Another Opus Dei Numerary Sex Abuse Case

Escriva Trash Can

By: Randy Engel

Opus Dei Admits Guilt of Numerary in Sex Abuse Case – 30 Years after the Fact

Introduction

While awaiting the (final appeal) verdict of the Supreme Court of Spain on the Gaztelueta case involving the sexual abuse of a young Basque boy by an Opus Dei numerary who has been sentenced to 11 years in prison, a similar case involving another Opus Dei member has been receiving considerable press attention in Uruguay.

Unfortunately, the Catholic press in the United States is controlled largely by Opus Dei so predatory homosexual cases involving the Prelature are rarely, if ever, given the publicity they deserve.

I believe I was the only Catholic reporter in the U.S. to serialize the Gaztelueta trial in  2018-2019 for AKA Catholic and Renew America.[1] The sole Catholic news media outlet that finally ran a short story on the trial was CRUX, but that was because I prodded John Allen, Jr., who operates the service, to run a follow-up article on the José María Martínez Sanzcriminal trial which brought a guilty verdict down upon the head of the Opus Dei numerary, spiritual director, and teacher at the famed Gaztelueta School in Spain.

Old Sex Abuse Case Unearthed in Uruguay

So far, neither CRUX nor any other Opus Dei news outlet has reported on a new sexual abuse case involving Spanish-born numerary Juan Pablo Bueno Montoya. Information on the multiple sexual assault incidences against a teenage supernumerary of Opus Dei, which occurred in Uruguay 30 years ago, are just coming to light.

Unlike the Gaztelueta case where convicted Martinez has maintained his innocence, 81-year-old Pablo Bueno Montoya, has openly confessed to sexually assaulting the 16-year-old supernumerary, so this article is not about his guilt or innocence.[2] However, it does raise serious questions concerning Opus Dei’s questionable practices related to underage recruitment, violations of the internal forum of the “confidence” (“priestly attention” outside the Confessional)  and the Prelature’s habituated practice of lying to its members and the outside world with regard to sexual crimes that occur in its residences and schools.

A Portrait of the Perpetrator

Opus Dei, aka, the Work, began its evangelization mission in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1956 with the arrival of two Spanish Prelature priests, Rev. Gonzalo Bueno and Rev. Agustin Falceto.[3]

Eighteen-year-old Juan Pablo Bueno Montoya was one of the first Opus Dei laymen/numeraries to arrive two years later in 1958. He pledged his loyalty to the Work and took a vow of chastity, poverty and obedience.

Opus Dei had sent him from Spain to Uruguay to study law at the University of the Republic, the nation’s oldest and largest public university in Montevideo. Other than confirming his age and membership in the Work, Opus Dei has thus far failed to release any biographical data on Bueno Montoya to the media. But from other sources, especially writer Guillermo Draper’s interview with the victim, we do know that young Bueno Montoya was trusted early on with the directorship of a university male residence in Montevideo, where he successfully recruited for the Work.[4] The Opus Dei lawyer and popular lecturer and spiritual director became an influential member of the Work in Uruguay with a sterling reputation.

According to Bishop Jaime Rafael Fuentes Martin of the Diocese of Minas, a former Opus Dei numerary and journalist who earned his Doctor in Theology from Opus Dei’s University of Navarra, Spain, he met Bueno Montoya in 1960 when he (Fuentes) was 15 years old. Bishop Fuentes said he was impressed with the Opus Dei numerary who encouraged his studies. Years later both men lived at a main Opus Dei residence in Montevideo located on Artigas and Charrus Boulevards. Apparently, he had no recollections of complaints against Bueno Montoya during this time.

A Portrait of One Victim

In the early1980s, among the targeted prey of Bueno Montoya, now in his 40s, was a young boy identified anonymously as “Daniel” in the Uruguayan press.

Daniel was born in 1966 in the barrio (neighborhood) of Montevideo into a large Catholic family made up of all male siblings. When he was about 10 years old, one of his older brothers introduced him to the world of Opus Dei. Daniel was flattered by the special attention he received.[5] He became a supernumerary (non-celibate) member of the Work at age 15 before reaching the age of majority.

Daniel’s life was about to change, however, when he was 16 and Opus Dei gave him the privilege of working at a prominent Opus Dei center in Montevideo. The young man welcomed the honor.

Daniel came and went to and from his job with dedication and efficiency. At lunch time, Daniel was assigned a secluded room to eat. Sometimes he was accompanied by his boss, Pablo Bueno Montoya, whom he had come to know and trust. One day Bueno Montoya invited the young man to an office for “a health check.” He locked the door after himself. The boy was asked to lower his pants and underwear to enable Bueno Montoya to touch and manipulate his private parts. The same actions were repeated on several occasions – how many Daniel doesn’t remember.[6]

Daniel was filled with confusion and conflict. He knew that Opus Dei was ordained by God and that total obedience was due to any superior whose will was that of God’s. He had grown up on the essential classic handbook Camino (The Way).[7] Doubt as to the evil nature of his superior’s actions was unthinkable.

The “health checks” stopped when Daniel changed jobs. Coincidently, the year of Daniel’s abuse, 1984, was the same year that his Opus Dei superiors sent Bueno Montoya out of the country to Argentina.

Daniel remained in Opus Dei and he remained silent. He tried not to relive the memories over and over in his mind (phantasmagoria), but they persisted. Then came the moment of truth – he was not Bueno Montoya’s one and only victim. Someone close to him, possibly one of his many brothers, had endured a similar trial at the numerary’s hands.[8] The time for Escriva’s form of discretion was over. Daniel decided to confront his abuser directly given the first opportunity.

That opportunity to confront Bueno Montoya arose five years later in the summer of 1989 when Daniel, then 22 years of age, received a phone call from the numerary asking for a meeting at the magnificent La Centra Opus residence and retirement complex set in the rolling hills of Montevideo.[9] Bueno Montoya said he was passing through town on his way to an Opus Dei conference for numeraries in Mendoza. When Daniel arrived, the two men went up to Bueno Montoya’s room and the numerary locked the door. Bueno Montoya’s intentions hadn’t changed. The older man started talking about sex with men and had an erection. He said he wanted to touch the young man again. When Daniel saw the handwriting on the wall, he unlocked the door and charged out of the room crying uncontrollably. This time there were no troubling doubts, no confusion. This time he knew.

After leaving Bueno Montoya’s apartment, Daniel went directly to the Opus Dei Miradores Center of Studies in downtown Montevideo which is typically filled with high school and university students, to speak to his Opus Dei confessor, Father Enrique Doval.

After the young man revealed the nature of his abuse at the hands of Bueno Montoya to the priest (it is unclear whether or not the exchange took place in the confessional or outside the confessional as “a confidence” not under the seal of Confession), Father Doval admitted that Bueno Montoya had been “seriously imprudent” and instructed Daniel not to tell anyone else about the abuse. To add insult to injury, he reminded Daniel that we are all sinners, and recalled the young man’s past sins of excessive pride.[10] He told Daniel he was not an innocent and that he was part of the problem. Just what Daniel needed to hear!

Although Doval pledged Daniel to silence, he himself did not follow suit. That would have been impossible in such a grave matter involving the reputation of the Prelature, which, as the name makes clear is “God’s Work.”

Soon after Daniel left his presence, it is almost certain that Doval went into crisis mode, and dutifully informed his Opus Dei superiors of Daniel’s allegations against Bueno Montoya. The explosive information would then have been transferred to the priest’s highest ranking superior at the male Miradores residence and then  proceeded up the ladder of the General Council, all the way up the Opus Dei chain of command to Rome and Opus Dei Prelate Bishop Alvaro del Portillo (beatified on September 17, 2014) and Vicar General Msgr. Javier Echevarria, Portillo’s successor in 1994.[11] All decisions and strategies involving the Bueno Montoya scandal would be made at the highest level of Opus Dei governance, which, as we shall see later in this article, was indeed the case.

For the record, the secular authorities were never notified of the crime despite the fact that the victim was a minor in 1984 when the first series of sexual molestation occurred. Vatican officials were never informed of the crime as both Bueno Montoya and Daniel were laymen not clergy.

Further, Doval suffered no reprimand from his superiors for his role in the cover-up. In fact, it was just the opposite. Doval was later awarded an advanced position in the Opus Dei governance as the new Opus Dei Vicar of Uruguay in 2000.

Daniel Leaves Opus Dei

In 1989, Daniel left Opus Dei forever. At that time, he had not revealed his abuse to anyone else other than  Doval, not even members of his own family. That would come years later.

And, as noted above, in 1984, the year of the initial assault, Bueno Montoya was shipped safely away to Opus Dei facilities in Argentina where there was a whole new set of young boys for Bueno Montoya to pray with and prey upon at Opus Dei’s numerous youth centers and study halls, especially those boys from poor and fatherless families.

Case closed? Not quite!

On December 18, 2018, Pope Francis and organizers of the up-coming February 21-24th Summit on Clerical Abuse of Minors and Other Vulnerable Persons, called for a reform program of “responsibility,” “accountability” and “transparency.” One specific recommendation that caught Daniel’s attention was the call for the 130 presidents of national bishops’ conferences attending the Summit to meet with survivors in their home countries “to learn firsthand the suffering that they have endured.”[12] The clarion call for justice resonated in Daniel’s heart and mind. He was 52 years old. He knew he could never recapture his lost youth, but he was convinced that he might save some young person from the shame and guilt he had lived with all these years.

The first step Daniel took was to call the abuse hotline that Uruguay’s Catholic Episcopal Conference had installed in 2016. No one answered the phone. He left a message, but his call was never returned nor acknowledged. Later, Church officials said they never received the call.

A second call to the Conference headquarters was made by a lawyer friend of Daniel’s and

lo and behold, an immediate response came in from the office of the Archbishop of Montevideo, Cardinal Daniel Sturia. Daniel’s formal complaint was received by the Archbishop on December 28, 2018.

Unfortunately, Cardinal Sturia, is an avid supporter of Opus Dei. On October 20, 2016, he celebrated the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the apostolic work of Opus Dei in Uruguay with a Thanksgiving Mass in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Montevideo. Cardinal Sturia said, “We love Opus Dei with all its apostolic ardor and the richness of its specific contribution, in the happily varied framework of the Church, in full harmony with this particular Church, sharing in its projects and evangelizing programs.”[13]

The first (and incorrect) decision that Cardinal Sturia made was that the Prelature should investigate itself. He selected Opus Dei Regional Vicar, Father Carlos Maria Gonzalez, to head the inquiry.

An introductory meeting was held on the evening of January 2, 2019. Father Gonzalez wanted to meet on Opus Dei soil, but Daniel wanted a neutral zone, and the meeting was held at the Stella Maris Church in Carrasco. Daniel was accompanied by one of his own non-Opus Dei brothers.

During the first meeting, Gonzalez’s repeatedly asked Daniel “What do you want?” implying that Daniel was primarily interested in a financial settlement, which turned out to be the furthest thing from Daniel’s mind. He wanted something quite different – “dignity, respect, and freedom.” He wanted healing and some genuine spiritual consolation from the entity he had loved and served from the earliest days of his youth.

The next day, Gonzalez declared the Bueno Montoya investigation formally opened. The process went quickly at first.

For his part, Daniel used the occasion to inform his family for the first time that he had filed a sex abuse complaint against a numerary of the Work with the Archdiocese of Montevideo. The response was predictable from family members attached to Opus Dei. They believed that he had taken a wrong path. But there was at least one brother who offered him support for which Daniel was very grateful.

As for Gonzalez, he immediately arranged to visit the accused, the 81-year-old Bueno Montoya, at his Opus Dei residence in Argentina. Bueno Montoya, who was reportedly suffering from “fragile and delicate clinical and psychological conditions” (shades of the Opus Dei Father John McCloskey scandal), when informed of the sex abuse charges against him, readily declared his guilt on all counts. According to Opus Dei officials, Bueno Montoya openly declared that he was ashamed of his actions and that he was willing to apologize to Daniel and ask for forgiveness. The apology took the form of a letter sent from Argentina and delivered to Daniel by Father Gonzalez at le Club de la Papa Frita, a fast food eatery in downtown Montevideo.

Father Doval was also interrogated by Opus Dei officials. Daniel received a second letter of apology from the Opus Dei priest who excused himself for his lack of understanding of the criminal nature of Bueno Montoya’s actions and lack of pastoral care for Daniel. He said he had received a formal reprimand from his Opus Dei superiors who had decided to make the priest the ultimate scapegoat in the sordid affair.

Negotiations between Gonzalez and Daniel continued into the spring of 2019. The main sticking point was that Opus Dei officials wanted a quick financial settlement that would continue to tie Daniel to the Prelature. By this time, however, Daniel wanted total severance from his oppressor.

Vicar Gonzalez initially proposed a form of compensation to cover Daniel’s psychological treatments for two years at the end of which Opus Dei officials would arrange for additional counseling that would involve renewed contact with Daniel. Daniel rejected the offer. He argued that Opus Dei was going to take care of Bueno Montoya, perpetrator of the crime, for a lifetime, including his room and board and medical care. Why shouldn’t Opus Dei at least pay for Daniel’s mental health bills for his lifetime?

In April 2019, Opus Dei officials in Rome issued a legal intervention in the Bueno Montoya case which had been approved and signed by the reigning Prelate of Opus Dei in Rome, Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz.

The document acknowledged that Mr. Juan Pablo Bueno Montoya had admitted his guilt and expressed remorse for his actions. And that Rev. Enrique Doval had admitted his omission in not accompanying the complainant with due pastoral charity. However, he wrote, concerning Bueno Montoya, this did not rise to the level of a crime because the statute of limitations had long run out on any civil court action. Further, there was to be no punishment emanating from the Vatican since the Vatican has no jurisdiction over a lay numerary of the Work.

Never-the-less, the Prelate acknowledged that an institutional response from the Prelature was necessary at this time – some thirty years later.

The document spelled out the “punishment” to be directed at the Bueno Montoya and the presbyter Doval:

  • That Bueno Montoya be dismissed from all management positions and training tasks.
  • That he be prohibited from engaging in any training activity of the Prelature in which youth under 30 take part.
  • That he be forced to reside “in houses where he cannot deal with young people.” [How this arrangement is to be secured is not spelled out. Opus Dei has many programs and activities designed to attract male minors, ages 10 to 17, especially in the poorer neighborhoods of urban areas. Appealing young boys are culled from the herd for numerary and supernumerary fodder. Programs like the Los Pinos Educational Center in the Casavalle quarter of the capital city offer pederasts like Bueno Montoya daily fresh meat.]
  • That he was advised “to lead a life of prayer and penance imploring God for mercy.”
  • That Doval had receive a formal warning for “omission of due pastoral charity.”
  • That both Bueno Montoya and Doval had written letters of regret.
  • And finally, Opus Dei was prepared to offer the victim “pastoral accompaniment and professional help.”

Daniel Hands Cardinal and Vicar A Garbage Can

At a meeting in the Archdiocesan chancery in which Cardinal Sturia was present, but before Opus Dei Vicar Gonzalez read Msgr. Ocáriz’s April decree, Daniel enacted out a plan of his own. In Escriva’s Camino “Counsel 592” we read:

Don’t forget that you are just a trash can.  So, if by any chance the divine gardener should lay his hands on you, and scrub and clean you, and fill you with magnificent flowers, neither the scent nor the colors that beautify your ugliness should make you proud.  Humble yourself; don’t you know that you are a trash can? (J. Escrivá, The Way, n. 592)

When Daniel handed the trash can over to Gonzalez, his message was clear. Daniel would no longer be a trash can that Opus Dei could piss on with immunity. Opus Dei tells many lies, but its worse lies are those that are covered by the veneer of the inane spiritual axioms found in Camino.

By offering up his public testimony, Daniel invites everyone from Francis down, to come to grips with the path full of thorns than victims face when they seek justice and fair restitution for their lost childhood and youth that they will never recover. Fortunately, God offers victims new opportunities to rebuild their lives using the foundations of their faith to persevere and become whole in Christ once again.

July 17, 2019, Daniel’s resistance finally collapsed as discussions became exhausting under the continuous pressure of the Work. He signed an agreement to which he did not totally agree. The Work gave him $12,000 (U.S.) to be made in two installments to finance his psychological treatment for two years with no provision of accountability to Opus Dei officials. Thereafter, any treatment payment would be billed to the Vicar of Opus Dei without any further conditions attached. However, Daniel objected to any and all involvement, however indirect, into his life by the Work. Later, officials capitulated and made arrangements for one of Daniel’s brothers to act as an intermediary for him.

Opus Dei Closes the Bueno Montoya Case 

On December 19, 2019, the Department of Communication of Opus Dei Uruguay released an official statement prepared by the Prelature’s Child Protection Coordinator, Diego Velasco Suárez, closing the Bueno Montoya case.[14]

“With pain and suffering,” Opus Dei Prelate Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz announced that following a preliminary investigation, the Prelature affirmed that 81-year-old Opus Dei numerary, Mr. Juan Pablo Bueno Montoya, committed “inappropriate touching” of a minor in 1984, and “sexual harassment” of the same young man in 1989.

The press release then indicated that “the priest Enrique Doval” (not identified as the victim’s Opus Dei confessor), was informed by the victim of the sexual abuse, but considered the incidence(s) “a serious imprudence” not reaching the level of a crime. Further, Duval was found to be lacking in pastoral care of the victim.

The release contained a statement from Bueno Montoya expressing his shame and regret for his actions. He claims he avoided apologizing to the young man (for 30 years) out of fear “of causing more damage.”

According to the official statement of the Prelature, Opus Dei officials have determined that the Bueno Montoya matter is not the business of the Congregation for the Doctrine for the Faith as both men involved were laymen not priests. Further the statute of limitations has run out, so further civil and criminal prosecution is prohibited.

The release highlighted Msgr. Ocáriz’s April 2019 “disciplinary provisions” against Bueno Montoya enumerated earlier in his article, and stated that Father Doval had received “a formal reprimand” for his omission in failing to offer the victim “due pastoral care.”

The two-page release concluded:

We deeply regret the suffering that has been caused, we ask God to give comfort to the affected people, and we confirm our willingness to contribute in whatever we can to the healing of the affected.

Especially, we apologize for the inability we had at the time to understand the seriousness of the facts and to be able to help you on a path of healing, as well as to take the corresponding measures.

In the light of the experience learned in the Church in recent years and the orientations promoted by Pope Francis, today we would act otherwise. Through this release, we renew our commitment to the truth, the priority of victim care, transparency, responsibility for reparation and the promotion of a safe environment for children and adolescents.

Harassment and abuse are a thorn in the heart of the Church and society. We are very sorry for what this situation has added to this suffering. We ask God to be merciful to all of us in these difficult times. We invite you to pray especially for the person affected and, with an attitude of Christian piety, for Mr. Bueno Montoya, of fragile and delicate clinical and psychological health, so that the Lord may have mercy on him.

Diego Velasco Suárez

That Opus Dei apologizes as a corporate entity for failing to understand “the seriousness of the facts” in the Bueno Montoya case indicates to me that the final determination to silence the victim and not report the crime to either the police or ecclesiastical authorities in 1989 was a corporate decision of Opus Dei and not simply the actions of a single misguided individual, aka, Father Enrique Doval.

Daniel sums up the truth of Opus Dei when he says:

They (Opus Dei) had an incredible opportunity to respond divinely, spiritually. They had it. What hurts most is the lie, the emptiness; to keep a lie with impunity, with a speech of spirituality.

No Catholic with any heart can misunderstand the meaning of his words.

The End

______________________________________

[1] Four major articles on the Gaztelueta Case are available at:
http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/engel/180412; http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/engel/180413;
http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/engel/181014; and http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/engel/190212, as well as AKA Catholic at  http://akacatholic.com/

[2] The age of consent for boys and girls in Uruguay is 15 years old. However, under Uruguay’s Penal Code, charges can be brought to those manipulating minors below the age of 18 into having sexual relations.

[3] Genuflexions “The Tortuous path of a victim of sexual abuse in Opus Dei to try to reach redemption,” by Guillermo Draper, December 19-25, 2019, found at Without Fear of Opus Dei” (Google translate). The article is based on an interview with the victim “Daniel.”

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Every seasoned Opus Dei priest, numerary, director, supernumerary and cooperator in Opus Dei knows the drill when major scandals, especially sexual scandals involving members, are brought to light. Information gathered usually from private talks of members with their spiritual director and/or confessor is passed up a regular chain of command. Under no circumstances would an Opus Dei priest like Fr, Doval made any decision on his own on a sexual abuse case involving Opus Dei members.

[12] Associated Press News, “Victims, accountability on agenda at pope’s sex abuse summit,” by Nicole Winfield, December 18, 2018 at  https://apnews.com/72d62fd96d484805886860ae172fad80.

[13] Romana, No. 63, July-December 2016, p. 353.

[14] The full text of the December 19, 2019 press release in Spanish is available from info.uy@opusdei.org. A google translation can be found HERE

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