Opus Dei: Supreme indecency, extreme deceit
The current majority of the Supreme Court which has just denied women the legal right to abortion (Dobbs vs. Jackson) is made up of religious zealots whose careers have been fast-tracked (so young judges can serve for decades) by like-minded ultra-wealthy lobbyists and political operatives. The connection of this activity lies with a powerful arch-conservative organization within the Catholic Church, Opus Dei, which in the United States operates out of the Catholic Information Center in Washington DC.
I am not targeting Catholics but rather the reactionary and fundamentalist wing of the Church. Many Catholic organizations are dedicated to defending the rights and lives of minorities (and majorities, such as women), victims of pedophile priests, homosexuals, the poor, immigrants, etc. The fundamentalist wing of any religion has more in common with other beliefs. fundamentalisms than with many of their own co-religionists, whom they often regard as enemies. Catholic fundamentalism is obviously not the only “brand” influencing American politics, but it is the one that has an insidious dominating influence on the justice system.
Opus Dei and its partner organizations have invested tens of millions of dollars in promote careers and appointments of Chief Justice Roberts and the five justices who overthrew Roe: Thomas, Alito, Kavanaugh, Gorsuch, and Barrett (Roberts, an arch-conservative, nevertheless dissented on the abortion case).
Opus Dei was founded in Spain by Escriva de Balaguer in 1928 and grew in power, wealth and influence during the fascist dictatorship of Francisco Franco which, with significant military aid from Nazi Germany, overthrew the legitimate Spanish government and ruled a police state from 1939-1975. The group extended its power throughout Latin America, supporting the murderous Pinochet regime in Chile and other terrorizing dictatorships. He constantly opposes homosexual, sexual and reproductive rights, and Catholic liberation movements that defend the poor in Latin America. He was implicated in the Vatican banking scandals but still wields enormous influence over Vatican finances, as detailed by Robert Hutchison in his book, Their kingdom comes. Opus Dei’s assets in 2008 were $2.8 billion, but they have undoubtedly grown since then. Popes John Paul II and francis both elevated Opus Dei officials to the highest offices of the Church. One of the fundamental principles of Opus Dei, as its founder said, is to engage in “the sphere of public life”, not because these are human or Catholic rights, but because “these are the rights of God… May such ‘fanaticism’ for the Faith… grow stronger every day”. Opus Dei is not just a conservative religious group, it is openly dedicated to exercising political and financial power in nations around the world. And that often means promoting and aligning itself with the most violent and reactionary regimes and operating in the shadows of political influence.
Members of Opus Dei have played an important role in Trump’s White Houseincluding Attorney General William Barr and Pat CipolloneTrump’s alum White House attorney. Opus Dei had access to trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, along with other well-known right-wing lobbyists (Heritage Foundation, Koch Industries), meet with the Trump administration tried to keep it a secret. Member Larry Kudlow was the director of Trump’s National Economic Council. It is perhaps the most powerful political lobby in the world and yet its explicit political agenda is absolutely subordinate to its extreme and authoritarian religious agenda.
A key fixer in this effort is Leonard Leo. Leo is a member of the board of directors of the Catholic Information Center (William Barr was a former director) and Executive Vice President of the Federalist Society, a pressure group that adheres to an “originalist” interpretation of the Constitution (more on this below). The two organizations are close political allies, as Leo’s dual role suggests. As a close adviser to Trump during his presidency, Leo was responsible for selecting and guiding the Supreme Court nominations of Alito, Barrett, Kavanaugh and Gorsuch and was instrumental in screening lower federal courts with Appointed by Trump. Meanwhile, members of Opus Dei and the Federalist Society include Alito, Clarence Thomas, and the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Chief Justice Roberts is a member of the Federalist Society and the members and supporters loom large in many of the country’s most powerful law schools and law firms, allowing it to have an unwelcome influence on judicial selections. When Clarence Thomas was the headliner of a 2013 Federalist Society Fundraiser, the guests were seated near him according to the importance of their gifts. In effect, the Federalist Society and Opus Dei became the Supreme Court of the country.
Much of Opus Dei’s influence has been exercised through the Wellspring Committee, established and led by Opus Dei members Ann and Neil Corkery in 2008. The Koch brothers helped provide Wellspring with its first $10 million in seed capital. According to Robert Maguire of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the Corkerys “have been overseers of enormous sums of money that have been poured into federal court races”. Wellspring closed in 2018, but not before handing over to the Judicial Crisis Network (JCN); in 2017 Wellspring transferred $14,814,998.00, or 94% of its donations that year, to JCN. JCN was previously led by Leonard Leo and now by Carrie Severino, who served as Thomas’ legal assistant. (Roger Severino of Opus Dei, Carrie’s husband, was director of Trump’s Civil Rights Office). JCN is a 501(c)(4) organization so its donors can be kept secret. JCN paid millions to support Bush and Trump’s Supreme Court nominees (Roberts, Alito, Kavanaugh, Gorsuch and Barrett) and millions blocking Obama’s Court nominee Merrick Garland.
Given Opus Dei’s outright anti-choice ideology, global power, and influence over the Supreme Court, it is clear that the Court’s anti-choice decision was not motivated by arguments legal issues concerning the right to privacy, strict or “originalistic” interpretations of the Constitution, or the rights of states. They were just window dressing. The Supreme Court – and much of our judicial system – has been taken over by fanatics with a strict theological agenda: replace “the separation of Church and State” with “the Church short the state”. It was a narrow and fanatical religious ideology that decided the case.
The so-called “originalist” theory of constitutional interpretation claims that the Constitution protects only the rights explicitly mentioned in the text. The Constitution itself rejects the “originalist” idea so central to conservative ideology. The Ninth Amendment reads as follows:The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights should not be interpreted as denying or denigrating others held by the people.This clearly indicates that the interpretation of the Constitution is a living and evolving process, for how these “other[s]» Are the rights “retained by the people”? The Ninth is also a safety valve: “If we have omitted important rights, sorry, our evil, it does not mean that these rights are not also protected. The ninth has been used to defend rights as diverse as the teaching of languages other than English, the sending of children to private schools, protection from forced sterilization and the 1965 Griswold decision overturning the ban of contraception, in which privacy was seen as a “penumbra” (also called “unnumbered”) on the right. The concept of penumbra was later applied to abortion in the 1973 Roe decision.
Justice Harry Blackmun wrote the majority decision in Roe vs. Wadeciting both the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments: “This right to privacy, whether based on the Fourteenth Amendment concept of personal liberty and restrictions on state action, as we believe, or… the Ninth Amendment reservation of people’s rights amendment, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision. whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. The harm the state would impose on the pregnant woman by completely denying her that choice is obvious.The Court also recognized that “When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to come to a consensus, the judiciary…is unable to speculate on the answer.Blackmun’s decision includes a glimpse of the dramatic changes in cultural and legal attitudes towards abortion, although most views have differentiated between abortions in the first 12 to 16 weeks (before the baby does not usually feel moving in the uterus) of those that occur later.
The “sacredness of the fetus,” that is, viewing abortion at any stage of pregnancy as tantamount to murder, is the pivot of the anti-choice position and its driving emotional trigger. However, even the Catholic Church’s historic opposition to abortion had nothing to do with the sanctity of the fetus; it was aiming at the “sin” of sexual pleasure. Church policy varied over the centuries, but fetal life was either absent as an issue or secondary to sexual sin and other theological concerns. Saint Thomas Aquinas claimed that in his early days a fetus is in a “plant” then “animal” state before reaching personality at some point, most likely at the end of the third month. It wasn’t until 1965 that the Church outlawed abortion based on the sanctity of life rather than sexual sin. However, the biblical passages used to substantiate this claim 1) do not really deal with abortion (the Bible is much more direct in advising that adulterers be stoned to death); 2) are drawn mostly from the Old Testament, a Jewish document, significant since the Jewish religion permits abortion; and 3) are in the Bible, which has no legal status in the United States. Or not.
The Court’s decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson is just the beginning, as anti-abortion activists and GOP-led extremists mobilize to attack a wide range of rights. The anti-choice movement has never been just about abortion. Abortion has been used as an emotional catalyst for a broad attack on the values of tolerance and social engagement embodied in federal guarantees backed by constitutional authority. The welfare of Americans and our system of government is now in the hands of religious fanatics on a crusade against anyone who does not believe in their debased, medieval version of the truth. They are welcome in their beliefs but are not welcome to impose those beliefs on the rest of us, nor to question the core values of the United States, which place the value of human beings above the adherence to extreme and rigid political or religious ideologies.