17. I’ve heard that Opus Dei supported Franco and Hitler. Is that true?

Opus Dei encourages its members to view their professional work as a means of sanctification. They’re taught that they must do it to the best of their ability if they’re going to offer it to the Lord as prayer.

If a member of the Work is particularly gifted and works diligently, like anyone else he will likely rise to the top of his profession. This applies to those who work in politics as much as it applies to anyone else.

According to Vittorio Messori, author of Opus Dei: Leadership and Vision in Today’s Catholic Church:

Of the 116 ministers named by Franco for the 11 different cabinets that existed from 1939 to 1975, only 8 were members of Opus Dei. There were no members of Opus Dei in the Spanish government until 1957; there were none in the final cabinet. Of the 8 who did serve under Franco, 1 died 3 months after his appointment, and another 4 were in office for only 1 term. At no time did members come close to representing a majority in any cabinet. The myth of an Opus Dei dominated Franco government is just that – a myth.

Moreover, several known members of Opus Dei were opposed to the regime. Rafael Calvo Serer, editor of the daily Madrid, was hounded into exile for his criticism of Franco, who closed the publication. Working underground, Calvo Serer helped to bring democracy to Spain. Antonio Fontan was likewise a journalist who advocated free elections and trade unions. He too was persecuted, but after Franco’s death he returned as president of the Senate in 1977 to help draft Spain’s new democratic constitution.

Also significant is that the Falange, the political arm of the Franco regime, conducted several smear campaigns in the press against Opus Dei over the years. The Falangists were opposed to the liberal tendencies of the so-called technocrats—some of whom were members of Opus Dei, including Alberto Ullastres and Mariano Navarro Rubio—who wanted to modernize the economy and introduce cultural freedoms.

Opus Dei claims to take no political position whatever, and that has been my experience. I have never heard anyone in Opus Dei give a political position as part of any kind of Opus Dei activity. That isn’t to say that I never discussed politics with other members of the Work. To ensure that Opus Dei never even gives the appearance of promoting one political position over another, the priests of Opus Dei are expressly forbidden to discuss politics. Of course, members of Opus Dei, including priests, are fully entitled to speak out, even in activities of Opus Dei, on issues like abortion and stem cell research—issues which have clear moral implications and where the Church has given clear guidance on what constitutes acceptable behavior for Catholics.

I would agree that there is a tendency among the members toward political conservatism. But Opus Dei does not impose any political ideology and there still exists a wide variety of political opinion among the members of Opus Dei, even if it is somewhat lopsided. I’ve known members who worked in the administration of President Carter. I’ve also known members who worked in the administration of President Reagan.

Should anyone be scandalized by the fact that a member of Opus Dei worked in the administration of a pro-abortion president? Does that mean that Opus Dei supported President Carter or his policies? Of course not.

Should members of Opus Dei be prohibited from working in politics? Absolutely not. As long as Catholics in general can work in politics, there will be members of Opus Dei who do so.

As far as Hitler goes… The only thing I’ve ever heard from a source I consider to be credible regarding St. Josemaría and Hitler was a comment he once made that implied that when compared to the communists, Hitler was the lesser of two evils. The comment was made during or shortly after the Spanish Civil War, in which the communists persecuted the Church mercilessly, even executing a man they thought was him. It was also before the full extent of the horrors of Nazism were known to the world.

I remember viewing a movie of a get-together with St. Josemaría in which he said that “Jesus is a Jew and Mary is a Jew.” He then emphasized “Notice that I say he IS a Jew, not that he WAS a Jew, because Jesus still lives!”

As an aside, the sentiments he expresses here are the same ones that make it so difficult for me to see how any Christian could ever be anti-semitic. It just makes no sense.

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