The Secrets of Opus Dei
The nature of Opus Dei, and its activities, have hitherto been shrouded in mystery. Maurice Roche raises the blindson this secretive and influential organisation.
Opus Dei first moved into Ireland in late 1949. A small task-force of Spaniards established themselves in a flat off St Stephen's Green in Dublin. They quickly began recruiting members from among the students at UCD in Earlsfort Terrace and the College of Surgeons. At the same time they began to make contacts with right-wing Catholics in the Dublin business and financial world. The Opus Dei men were so successful that in a short time they were able to buy the organisation's first residence in Ireland, a house at 27 Northbrook Road in Ranelagh. Among the Irish founder members of Opus Dei were Cormac Burke, a Sligo barrister, now an Opus Dei priest in Kenya; Daniel Cummings, a medical student, now a priest in the administration of Opus Dei in Rome; Richard Mulcahy, an army officer and nephew of General Richard Mulcahy who was at that time leader of Fine Gael - far from supporting his nephew's decision to join, the general is reputed to have threatened to burn the Opus Dei house down when he heard the news; Richard Mulcahy is now a priest and one of the most senior members of Opus Dei in Ireland.
One of the earliest members, now an eminent professional man, describes the organisation's beginnings in Ireland: "Opus Dei first established itself in Ireland by contacting young people and explaining the ideals of the organisation; the factor which attracted so many people of such outstanding ability to join Opus Dei was its idealism, particularly perhaps in a post-war era; it seemed to have a new and very relevant message regarding the role
of Christians in everyday work and society."
The membership of Opus Dlli in Ireland is not disclosed. From official Church sources it is known to have around 15 priests in Ireland; from its own press statements it is known that the priests form around two per cent of the total membership; so a figure of 750 members would be a reasonable estimate. The headquarters of the men's section is at Harvieston, Cunningham Road, in Dalkey with the next most important residence at Knapton, Knapton Road, Dun Laoghaire. The headquarters of the women's section is at Riversdale, Queen's Park, in Monkstown, County Dublin. For the past six years the head of Opus Dei in Ireland has been a Spanish priest, Francis Planell.
In 1954 Opus Dei opened its first university hostel Ireland at Nullamore in Dartry, south Dublin; it now houses 60 students. Another hostel was opened at 9-11 Hume Street, off St Stephen's Green, and this also serves as Op Dei's information centre in Ireland; it has accommodation for 20 students. Recently, a new hostel was opened Cleraun, Fosters Avenue, at the gates of the UCD Belfield complex, with room for about 20 students. In 1957 the
organisation had expanded into Galway and opened hostel at Gort Ard in Salthill to cater for students at UCG. All these hostels are for male students. For female students Opus Dei operates the Glenard hostel beside Belfield, the Riversdale Study Centre in Monkstown and the Carrickburn Study Centre in Donnybrook, all in Dublin, and the Ros Geal hostel in Galway. According to Monsignor Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, all these institutions are recruiting centres for Opus Dei: in 1963 in Opus Dei' secret journal Cronica he wrote: "University residences...are these ends? No, rather means ... and what is the end? . .. to promote the greatest possible number of souls dedicated to God in Opus Dei!"
Mrs Nolan [we have had to change names of the people involved because of fears on their part of recognition; we are satisfied, however, as to the genuineness of their stories] lives in the west of Ireland. Some years ago she sent her daughter Clare to study at UCG. Clare went to stay in the Ros Geal university residence. Neither she nor her mother knew that it was run by Opus Dei and neither of !hem knew anything about the Opus Dei organisation or its recruitment methods.
All appeared to be going well until the first holiday period arrived. Mrs Nolan: "When holiday time came round she wasn't coming home and we began getting excuses; when she did eventually come home on holiday the Opus people in Galway would phone up asking her to come back. At that time we used think it was her lecturers or friends of hers." During her first summer holiday Clare was provided with work as a courier for Spanish students by Opus Dei, for which she was to receive £100. At the end of the three weeks work she was refused the money and offered a course in lieu, worth £120. The course was at the Opus Dei conference centre at Ballyglunin, near Tuam.
The Nolan family gradually saw less and less of their daughter. She rarely visited home, her holidays were always spoken for, when she did come she was distant and somehow different. Clare was on the eve of her final exams when Mrs Nolan discovered for the first time that she had joined Opus Dei during her first year at Ros Geal. Mrs Nolan describes how the news was broken to her: "She just told me she wouldn't be coming home to us
anymore, she said she wouldn't be going on holidays with us anymore. I got an awful shock; I nearly collapsed." Clare was little more than seventeen years old when she was recruited into Opus Dei; she was twenty-one when her mother was told.
Shortly afterwards the family went to Galway to take Clare home for the summer holiday. When they called to Ros Geal to collect her they discovered that she had been transferred at the last moment to Carrickburn in Dublin. All efforts to persuade the girl to leave Opus Dei were firmly resisted, with Clare even telling Mrs Nolan not to be "doing the work of the devil".
On the rare occalions when Clare did come home her parents noticed a complete change in her personality. Mrs Nolan says: "She was not the same person; she told us we were doing the work of the devil asking her to leave Opus Dei." She used to be a very loving daughter but now she was very cold to her parents.
Clare has not been home since coming to Carrickburn. Her welfare is a source of constant concern to the Nolans, a family of practising Catholics. They can only see her on lare visits to Carrickburn and then only briefly. She is worked relentlessly on all types of chores; her diet is poor - in one week she lost seven pounds; when her father became ill she did not - or was not allowed to - visit him. Her earnings all go to Opus Dei.
A similar story is told by Mary, a young Dublin professional woman. Her two sisters went to study for degree courses at UCG: they went to stay at Ros Geal university residence though neither they nor their family knew at that time that it was run by Opus Dei. After entering the residence both girls visited home less and less frequently. The elder girl, a numerary, now visits home a few times a year for one night only, but not at Christmas. The younger girl comes home more often but when she does she usually collects small amounts of money from her parents; she is an assistant numerary. Both girls hand all their money over to Opus Dei. As in the previous case Opus Dei arranged work - this time in Spain - to keep the girls detached from their families during the summer holidays.
From her talks with her two sisters Mary has been able to build up a picture of the manner in which they were recruited into Opus Dei: "In the residence they were talked to all the time about religion; they had the same priest all the time who gave them sermons every week. They were only kids, they couldn't see anything else." Mary also states that there was a type of group mechanism atwork,. with one girl after another joining Opus Dei and then
pressurising others to do so. Mary believes that a vital part of the recruitment process is the use of "circles".
She states: "My younger sister comes home for holidays at Christmas but she's called back after a few days by the Opus people to attend her circle, a sort of formation therapy session; I think it's the key to the brainwashing system. They have to sit around in a group and discuss all their personal problems and all their private feelings with the directress." A former director in Opus Dei has confirmed that such sessions take place and that they are
important for recruitment. Mary states that her sisters were recruited into Opus Dei while still teenagers, without their family's knowledge or consent; she believes they were manipulated by Opus Dei because of their impressionable age.
Mary has noticed important changes in her two sisters since joining Opus Dei: "They've become very withdrawn; they are only interested in religion, reading parables at people who don't agree with them, doing penances." They have become noticably cold towards their families. Mary recalls that in an argument about Opus Dei with her parents one of the girls said: "If you don't start praying soon there will be a tragedy in this family." (The family are practising Roman Catholics.) On another occasion she said: "I'm completely detached from everyone except God."
Both girls have been shifted around by the Opus Dei authorities without any reference to their families. One is shortly to be moved to an Opus Dei centre in Dublin, the other to an Opus Dei institution in the United States. Mary thinks that one of her sisters is now fully committed to Opus Dei, but that the other is anxious to leave the organisation but is afraid to do so.
Another person whose family has been involved with Opus Dei is Mrs Margaret Gould from Liverpool, a professional social worker and a Catholic. Her experience concerns not a university hostel but an Opus Dei college, the Lakefield Housecraft and Education Centre for girls at Hampstead in north London. Unlike the hostels Lakefield is a residential centre of further education in its own right. Opus Dei runs two similar institutions in Ireland: the
Ballabert Catering and Education Centre at Ballyglunin, near ruam in County Galway, and the Crannton Catering College at Milltown in Dublin, both for girls; it also has involvement with the Racing Apprentice Centre of Education near Kildare town for boys training to be jockies at stables in the Curragh and the Pre-University Centre in Dublin.
Mrs Gould sent her daughter Jane to Lakefield Education Centre in London for a two-year course in domestic science. Jane was then 16 years old. Mrs Gould knew little about Opus Dei and was not aware that some of the students there were recruited into Opus Dei. When Jane had completed her 2-year course she informed her family that she would not be coming home as she had joined Opus Dei. Jane was then 18 but according to Mrs Gould
she had been recruited at the age of l61/2 without her parents' knowledge or consent.
Jane is now an assistant numerary, a domestic servant at an Opus Dei institution in London. Mrs Gould is very unhappy about her daughter's menial position: "She will remain in this position all her life, no matter what her age or experience. As far as I can see, there is no possibility of developing her latent talents or furthering her education, except in so far as it will serve the organisation. She will not attend weddings or any family parties and in every way must 'detach' herself from those she loved."
Mrs Gould feels angry about the circumstances in which her daughter was recruited by Opus Dei: "Jane was just an immature little schoolgirl when she went to Lakefield and at 18 had not grown up very much because of the sheltered structure of her life at Lakefield. She simply went from one institution, school, to another, and knew nothing, at all about life except what she learned at Lakefield. She was in no position to make an informed choice."
When asked by her mother to leave Opus Dei and return to her family Jane replied: "The devil acts quickly and he will do if I leave here." In a two-and-a-half year period Jane made a single brief visit home.
Mrs Gould has also noticed a change in her daughter's personality since she joined Opus Dei: "My daughter acquired Spanish mannerisms, her handwriting became so small as to be barely legible and her language changed. I watched with dismay these changes in my lively 'Liver Bird' daughter, her lack of maturity and the forced gaiety and childish behaviour of her companions when we visited them by prior arrangement, of course ."
Mrs Gould's fears about Lakefield and Opus Dei would seem to be confirmed by three young British girls. Julie Morrey, Liz Edwards and another girl, Alison, were all at Lakefield with Jane Gould. Julie and Alison were students there while Liz was employed as a domestic. All the girls joined Opus Dei as assistant numeraries but have now left the organisation, completely disillusioned and shattered emotionally by their experience.
All the girls agree in their description of the psychological techniques used to recruit them. Each girl was singled out for special attention by the Opus Dei member assigned to them; an environment of total personal affection was created for the potential recruit - a technique widely used by modern cults and known as "love-bombing". At the same time a general euphoric atmosphere of religious zeal was created, culminating in the pilgrimage to Rome at Easter.
0nce a girl agreed to join her situation changed completely. She was immediately dropped by her "recruiter" and the bond of close personal affection was completely broken. Instead, the girls now attended "circles" with their directress and an Opus Dei priest where they revealed all their intimate feelings and engaged in self-criticism sessions. According to Alison: "They had an answer for everything. If you argued, you were rebellious and had too much sin in you. If you wanted to go home against their wishes, you were being selfish and not being fair to the other girls who had to take over your work."
The girls were not allowed out except with a numerary member of Opus Dei. They were not allowed go to discos or cinemas or to mix with the opposite sex. They were never left alone in twos lest this might encourage criticism of Opus Dei. On joining, they were advised not to tell their parents about it so as to "protect their vocation", and because parents "wouldn't understand". Julie claims she was told: "all mothers are neurotic anyway". At the same time visits home were restricted, and holiday periods were filled by Opus Dei with retreats and pilgrimages.
The new recruits were told it was sinful to criticise Opus Dei and that Opus Dei was the only way to heaven: to leave meant no happiness. All the girls were worked relentlessly from six in the morning: "We were given a timetable which kept us busy every minute of the day. We became so physically and mentally exhausted we just accepted it when we were told we had this 'divine vocation'." All their allowances and earnings went to Opus Dei
and they were persuaded to hand things over such as personal jewellery and birthday presents. Gradually, they were introduced to the Opus Dei instruments of self-mortification - the whip and the spiked chain.
When the time came, leaving Opus Dei proved more difficult than joining. Considerable psychological pressure was put on them to stay at Lakefield. Julie Morrey states: "It's a very big thing to give up your 'divine vocation'; I just wanted time to think it over, I thought I had a 'divine vocation' but I wasn't ready to make a decision about it.
But my tutor got very upset. The emotional scenes and arguments with her got me down, in fact I was very ill over it." When the girls did eventually go, they left in disgrace and were not allowed to visit their former friends again.
In 1972 Monsignor Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, wrote in the secret journal Cronica: "If one of my children abandons the fight, or leaves the war, or turns his back, let him know that he betrays us all, Jesus Christ, the Church, his brothers and sisters in the Work; it would be treason to consent to the tiniest act of unfaithfulness."
The testimonies of these people make two things clear. Firstly, Opus Dei centres are used for recruitment purposes; secondly, the means by which young people are recruited into Opus Dei are questionable in their morality. From the editorials of the secret journal Cronica there is evidence that recruitment is the driving passion of Opus Dei: in an editorial in 1963 Monsignor Escriva wrote: "we do not have any other aim than the corporate one: proselytism" ; and in 1971: "Go out to the highways and byways and push those whom you find to come in and fill my house, force them to come in; push them ... we must be a little crazy ... you must kill yourselves for proselytism."
In the Sunday Press on April 17 1983 there was an advertisement on the appointments page which ran: "A Career in Catering and Housecraft for girls between 15 and 18 years of age beginning on July 1." The advertisement stated: "During the course the general education of the students is continued and human and spiritual values are continually fostered by the directors and those who work with the students." At no point in the advertisement was it stated that Crannton Catering and Educational Centre is run by Opus Dei.
Opus Dei International
Opus Dei began little more than a dozen members, mainly students from Madrid universities, when it was founded by a young Aragonese priest, JoseMaria Escriva de Balaguer. Its first university hostel, established in 1934, set the pattern for the organisations global development in later years. From 1940 onwards Opus Dei thrived in Franco's Spain, achieving a position of influsnce in university appointments during the years 1939-51 when Opus Dei supporter and keen admirer of MOnsignor Escriva, Jose Ibanez Martin, was Minister for Education.
As its student members graduated and took up positions in the professions Opus Dei expanded into Spanish society as a whole, developing a network of engineers, architects, doctors, civil servants, bankers and businessmen which exercised a strong social and economic influence. There was similar progress in the political sphere, reaching its zenith in 1969 when three government mininsters were members: Laurenzo Lopez Rodo (numerary), Gregorio Lopez Bravo and Vicente Mortes (supernumeraries).
Article 202 of the unpublished constitution of Opus Dei states: "Public office, especially in positions of management, constitutes a special means for exercising the Institute's apostolate". A former director of the womens section, Maria Angustias Moreno, who left in 1978, puoted Escriva as saying: "Our aim is also to capture all the university chairs, from which much work can be done: also the aim of the work is to do apostolate in state bulidings with state finances...thus we will be able to give our people, without examinations, careers, titles, doctorate and many titles and decorations, which will attract many to our apostolate". And: "The best way of doing this apostolate is also to gain diplomatic posts, by means of which in every embassy we shall have a house of prayer, and can thus influence other countries, which is the best way of introducing ourselves."
The expansion continued to Portugal and within a few years to England, France, Italy, Ireland, Mexico and the United States. In 1946 Opus Dei's international character was refIected in the move of its headquarters to Rome. Around that time its membership was as low as a thousand - today it claims more than 70,000 of 80 nationalities.
The HQ and International administration is located on the Viale Bruno Buozzi in"Rome, controlled by its President General for Life, Dr Alvaro Portillo, an Argentinian priest, and founder member who succeeded Escriva in 1975.
Escriva's small book, The Way, published in 1939 and comprising 999 terse maxims on subjects such as self-mortification, humility and obedience provides the ideological framework. The Constitutions of Opus Dei, consisting of 479 articles is available only to senior members and the internal journal, Cronica, are the staple literary diet of members. Cronica is released to members only at the discretion of directors of residences. Neither the Constitutions nor Cronica have ever been made available to the public or even to Church authorities.
Opus Dei: The Ranks
The Numaries are the elite members of Opus Dei. They are required by article 53 of the Constitutions of Opus Dei to take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. According to Dr John Roche who left Opus Dei in 1975, people who stammer, limp, have only one eye, or are hunchbacked are excluded from this grade of membership. It is normal for numeraries to have a high standard of education, and many of them hold one or more doctorates. Informed estimates reckon that the numeraries comprise about ten per cent of the total membership but this is not certain. A minority of numeraries are priests and it is known that these account for about two per cent of the total membership of Opus Dei.
Numeraries are required to live on a permanent basis in Opus Dei residences. Each residence is run by a "director" and all those who live in the residence are bound in absolute obedience to their director. Numerary members live a very narrow life of extraordinary regimentation: this can be judged from the testimony of several former numerary members.
There is little or no privacy, mail is censored and reading matter carefully vetted. Each member has a spartan cell-like room with minimal furniture. According to Maria Angustias Moreno, former director in the women's section, "locks are destroyed on the insides of doors in bedrooms, so that nobody can isolate themselves." There is no evidence about locks in men's sections, but it is believed that overall the men's regime is less harsh.
In 1966 the head of women's Opus Dei in Venezuela, Maria del Carmen Tapia, was held "under virtual house arrest" in Rome when she was summoned to answer criticisms from Escriva. She was compelled to resign when a friend secretly arranged to post and collect her mail.
Numerary members have to hand over their salaries to Opus Dei. In return the organisation gives them an allowance sufficient to maintain their social 'position; thus, a cabinet minister would receive more than an engineer or a university lecturer. The way in which money is paid over to Opus Dei was made public in the High Court in London eighteen months ago. The former numerary member, Dr John Roche, gave evidence that while working as a
lecturer in Kenya, he was required to have his salary paid into an account in the Standard Bank upon which two senior members of Opus Dei had drawing rights. He claimed that £20,000 had been taken from him by undue influence over a period of fourteen years, and he brought his action for compensation against Fr Phillip Sherrington, representilll Opus Dei. The case has still to be resolved. Mr Justice Slade stated that Dr Roche had an arguable case for the recovery of his money, and that Opus Dei was an incorporated association which could be proceeded against in law.
Directors ensure that all numeraries follow a prescribed programme of self-mortification. This involves a self• flagellation on the buttocks with a whip once a week. Alsol, a spiked chain is worn on the upper thigh for two hours each day - except Sundays and Holy days. This activity is confined to numerary members of Opus Dei.
A former numerary member has emphasised the spiritual nature of the organisation. He has pointed out that the life of the numerary member is devoted to prayer. All work is prayer in Opus Dei. In the residences where numerary members live there is a get-together every evening where they discuss spiritual matters. The expression "get-together" is particularly associated with Opus Dei. This former member points out that the spiked chain is not exactly painful; rather it is uncomfortable. The whip is applied so as to use the body for prayer as well as the mind. It is done in private. The worst deprivation, according to this ex-member, com from the ban on frequent visits home. He was only allowed to visit home a few times a year and he was never allowed to stay the night in his parents' house.
Opus Dei takes a dim view of numeraries who wish leave the organisation. Dr John Roche states: "Members who criticise and think of leaving are warned that they risk damnation, are told untruthfully that those who leave bitterly regret it, are called traitors, and if they persist are expelled without a penny". Generally, the higher the rank a person holds within Opus Dei, the greater is the effol made to prevent them from leaving. Even after leaving people may still be subject to pressure from the organisation. In 1977 Fr Antonio del Val, a priest of Opus admitted false defamation of character in a Seville magistrates' court; he and five other Opus Dei members had attempted to defame a former numerary who, after leaving, had published revelations about Opus Dei.
The Associates are not a very important section of the organisation. Their commitment to Opus Dei is essentially the same as that of the numeraries but they are not of the same educational standard. They take the same vows as the numeraries but, not being highly educated and coming from relatively modest social backgrounds, they fulfill a largely menial role in the organisation. In many ways their status is similar to that of the lay brothers in the Jesuits and other religious orders.
The majority of Opus Dei members are supernumeraries. The supernumeraries take less stringent vows than the numeraries. They are usually married people living in society in the normal way, and they are not required to live in Opus Dei residences. Supernumeraries can, at least in Iheory, come from any social stratum, but in practice they are almost always high-ranking people in professional and social life - doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects, bankers. company directors.
The Cooperators take no formal vows. They merely undertake to assist Opus Dei in its activities and to pray for it. However, their importance is far greater than this might suggest. The primary function of the cooperators is the provision of money for Opus Dei projects, either from their own pockets or through their positions of influence in industry, banking or politics. Cooperators can be of any religious persuasion: basically, their religious beliefs are not as important as their ability to channel money into the organisation. The only people who may not become cooperators are Communists and Freemasons.
Article 191 of the Constitutions reads: "The numeraries and supernumeraries must be convinced of the need to maintain a prudent silence regarding the names of other members and never reveal to anyone the fact that they belong to Opus Dei." Article 190 states: "Belonging to Opus does not entail any outward manifestation, and the number of members is to be concealed from outsiders; better still, our members should not discuss these matters
with outsiders." In his book The Way, Monsignor Escriva wrote: "Maxim 643: be slow to reveal the intimate details of your apostolate"; and "Maxim 627: remain silent and you will never regret it, speak and you often will". The whole attitude is summed up in Constitution 189: "in order to achieve its aim more easily the Instiitute as such must live in concealment".
This pervasive secrecy manifests itself in many ways. The Constitutions of Opus Dei are not made available to the public. The magazine Cronica is not available freely outside Opus Dei. No list of members of the organisation is ever published. Details of its internal government are not disclosed. The names of the business ventures it controls and manages are not revealed. The names of Opus Dei directors on the boards of banks, insurance companies and transnational corporations are not revealed.
Most of the Opus Dei centres in Ireland - including the university residences such as Ros Geal - are owned and operated by a company called University Hostels Limited. In 1953 Opus Dei set up University Hostels Limited to establish and run university hostels in Ireland. The Articles of Association of this company stated: "The President General for the time being of the Sacerdotal Society of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei, or any person nominated in writing by him, shall have power by notice in writing to the Company to remove any Director from office and to appoint any other person to be a Director." The prospectus issued to potential shareholders clearly stated that the company was to be controlled by Opus Dei. Clearly, this was to be no ordinary company.
Subscriptions for shares in University Hostels Limited were invited in May 1953. The prospectus made three things clear. Firstly, the shares on offer were non-voting preference shares; secondly, dividends would be small; and thirdly, the company would be run at all times by Opus Dei. The purchase of shares in University Hostels, therefore, was not really a commercial investment but rather a financial contribution to the Opus Dei organisation.
In this context the list of eighty or so original subscribers makes interesting reading - Included were John A. Costello, at that time between his two periods as Taoiseach (and fresh from the trauma of the Mother and Child controversy of 1951); Alexis FitzGerald, Costello's son-in•law, a senior partner in Ireland's biggest law practice, McCann, FitzGerald, Sutton, Dudley, as it is now known; J.L. McDowell, John McCann and Terence de Vere White, partners in the same Jaw firm; J.P. McHale, now secretary and bursar of University College Dublin; Ralph Slazenger, millionaire owner of Powerscourt demesne; Denis Burke, a Clonmel meat processor and Fine Gael senator; Desmond J. O'Malley, father of the Limerick Fianna Fail front bencher of the same name; J.J. Lynch, chief executive, Mitchelstown Co-Op; Michael W. O'Reilly, founder and then chairman of the New Ireland Assurance Company; and the bishops of Elphin and Limerick, Dr O'Neill and Dr Hanly. Three of the biggest subscribers each invested £1,000 - enough to buy a large house in 1953; they were the Irish Assurance Company (now Irish Life); Gerald Minch, of the milling company Minch-Norton; and a founder member of Opus Dei in Ireland, the young Sligo barrister, Cormac Burke.
It should be made very clear that Magill is not suggesting nor implying that any of the people named in the article are members of Opus Dei, at whatever level, unless this is specifically stated. Nor is Magill suggesting or implying that any of the people named in this article know of or approve of the methods of recruitment used by Opus Dei.
The founding directors of University Hostels Limited included three Opus Dei numeraries - Cormac Burke, Richard Mulcahy and Michael Richards of Opus Dei in London. The other four directors were important people in Irish society. The Earl of Wicklow, chairman of the company for many years, had interests in land, insurance and publishing; he was a member of Opus Dei up to his death in 1978. Alexis FitzGerald, apart from his interest in the
country's largest legal practice, also has a considerable involvement in Irish business; up until recently he was a director of approximately 60 companies, among them Irish Metal & Chemical Company, Roussel of Ireland, Intercontinental Hotels and Tampax Ireland. Alexis FitzGerald is a prominent member of Fine Gael. He represented that party in the Senate for many years and in June 1981 Garret FitzGerald appointed him to the unprecedented position of special advisor to the government; he was given a ministerial salary and had the right to attend all cabinet meetings. On his appointment he resigned many of the directorships, including University Hostels. Although he has been involved in the formation of other Opus Dei companies also, Alexis FitzGerald has stated to Magill that he is not a member of Opus Dei. With regard to the allegations about recruitment methods in the hostels he says: "I would disapprove of any undue influence but I wouldn't know any more about it than you would", adding that he had nothing to do with the day-to-day running of the company or its hostels.
Another founding director of University Hostels Limited was Charles Brennan. Apart from heading Brennan Insurances, one of Ireland's largest insurance brokerages, Charles Brennan is a director of the Educational Building Society and at various times, chairman of the Church & General Insurance Company and director of the Insurance Corporation of Ireland and other companies. Charles Brennan is the present chairman of University Hostels Limited. He has also stated to Magill that he is not a member of Opus Dei; as far as the allegations about recruitment are concerned he states: "I am not involved in the day -to-day running of the hostels", and when asked about recruiting students under 18 without their parents' knowledge: "I certainly wouldn't approve of it". The other founding director, John Kenny, is ill and could not be contacted for comment. Mr Justice John Kenny was a judge of the High Court, 1961-75, and a judge of the Supreme Court, 1975-82.
The voting shares in the company were originally controlled by Cormac Burke (62%) with Charles Brennan (22%) being the only other substantial shareholder. The situation has changed over the years and the company is now controlled by an Opus Dei vehicle called Lismullin Scientific Trust with an address at the Opus Dei Knapton residence. A similar outfit with the same address, Tara Trust, also holds shares in the company; it is interesting to note that Tara Trust received 100 non-voting shares in 1978 from the Jesuit Michael Paul Gallagher, who lectures in English in UCD. It is not clear if money changed hands or not.
Over the years the personnel of the board of directors has naturally changed. The vast majority of these have been numeraries, living in Opus Dei residences; occasionally, however, other names surface. In the 1950s and 1960s a Dublin barrister, Thomas Doyle, served on the board; he was appointed a judge by Liam Cosgrave in 1975 and has served on the bench in the High Court ever since. At the date of the last full return in 1981 the board of directors was comprised of Charles Brennan, Alexis FitzGerald, Donncha 0 hAodha, lecturer in Old Irish in University College Galway, and four numeraries - William J. Kiely, Arnold Torrents, Declan Bourke, an accountant and managing director of the company, apd Thomas O'Connor, a lecturer in Physics in University College Galway.
University Hostels Limited has raised substantial sums of money over the years to finance its expansion. In this regard Opus Dei's links with the business and financial world were extremely useful. All the financing for the company in the period 1953-67 came from Irish Life; after that it came from the Educational Building Society. Throughout the 1960s it also conducted a sophisticated fund-raising campaign aimed mainly at the higher echelons of
Dublin society. One of the principal organisers of this campaign was the former Meath County Manager, the late Denis Candy. As an example of the way in which the campaign was conducted one can point out the candle-light ball held in the Shelbourne Hotel in 1966 to which 320 well• heeled guests were invited. Such was the glitter of the occasion that one newspaper reported that one female guest - a member of the famous Dublin undertaking family, the Masseys - wore "one of the most daring dresses in Dublin" .
By 1980 University Hostels Limited estimated the value of its fixed assets at £740,000. The figure seems extremely conservative when one considers the size and prestigious location of the properties involved - the huge Nullamore residence set in spacious grounds in Milltown in south Dublin, the Ely residence situated 100 yards from St Stephen's Green in the heart of Dublin's prime property area. Allowing for inflation the assets of the company
at today's values are somewhere in the region of £1.5million.
Opus Dei is involved in running a number of children's clubs in Dublin. The clubs in question are at Nullamore in Milltown, G1enard in Clonskeagh, the Harrow Club in Ranelagh, the Dunedin Club in Synge Street and the Anchor Centre in Artane. Each of these deals with boys or girls in their early teens - usually in the 13-15 years age group. Many of these clubs do not publicise the fact that they are run by Opus Dei. For instance, the Harrow Club in Mountpleasant Square, Ranelagh, succeeded in gaining a page of free publicity in the giveaway newspaper, Southside Express, in January of this year. Intending members were given a phone number to ring and told that Mr Brian Madden was the leader of the club; however, no mention was made of the fact that Mr Madden was also a numerary member of Opus Dei.
In relation to the possibility of young people wishing to join the organisation it is worth noting the view of Fr Andrew Byrne, a priest of Opus Dei: in a letter to the Daily Mail on January 14, 1981 , he wrote: "in some cases when a youngster says he wants to join we do advise them not to tell their parents. This is because the parents do not understand us." It is this type of statement which has led to considerable concern among Church authorities in Britain. In 1981 Cardinal Hume of Westminster issued a set of regulations for Opus Dei-run centres within his diocese following a protracted investigation into the organisation's activities. Opus Dei centres should carry a clear indication that the organisation was running them; under-18's should not be recruited and asked to take vows of membership; potential recruits should be allowed discuss the matter with their parents before coming to a final decision; and those who wished to leave should be freely allowed to do so. Cardinal Hume's concern for the young people of his diocese with regard to Opus Dei has not been matched by the Irish bishops.
In the early 1970s Opus Dei began to move into secondary education in Ireland. The official Opus Dei line is that the organisation itself is not involved in these ventures but that some of its members are. The Educational Development Trust was founded to establish secondary schools for boys and girls initially in the Dublin area. The operation was to be funded through a new vehicle, the Park Industrial and Provident Society Limited, which was set up in 1975. The key figures in this venture were a trio of Opus Dei supernumeraries from the Dublin business world - Gabriel Byrne, Neil Dean and Terence Horgan.
Gabriel Byrne is a consulting engineer by profession and has business interests in Spain; Neil Dean holds one of the most senior management positions in Allied Irish Banks as group internal auditor; Terence Horgan owns 25% of Murray Consultants, Ireland's biggest public relations consultancy and the leading firm in financial and corporate PR. Over the years Horgan has also had interests in the clothing trade, the most recent being an outfit called Paul Matthew which he disposed of in a management buy-out in 1979. Other members of the trust have included the prominent Dublin lawyer Frank Fitzpatrick, who has stated to Magill that he is not a member of Opus Dei. Apart from his interest in Fitzpatricks, one of the country's biggest firms of solicitors, he also owns the Las Rampas hotel in Fuengirola in southern Spain. Also involved is Noel Duff, managing director of Buswells Hotel opposite Dail Eireann, who could not be contacted for comment.
The Educational Development Trust has so far established two schools. In 1975 a boys' school was established at Rockbrook near Rathfarnham; this was called Rockbrook Park School. In 1977 a girls' school was established on Morehampton Road called Rosemont Park School. There are some non-Opus Dei teachers in these schools but many are members; head teachers are invariably Opus Dei members. It is not unusual for pupils to travel ten or twenty miles to attend these schools.
From the outset the schools were aimed at the elite of Dublin society. Although the schools are non-residential, fees are high. It costs £460 per annum to enrol a pupil; as well as that parents are required to contribute an interest free loan to the Park Industrial and Provident Society for Ihe duration of their child's education; the figure involved is approximately £1,200 at present. To get a child inside Ihe gate of either Rosemont or Rockbrook would involve a staggering initial outlay of approximately £1,700. Mainly due to these loans, plus loans from Allied Irish Banks, the Park Industrial and Providen t Society had declared assets of over £550,000 by 1980. Today, that figure is probably somewhere in the region of £lmillion.
Opus Dei has extensive publishing interests in Ireland. These are run by Michael Adams, one of the most senior numerary members of the organisation in Ireland. Opus Dei runs a chain of publishing houses under the name Scepter, the largest being in Chicago; and in 1959 a company called Scepter Publishers Limited was founded in Ireland. Among the founding directors were Wilfrid Cantwell, a Dublin architect and Opus Dei member; Henry Cavanna, a Spanish priest of Opus Dei then residing in Dublin; Seamus Timoney, now Professor of Mechanical Engineering at UCD and an Opus Dei member; Denis Burke, a Clonmel businessman who also contributed money to University Hostels and Edward Neale McDermott, a Galway surgeon; Michael Adams acted as company secretary. Like its sister companies elsewhere, Scepter's main function has been to publish literature associated with Opus Dei, and in particular Monsignor Escriva's best known work, The Way.
Scepter Ireland does not appear to have traded since 1978. The most recent board of directors was Wilfrid Cantwell, Seamus Timoney, Joseph O'Hanlon, former managing director of Irish Printers Limited, who states that he is not an Opus Dei member. The fourth director was David Donovan-Coyle, one of Galway's leading businessmen and a director at various times of up to twenty companies, among them Hygeia, Cold-Chon, Galway Concrete and Foir Teoranta, the state rescue bank. Mr Donovan-Coyle says that he is not a member of Opus Dei but admits to "admiring their efforts", and states that he made no money personally out of Scepter. For virtually all of its existence Scepter was controlled by Conference Centres Limited, a limited guarantee company enjoying charitable status because it has no share capital; all the directors of Conference Centres are numerary members of Opus Dei.
Opus Dei's main propaganda engine in Ireland is Four Courts Press. This company was formed in 1969 by Alexis FitzGerald's firm of solicitors for Michael Adams, who has ever since held 99% of the share capital. The other founding directors were Patrick Holzapfel, an Opus Dei numerary, and Donal Flynn, a chartered accountant from Sandycove in Dublin, who was until recently carrying on business in Bray as Donal Flynn & Company; Mr Flynn has stated to Magill that he is not a member of Opus Dei. Four Courts Press specialises in publishing liturgical and religious books and has brought out many works by Dr Newman, the Dishop of Limerick. One of its primary functions is the publication of Position Papers. Position Papers are pamphlets issued on a monthly or bi-monthly basis by Opus Dei in Ireland. They deal with a variety of political and social issues and promote a rigidly conservative line on all of them - divorce, contraception and family matters. Position papers are distributed by the City Publishing Company of Merrion Square, another Opus. Dei outfit, registered in the name of Terence Horgan, who also figures in the Educational Development Trust.
Michael Adams is the only Irish-resident director shareholder in Irish Academic Press, a company specialising in academic books. Irish Academic Press bought out the assets of Shannon-based Irish University Press in 1974; Adams had been a director of IUP which went under in 1974 with debts of £1.4million. A subsidIary company of Irish Academic Press, Round Hall Press, has the responsibility editing and publishing the Irish Law Reports Monthly.
Opus Dei has considerable influence in the Irish business community. This influence has been fostered and developed to a considerable degree through its conference centres at Ballyglunin and Lismullin. Ballyglunin Park Conference Centre is situated in a remote corner of East Galway in a magnificent Georgian great house; it occupies the same site as the Ballabert Catering College and it appears that the girls in the college, who live on site, service the centre itself. The Ballyglunin Centre is run by Dr Tom O'Connor, a lecturer in Physics at UCG, and a senior numerary member of Opus Dei. Dr O'Connor is an extremely affable and charming man and on the evening Magill called he was conducting a recollection, lecturing some of the wealthy burghers of Galway on "Materialism and Detachment". He explained how Ballyglunin functioned: "Men are invited to attend recollections through the personal apostolate of people", i.e. by word-of-mouth invitation. He said that these recollections were attended by "business people" from the Galway and Tuam area and that the larger centre at Lismullin fulfilled the same function for the Dublin area. Lismullin Conference Centre is situated at Tara in County Meath, about twenty miles from Dublin. As at Ballyglunin it has its own staff of servant girls - drawn from the Lisdara Hotel Catering and Home Management Training Centre on the same site. Among those who attend retreats at Lismullin are prominent businessmen, secretaries of government departments and heads of semi-state bodies; politicians are also known to attend.
A fund-raising campaign was launched in the 1960s to finance development of the Lismullin Centre and a coordinating committee established. In the Sunday Press of April 30, 1967, Denys Turner, then director of the Opus Dei Ely residence, named the following as forming the fund-raising committee. The first person he mentioned was Cearbhall 0 Dalaigh, at that time Chief Justice and later President of Ireland; it may be noted that Opus Dei appears to enjoy some influence within the judiciary in particular and the legal profession in general. Sean Lemass was also named as being on the committee; he had just completed his seven-year stint as Taoiseach in 1966 and after that took up numerous directorships; his political and business connections would have been of considerable value in helping to raise money. Another man of Fianna Fail inclinations who was named by Turner was Joe Malone. In the 1970s Joe Malone served as director-general of Bord Failte; at present he is executive vice-president of the Smurfit Group in charge of marketing and also chairman of Doreen Holdings, the textile company; he was given the job of raising money for the Fianna Fail party by Charles Haughey in 1981. Joe Malone states that he was never a member of Opus Dei and that he has not been involved in fund-raising for it. Also named by Turner was Colm Barnes. Founder and chairman of the Glen Abbey textile group, he has also held many other directorships, among them Roadstone and Fiat Ireland; from 1967 to 1976 he served as chairman of Coras Trachtala, the state export board, and at present he is chairman of the Northern Bank Finance Corporation and a director of the Northern Bank.
Colm Barnes states that he is not a member of Opus Dei and that he has not been involved in any fund-raising activities for it; however he states that he has visited Lismullin Conference Centre occasionally. The article also stated that Michael Rigby-Jones was involved in the Lismullin fund-raising committee. Michael Rigby-Jones died in an air-crash in 1972; he had been managing director of Irish Ropes Limited and his other directorships included Cement Limited and the Bank of Ireland. The final name mentioned by Denys Turner was that of the Earl of Fingall. Oliver James Horace Plunkett, 12th Earl Fingall, a county Meath landowner, is ill at the present time and was not available for comment. In the entries for Who's Who in Ireland in the late seventies Fintan Kennedy described himself as vice-president of the Lismullin Association. Fintan Kennedy has served as General Secretary and President of the ITGWU and President of the ICTU; he has also represented the Labour Party in the Senate. At the time of writing it was not possible to contact him with regard to his involvement with Lismullin.
Seamus Timoney has been involved in Opus Dei since the early 1950s. A numerary member, he is now Professor of Mechanical Engineering at UCD. Apart from his academic work Timoney also has considerable business interests. His father, an army officer, founded the Galway Milk Company and up to the late 70s Timoney was a shareholder and director of the firm.
Timoney is best known for his pioneering inventions in the field of high technology mechanical engineering. He has developed the Timoney Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) and a range of airport rescue vehicles; his latest project involves the development of a ceramic engine. In all these ventures Timoney was able to call upon the international resources of Opus Dei who brought to Ireland engineers from many different countries - Britain, Spain and America included - some of whom were attached to Opus Dei establishments in those countries.
The origins of the Timoney engineering group lie in a company called Industrial Engineering Designers Ltd. Incorporated in 1957, it now has its offices at the home of one of its directors, Paul Schutte, an engineer, who died in 1981. At least five of the six founding directors of this company were Opus Dei numeraries. Other Timoney companies include the Technology Investments Group, Timoney Research, Timoney Holdings and Tectonics Research.
All of these are private companies and• a select group of investors have been asked to contribute funds; among them are the Netherall Educational Trust, one of the principal Opus Dei charitable trusts in the UK, several senior numerary members of Opus Dei in Ireland and the UK, and Donal Flynn, involved earlier in Opus Dei's publishing activities in Ireland.
Until recently Donal Flynn and Company traded as accountants from premises af 1 Quinnsboro Terrace in Bray; from the same address, the same offices. and the same telephone number, a similar business was run by Cyril
McKeon. Cyril McKeon provides a complete range of management services to the Timoney group of companies - auditing of accounts, presentation of returns, provision of registered offices; also, the management company controlled by McKeon, PCM, acts as company secretary to many of the Timoney companies. McKeon himself has also held shares in at least one Timoney enterprise. Among his other business interests is a textile manufacturing company called Opus Properties Limited, for which Donal Flynn has, on occasion, acted as accountant.
Most of the Timoney companies are engaged exclusively in design, research and development. Its manufacturing facility is located at Gibbstown near Navan in county Meath. In 1974 a company called Advanced Technology Limited was set up to run this; in 1975 the advantages of being located in a Gaeltacht area were recognised and the name was changed to AdTec Teoranta. At this stage Gaeltarra Eireann moved in: the state agency took a 49% equity stake in AdTec at a cost of £178,000 and made grants available to the company of over £222,000, making the total state outlay approximately £400,000. As part of the deal the investments manager of Gaeltarra Eireann, Frank Flynn, joined the board of AdTec, although he has since resigned; he is now chief executive of Udaras na Gaeltachta. Frank Flynn states that he is a member of Opus Dei at cooperator level.
The workforce at AdTec has rarely exceeded 60. Many of these are research engineers from outside the area, indeed from outside the country in many cases. The management was antipathetic to trade unions from the outset but NEETU eventually succeeded in establishing a base in the company. AdTec was in the news in the early part of 1979 when Seamus Timoney fired seven of the locals, accusing them of bad workmanship, and a legal battle over unfair dismissal ensued.
AdTec originally specialised in building prototypes of the famous Timoney APC, one of the few military vehicles ever designed and built in Ireland. When manufacture of these vehicles commenced in 1978 one of the first to place an order was the military government of General Jorge Videla in Argentina. Timoney has important links with the military establishment internationally: he has served as a consultant to both the Pentagon in Washington and the Ministry of Defence in London.
AdTec's manufacturing capacity has always been very limited. Once the first large-volume order from abroad was received - the customer was the Belgian army - production was transferred outside of Ireland.
Opus Dei also has links with the engineering consultancy firm, Delap and Waller, which has offices in Dublin and Galway. One third of this business is owned by Arnold Torrents, a numerary member of Opus Dei. Delap and Waller does a large amount of work for the major insurance companies. In the Irish Times on January 21, 1981, Dr William Murray of Howth in County Dublin declared himself to be a member of Opus Dei; when asked to confirm if
he was a member he said: "I asked a friend of mine that question once and his reply was 'mind your own business' and ... with the greatest possible respect I would say the same to you." William Murray owns a management consultancy based in Howth called William Murray & Associates Limited; he has also served as a director of another consultancy, P.E. Consulting Ireland Limited. He is also a director of Cement-Roadstone Holdings and of Ryan Hotels Group.
Opus Dei and the Catholic Church
The relationship between Opus Dei and the Catholic Church is complex. Having functioned within the church since 1958 the organisation received the approval of the Papacy from Pope Pius XII in the late forties•. Yet members are discouraged from going to confession to priests outside the organisation, Catholic publications have been rigidly excluded from Opus Dei residences and post-Vatican II bibles disapproved of. In 1972 the secret journal Cronica was referring to an "authentic rotteness" within the Church and even went so far as to describe the Church as "a corpse In decomposition that stinks".
Opus Dei's relationship to the Church Was effectively changed by the election of Pope John Paul IT. Karol Wojtyla had enjoyed close links with the organisation for a number of years. Before becoming Pope he had lectured at an Opus Dei centre in Rome. While Escriva himself was alive he and his officials set about cultivating the young Polish prelate in a systematic way, according to Juan Arias, Vatican correspondent of the Madrid newspaper El Pais. They reproduced his speeches and distributed them, helped him to travel and introduced him to prominent churchmen so that, at the time of his election as Pope, he was not unknown to his fellow cardinals, according to Arias. Very soon after his election John Paul II began to show his favour to Opus Dei. In 1982 he officiated personally at the ordination of 30 Opus Dei deacons in Valenci.a cathedral. Finally, in 1982 he raised Opus Dei to the status of a personal prelature and named Fr. Alvaro del Portillo, the President-General of the organisation, as its first prelate with the status of a bishop.
The net result of ' the personal preIature decision is that Opus Dei: will now enjoy greater freedom from the local Church authorities than ever before. In practice, this freedom amounts to virtual autonomy. For instance, it will now be difficult, if not impossible, for concerned Churchmen like Cardinal Hume of Westminster who conducted an investigation into Opus Dei in 1981, to intervene in Opus Dei activities in their dioceses. It is noteworthy that in June 1982 the Spanish bishops - the people who know Opus Dei perhaps better than anyone - voted 55-9 against giving Opus Dei II personal prelature. Opus Dei has met with mixed reaction from the Irish Church since its arrival inthis country. It received enthusiastic support from the late Archbishop of Galway, Dr Michael Browne, and it has prospered greatly in that area as a result. In Dublin John Charles McQuaid resisted Opus Dei's entry at first but was personally persuaded by Portillo, now the President General, to allow it to be established here. Dr Cornelius Lucey, the late Bishop of Cork, provided stiffer opposition and throughout his long reign Opus Dei never succeeded in establishing itself in Cork. Throughout the 1950s Opus Dei enjoyed the support of Dr O'Neill, Bishop of Limerick, and Dr Hanly, Bishop of Elphin. In the present Irish hierarchy the Bishop of Limerick, Dr Jeremiah
Newman is a supporter of Opus Dei. Dr Newman is a regular contributor to the Position Papers, the propaganda pamphlets which Opus Dei circulates privately among the upper levels of Irish society; Position Papers promote an ultraconservative line on social and political issues as well as on debates within the Church. Opus Dei have brought out many books and sermoncollections written by Dr Newman, such as Balance in the Church (1980), State of Ireland (1977) and Studies in Political Morality (1962).