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Santorum and Opus Dei

March 20, 2012

I get annoyed by silly media talk of Santorum’s connections to Opus Dei, everybody’s favorite dark and sinister Catholic cloak-and-dagger society. The underlying assumption is that Santorum is a deeply orthodox Catholic, with a whiff of old-school authoritarianism about him. But this is nonsense. Opus Dei is a traditionalist Catholic group, heavily influenced by Spanish spirituality. It’s not my cup of tea, but it puts strong emphasis on fidelity to Church teachings, and I assume that means all Church teachings. Santorum, on the other hand, is a classic American right-wing liberal, picking and choosing his Church teachings, and with a spirituality that seems far more evangelical than Catholic. It is no accident that Santorum’s core support comes from right-wing evangelicals, not Catholics. Opus Dei has a vaguely “foreign” feel in the United States. Nobody could possibly say that about Santorum!

Just look at the record. Santorum believes strongly in the anti-Catholic theology of American exceptionalism. He believes strongly in the anti-Catholic theology of the supremacy of individual freedom, in economic if not in sexual matters. Santorum defines his theology as stemming from the bible (Protestant) as opposed to the single sacred deposit of the Word of God comprising sacred scripture and sacred tradition (Catholic). He embraces an anti-Catholic theology of plundering rather than protecting the environment. He supports a bloodthirsty and pro-death foreign policy. He supports the intrinsically evil act of torture. He seeks to cast out the immigrant, which goes directly against the “biblical values” he loves so much.

Need I go on?

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38 Comments
  1. March 20, 2012 10:00 am

    Well, I think within the US, Opus Dei often takes on Americanist conservative ideals — it is a part of how it inculturates itself that allows this to happen.

  2. March 20, 2012 10:00 am

    “He supports the intrinsically evil act of torture.”

    He does? He believes it should be legal for private individuals to inflict pain on other private individuals for reasons other than self-defense??

    Or are you saying he supports the right of the STATE to use corporal force and punishment in accomplishing its ends?

    Please be more clear about what you mean. Next you’ll be saying that people who support capital punishment support the “intrinsically evil act of murder”!

    • johnmcg permalink
      March 20, 2012 11:26 am

      Santorum has consistently supported the use of waterboarding (which fits comfortably into my definition of torture) in interrogations.

      Murder is intrinsically evil; killing is not. Torture, on the other hand is, whether the state does it or we do it.

    • Julia Smucker permalink*
      March 20, 2012 1:08 pm

      I’m still learning the semantics of Catholic moral theology, but I thought “intrinsic evil” by definition could not make the distinction between “private individuals” and states.

    • March 20, 2012 1:20 pm

      You are right, it does not make any such distinction. However, I suspect that Sinner is suggesting that what is being called “torture” here is in fact something which is a formal evil, in which case the authority of the agent makes a difference. So, if you stole money from your neighbor, and he locked you in his basement because you were deserving of imprisonment, his act would still be evil, but it would not be evil for the state to do so. Or, maybe I have misunderstood his point, too.

      • March 20, 2012 2:44 pm

        Just to be clear, my point is this, that two acts may be materially (largely) indistinguishable and yet end up being formally quite diverse, and one way this is so is that there many actions which would be unacceptable done by a private person which, when done by that same person qua agent of the state, are morally justifiable, even laudable. We need to grant, if there is to be a state at all, that it will possess some coercive power, and indeed that this coercive power will be wielded in ways morally unacceptable for private persons. All the same, it is accepted that there is such a thing as torture which, as such, is to be repudiated.

      • Julia Smucker permalink*
        March 20, 2012 2:48 pm

        That just muddies the issue, and any argument that does so in order to justify violence is highly suspect.

  3. Sean O permalink
    March 20, 2012 10:04 am

    Our options for President are God awful.

  4. Mark Gordon permalink
    March 20, 2012 10:27 am

    Thank you, MM. I was an Opus Dei cooperator for several years and I never once heard any political talk. Adherence to Opus Dei’s “tenets” meant nothing more than practicing the faith – Mass attendance, frequent confession, personal prayer and devotions, spiritual direction, service to the poor – with an emphasis on viewing one’s daily work as a platform for growth in the spiritual life. That’s it. No cilice. No self-flagellation. No Republican (or Democratic) politics. Not even any kvetching about neuralgic issues within the Church. None of it.

    Andrew Sullivan has lately gone even further than just invoking Opus Dei. He’s now linking daily Mass attendance with Santorum-style politics and blaming it all on the Vatican. Just yesterday Sully wrote: “Santorum is the current Vatican’s ideal Catholic: daily-mass attending, embedded in elite politics, dedicated to Opus Dei style reactionaryism in the Church, contemptuous of any division between church and state, and dedicated to legislating and governing according to Catholic moral doctrine (with core issues such as universal healthcare and torture and economic justice excised from the relevant debate).” Imagine, the “Vatican” wants economic justice excised from the debate! Someone ought to tell Benedict XVI before he pops off again.

  5. grega permalink
    March 20, 2012 10:37 am

    I am surprised Morning Minion by your benevolent description of Opus Dei –
    “spanish spirituality” is certainly more than a bit loaded term in light of the Franco Regime
    and the closeness of a number of Opus Dei leaders to right wing dictators.
    In my view Santorum would make for a perfectly fine right wing dictator given his views –
    what safes him and what safes a lot of the current breed of american religious fundamentalist is that this country happens to be a true free one – the average american has a very deep seated understanding of that magical fine line that seperates the secular from the religious. To your point , Santorum is actually not well liked by Catholics and finds the bulk of his supporters among more fundamentalist evangelicals. As you know the average Catholic is your average American – thus some of the catholic ideals simply are ignored. The average Catholic has a pretty practial approach to daily life and the highflying moral ideals concocted by a somewhat removed elite clerical cast are not exactly cutting it. There was a good editorial by Frank Rich to this point in todays NYT.

    • Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
      March 20, 2012 12:15 pm

      grega,

      Outstanding!!!!!!!……especially: “I am surprised Morning Minion by your benevolent description of Opus Dei – I am surprised Morning Minion by your benevolent description of Opus Dei – “spanish spirituality” is certainly more than a bit loaded term in light of the Franco Regime and the closeness of a number of Opus Dei leaders to right wing dictators.”

      • grega permalink
        March 20, 2012 10:31 pm

        Thanks Peter Paul – as the need for MM’s fantastic most recent post shows it is all a deeply sad affair to witness the depth of the infatuation of the Neocath’s and Catholic right with Mr. Santorum.
        But this is nothing compared to the truly sad spectacle of our bishops willingness to toss away some of the most important principles of catholic social justice for the sake of a belated and ill-advised stand regarding contraceptive coverage – a stand that surprise surprise the folk does not back up.
        http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/03/quo-3.html
        Oh well it all makes for some interesting times –
        if one looks at the arc of history it clearly tilts in the most progressive direction possible – todays progressives are tomorrows conservatives – and on and on – in the long run reason prevails.

  6. Kurt permalink
    March 20, 2012 10:44 am

    I agree with MM about the silly media talk around Opus Dei. I would note among its members have been some socialist cabinet members in Europe.

    But I’ll tell you, a leftist Catholic like me has kinder feelings towards Opus Dei than the average American evangelical.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      March 20, 2012 2:58 pm

      “I would note among its members have been some socialist cabinet members in Europe.”

      Kurt, could you name some names? I find this very surprising, for two reasons: 1) Opus Dei members have a custom of privacy that verges on secrecy, and 2) the only politicians I know aligned with Opus Dei are in Spain and they were either Francoists or members of the Popular Party (the center-right party).

      • Kurt permalink
        March 20, 2012 5:21 pm

        I was thinking of the Hon. Ruth Kelly, M.P., former Transport Secretary (UK).

        But I think you are correct that in Spain the Opus Dei members are generally aligned with the fascists.

  7. March 20, 2012 11:10 am

    Yes, Mark, Sullivan is off the reservation on this one.

    • johnmcg permalink
      March 21, 2012 10:26 am

      I look forward to your post straightforwardly taking on Sullivan’s distortions of Catholicism and Catholic practice.

      • digbydolben permalink
        March 23, 2012 9:55 pm

        You don’t need it, JohnMcg, because Sullivan himself is quite open and honest about his disagreements with the Church’s teaching on certain issues. He’s a lot more honest and straightforward about those particular disagreements than your Wiegels and your Santorums are, about their core disagreements with Catholics like Benedict XVI, over “social justice” teachings.

      • johnmcg permalink
        March 28, 2012 4:17 pm

        I understand that Sullivan is straightforward about his disagreements with the Church on sexual matters.

        What I was referring to was Mark’s quote about Santorum being “the Vatican’s perfect candidate.” This is a distortion of Church doctrine.

        As for my Wiegel, see here http://johnmcgquiblit.blogspot.com/2010/11/who-put-gold-and-red-marker-on-my-copy.html

  8. Todd permalink
    March 20, 2012 12:08 pm

    Opus or not, Santorum just won’t cut it with women and his quest will wither away. It’s fine if he wants to live his life according to his beliefs, but don’t force the rest of us to do the same.

    • grega permalink
      March 20, 2012 10:00 pm

      Wise words – it already started tonight in Illinois it seems.

    • johnmcg permalink
      March 21, 2012 10:27 am

      I am not a Santorum supporter, but can you please identify how Santorum would force others to live their lives according to his beliefs?

      • digbydolben permalink
        March 23, 2012 10:02 pm

        Your completely duplicitous and constant disingenuousness on here is very, very telling and consistent with Right-wing verbal flim-flammery: he’d force “gay” sevicepeople back into the closet by re-instituting “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” even though its repeal is not adversely affecting the military. If that’s not “forcing others to live by his beliefs,” I don’t know what is. And there are a host of other positons that do exactly that.

        However, the worst thing that he’d do along that line is forcing American servicepeople to die, if it became necessary to support Zionist warmongers in their attempt to eradicate the so-called “existential threat” posed by Iran’s nuclear energy program. That’s more important to me than anything else, because it might influence the platform of the Republican Party, and thereby affect the foreign policy of a “President Romney” (God forbid!)

        • johnmcg permalink
          March 28, 2012 4:13 pm

          I disagree with Santorum on both of the policies you mention, but they are not “forcing others to live by his beliefs.” IN large part, because nobody is forced to join the military, and Santorum is not planning on doing so.

          I also feel I am due an apology for your ad hominem introduction.

  9. monica darky permalink
    March 20, 2012 12:29 pm

    لپ تاپ Well done
    Thanks so much for sharing

    • digbydolben permalink
      March 29, 2012 5:34 pm

      Ho, ho, ho, indeed, JohnMcG:

      “nobody is forced to join the military”–ANOTHER example of “right-wing disingenuousness,”

      because…

      A LOT of people are forced by their economic circumstances to “join the military”. As a matter of fact, I’d bet that, given present enconomic conditions in the “land of the Free and the home of the Brave” (which most “right wing liberals” such as yourself don’t even want to consider), I’d be that MOST of the military’s present crop of recruits are joining because they have to, in order to support themselves or their families.

      Look, I once worked in a Native American boarding school in the Southwest, during the height of the Iraq war. When I and a number of other teachers tried to talk Navajo and Apache boys out of “signing up” after their graduation, reminding them of what the U.S. Army had once done to their ancestors, and that they should have no quarrels with Arab peoples, their startling and dead-pan reply was that they “had to,” to pay their parents’ fuel bill or to put shoes on their little brothers’ and sisters’ feet.

      There’ll be no apology.

      • johnmcg permalink
        March 30, 2012 10:31 am

        Let me come at this another way.

        The initial accusation was that Santorum wants to force the rest of us to live our lives according to his values, presumably moreso than other candidates.

        When challenged for an example, your response was what he would order the military to do.

        It seems to me this would make him the same as every other president in history, including the current one. Aren’t military personnel forced to order drone attacks? Fight in wars, even without Congressional authorization?

        Now, I agree with you that Santorum’s foreign policies are wrong. But they’re wrong because they’re wrong, not because he is trying to force others to live according to his values.

      • digbydolben permalink
        March 30, 2012 11:04 pm

        It would be the greater “value” of Santorum of the claims of the Zionists to “eretz Israel” over that of American youth to remain alive and uninvolved in bloody and expansionist Israeli ethnic-cleansing of Palestinians that would cause him to enter a war with Iran on Israel’s side. It would be the greater “value” of Santorum of the Catholic Church’s blinkered view of “homosexuals” that they must remain quietly immured in closets over the rights of “gay” service-men to self-identify as lovers of each other that would cause a President Santorum to attempt to reinstate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” I agree that drone attacks and unconstitutional wars are generally to be excoriated, and I disapprove of the Obama Administration’s perpetration of such war crimes, as I’d term them. However, at the same time, I insist that Obama’s “value” of innocent American lives that he and his national security advisors foolishly think they are protecting against “terrorism” is a “value” that most citizens can–and, in the national election, will–give more approval to than we will to Santorum’s. All politicians and all statesman do and probably should–I concede–attempt to shape their policies to their values, but most also try to consult the “will of the people.” Santorum knows full well that he will never get the support needed from people shaped by the present-day American culture to do the wildly reactionary things he proposes UNLESS he terrorizes them into voting for him with frightening bogeymen and “bloody shirt” issues, and so that’s the tactic he and most of his fellow Republicans are using.
        And, yes, I DO call that “attempting to impose” (through duplicity, misrepresentation of facts, and scare tactics) his “values” on “other people.”

  10. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    March 20, 2012 12:57 pm

    MM,

    I enjoyed your post, but I think grega brought up a real problem with your conception. Still, I think you are describing a more balanced view from a Catholic perspective. But can I suggest a more thoroughgoing analysis than just saying is an American right-wing politico who picks and chooses. I think there is a wink-wink level of theorization amongst reactionary Catholics that goes like this…..and it a very controlling view amongst the Catholic Bishops who listen to them. Namely, that the only way to make the RC church a Catholic Church a controlling force in Western society again is by LIMITING the state, And wouldn’t ya’ know there was a very convenient tradition in the reactionary side of Western thinking already developed to glom onto to help do just that. Now, as you rightly pointed out, there is teensy problem with this in that it flies against basically published documents of
    CST!! But….

    Well, that’s what intellectuals are for! Now the reactionary intellectuals have been cooking up a melange between “libertarian” thought in the West and a Catholic understanding of things. But as all intellectuals know — it is almost more important what you don’t say, than what you say. This goes double when these intellectual matters cross into politics.

    Now all those cooking reactionary intellectuals have been delicately making this souffle for years, filling it carefully with the lightness and air of Thomistic parsings. You would think, to hear them talk, that Thomas Aquinas had been at the Constitutional Convention. You would think religious liberty was on the tip of Tommy’s tongue as he rang the liberty bell in Philadelphia. But silly as this is, and as fantastically anachronistic as it is, it is not the “wink-wink” part of the effort. In any realm you actually have to be smart enough to know what the UNSAID part is. All these reactionaries from George to Sirico are clever folks and they rigorously follow the unspoken part: and it is this– DON’T MENTION that the whole point of limiting the state is so that our religion can de facto control society again!!! Of course that is what is really behind the utterly phony libertarianism of Sirico’s Acton “Institute”.

    But as intellectuals always learn too late, don’t hitch your wagon to the dumb politico even if he his riding the heavy winds of the Zeitgeist. You see, Rick Santorum didn’t get the “wink-wink” part of the whole intellectual set-up. He is so daft that he actually said the absolutely worst thing about the only Catholic President. He is such a yokel at heart that he said he wanted to upchuck on the the separation of Church and State. He wasn’t supposed to say that!! But, that’s the trouble with politicos, only the really smart ones get the “wink-wink” memos. But now the toothpaste is out, and won’t be put back in. The whole point of what they have been delicately crafting for the last 30 years ruined with one throw-up comment.

  11. March 20, 2012 1:02 pm

    Although the word can be used variously, I would not call Opus Dei traditionalist, as that term tends now to be used, somewhat vaguely, to cover those in the Church who find the expressions liturgical, theological, and otherwise of a more centennial or millennial nature to be better suited for the communication of the Gospel than those of more recent origin, and so understand even more recent things of the Church in light of these forms of older and longer-lasting vintage. Opus Dei, by contrast, is notably modern in its outlook, even if not especially liberal (as liberalism and modernity are not convertible), and is marked by the emphasis on the laity, especially the coming to sanctification in and through one’s place in the world (family, business, labor, etc.) by judicious use of the sacraments, devotions, spirituality, and for some, ascetical practices of the Church.

    Even so, how tiresome for the most recent incarnation of la leyenda negra to rear its ugly head!

    • Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
      March 20, 2012 5:18 pm

      Dominic,

      I agree that it is tiresome that one must apparently constantly play whack-a-mole with la leyenda negra. But sometimes those who decry it — at least as concerns the RC church — and those who perpetuate it, turn out to be the same person. To wit, a brief post from Robert George on the Mirror of Justice the other day:

      “March 18, 2012

      Jesuitry

      From the New York Times, 17 March 2012:

      In a letter to the president of Georgetown University, John J. DeGioia, 66 members of the law school faculty said Friday that the University should address Ms. Fluke’s concerns and consider providing contraceptive coverage in the student health plan. “The current policy puts student health at risk,” said M. Gregg Bloche, a professor at the law school, “and with our Jesuit tradition, we should be concerned about that.”

      Res ipsa loquitur.

      Posted by Robert George on March 18, 2012 at 06:13 PM “

    • March 21, 2012 6:34 am

      I agree that it is tiresome that one must apparently constantly play whack-a-mole with la leyenda negra.

      Thank you for that delightful image! It might at least add a sense of fun and play to what can be quite an exhausting exercise.

  12. Liam permalink
    March 20, 2012 2:14 pm

    A worthwhile distinction. I am aware that there are OD folks who are not politically conservative.

    It seems that one distinctive practice of OD is to target elites (I don’t mean exclusively), and insofar as that is involved, one can start to identify with one’s target audience and develop a cognitive blindspot that makes being co-opted a lot easier.

  13. digbydolben permalink
    March 23, 2012 10:11 pm

    To follow up on Peter Paul’s extraordinarily acute observation about Right-tending Catholic intellectuals, I think that Santorum is actually not bright enough to be a part of the “elites” that Opus Dei targets, and that, if he were an active member, the organization would either have shut his mouth by now, or banned him.

    The Opus Dei folks are not understandable in American cultural terms, and the Americans who’ve joined them must be finding themselves completely alienated from all aspects of American cultural and political life (which can’t be such a bad thing, I should think, for them).

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