Pope Francis Granting Anti-Semitic Group Same Status as Opus Dei

By Betty Clermont | 19 March 2017
Daily Kos

Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the Society of St. Pius X, is pictured near an image of St. Pius X at the society’s headquarters in Menzingen, Switzerland. (Photo: Paul Haring / CNS)

In a March 3 homily, Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the Society of St. Pius X, confirmed that negotiations to reunite the SSPX with the Catholic Church were ongoing. “Full communion” would be “within a few months,” Vatican reporter, Andrea Tornielli, wrote the same day. Fellay “needs time to explain and to gain broad acceptance for the agreement among the Society,” he noted.

French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre founded the traditionalist order of priests in 1970. He named them after Pope Pius X who, in 1907, described Modernism as “the synthesis of all heresies.”

The SSPX was declared “schismatic” in 1988 when Lefebvre ordained his own bishops without the approval of Pope John Paul II. All four of the new bishops incurred an “automatic” excommunication.


The Simon Wiesenthal Center “condemned” Bishop Fellay for calling Jews “enemies of the Church” and asked the SSPX to renounce their anti-Semitic theology in January 2013.

Pope Francis was elected on March 13, 2013.

The Southern Poverty Law Center stated the SSPX “remains a font of anti-Semitic propaganda” in 2015. The SPLC had placed the SSPX on their “Hatewatch” list in 2009 because of the virulent anti-Semitism of its leaders.

Some of the Society’s members are “accused of anti-Semitism,” Germany’s international news, Deutsche Welle, noted in January 2016.

In October 2013, the SSPX had “offered to celebrate a funeral for convicted war criminal Erich Priebke after the Diocese of Rome said the service would be allowed only in a private home.” A former captain in the SS, Priebke “was convicted of carrying out a 1944 massacre of 335 Italian civilians in the Ardeatine Caves outside Rome. At the time of his death, he was serving his sentence under house arrest.”

Priebke initially escaped trial as a war criminal after the war by fleeing to Argentina via a Vatican “ratline” but was extradited to Italy in 1995.

“Shortly before he died, Priebke affirmed his belief that the Holocaust was an invention. The New York-based Anti-Defamation League, which combats anti-Semitism, issued a statement saying it was ‘shocked’ that a ‘fringe Catholic sect’ would agree to host the funeral of a ‘notorious Nazi war criminal.’”

In November 2013, SSPX members “disrupted an annual ceremony in the Buenos Aires Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral to mark Kristallnacht, the Nazi-led mob violence in 1938 when about 1,000 Jewish synagogues were burned and thousands of Jews were forced into concentration camps. [P]rotesters made cutting comments like ‘the Jews killed Jesus’…. Fr. Christian Bouchacourt, leader of the SSPX in South America, said his organization had the right to feel outraged when rabbis preside over a ceremony in a Catholic cathedral.”

Earlier, Fr. Bouchacourt had requested that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, before he became Pope Francis, help him “when the Argentine government sought to deny the society permanent residence in the country on the grounds that it was not Catholic. Cardinal Bergoglio reportedly told him: ‘You are Catholic, that is evident. I will help you.’”

Tribunal of Argentina: The Catholic church was an ‘accomplice’ of crimes against humanity committed during the military dictatorship.

In January 2009, SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson resided at the St. Pius X seminary in Buenos Aires. “Swedish television aired an interview with Williamson in which he claimed the Nazis did not use gas chambers.” The bishop “was given 10 days to leave Argentina by the country’s government.” Argentina’s interior ministry said Williamson “was an employee of a non-governmental group rather than declaring ‘his true activity’ as the director of a seminary.’”

The incident made headlines worldwide because Williamson was one of the four SSPX bishops whose excommunication was lifted by Pope Benedict XVI. The Society waited for three years before expelling Williamson.

It was reported last month that Fellay stated that the relationship between Pope Francis and the Society “has deep roots. He knows us from Argentina…. When we had problems with the local bishop who did not want our presence, we met with Cardinal Bergoglio to expose the problem.” Fellay mentioned in his March 3 homily, “I have been able to verify several times that he really does things personally for us.”

On Dec. 13, 2013,  Archbishop Guido Pozzo, secretary of the pontifical commission Ecclesia Dei, began negotiating with the SSPX. With Pope Francis in a “leading role,” the talks continued “with a view to full reconciliation.”

Nostra Aetate

Pope Benedict XVI attempted to reconcile with the SSPX. But in 2012 the group refused to accept the documents issued by the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) – including Nostra Aetate – as a condition to any agreement, one of the minimum requirements that Benedict set during the talks. Nostra Aetate “repudiated anti-Semitism” and declared “that the covenant between God and the Jewish people is an eternal covenant, never broken.”

Last summer, Pope Francis met with Fellay in private. An accord was reached by requiring that the SSPX agree only to “a profession of faith, recognition of the sacraments and the papal primacy.” Pozzo explained that the Council documents are “not definitive statements” but “rather, suggestions, instructions, or orientational guidelines for pastoral practice.”

In response, Rabbi David Rosen, American Jewish Committee Liaison to the Holy See, stated: “[T]he acceptance of Nostra Aetate as binding would have to be a requirement for the Society of Saint Pius X before its members could be formally embraced by Holy See; and I find it impossible to believe that Pope Francis would expect anything less.”

Rosen also said that the Vatican should “insist on a repudiation of the anti-Semitism that has been part of the culture of the Society of Saint Pius X.”

Neither is going to happen.

In a Feb. 3 interview, Fellay said that an “important step” was taken when Pozzo declared that “the texts of the Council did not constitute criteria for Catholicity…. We could summarize by saying that the conditio sine qua non (condition without which it is not) is that Rome accept us the way we are.” “What Lefebvre’s Society is asking is the possibility to remain themselves. And concerning this matter, they have been reassured by both the pope and the Ecclesia Dei commission,” wrote Tornielli.

Opus Dei

Opus Dei HQ, 34th Street at Lexington Avenue, NYC.

Both Fellay’s homily and Tornielli’s report dated March 3 agree that Pope Francis has offered the SSPX the status of “personal prelature.” All Catholic entities are under the jurisdiction of the (arch)bishop for their geographical territory. The “personal prelature” designation means the group reports directly to the pope. The only current personal prelature is Opus Dei.

Opus Dei is, at the top, a secret society of international bankers, financiers, businessmen and their supporters. (Hutchison, Their Kingdom Come: Inside the Secret World of Opus Dei). Their goal is the same as other plutocrats – unbridled power – except they use the Catholic Church and its worldwide network of institutions to advance their right-wing politics. “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, law professor at Madrid University, told Hutchison.

The names of their priests and prelates are public, but only those who self-identify themselves are known with certainty as members. Non-Catholics are welcome as “cooperators.”

Opus Dei was founded in 1928 by Fr. Josemaría Escrivá with a group of gifted college-educated men. Initial growth was hindered by World War II. Opus Dei’s religious order, the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, was founded in 1943. Pope Pius XII sanctioned this first institute for laymen and it became the “Priestly Society of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei” in 1950.

In the post-war era, “Its first real conquest was the political influence it was able to exert” during the fascist Franco dictatorship, stated Spanish sociologist Alberto Moncada, a former Opus Dei member.

The group began establishing a global network of MBA schools. “Opus Dei is a powerful organization which uses its schools and universities to grow more influential,” Moncada said. “If we’re working with students, 30 years later they’ll be CEOs.” Opus Dei priest and Harvard graduate, John Wauck, explained. A 2006 Bloomberg article noted that “Opus Dei’s emphasis on recruiting and training business people sets it apart.” The group “counts top executives, also political leaders in Latin America and a British cabinet official in its ranks.”

Opus Dei’s first graduate business school, IESE, is funded by a large number of multi-national corporations, per Bloomberg. IESE “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 Economist report.


“Opus Dei’s free reign within the Catholic Church began after it helped install Karol Wojtyla as Pope John Paul II and then re-capitalized the bankrupt Vatican after the 1980s scandal which culminated in the murder of ‘God’s Banker,’ Roberto Calvi, by hanging under London’s Blackfriar Bridge,” wrote Martin A. Lee, co-founder of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).

John Paul II ruthlessly tried to eradicate liberation theology which advocates that the causes of poverty be diminished. “No group played a more significant role than Opus Dei” in aiding the destruction of liberation movements in Latin America, per Lee.

Carlos Menem, Argentine president from 1989-99, made “strenuous efforts” to “cultivate a strong relationship with the Vatican during his ten years in office.” The president boasted that he discussed “all the leaders of the Church” with the pope.

Menem gave key positions in his government to Opus Dei members who imposed policies “pleasing to Catholic fundamentalists.” (also here)

As a Jesuit, Fr. Jorge Mario Bergoglio had never held any position working directly for the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires. Nevertheless, John Paul II overlooked all the diocesan officials and appointed him as auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese in 1992.

John Paul II bypassed three other Argentine bishops who had been mentioned as probable successors to Cardinal Antonio Quarracino, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and appointed Bergoglio when Quarracino died. The pope also elevated Bergoglio to cardinal because, like the pope, Bergoglio was “in full support” of repressing liberation theology according to Vatican reporter, Matteo Matzuzzi.

As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio “was in contact with various faithful of Opus Dei.” Some Latin American Jesuits say that “Bergoglio, despite being a Jesuit, is closer ideologically to Opus Dei.”

Pope Francis

Immediately after his election, Pope Francis formed a Council of Cardinals. He named Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga as head of the council, “some might say vice pope.” Rodríguez Maradiaga was “the leader of Opus Dei” in Honduras which “participated actively” in the 2009 military coup against the constitutional and progressive president, Manuel Zelaya. Some members of Opus Dei became government officials after the coup.

Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga.

Other council members chosen by Pope Francis include Australian Cardinal George Pell who helped Opus Dei become established in Melbourne and Sydney.

German Cardinal Reinhard Marx spoke at an Opus Dei meeting in Deutsche Bank, which is Trump’s “largest lender” and “biggest conflict of interest.” (On March 15, Trump appointed the “intensely anti-choice and anti-LBGTQ group,” C-Fam – Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute – headed by Opus Dei’s Austin Ruse, to the U.S. delegation to the UN Commission on the Status of Women.)

Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley sponsored the canonization of the Opus Dei priest who established the organization in the U.S. and worked among students and professors at Harvard and MIT.

Like Marx who visited the Opus Dei center for university students in Munich, O’Malley has spent time with Opus Dei college students and young professionals.

Pope Francis made Pell head of his opaque Secretariat for the Economy, Marx head of the secretive Council for the Economy and O’Malley head of his failed sex abuse commission. Other than attending meetings, the council cardinals without Opus Dei connections have rarely been heard from since.

Pope Francis appointed Peter Sutherland as one of his financial advisers. Sutherland is managing director and chairman of Goldman Sachs International, former chairman of BP Oil, “world trade tsar,” and a member of the International Advisory Board of IESE.

Another financial adviser appointed by this pope, George Yeo was Singapore’s Foreign Minister and Minister of Finance, a brigadier-general in the Singapore Armed Forces and is also a member of the International Advisory Board of IESE.

Opus Dei has recently expanded their expertise into communications. Their Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome added a School of Church Communications. Pope Francis replaced the only Jesuit official in the Vatican, Fr. Federico Lombardi, with Greg Burke as head of his Press Office. Burke is a former correspondent for Fox News and a member of Opus Dei.

On Jan. 25, the new leader of Opus Dei, Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz, “a veteran Vatican insider,” met the press. Ocáriz described “the warm personal relationship” between the pontiff and Opus Dei.

According to their website, Opus Dei has around 90,000 members; 98% are laypeople, 2% are priests;  and is currently established in 66 countries, including Russia.

Logically, a society of plutocrats would be described as politically “ultra-right-wing.”

Society of St. Pius X – “Dangerously Close to the Political Far-Right”

The Society of St. Pius X has some 600 priests, over 300 religious brothers and sisters, and an estimated 600,000 lay members in 62 countries per their website. But its greatest concentration is in Europe, especially France.

Critics accuse “some of the Society’s members of being dangerously close to the political far-right.” The Simon Wiesenthal Center, in its June 2012 report “European Extremist Movements,” named SSPX as influential within the French far-right, anti-Semitic party. An April 2012 blog states “far-right Catholics associated with the Society of St Pius X are increasingly active…among the elite of British fascism.” The white nationalist website, The Daily Stormer, declared “The SSPX has fully embraced far-right politics” i.e. “pro-fascist, Jew-wise [which] integrates with our political ideology quite well,” in 2015.

Europe’s Far Right

As is true for most of the past millennium, popes ally with the most powerful who will protect their interests. With the passing of the age of Catholic monarchs, this meant secular movements, parties and government. Currently, the far right is on the rise in Europe, Putin is head of Russia and Trump is in the White House. There is mutual admiration among this triumvirate and their shared support for Christian fundamentalism.

Pope Francis has an alliance with Putin. He will work with Trump on “anti-abortion policies,” a “less exclusionary approach” with Putin, “religious liberty,”and “religious freedom.” The last two are euphemisms for the ability of Catholic schools, hospitals, charities and other agencies to be able to obstruct and deny women’s and LGBTQ human rights while still being funded by American taxpayers.

So perhaps reconciliation with SSPX will help the pope regain influence with Europe’s far right. At the beginning of his pontificate, Europe’s right-wing was in sync with Pope Francis’ anti-women, anti-LGBTQ agenda. Current relations are strained by the pope’s support for migrants and refugees and warm dialogue with Muslim leaders.

Imam Yahya Pallavicini, “a well known international representative of moderate, traditional Islam,” however, is concerned:

The international Islamic community is attentively following the developments in this process of rapprochement with the Fraternity of St. Pius X towards reintegration in the Catholic Church. [T]he Fraternity of St. Pius X seems to be downsizing the importance of the fruits of the Council and ‘Nostra Aetate’ in order to preserve a traditionalist interpretation which in reality denies the spiritual opportunity for respect and brotherhood with believers of other faiths, in the One God….

This would be one further step towards denigrating and delegitimizing John XXIII’s ardent desire of an ‘aggiornamento’ of the Catholic Church, while resuscitating pseudo-religious anti-Semitic and other stereotypes that for too many hundreds of years caused immense suffering and ultimately the diabolic persecutions and genocides of the 20th century.

Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America (Clarity Press, 2009).


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

Decoding the Past, Opus Dei Unveiled

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

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