young and impressionable.

As mentioned, Opus Dei has thus far signed up about 3,000 US members and are on the way to fulfilling their goal, which their founder articulated some years back when he stated, “What is the end? To promote in the world the greatest possible number of souls dedicated to God in Opus Dei.” In her book, People of God, Penny Lernoux notes that Opus Dei “is an efficient machine run to achieve world power.” Their reactionary politics and globalist pretensions just so happen, in a match surely not made in heaven, to coincide with the Bush agenda for world domination.

Vatican meets Pentagon Inc.

Evidence of the hand of Opus Dei within the machinations of US imperialism becomes manifest when one examines the manner by which the Catholic organization secures its financing. According to Charity Navigator, a philanthropic evaluation service, “The Woodlawn Foundation supports activities conducted by the Roman Catholic Prelature Opus Dei [whose] services extend to the broad general public.” Located in New Rochelle, the Woodlawn Foundation is the primary conduit of financing for the Opus Dei organization. According to Guidestar research, Woodlawn provides “grants to over 40 Opus Dei-affiliated foundations,” while maintaining assets of about $15 million. John B. Haley, an Opus Dei member, is the president and director of the foundation.

According to Hoover On-Line, a business database and information resource, the Woodlawn Foundation, as of June 2001, controlled some 10,000 shares, with estimated proceeds of $415,000, of the AES Corporation, or the Advanced Energy Systems Corporation. Who are they? Well, only the largest producer of energy in the world, with nearly $12 billion in revenue!

Again, according to Hoover: “The right place at the right time—is it kismet? No, it’s AES, one of the world’s leading independent power producers. The company has interests in 120 generation facilities in the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean that give it a combined net generating capacity of more than 44 gigawatts of power (primarily fossil-fueled); it also has power plants under construction. AES sells electricity to utilities and other energy marketers through wholesale contracts or on the spot market. AES also sells power directly to customers worldwide through its interests in distribution utilities, mainly in Latin America.”

A Nov. 17, 2002 Associated Press piece entitled “Evidence of Price Gouging During California Energy Crisis,” reported that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which was looking into corruption in the California energy industry, focused on “discussions between employees of Williams and AES Corporation about prolonging an outage at a power plant to take advantage of higher prices the state was paying at the height of the crisis.” Corp Watch, meanwhile, pointed out in August 2003 that “Virginia-based AES, the world’s largest independent energy producer, is currently under investigation by the Ugandan Inspectorate of Government and the US Justice Department for alleged bribery, in violation of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”

Dennis Bakke, a co-founder of AES in the mid-80s, is a devotee of Opus Dei and their way of doing business. In 2005, Bakke, CEO of AES, preached a sermon in Falls Church, Va., during which he intoned that, “labor and opus are two Latin words for work. Labor … conjures up work as hard, something I have to do but would rather not … Our Catholic friends use the word opus in their Opus Dei, or “God’s work,” that celebrates our calling to secular work in a profoundly Biblical way. On Monday when we go back to God’s work, Opus Dei, secular work to which we are called, let us do it with passion, with joy, and with love, befitting God’s call on our life. It is our primary mission, done for the glory of God. Do it and enter into the Master’s joy.”

The former master chairman of AES, recently deceased, was Richard G. Darman, former director of the US Office of Management and Budget; former deputy secretary of the US Treasury; former Assistant US Secretary of Commerce; and member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission. A director of AES from July 2002; he was elected chairman of the board on May 1, 2003. Strikingly, in addition to his service as chairman of AES, he was a partner and managing director of the Carlyle Group, joining the company in February 1993, after serving in the cabinet of the first Bush administration.

The Carlyle Group is, according to the Washington Post, “the largest private equity manager in the world,” which “buys and sells whole companies the way some firms trade shares of stock.” It specializes in defense contractors. Other Carlyle Group members include Secretary of State James Baker, former UK Prime Minister John Major, and former president and CIA chief George Bush Sr. In short, Carlyle is the high-flying financier of the military-industrial complex—a complex blessed, apparently, by the likes of Opus Dei.

Holy Counterinsurgency

Over the years, Pope Benedict has served Balaguer’s vision and the Opus Dei brand of fascist social policy with zeal. According to Thierry Meyssan’s article, “Opus Dei Sets Out to Conquer the World,” as president of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—formerly the Office of the Holy Inquisition—the former Josef Ratzinger oversaw, during the Reagan era, the setting up of a “surveillance center in Bogotá, Colombia, with a powerful computer of strategic capacity that was connected to the Vatican.” Its purpose: to record all data and political activities of designated leftist Latin American priests and religious people dedicated to the vision and practice of Liberation Theology, a movement that sees justice for the poor as synonymous with God’s will.

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As a consequence of the intelligence data that was gathered, and its dissemination to US trained so-called counterinsurgency experts, the death squads were able to identify and assassinate many people—as was the case in El Salvador, with the murder of scores of religious workers, including the outspoken “voice of the poor,” Archbishop Oscar Romero. According to a 2000 article by Marianne Johnson entitled, “The Hand of Opus Dei in El Salvador,” “under Archbishop Sáenz Lacalle, an Opus Dei man,” who in 1997 accepted the title of brigadier general from the US-backed Salvadoran military, “the strategy has not been to reform liberation theology, but to undo and remove all traces of it.” The ground for this strategy had been prepared by Cardinal Ratzinger, who in 1996 made the nakedly fraudulent claim, during a Mexico City press conference, that liberation theology is an “ideological stream which is the source of many violent actions on the Continent.”

The Coup in Venezuela

Interestingly, the Popes’ April 2008 visit to New York just about coincided with the sixth anniversary of the abortive US-backed Venezuelan coup attempt, which was in no small measure aided and abetted by Opus Dei. According to the Los Angeles Times of April 22, 2002, following the April 11 coup attempt, newly appointed president Pedro Carmona “had named a government that included several members of the ultraconservative Roman Catholic group Opus Dei.” The Guardian reported that same day that after “the military appeared in full uniform on national television to announce that [legitimate President Hugo] Chávez had resigned, Carmona was installed and almost immediately issued a decree dissolving the national assembly and the supreme court, and announced a far-right government including, as foreign minister, José Rodríguez Iturbe, a member of the right-wing Catholic organization Opus Dei.”

And though the coup was relatively bloodless, the London Observer (April 21, 2002) reported that “more than 100 people died in events before and after the coup.” It’s probable that it was worse than that. According to eye-witness reports, the newly installed Opus Dei cabinet under Carmona went about some frenzied house-cleaning. Luis Duno Gottberg, reporting from Venezuela, told Left Turn magazine that immediately following the coup, “a cabinet composed of high bourgeois elements and members of Opus Dei, a conspiratorial right wing Catholic organization, suspended the National Assembly and began the removal of various democratically elected state governors.”

According to Gottberg, “brutal repression was not long in coming. There were house-to-house searches, lynchings and executions of community leaders and Chávez partisans that took place with the utmost impunity. The television stations and the national press supported the new de facto government and silenced dissident voices.” Well, as we know, what came to pass was that a few days later—by April 13—Chávez was back in the driver’s seat, heading a victorious counter-coup, sparked by an uprising of the poor and workers of Venezuela.

Since that time, further information has surfaced pointing to the fact that elements of the Bush regime were also involved in the attempted removal of Hugo Chávez from power in Venezuela. The Observer pointed this out in a bold headline, “Venezuela Coup Linked to Bush Team,” making reference to certain American “specialists in the ‘dirty wars‚ of the eighties,” who “encouraged the plotters who tried to topple President Chávez.” These officials were named: Otto Reich, John Negroponte (our former intelligence czar, currently envoy to Iraq), and Elliot Abrams—all veterans of the Reagan administration’s illegal and bloody wars throughout Central America.

According to an Associated Press (Dec. 3, 2004) report entitled “Documents Show CIA Knew of Venezuelan Coup,” the CIA was on board nearly a week before the doomed putsch. According to the AP story, “an April 6 senior intelligence executive brief—just five days before a coup that briefly ousted Chávez—said disgruntled senior officers and a group of radical junior officers are stepping up efforts to organize a coup against President Chávez, possibly as early as this month.” This “executive brief,” along with others, are available at www.venezuelafoia.info, albeit in a somewhat censored form.

In addition, as reported in the UK Guardian (April 29, 2002), the “American Navy Helped Venezuelan Coup,” Venezuelan congressman Roger Rondón “claimed that the [US] military officers, whom he named as [James] Rogers and [Ronald] MacCammon, had been at the Fuerte Tiuna military headquarters with the coup leaders during the night of April 11-12. The congressman went on, accusing the US ambassador to Venezuela, Charles Shapiro, and two US embassy military attachés of involvement in the coup. Rondón said, “we saw [Shapiro] leaving Miraflores palace [the presidential residence], all smiles and embraces, with the dictator Pedro Carmona Estanga … [His] satisfaction was obvious. Shapiro’s participation in the coup d’état in Venezuela is evident.”

The Bushes and the Pope

Finally, according to the Israeli journalist Zvi Ba’rel, writing in Haaretz (July 7, 2004), the “British American Security Information Council (BASIC), a Washington, DC think tank, revealed that a Carlyle consultant, Richard Burt, former US Ambassador to Germany, also heads another company, Diligence, a firm that provides private security services in Iraq.” Set up in 2003, Diligence was founded by William Webster, a former director of the CIA and the FBI. Former senior CIA officials are now at its helm, among them Whitley Bruner, formerly head of the agency’s Baghdad station, now director of the Iraq branch of Diligence. The deputy chairman of Diligence, Joe Allbaugh, was the current President Bush’s campaign manager in 2000. Diligence is a member of the Private Security Company Association of Iraq.

According to Ba’rel, in 2004, “Diligence signed a contract with New Bridge Strategies, a firm headed by Allbaugh, to supply business information about postwar Iraq.” New Bridge Strategies provides “security services and intelligence information to private companies seeking to do business in Iraq. According to one US diplomat recently back from Iraq, these companies are a kind of private army. They have their own security personnel and their own intelligence corps. They even make agreements with heads of local tribes to supply defense and information, a major source of their income, according to the diplomat.”

New Bridge has a presence in Baghdad, Beirut, Geneva, Houston, Kuwait, and Washington, DC. According to their former website, www.newbridgestrategies.com, “the opportunities evolving in Iraq today are of such an unprecedented nature and scope that no other existing firm has the necessary skills and experience to be effective both in Washington, DC, and on the ground in Iraq.” And the opportunities involve more than contracting for “private security,” which we already know is big business. According to Douglas Jehl, writing in the New York Times (Sept. 30, 2003), in an article entitled, “Washington Insiders’ New Firm Consults on Contracts in Iraq,” “a group of businessmen linked by their close ties to President Bush, his family and his administration have set up a consulting firm to advise companies that want to do business in Iraq, including those seeking pieces of taxpayer-financed reconstruction projects.” With praise from the likes of former Iraqi golden boy Ahmed Chalabi—who stated that, “New Bridge Strategies has done a stellar job of recommending to me the best contractors for the jobs to be done”—they can’t go wrong, especially when they have the Bushes around. And they do.

According to the Financial Times of Dec. 11, 2003, in a piece entitled, “Middle East: Bush’s Brother Helped New Bridge Strategies Businessmen,” “two businessmen instrumental in setting up New Bridge Strategies, a well-connected Washington firm designed to help clients win contracts in Iraq, have previously used an association with the younger brother of President George W. Bush to seek business in the Middle East … John Howland, the company president, and Jamal Daniel, a principal, have maintained an important business relationship with Neil Bush stretching back several years.”

Ah yes, the young Neilster, an embarrassment to not one, but two presidents. According to the Washington Post (Dec. 28, 2003), in a piece entitled “The Relatively Charmed Life Of Neil Bush,” “in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Bush embarrassed his father, George HW Bush, with his shady dealings as a board member of the infamous Silverado Savings and Loan, whose collapse cost taxpayers $1 billion … Now, Bush has embarrassed his brother George W. Bush with a made-for-the-tabloids divorce that featured paternity rumors, a defamation suit and, believe it or not, allegations of voodoo.” Apparently, “during Bush’s very nasty divorce battle” when asked by his wife’s attorney whether he’d had any extramarital affairs, Bush told the story of his Asian hotel room escapades. “Mr. Bush,” said the attorney, Marshall Davis Brown, “you have to admit that it’s a pretty remarkable thing for a man just to go to a hotel room door and open it and have a woman standing there and have sex with her.” “It was very unusual,” Bush replied. Actually, it wasn’t that unusual. It happened at least three or four times during Bush’s business trips to Asia. “I don’t remember the exact number,” Neil admitted.

Neil’s womanizing, divorcing and dabbling in voodoo, though, wasn’t sufficient to alienate one very important business co-partner—namely the future Pope Benedict XVI, Josef Ratzinger. According to New York Newsday (April 21, 2005), “Neil Bush, the president’s controversial younger brother, six years ago joined the cardinal who this week became Pope Benedict XVI as a founding board member of a little known Swiss ecumenical foundation. The charter members of the board were all well-known international religious figures, except for Bush and his close friend and business partner, Jamal Daniel, whose family has extensive holdings in the United States and Switzerland, public records show. The Foundation for Interreligious and Intercultural Research and Dialogue was founded in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1999 to promote ecumenical understanding and publish original religious texts, said a foundation official.”

In conclusion, the cozy relationship between the Woodlawn Foundation, financiers of Opus Dei, and the AES Corp/Carlyle Group signal a tangible connection between the machinations of the Vatican and the Pentagon, and US intelligence intrigues such as the coup attempt in Venezuela. This marriage, surely made in hell, is not surprising when we consider the ideological requirements of a so-called “war on terror” which trumpets an Islamic “axis of evil”—a throwback to the days of the bloody Crusades. Exposing these connections helps to undermine the deeply reactionary basis for the war-making.


Opus Dei

Josemaria Escriva: Founder of Opus Dei


“Breaking The Opus Dei Code” by Rob Boston
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, May 2006

“The Opus Dei Sets Out to Conquer the World” by Thierry Meyssan
Voltaire.net, January 1996

“The Hand of Opus Dei in El Salvador,” by Marianne Johnson
The Tablet, Nov. 18, 2000

“Bush’s Brother Helped New Bridge Strategies Businessmen”
by Stephen Fidler and Thomas Catn, Financial Times, Dec. 11, 2003 via CorpWatch


Opus Dei Influence Rises to the Top in the Vatican
The Catholic Right: An Introduction To The Role Of Opus Dei
The Vatican: Opus Dei, Espionage, Death and Terrorism
Opus Dei: Neofascism Within the Catholic Church

Pope Francis’ Junta Past: Argentine Journalist on New Pontiff’s Ties to Abduction of Jesuit Priests

Empire – The Vatican: A Wholly Roman Empire?

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