Saturday, December 1, 2012

Opus Dei and right wing dictatorships

Since yesterday's posts there have been several incoming search phrases regarding Opus Dei so here is some basic information on the organization's support for right wing dictatorships, via the Opus Dei wikipedia page. Bracketed quotes are my own commentary.

Opus Dei was founded in 1928 by an Aragonese Roman Catholic priest, Josemaria Escriva, and it was subsequently recognized by the Roman Catholic Church as its first secular religious institution...Members make a commitment to dedicate their professional talents to the service of God and to seek to win converts through their missionary zeal. The organization in Spain and everywhere else has emphasized professional excellence, whether they are farmers or teachers, and it has expected its members who have talents for politics to serve in government positions, in accord, it says, with the Social Doctrine of the Church...Many newly published Spanish history textbooks agree that the Opus Dei had a strong influence in the Franco regime. Moreover, Opus Dei developed itself in its early days during the Franco regime. According to these books, Opus Dei was not only linked but also tightly interwoven with the power structures of the Francoist authoritarian government soon after the Spanish Civil War, although its stronger involvement in the government came only in the late 1950s. It had at least 8 ministers during Franco's rule. This was in keeping with the organization's aim of influencing the development of society indirectly....Because of what some critics see as clannishness and secrecy surrounding the organization, they termed it the "Holy Mafia."

Also, here is an excerpt from an excellent article on neofascism within the Catholic Church, via the Daily Kos:

What we are seeing today in the fight over birth control is a revival of a very old, and very dangerous kind of Catholicism. It is not one supported or practiced by most Rank and File Catholics. It is a kind of Catholicism which has done irreparable harm. It is a kind of Catholicism unfit for existence in the modern world. It was the underpinning of the regimes of Mussolini in Italy, The National Catholicism of Francisco Franco, in Spain; The Parti Rexiste in Belgium; The Irish Blueshirts; The Croatian Ustaše, the Nazi puppet government in Croatia, and ultimately, was the kind of Catholicism practiced by the Sainted Josemaría Escrivá, founder of the Catholic order Opus Dei.

That's where the story begins and ends: Opus Dei.

Spain, The Founding of Opus Dei

Josemaría Escrivá is the best place to start. He was a catholic priest during the Second Spanish Republic, who developed a kind of Catholicism in the late 1920's which Fascists found very attractive. He rose to prominence and political influence during Franco's spain. His book describing Opus Dei was first published with an introduction by a Pro-Franco bishop, which contained many statements in support of National Catholicism. Saint Escriva personally preached to Franco during a week-long prayer retreat at Franco's Palace. Saint Escriva has been accused by catholic priests who knew him of Holocaust Denial, and many recall statements by Escriva defending Hitler. Saint Escriva has said that Hitler couldn't have killed 6 million Jews, and that "Hitler against the Jews" really meant "Hitler against communism."

He famously wrote a letter to Franco in the 1950's saying

Although a stranger to any political activity, I cannot help but rejoice as a priest and Spaniard that the Chief of State’s authoritative voice should proclaim that, “The Spanish nation considers it a badge of honor to accept the law of God according to the one and true doctrine of the Holy Catholic Church, inseparable faith of the national conscience which will inspire its legislation.” It is in fidelity to our people’s Catholic tradition that the best guarantee of success in acts of government, the certainty of a just and lasting peace within the national community, as well as the divine blessing for those holding positions of authority, will always be found. I ask God our Lord to bestow upon your Excellency with every sort felicity and impart abundant grace to carry out the grave mission entrusted to you.

None of this is to say that all Catholics supported Franco. Plenty of Catholic bishops and priests opposed him, including bishop Mateo Múgica, and Cardinal Francisco Vidal Y Barraquer. I would also like to point out that neither Vidal Y Barraquer or Mateo Mugica were sainted. They are relatively forgotten. Múgica doesn't even have a Wikipedia page in English. You'll notice that this will become a recurring theme in our history of Opus Dei and Catholicism in Fascist Europe. Those who stood against the tide end up forgotten, while those that supported the brutal regimes end up sainted.

And so courageous men that fought a military dictatorship and died in exile are forgotten while Escriva is the sainted founder of Opus Dei. Racist. Fascist. Holocaust Denier. Despite the fact that we know about his writings, his views, his pretension to political power, and his support of Franco, all of these facts surrounding the man have been referred to as "Black Myths." Catholic authorities deny that any of this happened, and call anyone who dares point out indisputable facts "anti-catholic." Just like those laws about birth control.

Here is some additional information on Francisco Franco's regime, again via wikipedia:

Francisco Franco y Bahamonde (Spanish: [fɾanˈθisko ˈfɾaŋko]; 4 December 1892 – 20 November 1975), was a Spanish general, the leader of the Nationalist military rebellion during the Spanish Civil War, and the authoritarian head of state of Spain from 1939 to his death in November 1975....After winning the civil war with military aid from Italy and Germany as exemplified in the Bombing of Guernica — while the Soviet Union and various Internationalists aided the Republicans —, he dissolved the Spanish Parliament. He then established a right-wing dictatorship and was de facto regent of the nominally restored Kingdom of Spain, that lasted until 1978, when a new constitution was drafted....he supported the volunteer Blue Division that fought with the Axis on the Eastern Front, and until 1943 the German navy used Spanish harbours....

...After the end of World War II, Franco maintained his control in Spain through the implementation of austere measures: the systematic suppression of dissident views through censorship and coercion,[4][5] the imprisonment of ideologically opposed enemies in concentration camps (1936–1947) throughout the country (such as Los Merinales in Seville, San Marcos in León, Castuera in Extremadura, and Miranda de Ebro),[6] the implementation of forced labor in prisons,[7] and the use of the death penalty and heavy prison sentences as deterrents for his ideological enemies....The first decade of Franco's rule in the 1940s following the end of the Civil War in 1939 saw continued oppression and the killing of an undetermined number of political opponents. Estimation is difficult and controversial, but the number of people killed probably lies somewhere between 15,000 and 50,000 (see above, The end of the Civil War)...Franco's Spanish nationalism promoted a unitary national identity by repressing Spain's cultural diversity. Bullfighting and flamenco[62] were promoted as national traditions while those traditions not considered "Spanish" were suppressed... All cultural activities were subject to censorship, and many, such as the Sardana, the national dance of Catalunya, were plainly forbidden...

...On the other hand, the Catholic Church was upheld as the established church of the Spanish State, and regained many of the traditional privileges it had lost under the Republic. Civil servants had to be Catholic, and some official jobs even required a "good behavior" statement by a priest. Civil marriages which had taken place under Republican Spain were declared null and void unless confirmed by the Catholic Church. Divorce was forbidden, and also contraceptives and abortion....The enforcement by public authorities of traditional Catholic values was a stated intent of the regime, mainly by using a law (the Ley de Vagos y Maleantes, Vagrancy Act) enacted by Azaña.[63] The remaining nomads of Spain (Gitanos and Mercheros like El Lute) were especially affected. In 1954, homosexuality, pedophilia, and prostitution were, through this law, made criminal offenses,[64]...

Status of women

Francoism professed a devotion to the traditional role of women in society, that is: loving child to her parents and brothers, faithful to her husband, residing with her family. Official propaganda confined her role to family care and motherhood. Immediately after the war, most progressive laws passed by the Republic aimed at equality between the sexes were made void. Women could not become judges, or testify in trial. They could not become university professors. Their affairs and economy had to be managed by their father or by their husbands. Even in the 1970s a woman fleeing from an abusive husband could be arrested and imprisoned for "abandoning the home" (abandono del hogar). Until the 1970s a woman could not have a bank account without a co-sign by her father or husband.[65][These policies would have been in keeping with Church doctrine, since Pope Pius XI was opposed to women having the right to vote.]