By Randy Engel
Part III – Focus on Crux Opus Dei Staff and Contributors
Inés San Martín – Crux Rome Bureau Chief
Inés San Martín worked for the Boston Globe and John Allen, Jr. in Rome, Italy, as Crux’s Vatican correspondent from April 2014 to March 2016, which is pretty much from the beginning of Crux.
This writer didn’t run into her writings for Crux until the spring of 2017, when I started to investigate the Gaztelueta case involving the sexual abuse of a young boy attending an Opus Dei corporate school by José María Martínez Sanz, an Opus Dei numerary in Spain.[i]
On October 4, 2015, San Martín filed a story with Crux from Rome titled, “Pope Promises Church Trial Against Alleged Spanish Sex Abuser.”[ii] San Martín’s bias in favor of the Opus Dei numerary, Mr. Martínez, over the victim, was apparent. On October 13, 2015, San Martín produced a follow-up story for Crux, again in favor of the accused Martinez. The article, “Vatican Closes Abuse Probe Promised by Pope Francis at Spanish School,”[iii] exonerated both the Opus Dei teacher and Opus Dei school officials.
But when the public trial of Martínez actually took place in Spain from October 4 to October 11, 2018, at the end of which Martínez received an eleven-year prison sentence for sexually assaulting the Gaztelueta schoolboy, San Martín’s pen appeared to fall silent.
It wasn’t until more than a month later, after a little prodding of Allen on my part, that San Martín wrote two follow-up stories for Crux – on November 19 and November 21, 2018 – on the trial and Martínez’s final appeal to the Spanish Supreme Court.[iv] In the second article in particular, San Martín’s bias in favor of the convicted Opus Dei numerary was especially evident as she sung the lamentations of poor Martínez who proclaimed his innocence and described his “unimaginable” sufferings and pains at his unjust sentence. The fact that Martínez pleaded the 5th as we Americans would say, and never testified (and therefore could not be interrogated by the plaintiff’s attorney under Spanish law), but that the victim, now in his early twenties, was grilled without mercy for days on end by Opus Dei’s high-profile lawyer, escaped San Martín’s attention.[v]
It is in cases such as these that the identity of Opus Dei writers and reporters need to be publicly noted by editors.
Allen: Opus Dei Membership Not Relevant
Actually, the year before, in the summer of 2017, during my investigation of the Gaztelueta case, I had engaged Allen in a series of e-mails on the Opus Dei status of San Martín. I asked Allen why, when writing articles about Opus Dei for Crux, Inés was not identified as being associated with Opus Dei.
Thanks for writing Crux. First, Inés San Martín is not a “contributor” but our co-editor. Second, she’s not a member of Opus Dei. She did attend an Opus Dei school, but by that logic we should identify me as a Capuchin! Third, we identify contributors by institutional affiliation when it’s relevant to what they’re writing. Hope that helps, and thanks for writing! JLA
When I replied that I would prefer that Inés answer my question herself regarding her membership [numerary, supernumerary, cooperator/ current and past status] in Opus Dei, with a P.S. asking about Crux Senior Editor, Father Jeffrey Kirby’s membership in Opus Dei, Allen replied:
I can field that … she is not a numerary, supernumerary or cooperator, and has no affiliation with OD at all, though it wouldn’t trouble me in the least if she did. Kirby I don’t know his status, but again, I don’t find it relevant…
The conversation continued along similar lines with Allen finally closing the discussion:
This is getting wearisome, so I think I’ll drop it for now, but thanks for your interest. For the record, so far as I know, no one on our staff has any ties with Opus Dei at all other than personal friendships which we all have. But I say again: I couldn’t care less if they did. I’m interested in the quality of their work, not their personal lives. JLA
My parting words to Allen were: Thanks John. We will meet again. Randy Engel.
And indeed, here we are once again, discussing Inés San Martín, but this time in a public forum, and with solid evidence of her manifold Opus Dei connections.
Inés San Martín’s Opus Dei Connections Camouflaged by Crux
On its home page, Crux provides a short bio of Inés San Martín:
Inés San Martín is an Argentinean journalist who covers the Vatican in Rome for Crux. Before joining Crux, Inés was a community manager, content director, and graphic designer for Contá con Nosotros, and worked as a reporter and editor for Valores Religiosos in Buenos Aires. She managed the international press office for World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in 2013. Inés holds a bachelor’s degree in social communications and journalism from Universidad Austral in Buenos Aires and Universidad de Navarra in Pamplona, Spain.[vi]
Note that none of the above institutions, which are Opus Dei “corporate works” or “common works,” are labeled as such.
Let’s begin with the Universidad Austral in Buenos Aires. Again, note the tight degree of control that Opus Dei exercises over its “corporate works.”
San Martín at Austral University
San Martín attended Austral University from 2005 to 2008 and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Communication and Journalism. Austral University is an Opus Dei Prelature corporate apostleship work. It is “an initiative with social content and apostolic nature, carried out by Prelature followers and non-followers, with Opus Dei guaranteeing its underlying spirit by means of a Christian education and pastoral support.”[vii] “To this end, the Prelature appoints the chaplains who provide spiritual assistance at the University, approves faculty appointments for Theology, Ethics, Philosophy and other subjects associated with the Catholic doctrine, and inspires University activities, ensuring that the Opus Dei spirit drives its life, encouraging the love for the Church and the Pope while fully respecting inner freedom.[viii] San Martín speaks fluent Spanish and English and is proficient in Italian and Portuguese.
San Martín at the University of Navarra, the flagship of Opus Dei
In 2008, San Martín traveled to Spain to attend the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain. Navarra is the first Spanish center to offer teaching in Journalism at university level. The University is a private, non-profit corporate work of the apostolate of Opus Dei founded in 1952 by Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, “who had understood the significance of the work of spreading information since his childhood.”[ix] Potential or actual Opus Dei young student numeraries and supernumeraries are urged to spend at least a semester or two at the University to imbibe the spirit and doctrine of Opus Dei.[x]
Here, San Martín earned a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Public Relations. She also served an internship in the Clinic of Navarra. The University ranks among the best in Spain and boasts more than 80 undergraduate programs and 38 master’s programs with almost 13,000 students. Its Law School (including Canon Law) is the oldest School in the University’s system and its IESE Business School in Barcelona, founded in 1958, is world famous. The spiritual and doctrinal formation given in the university is entrusted to Opus Dei, so not surprisingly, the University of Navarra provides more fresh recruits for Opus Dei than any of its other “apostolates” world-wide.[xi]
Among the University’s most famous alumni are former Opus Dei numerary, Archbishop José Horacio Gómez of Los Angeles, and the disgraced [Fr.] John Anthony Corapi who earned his S.T.B. from the University of Navarra, which helped grease the wheels of his media career on EWTN. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI; and Mary Ann Glendon, the globe-trotting former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican with esoteric connections to the Templeton Foundation and Cardinal Bernardin’s Common Ground Committee, both received Honorary Doctorates from the University of Navarra.[xii] Interestingly, Glendon’s late husband, Edward R. Lev has a granddaughter, Claire Giangravè, who was employed by Allen at Crux as its Faith and Culture Correspondent in Rome, Lazio, Italy until last summer.[xiii] Glendon also wrote the foreword for Olga Marlin’s biography of Tomás Alvira and his wife Paquita Dominguez, two Opus Dei lay supernumeraries who are up for beatification.[xiv]
Opus Dei Honors the Austral University Graduate
In 2012, San Martín returned to graduate school at Opus Dei’s Austral University where she earned a Masters in Corporate Communication. Her dissertation was titled: “The Catholic Church in the Public arena: How to Open the Debate and Build a Case for an Open Dialogue.”
The following year, 2013, the University Faculty of Communication honored her with a lengthy autobiographical interview of the 26-year old’s accomplishments as a writer, World Youth Day organizer, blogger and journalist.[xv] The interview gives us a rather rare glimpse into San Martín’s academic, family and personal life which revolves around Opus Dei, although the reference to the Prelature is assumed and not mentioned directly.
Born on December 12, 1987, San Martín, is a native Argentinian, one of four children. In the Austral interview, she indicated that in August 2000, her sisters were permitted to go to Rome to celebrate the Jubilee Year (Holy Year), which “not only because it begins, is marked, and ends with solemn holy acts, but also because its purpose is to encourage holiness of life.”[xvi] But she said, she was only 13-years old and her parents would not let her attend the events.[xvii] Whether or not her mother or father or older sisters were members of Opus Dei she did not state.
Three WYD passed, in Toronto (2002 ) Cologne (2005) and Sydney (2008), before she could finally participate in WYD in Madrid, Spain, from August 16-21, 2011, not as a pilgrim, but as a volunteer for four months in the Accreditations Department of the Junior Press Office.
The next WYD was in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from July 23-28, 2013. San Martín contacted Benjamin Paz Vermal, a Communication specialist for WYD, with whom she had worked in Madrid, and she was hired to manage the International Press Office for WYD13. Some 6500 media professionals attended WYD in Rio. Rafa Rubio, former WYD11 Director of Communications in WYD Madrid also managed the Church’s mega-even in Rio.
Among the Opus Dei “dream team” members that San Martín said she put together were Daniel Arasa,[xviii] School of Church Communications Professor at Opus Dei’s Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. He holds two Bachelor degrees from Holy Cross; Marilu Sponda,[xix] spokeswoman for Opus Dei in Mexico. As of 2018, Sponda is serving as the General Director of Social Communication of the Archdiocese of Mexico; and Austen Ivereigh,[xx] a contributor to Crux and co-founder of Opus-Dei controlled and funded Catholic Voices with Opus Dei UK senior council official, Jack Valero.[xxi] Rounding out the team were Thierry Bonaventura, former Media Officer of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences in St. Gallen, Switzerland, who now works with Caritas Intenationalis; and Church in Need photographer, Maria Lozando.
The last two things San Martín mentioned at the conclusion of her Austral University interview was her part time morning job at Valores Religiosos and her work with Catholic Voices Argentina. Each is treated separately below.
San Martín and Interreligious Dialogue
In addition to her academic pursuits, between 2010 and 2014, San Martín held down two part-time jobs. She was a community manager for her personal blog about WYD, Contá con nosotros, (Count on Us/ Facebook and Twitter), and from October 2012 to March 2014 she worked as a journalist and editor for the well-known Argentinian journal called Valores Religiosos (Religious Values). The reader will recall that her Master’s thesis at Opus Dei’s Austral University was on religious dialogue.
The Valores Religiosos project began in Buenos Aires in 2002, “in order to promote transcendent values, ecumenical dialogue and inter-religious coexistence.”[xxii] It began as a monthly supplement in the Clarian, Argentina’s largest daily tabloid newspaper, but soon came into its own having been publicly endorsed by Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., the future Pope Francis. The Cardinal’s long-time secretary and close friend, Father Guillermo Marcó, took the lead in directing the publication’s activities which included the incorporation of a non-profit civil association called “Work for Charity” housed at the Pastoral Universitaria/Universidad Católica de la Plata and directed by Father Marcó. Readers may recall that Marcó was present at the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican on November 18, 2019, when Pope Francis extolled the virtues of “a culture of dialogue,” while slamming “fundamentalism” [read traditionalism] as “a plague” and “a scourge.”[xxiii]
Inés San Martín’s interest in interreligious dialogue corresponds to that of Opus Dei and its international corporate works including the University of Austral. Opus Dei supernumerary and Dean of the Faculty of Law at Austral, Professor Roberto Bosca,[xxiv] with whom San Martín is probably well acquainted, has represented the Prelature at major interreligious conferences at home and abroad.[xxv]
A further example of Opus Dei’s huge investment in interreligious dialogue is “The Holy Land Dialogues,” organized by Opus Dei’s Saxum Foundation in Israel. It “combines visits to the Holy Sites with academic lectures given by experts, with the aim of fostering intercultural and interreligious dialogue in the Holy Land.” “Saxum had its origin in 1994 when Blessed Alvaro del Portillo, then Prelate of Opus Dei, visited the Holy Places. In accord with the desire of St. Josemaría Escrivá, founder of Opus Dei, Bishop Del Portillo encouraged the setting up of this center.”[xxvi]
Unfortunately, so-called interreligious dialogue, represents “a clear and present danger” to the Catholic faith and faithful, which is why I have taken time to make the connection between it and Opus Dei and Inés San Martín.[xxvii]
Inés San Martín Founds Voces Católica Argentina
San Martín is the co-founder of Catholic Voices Argentina.[xxviii] The parent organization to the now international Opus Dei apostolate called Catholic Voices, was co-founded in the UK in 2010 by Jack Valero, Opus Dei’s public voice in the British Isles and the press officer for the Newman beatification, and English writer and Opus Dei activist, Austen Ivereigh. The ostensible reason for its initial existence was to provide fair Catholic news coverage of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to England and Scotland, from September 16-19, 2010, and for the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman. The real reason was to extend Opus’s hegemony of the Catholic press around the world and to open up new avenues of recruitment for the sect.
After Pope Benedict’s visit, Valero and Ivereigh began a national speakers’ training program under the auspices of a newly created Catholic Voices Academy, where professional media experts and consultants [from the University of Navarra and Pontifical University of the Holy Cross Communications Departments] train Catholic lay men and women in the art of public speaking and “reframing,” that is, a communication tool used to offset “defensive and self-defeating” tactics used in confrontations with Church opponents on vital Catholic issues such as homosexuality, “same-sex marriage,” etc. Valero claims that Catholic Voices “offer a new apologetics for the new evangelization.”[xxix]
Not surprisingly, Crux’s John Allen is one of Catholic Voices greatest fans. He sanctions and promotes “reframing,” and calls Catholic Voices’ “one of the most sought after and effective programs for Church communications today.”[xxx]
Catholic Voices has produced several publications on the Opus Dei strategy of “reframing” including Valero and Ivereigh’s Who Know Where They Stand, and Ivereigh and Kathleen Jean Lopez’s How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice.
In 2014, Ivereigh, San Martín, and Juan Pablo Cannata, Director of the Opus Dei Communication Office and Professor of Sociology at the University of Austral put together a communications booklet titled “Values in Public Discourse: Communicating One’s Faith in the Culture of the 21st century.”
Today, Catholic Voices has become a global brand, and has established media links to England, Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Holland, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, Venezuela, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Malta, the Czech Republic, and the United States.
Catholic Voices USA claims at least three co-founders, all with regular Opus connections, and two with Opus and Crux connections:
- Attorney Kim Daniels, former spokesman for the USCCB, a member of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications, and a speaker and media trainer at Opus Dei’s Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C.
- Christopher White, Associate Director of Catholic Voices USA and National Correspondent for Crux and The Tablet, the diocesan paper of the Diocese of Brooklyn under Opus Dei Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio.
- Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review fame, a contributor to Crux, who delivers spiritual solace to Opus Dei fellow members at Opus’ Catholic Information Center. As Secretary for Catholic Voices she collected $24,000 in income in 2013 and 2014.[xxxi]
And so that there will be no question that Catholic Voices is just one of hundreds of Opus Dei’s front groups and possibly money laundering enterprises, Catholic Voices gave a grant of $50,000 to Opus Dei’s Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C. in 2014.[xxxii]
Hail! Hail! The Gang’s All Here! Opus Dei at Crux
The reader will recall that Allen, as the President of Crux Catholic Media, Inc. and Editor of Crux, assured this reporter (1) that Inés San Martín has no affiliation with Opus Dei at all. And (2), that no one on the Crux staff, as far as he knew, had any ties with Opus other than personal friendships.
Both these statements are obviously false. Inés San Martín has had, as I have hopefully documented to the reader’s satisfaction, a close systematic professional and private association with Opus Dei for years. Further Crux writers and contributors including Ivereigh, White, and Lopez also have had an ongoing relationship with Opus Dei.
Let’s move on to other Crux staff and writers with Opus Dei connections starting with Father Jeffrey Kirby, Crux’s Senior Contributor.
Father Jeffrey Kirby – An Associate Priest of Opus Dei
As noted earlier in Part II of this series, Allen said he didn’t know, nor did he care if Crux Senior Contributor Father Jeffrey Kirby was affiliated with Opus Dei. As with San Martín, Allen didn’t think it relevant.
Allen, of course, was being slightly facetious. On Crux’s own website, Father Kirby’s short bio clearly states: “Father Jeff Kirby… holds a doctorate in moral theology from the Holy Cross University in Rome which is Opus’ Pontifical University of the Holy Cross with its charism of communications.” But this is coming in at the middle of Kirby’s official 17-page biography, so let’s start at the beginning.[xxxiii]
Fr. Jeffrey Kirby is a Catholic priest of the Diocese of Charleston, SC, and is currently the Pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Indian Land, and of St. Joseph’s Church in Chester. He also serves as an Adjunct Professor of Theology at Belmont Abbey College, a Benedictine liberal arts school in Belmont, NC.
He was born into a military family on May 13, 1975, in Killeen, Texas and spent much of his early years in West Germany. His family returned to the States in 1989 and resettled in South Carolina. A high school honor student, in 1994 he enrolled at the Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio for his undergraduate and graduate work in history and philosophy (1999-2001). During this six-year period he also served in the Army National Guard. He went on to teach for a year at a local Catholic high school, then entered the Pontifical North American College and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome where he earned his Bachelor of Sacred Theology (2002-2006). Kirby was ordained a transitional deacon in the Chapel of the Chair of St. Peter’s Basilica by Cardinal Edwin O’Brien in 2006 and ordained as a priest of the Diocese of Charleston on July 27, 2007 by Bishop Robert J. Baker.
Most interestingly, from 2006 to 2007, and 2009 to 2010, Kirby went on to receive advanced degrees from two of Rome’s most notorious cults/sects – the Legionaries of Christ’s Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum (Masters in Bioethics) and Opus Dei’s Pontifical University of the Holy Cross (Licentiate in Moral Theology). In June 2014, Kirby returned to the Pelature’s Holy Cross University where he earned his Doctorate of Sacred Theology in June 2016. It was also in Rome that Kirby began his radio, speaking, writing, “conscience formation,” and communication career with Pathways to Rome on Mediatrix Radio.[xxxiv] Among his mentors are Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, and Josemaría Escrivá.[xxxv]
While still studying in Rome, Kirby was appointed Vicar for Vocations for the Diocese of Charleston by Bishop Robert Guglielmone.[xxxvi] According to Kirby, “In 2011, he (Kirby) released ‘a strategic plan’ that called on all sectors of the church’s life – from elementary schools to college campus programs – to support and promote the priesthood and sisterhood. In his plan, he outlined extensive use of social media, web design, and videography.”
“Up until this point, these resources had not been systematically used in vocations work in most places in the United States,” he said.[xxxvii]
Fr. Kirby Founds Drexel House
That same year, 2011, as part of a new “strategic plan” to increase vocations to the priesthood, Fr. Kirby became the founding director of the Drexel House, “a Catholic Residence for Men in downtown Charleston.”[xxxviii] Originally a Jewish synagogue, the historic building served the Charleston Diocese as a church and a convent with a chapel, until 2010-2011 when it was renovated and officially blessed by Bishop Guglielmone. The diocesan Vocations Office was also moved into Drexel House although Kirby made it clear that, “it was not a discernment house [for vocations].”[xxxix]
Initially 11 young men applied (35 over a four-year period) and were accepted as residents seeking to “strengthen their relationship with Christ, and build a community of disciples aimed at growth in faith, prayer, and virtue.”[xl] Fr. Kirby resided and offered Mass and confession there when he was in town. Drexel House had a secretary and administrative assistant, along with a resident staff of a President and two Council members who ran the daily operations of the residence.
When this writer started to research Father Kirby and fell upon his “new” and “innovative” vocation experiment, I suspected that Drexel House was, in fact, a male Opus Dei Residence Hall even though the words “Opus Dei” never appeared in the more than 30 pages of notes I had downloaded on Drexel House, or in any Miscellany diocesan paper stories on Drexel House, or on the 2014 YouTube presentation of the residency which is still online.[xli] Come to think of it, when I checked for the words “Opus Dei,” they didn’t appear anywhere in the 100-page stack of references I had on Fr. Kirby including his long biography.
But, when in doubt, ask.
So on January 28, 2020, I sent off an e-mail to Fr. Kirby in which I asked him, that given his academic association with the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome [from Crux bio], and the fact that Opus Dei operates largely through “unofficial” young men’s residences near university towns, is “Drexel House one of your Opus Dei apostolates?”
The next night, I received a polite and definitive answer from Fr. Kirby. He explained that Drexel House “was completely inspired by the vision and spirituality of the Work. Not only in the structure of the residence, but in the regular teaching about sanctifying our daily lives.” He said he was honored to have led the house for four years. Unfortunately, he explained, a year after he left as house director, the residence was closed.
“Many people kept wanting to turn it into a ‘discernment house,’ but that was not the vision,” he said. “THE GOAL WAS NOT TO RECRUIT FOR THE SEMINARY BUT TO TEACH THE CHRISTIAN WAY OF LIFE AND PREPARE FUTURE LEADERS OF OUR CHURCH FOR EVERY ARENA OF SOCIETY.” [emphasis added]
Although it is unclear who paid for the Drexel House renovations and upkeep between 2011 and 2015 – the Charleston Diocese, aka, the pewsitters of Charleston or Opus Dei (doubtful given its “apostolate of non-giving,”)[xlii] there is no doubt that Drexel House was an Opus Dei apostolate although it was never publicly advertised as such.
In June 2015, after Drexel House was closed, Bishop Guglielmone removed Kirby from his post as Vicar of Vocations and returned him to a former parish as a temporary administrator. But not to worry. In February 2016, Guglielmone permitted Kirby to return to Rome full-time to complete his Doctorate at Holy Cross.
Fr. Kirby Joins the Crux Staff
In May 2016, one month after the Knights of Columbus took over Crux under the leadership of Opus Dei Carl Anderson, Fr. Jeffrey started writing for Crux in Rome as its “spirituality director.” In early 2019, Kirby was named a senior contributor to Crux. Over the years, Kirby has has media access to all of Opus Dei’s communications outlets including EWTN, the NCRegister, Catholic News Agency, Rome Reports, Our Sunday Visitor, National Review [Lopez], Aleteia, Relevant Radio, Catholic Radio, and Catholic TV.
Which bring us to an important unanswered question, What exactly is Fr. Kirby’s relationship to the Work?
John Allen, editor of Crux, says he doesn’t care, but the Catholic readers may be interested as Fr. Kirby promises to become another Opus Dei Catholic media success story along the lines of Bishop Robert Barron of Word on Fire.org.
Father Kirby – An Associate Priest of Opus Dei
There are two categories of priests in the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross.
The first group, officially created and affirmed by the Holy See on December 8, 1943, are priests incardinated in the Prelature of Opus Dei. They come under the juridical rule of the Prelate. These priests are selected from the Work’s pool of male numeraries who entered the Work as committed and celibate lay members, who are imbued with the correct spirit of Opus Dei, and who are asked by their superiors to serve the Prelature as priests. Their number is severely restricted to between 2 to 3% of Opus’s total membership, “only enough to meet the needs of the Prelature, no more, no less.”[xliii] “Opus Dei accepts no candidates for the priesthood,” and it insists that it “does not take any priests from the diocese,” says Opus Dei apologist Vittorio Messori.[xliv] “Opus Dei makes its own priests,” says Messori., which is to say, the priestly-calling comes from the Prelature, not God – unless, of course, one believes that Opus Dei and God are one.
The second group of priests comes from the diocesan priesthood.
Fr. Kirby falls into this category. He is an Associate of Opus Dei.
In June 1950, the Holy See approved of the arrangement by which a diocesan priest who feels himself drawn to the spirit and charism of Opus Dei, can seek membership in the Society. Technically, these members of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross owe their allegiance to their bishop, not the Prelate of Opus Dei. But as Kirby’s actions at Drexel demonstrate one’s allegiances become progressively blurred the deeper the diocesan priest (and sometimes, a religious) enters into the Prelature.
In June 1950, the Holy See approved of the arrangement by which a diocesan priest who feels himself drawn to the spirit of Opus Dei, may seek membership in the Society either as an Associate or Supernumerary. He, however, can NEVER be incardinated in the Prelature. Nor can they form part of the Society canonically or acquire the rights and duties of a home-grown numerary-turned-ordained priest.[xlv]
If the diocesan priest does not wish to formally align himself with Opus Dei, he has the option of becoming an Opus Cooperator who supports the apostolates of Opus Dei with his prayers, alms (money) and where possible through his pastoral ministry.
These three associations correspond to Opus Dei’s lay memberships which embrace numeraries, supernumeraries and cooperators.
Trouble in Paradise
Ambitious diocesan/order priests like Kirby and the disgraced Father John Corapi, who also received his advanced degrees and media training at Opus’ Holy Cross University in Rome, are particularly susceptible to the lures offered them by sects like Opus Dei. In reality, one doesn’t join Opus Dei in the normal sense of the word. Rather Opus carefully selects and grooms potential members, and then reels them in when the circumstances and time is right.
Opus Dei says it offers its secular diocesan clergy personal like F. Kirby, spiritual direction, and doctrinal, pastoral and ascetical formation, and fraternal union among priests.[xlvi]
But what does Opus get in return?
Obviously, quite a bit, if Fr. Kirby’s Drexel House “apostolate” is any indication of a typical Associate’s contribution to the Work.
Not so obvious, however, is that there are other darker forces at work when diocesan priests are permitted to “join” the Work.
I remember how shocked I was when reading an English translation of Spanish writer Luis Carandell’s book, Life and Miracles of Monsignor Escrivá de Balaguer, Founder of Opus Dei (1975)[xlvii] in which the author recalls the criticism of Opus Dei by the Italian-born Monsignor (later Cardinal) Antonio Riberi, who served as the Holy See’s Apostolic Nuncio to Spain from 1962 to 1967. Monsignor Riberi complained that he felt constantly watched and could not say or do anything in the nuncio residence without Opus Dei knowing about it. The fact that all service personnel were from Opus Dei led to the joke of calling the nuncio’s house the “Opustolic Nunciature.”[xlviii]
According to Carandell:
It is symptomatic that Opus Dei has many centers spread all over the country for the formation of the household, which are schools for domestic service that constitute an excellent business of placement agency for its service followers, and in the houses of the ruling classes, which are the ones that can afford the luxury of admitting maids and servants, without realizing that they are being placed under surveillance. … The networks of the intelligence and information services [of Opus Dei] could not be more sophisticated, more rude or more miserable.[xlix]
Today, diocesan priests fill the same role of informants for Opus Dei as that of Opus’ maids and servants described decades ago by Carandell. Other avenues of information on the diocesan bishop and his staff that Opus deems important to its governance and survival can be secured through the so-called “sharing of confidences” between the associate priest and his Opus spiritual director or his confessor. This compulsory talk binds and marks each and every one of its members.[l]
As the author of Opus Judei (1994) has stated, “In Opus Dei, everyone wants to be an informer, a public and private accuser, a snitch, and a confidant of their own closest brothers and sisters. … There are various reasons for this, including the fact that informing on the truth in Opus Dei is a practice and a ‘virtue,’ so that the followers always live in an atmosphere of mutual and reciprocal distrust, fear and isolation, all of which are extremely important for keeping the sect members in chains, in a permanent manner.”[li]
Other Crux Staff Members and Contributors
Charles Collins, Nirmala Carvalhe, Elise Harris Allen, and Claire Giangravè are the four remaining Crux staff members and contributors whose exact relationship with Opus Dei, if any, are unknown.
- Journalist Charles Collins lives in the UK and is the Managing Editor of Crux.
- Crux contributor and human rights activist Nirmala Carvalhe writes from Mumbai, India and has been a long-time correspondent for Opus Dei didn’t establish a foothold in India until 1993. The Prelature has two main centers in India, New Deli and Mumbai, where Carvalhe lives. There are less than three dozen members (lay numeraries, supernumeraries and cooperators) in the entire county. To date Carvalhe has done more than a half-dozen articles on Opus Dei including interviews with Kevin de Souza, Director of the Opus Dei Center in Mumbai for AsiaNews. None have been critical of the Work.[lii]
- Crux staffer, Elise Harris, who recently married John Allen, will continue to be an important figure at Crux in the foreseeable future. Harris is a native of Denver. She is currently the Senior Correspondent for Crux in Rome. Prior to that she worked with Catholic News Agency, an Opus Dei media outlet. While we know that Shannon Levitt, Allen’s first wife, was friendly with Opus Dei, she was never a member of the Work. On the other hand, Harris has promoted the Work uncritically for years in many of the Prelature’s media outlets including Catholic News Agency, EWTN, CathInfo, the Angelus News, and, of course, Crux.
Last spring, Harris covered an Opus Dei conference in Rome for Angelus News “dedicated to lay holiness” held at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross on April 30, 2019. Her lengthy article, “Rome conference ponders the rise of ‘everyday’ lay saints” is a typical puff piece on the Work. Harris reported that Professor Maria Pilar del Rio, who teaches liturgical ecclesiology at Holy Cross, spoke on the “theology of the laity” that came out of the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council. “This new emphasis on holiness as something attainable and which should be pursued by all members of the Church, not just priests and consecrated people… but from ‘lives, work and numerous apostolic activities that the laity have brought forward.’”[liii]
There are 14 Opus Dei candidates currently up for beatification and canonization, 12 of whom are laymen.[liv] Two supernumeraries, Tomás Alvira and his wife Paquita Dominguez are described thusly: “Faithful to the spirit of Opus Dei, the couple passed on to their  children and to many other people their example of Christian life and marriage, of a ‘bright and cheerful home,’ as St. Josemaria used to say.”[lv]
Harris’ short Crux bio states that she graduated from the University of Northern Colorado in 2010, and that she holds degrees in philosophy and communications. But it is not clear if her advanced degrees were obtained from UNC, or possibly, the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.
When Crux was formed by the Boston Globe, Allen said his news service would not carry water for anyone. But a careful review of the facts I have presented demonstrates that since the Knights took over Crux under the leadership of Opus Dei Supreme Knight Anderson, it has morphed into another Opus Dei media outlet – in as much as what it has not written, as what it has written. In this case, while control of Crux has been retained by Allen and his Opus Dei dominated staff and contributors, the funding for Crux for 2016 to 2019 has come from the rank and file members of the Knights – in the Opus Dei spirit of “the apostolate of non-giving.” But from where and from whom, is the for-profit Crux now being funded?
To be continued in Part IV: “Focus on Crux and Archbishop Gómez and Bishop DiMarzio” ___________________
[iv] See Ines San Martin, “Ex-teacher at Opus Dei school sentenced to 11 years for abuse,” Crux, November 19, 2018 and “Ex-teacher at Spanish Opus Dei school fights conviction for abuse,” Crux, November 21, 2018.
[xi] A summary of various University of Navarra promotional materials including https://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/international/europe/spain/university-of-navarra. For insights into how Opus Dei numeraries are recruited at the University see https://odan.org/tw_nightmarish_experience.
[xii] Cornelia R. Ferreira, “Hans Kung’s Satanic Global Ethic and its Papal Promulgators – Part II: The Pope of Common Ground,” The Catholic Inquisitor, September 2018. P. 20.
[xiii] [xiii] See https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/bostonglobe/obituary.aspx?pid=167350460. Clair Giangrave has become the Vatican correspondent for Religion News Service.
[xvii] Initiated by Pope John Paul II in 1985, WYD had always been dominated by Opus Dei even though other sects such as Focolare have also used the Church-sponsored event to proselytize and recruit young members.
[xix] See https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=es&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.jornada.com.mx%2Fultimas%2Fpolitica%2F2018%2F02%2F12%2Fmarilu-esponda-nueva-directora-de-Comunicacion-social-de-la-arquidiocesis-de-mexico-809.html.
[xxi] Jack Valero serves Opus Dei in many ways including caring for wayward OD sex abusers like Fr. C. John McCloskey, whom Valero babysat for in London from 2002 to 2004. McCloskey took an active ole in London high society and gave OD retreats for men only. He continued his writing also. Valero said McCloskey received treatment for his alcohol problems, but the perp moved about freely. See https://thetablet.org/case-of-opus-dei-priest-raises-fresh-questions-about-clerical-abuse-crisis/.
[xxiv] For Bosca’s biography see https://info-caotica.blogspot.com/2014/11/una-replica-roberto-bosca.html.
[xxvii] The dangers of interreligious dialogue and a One World Religion have been well documented by Cornelia R. Ferreira in http://op54rosary.ning.com/m/discussion?id=5691517%3ATopic%3A207706,
[xxix] For an example of Opus Dei’s “reframing” strategy as employed by Valero see https://experienceswithopusdei.blogspot.com/2009/07/gay-magazine-interview-with-opus-dei.html.
[xxxi] IRS returns of Catholic Voices, Inc., 2013, 2014, 990 Form. Available from Guidestar.
[xxxii] Ibid, 2014 990 Form.
[xxxiv] See https://themiscellany.org/2009/10/01/father-kirbys-pathways-to-rome-radio-show-premieres/.
[xxxv] Father J. Kirby, “Bernardin’s legacy of dialogue is more relevant than ever,” Crux, November 13, 2016, at http://stage.cruxnow.com/church-in-the-usa/2016/11/12/bernardins-legacy-dialogue-relevant-ever/ and https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2017/02/01/closer-look-lukes-gospel-mercy. According to Kirby, Bernardin’s great contribution to the Church was his Common Ground initiative and his ability to dialogue and exchange ideas wit the contemporary world.
[xxxvi] As of August 20, 2019, Bishop Guglielmone has stepped back as Bishop of Charleston pending a Vatican investigation that he sexually molested a young boy in the 1970s.
[xxxvii] See long biography of Fr. Jeffrey Kirby, pp. 5-6.
[xxxviii] Ibid., p.7.
[xxxix] “Drexel House is converted to a residence for young Catholic men,” The Miscellany,” February 8, 2011.
[xlii] Vittorio Messori, Opus Dei, Regnery Publishing, Washington, D.C., 1994, p. 105.
[xliii] Ibid., pp. 136-137.
[xliv] Ibid., p. 137.
[xlviii] Ibid., p.163.
[lii] See Nirmala Carvalho, “Alvaro del Portillo, the ‘rock of Opus Dei and the mission in Asia,” January 28, 2014; “Rohan and Joel, signs of God’s mercy for the poor in Mumbai,” February 11, 2016; “India celebrates Msgr. Fernando Ocariz, new prelate of Opus Dei,” January 25, 2017. All for AsiaNews.
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