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Pope Francis Visits Chile and Peru: Sex Abuse, Politics and Opus Dei

This is the pope’s sixth trip to the region with which he is most familiar. But this one is different. This is the first time he will face a populace aware of both his indifference, at best, to victims of sexual abuse and, at worse, his efforts to shield the perpetrators. In addition, there is a consistent pattern of issues, as well as an alliance of powerful elites from church and state, in both countries.

Pope Francis will face significant hostility when he visits Chile Jan. 15 – 18. Demonstrations have been planned to protest his response to clerical sex abuse.

There had been a near riot in Osorno when Pope Francis assigned Juan Barros Madrid as bishop in 2015. Victims of the sexual predator, Fr. Fernando Karadima, accused Barros of sometimes being present while Karadima abused them and then covering-up for the priest.

More than 1,300 Osorno Catholics, along with some 30 priests from the diocese and 51 of 120 members of Chile’s Parliament, sent letters to Pope Francis urging him to rescind the appointment. The Laity of Osorno organization also sent innumerable letters with the same request “to the Apostolic Palace, the Vatican embassy, bishops, cardinals, friends of the pope and other Vatican officials. They did not receive an answer, although it was confirmed that the letters had been received.”

Pope Francis was asked to tape a personal message via video for Osorno Catholics. He told them, “The Church has lost (part of its) freedom by allowing politicians to put ideas in the heads (of Church members), by judging a bishop without any proof after 20 years in service. Think with your heads and don’t be carried away by any accusations made by lefties.”

In preparation for the pope’s visit, Juan Carlos Claret, a member of the Laity of Osorno, asked Chile’s interior minister and officials with the Chilean Bishops’ Conference and the Vatican to arrange a meeting between the pontiff and the group. His requests were denied.

Angry not only about the pope’s appointment of Barros but also for calling them stupid, Orsorno Catholics said they will hold demonstrations in Santiago, the capital city where the pope will be staying. Claret broadened the scope of the demonstrations. “We have to define the message we want to convey. [T]he claim of Osorno can be more than just Karadima, because we have realized that what sustains Barros in Osorno is a crooked institution.”

Peter Saunders, one of only two survivors of clerical sex abuse on Pope Francis’ Child Protection Commission, said he will be joining the demonstrations in Chile. He and the other survivor, Marie Collins, both resigned from the commission. “I thought the pope was serious about kicking backsides and holding people to account. I believe the Church deserves better on this,” Saunders said.

Juan Carlos Cruz, together with two other victims of Karadima, James Hamilton and José Andrés Murillo, also officially requested a meeting with Pope Francis while he is in Chile. They were denied.

“He has called the people of Osorno fools and lefties. And then he invents a trial where he says that Barros was innocent. [T]here has never been a trial in which he was exonerated,” Cruz noted. Rather than admitting his mistakes and asking forgiveness, with Pope Francis “it is the opposite. He comes to endorse the corruption and tremendous damage that the bishops and he have done precisely to Chile,” Cruz said.

According to Cruz, the Chilean disaffection with the Catholic Church can be attributed to the “the criminal behaviors” of Chilean prelates in addition to Barros: Francisco Javier Errázuriz, Ricardo Ezzati, Tomislav Koljatic and Horacio Valenzuela. “They are all criminals. Ezzati and Errázuriz should be in jail. [Pope Francis] knowing of all these cases, has endorsed all this rottenness. I find that Errázuriz, Ezzati, the pope and several of the bishops have blood on their hands for people who have been abused and have committed suicide. I know such cases …. What is the use of his presence in the country?”

“The arrival of the Holy Father will have a special significance for our country since he was born in the neighboring Republic of Argentina, he is the first Latin American pope, and also lived and studied in Chile so he knows our reality very closely,” said the Chilean Foreign Ministry. “The truth is that no one denies that he is a pope with a strong political vision and all his movements are interpreted thus in his land,” the Chilean Foreign Ministry concluded.

Karadima and Politics

Fr. Fernando Karadina was a spiritual leader among Santiago’s most influential families. In April 2010, a criminal complaint was filed against him for sex abuse by four men who, as youngsters, had been subjected to Karadima’s sexual assaults. According to court testimony, Church officials, including Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz, tried to shame accusers into dropping claims, refused to meet with them or failed to carry out formal investigations for years.

Errázuriz wrote in a public letter that he did nothing about reports of Karadima’s sex abuse because he thought the allegations were beyond the statute of limitations. In private, Errázuriz wrote a letter to Karadima telling him to explain his transfer out of the parish by lying.In another private letter, Errázuriz wrote to Fr. Diego Ossa instructing him how to cover-up his sexual abuse of Oscar Osbén.

A judge dismissed the criminal case against Karadima in November 2011 because the statute of limitations had expired but determined that the allegations were “truthful and reliable.” The Vatican “sanctioned” Karadima by ordering him to a life of “penitence and prayer,” yet he remains a priest in good standing. “Karadima lives as a prince along with the bishops who saw how he abused me and how he abused others and who today deny it,” noted Juan Carlos Cruz.

When Pope Francis appointed Errázuriz as one of his closest advisers a month after he became pontiff, Cruz called it “a shame and a disgrace.”

Pope Francis elevated Ricardo Ezzati, who succeeded Errázuriz as archbishop of Santiago, to cardinal a few months later. At the time, Ezzati “urged that those molested by priests don’t look at the past [but] look forward and trust the Church.” Ezzati made this comment at the dedication of a new church in the Chilean diocese “where the current bishop, Tomislav Koljatic, also covered up sexual abuse as he directly witnessed the abuse that Fr. Fernando Karadima perpetrated on his victims. Yet, he is still there with no consequences.”

Bishops Horacio Valenzuela and Andrés Arteaga also covered up for Karadima.

There are political issues which also make Karadima the “worst scandal” of the Chilean Catholic Church. Power is the “true point of the case. The abuses were not possible without a network of political, social and religious power working for 50 years,” political analyst Ascanio Cavallo stated.

Karadima’s legal defense team has familial and group ties to “Comando Rolando Matus,” a paramilitary organization. It played a key role in the destabilization of the country during Pres. Salvador Allende’s democratically-elected, leftist government before he was overthrown in a military coup by the Church-supported dictator, Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

According to James Hamilton, a claimant against Karadima, the priest protected and hid a defense attorney’s brother, Juan Luis Bulnes Cerda, who was wanted by the Chilean police after being sentenced for the assassination of an Allende supporter.

Other Karadima lawyers, Luis Arévalo and Luis Ortiz Quiroga, also worked for Colonia Dignidad, a remote commune where, “for over 30 years, countless boys were raped and forced to labor.” It was founded by Paul Schäfer, a convicted pedophile, who fled West Germany to Chile. “Schäfer brutally suppressed and controlled his followers, using means including brainwashing, draconian punishments and enforcing a vow of secrecy.” Pinochet “used the German commune as a torture camp, and hid weapons and poison gas on the premises.” Colonia Dignidad ended along with the Pinochet dictatorship in 1990.

Cardinal Errázuriz is an outspoken supporter of Pinochet who killed, tortured or imprisoned over 40,000 for political reasons. “When Pinochet was arrested in London in 1998, on orders of a magistrate judge in Madrid investigating atrocities against Spanish citizens during the Chilean dictatorship, Errázuriz denounced the move. He later criticized human rights lawsuits in Chile against Pinochet and other officials of the former regime, saying, ‘Excessive justice could be detrimental to reconciliation and social peace.’”

Errázuriz is also an opponent of liberation theology as is Pope Francis. In 2015, students at the Catholic University of Santiago staged a demonstration against Cardinal Ezzati, over the dismissal of a prominent liberation theologian.

Other Chilean sexual predators in the news  

 Just before Pope Francis elevated Ezzati to cardinal, victims of Fr. Rimsky Rojas “accused Ezzati of obstruction of justice. One of Rojas’ reported victims was a young man who disappeared after making the accusations and has never been found.”

Fr. Cristián Precht was condemned by the Vatican in 2012.  “The judicial vicar brought the results of the investigation to Ezzati … the cases of four abused children and at least 11 adults exposed.” The judicial vicar recommended a life of penance with a “perpetual prohibition to exercise the priesthood.” Ezzati reduced Precht’s suspension to only five years.

Fr. John O’Reilly “was once an influential figure in Chile as the local head of the Catholic Church’s ultra-conservative Legion of Christ order.” O’Reilly was sentenced to four years’ probation in 2014 for repeatedly molesting a girl from the time she was five. “The abuse took place from 2010 to 2012 at an exclusive school where O’Reilly was the spiritual advisor at the time.”

Consequences for the Church

The number of Catholics in Chile fell from 76% in 1970 to 64% in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center. Catholics are now down to 58% as noted in a January 2017 article in U.S. News and World Reports.

“Polls show that 10 years ago, 44% of Chileans trusted the Catholic Church, whereas only 22% currently do,” explained Francisca Alessandri, a researcher at the Center of Public Policies. “The Catholic elite’s power took a strong blow the past decade when several sex abuse cases by high profile priests came to light,” wrote Daniela Mohor, a freelance journalist based in Santiago in the same article.

“The Catholic Church and conservative organizations had many economic and political resources at their disposal, such as universities, think tanks, media ownership, and used them to promote a very conservative family and sexuality agenda,” stated Merike Blofield, associate professor of political science and author of “The Politics of Moral Sin: Abortion and Divorce in Spain, Argentina and Chile.” “But today, they no longer represent the opinion of most Chileans. The consolidation of democracy, economic growth, globalization, along with the decline of religion and the surge of politically active youth are key factors in the country’s transition toward a more progressive society, experts say,” Blofield said.

Women and LGBTQ Human Rights

In 2015, Chile recognized civil unions for same-sex couples. “Marriage provides rights that civil unions do not, so there exists an institutional discrimination backed by the Chilean state,” stated Oscar Rementaría, official spokesperson for Homosexual Movement of Integration and Liberation (MOVILH).

Fifty six percent of Chileans said they are in favor of gay marriage.  Activist leader Ramón Gómez suggests that the cultural change “is closely related to the loss of credibility of religious institutions, especially the Catholic Church.”

Although, “out of the eight candidates running, Sebastián Piñera was one of only two candidates in the race opposed to marriage equality,” the conservative billionaire won the Dec. 17 presidential election.

Pinera graduated from an all-boys private Catholic high school and studied at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, receiving an undergraduate degree in Business and Administration. He was previously president from 2010 to 2014, the country’s only conservative president since the end of Pinochet’s rule in 1990.

This past August, Chile’s legislature voted to approve a bill lifting the country’s total ban on abortion and will allow abortion in three specific cases: a threat to the mother’s life, an unviable fetus or rape. The bill was supported by 72 percent of Chileans.  The measure was “furiously resisted by the right … Some of Piñera’s backers said they want to reverse that decision.”

The Catholic bishops said the bill “offends the conscience and the common good of the citizens.” Pope Francis has called abortion a “grave sin,” a “horrendous crime,” and – even to save the life of the mother – it’s “what the Mafia does – choose one life over another.”

In September, Cardinal Ezzati condemned both abortion and gay marriage. Referring to same-sex marriage, he said the Church teaches that spouses, “male and female, in transmitting human life, have a special participation in God’s own creative work.”

Pope Francis has referred to same-sex marriage as an “anthropological regression,” “disfiguring God’s plan for creation” that will “destroy the family.” The pope stated, “We must reaffirm the right of children to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity.”

In May, the Chilean Education Ministry “issued a directive urging schools nationwide to protect the sexual orientation and gender identity of student …. The country’s Catholic schools association has promised to resist the measure. More broadly, the government is backing a bill that would give adults the right to change the official records of their gender, though the measure has stalled in Congress, facing challenges from the Roman Catholic Church  …. Catholic leaders argue that such moves undermine families and society.”

In 2016, Pope Francis said “We are living a moment of annihilation of man as image of God. Today, in schools they are teaching this to children – to children! – that everyone can choose their gender.” This is “the epoch of sin against God the Creator.” A year earlier, he compared transgender persons with nuclear weapons because both “do not recognize the order of creation.”


Pope Francis’ Jan. 18 – 21 visit to Peru will be more sanguine. Peru has had a less dramatic loss in the number of Catholics – from 95% in 1970 to 76% in 2014 – than Chile, although Peru has had two cases of sexual predators directly protected by Pope Francis.

Luis Fernando Figari

During his time in Chile and Peru, “I assume that Pope Francis will avoid [the victims of sex abuse] even if charity requires an encounter with those people betrayed by the Catholic Church,” stated Peruvian journalist Pedro Salinas. “In view of the gravity of the cases in Chile and Peru, by Fernando Karadima and the founder of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, Luis Fernando Figari, respectively, there arises the need for the head of the Catholic Church to have a space in his agenda to meet with those affected,” Salinas said.

“Here there are people who have suffered a lot, people who have committed suicide. The Church is so slow to recognize these things and expects people to die, get bored or commit suicide, and we have seen piles of such cases. That can not be and that the pope ignores that seems to me a terrible shame,” declared Salinas, a former member of Sodalitium Christianae Vitae  (SCV) where he suffered various types of abuse.

Like Karadima in Chile, the case against Figari also “generated a strong media impact in Peruvian society.”

Figari founded the SCV in 1971 as a lay community in Peru opposed to liberation theology. The Sodalitium was granted the official status of a religious order but one whose members do not take religious vows. “Members include businessmen, writers and politicians from Lima’s upper classes.”

Figari stepped down as superior general in 2010 following allegations of abuse.

The Sodalitium asked the Vatican to investigate in 2011. Nothing was done until Salinas’ 2015 co-authored book, Half Monks, Half Soldiers, was published. “The book described Figari as a cult-like leader who raped and molested vulnerable boys and young men in the group. He also regularly committed physical and psychological abuse to exert control over his followers, the authors wrote.”

A Vatican commission was formed in November 2015 at the request of the SCV.

When Figari resigned in 2010, he went to live in an SCV house in Rome and immigration records show that he visited Peru regularly through late 2015.

In December 2016, during a private audience with Pope Francis, SCV leaders asked the pope to decree Figari’s “immediate separation from our community” and order him to leave the community’s house. Instead, the Vatican commission declined the SCV’s request to expel him outright because his crimes took place “in the very distant past,” as founder he was “the mediator of a charisma of divine origin” and cited his age and poor health. Therefore, no punishment was pronounced against him.

Figari’s victims doubted the independence of the papal investigation – and SCV leaders charged that their request for expulsion was denied – because Cardinal Errázuriz, Figari’s “old friend,” interceded on his behalf with Pope Francis. Errázuriz had invited Figari to found a SCV chapter in Chile and had met with Figari in Rome where he still lives.

“Francis is not part of the solution, but of the problem. His ‘zero tolerance’ protocol is a farce, a lie the size of the cathedral of Guadalupe,” stated Salinas.

Bishop Gabino Miranda Melgarejo

Pope Francis sent a confidential letter to the bishops in Peru on May 24, 2013, dismissing Miranda, a bishop in Ayacucho, a poor Andean region. Although the pope had sufficient cause to remove Miranda, he did not inform the public or civil officials.

Diego Garcia Sayan, president of the Inter-American Court on Human Rights, wrote in the Sept. 19, 2013, La Republica newspaper “what had been said in Church circles for at least a month,” that Miranda had been dismissed by the pope for accusations of sexually abusing children. “No official information [from the Church] is available,” however, it is “essential to confirm or disprove what is an open secret,” Sayan wrote. He called for “immediate action by the attorney general” if the allegations were true.

The next day, it was reported that the attorney general’s office said that it was investigating Miranda and would announce its actions soon.

On Sept. 22, La Republica’s correspondent in Ayacucho noted that the archbishop of the archdiocese and president of the Peruvian Bishops’ Conference, Salvador Piñeiro, had announced in August to other Peruvian hierarchs that Miranda was dismissed and laicized based on evidence and testimony of the victims and their families. The government prosecutor, Garry Chavez Valdivia, questioned why, having heard the case, the national Church hierarchy had not contacted the civil authority.

The same day, Lima Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani “minimized” the accusations of child sex abuse against Miranda and blamed the scandal on the media. Cipriani said the “organized campaign” began with Sayán’s Sept. 19 report in La República.

Cipriani met with Pope Francis on Sept. 24 “for more than an hour” but said that Miranda was not discussed.

Also on Sept. 24, the prosecutor Chavez told La Republica that he asked Archbishop Piñeiro, Cardinal Cipriani and the papal nuncio for copies of the records upon which the pope based his decision to remove Miranda. According to Chavez, Miranda had left the second week in August and his whereabouts were unknown.

The next month, Chavez said the documents delivered by Pineira “did not have enough elements or evidence” to prosecute Miranda. Pineira explained that he had no further details since “the trial of the former Ayacucho bishop was carried out secretly in the Holy See.” The Vatican never forwarded their records.

Peruvian Bishop Javier del Rio Alba said at the time that scandals involving Miranda and Bishop Guillermo Abanto Guzman were causing Catholics to leave the Church. (In July 2013, Abanto had been warned by a court to recognize his two-year-old daughter.)  “Those people who have weak faith are scandalized and lose faith in the Church. These sins are very serious … It was a very hard blow for the Church,” said del Rio Alba.

A current case of sexual abuse also involves Archbishop Salvador Piñeiro and the Ayacucho archdiocese.

An 18-year-old girl who wishes to remain anonymous accused Fr. Félix Pariona of sexual abuse, including rape, when she was between 15 and 17 years old. She and her parents reported the crime to the archbishop in February 2017.  He promised in writing that he would take measures against the priest.

When nothing happened, the family reported Pariona to the Public Ministry of the Huamanga province. In response to a filed complaint, the Superior Prosecutor’s office of Ayacucho, the provincial capital, decided to expand the investigation on Sept. 11. The case was reopened by the Superior Prosecutor’s office of Ayacucho on Nov. 7. The girl’s defense attorney said if the results are negative, he will make a complaint to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

Archbishop Piñeiro issued a statement blaming La República for “confusing the Catholic community” and that Pariona was a victim of “defamation.”

Women and LGBTQ Human Rights

From the Human Rights Watch World Report 2017 Peru: Women’s Rights

Women and girls in Peru remain at high risk of gender-based violence. More than 700 women have been killed in Peru in “femicides” (the killing of a woman in certain contexts, including domestic violence and gender-based discrimination) between 2009 and August 2015, according to official statistics.

…. In August 2016, thousands demonstrated in Lima and other cities calling on authorities to do more to curb gender-based violence.

[Abortion] is illegal in Peru, even in cases of rape, with the only exception being danger to a mother’s life … In July 2014, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women asked Peru to decriminalize abortion when pregnancy was the result of rape and severe fetal impairment [but that has not yet happened].

Despite the [law approving therapeutic abortion], there are still serious obstacles to its implementation in public and private health services … In this sense, it is worrying that, despite being a right of women, hospitals and clinics are still reluctant to adequately inform patients, causing irreparable damage,” stated Fiorella Zárate, Lawyer, Center for the Promotion and Defense of Sexual and Reproductive Rights.

From the Human Rights Watch World Report 2017 Peru: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

In March 2015, Congress rejected a bill to recognize civil unions for same-sex couples. In September 2016, a Congressional supporter of President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski announced that he would introduce a new legislative proposal to recognize same-sex civil unions ….

People in Peru are required to appear before a judge in order to revise the gender noted on their identification documents. In an August 2016 report, the human rights ombudsman noted that courts had rejected most of these requests, often applying inconsistent criteria.

“This staunchly conservative, Catholic nation is in the middle of a fight about its moral core,” wrote ex-pat, Maria Murriel, in January 2017. Murriel thinks that the women’s demonstration in August 2016 and “the driving efforts toward civil unions or gender equality in classrooms … signal a shift in the political and social climate of the country. The machismo that drives so much of our social norms is meeting its match.”

“There is hope for change. More Peruvian politicians are slowly coming out to support the LGBT community. The Civil Union bill was reintroduced into Congress in late November 2016 with strong backing from President Kuczynski [elected earlier that year.] Then in January 2017, the same president issued a decree prohibiting all forms of discrimination and hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Very slowly, Peru is evolving and getting ready to take her place in the pink limelight,” according to a November article about gay life in Peru.

All reproductive rights for women and equal rights for LGBTQ persons are opposed by the Catholic Church under the guidance of Pope Francis.

Regardless of his support for same-sex civil unions, Kuczynski “consecrated the country, his family and himself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary” at the 2016 National Prayer Breakfast. “Participating in the event were important business and political leaders in the country.” This is the first time since the prayer breakfasts began 21 years ago that a president attended.

Regarding the pope’s visit to Peru, “This is going to mark a before and after, before agitation, then morality and tranquility, and that is why this visit is so important,” Kuczynski said in an appearance with the cardinal archbishop of Lima, Juan Luis Cipriani. “I am absolutely sure that this visit will be an immense success.”

On Sept. 22, Kuczynski met with Pope Francis in the Vatican.

“In a Nov. 24 statement, Peru’s Department of Education announced that a 2009 version of the National Curriculum will be reimplemented in Peruvian schools. The former curriculum does not include the gender ideology concepts addressed in the 2016 version.” (“Gender ideology is a snarl word and straw man argument used in Catholicism, clerics or laypeople from other denominations or those unaffiliated with any religion to refer to transgenderism and gender identity/expression.”)

The 2017 National Curriculum approved by the Department of Education in late 2016, was opposed by Peru’s bishops for including “concepts which do not proceed from the Constitution, but rather are taken from so-called gender ideology. Pope Francis has warned that gender ideology denies the difference and the natural reciprocity of man and woman,” the bishops stated.

Both countries share a strong presence of Opus Dei among the elite.

Opus Dei is, at the top, a secret society of international bankers, financiers, businessmen and their supporters. (Hutchison, Their Kingdom Come: Inside the Secret World of Opus Dei).Their goal is the same as other plutocrats – unbridled power – except they use the Catholic Church and its worldwide network of institutions to advance their right-wing politics. “What gives Opus Dei its importance is the influence it wields and also that it deploys its immense financial resources … Opus Dei knows very well that money rules the world,” Javier Sainz Moreno, law professor at Madrid University, told Hutchison.

In his introduction Hutchison wrote: “While conducting research for this book, I quickly found myself wandering through a world of deceit and dissimulation, crowded with holy manipulators and regulated by unscrupulous interests.”

According to their website, Opus Dei has around 90,000 members; 98% are laypeople, 2% are priests. They are currently established in 66 countries, including Russia.

“Opus Dei’s free reign within the Catholic Church began after it helped install Karol Wojtyla as Pope John Paul II.”

“Of all the groups that were engaged in the U.S.-sponsored campaign against liberation theology, none has played a more significant role than Opus Dei.” Liberation theology clergy and hierarchs had “called upon the church to ‘defend the rights of the oppressed’ and recognize a ‘preferential option for the poor’ in the struggle for social justice.”

In Chile, “Opus Dei elicited support from Chilean bishops for the overthrow of President Salvador Allende and worked closely with CIA-funded organizations such as the Fatherland and Liberty goon squads, which subsequently merged with DINA, the dreaded Chilean secret police. In 1971, the CIA began financing the Chilean Institute for General Studies (IGS), which has been described as an Opus Dei think tank. Its members include lawyers, free-market economists and executives from influential publications…After the coup, a number of IGS technocrats became cabinet members and advisers to the Pinochet junta.”

In The Empire of Opus Dei in Chile (2003) Maria Olivia Monckeberg provides details of “a silent expansion” of Opus Dei since the 1960s “by creating colleges and societies and acquiring properties.” The University of the Andes is “its main project” and Banco Santander “its best bank.”

After Pope Francis was elected, “Grupo Santander, owned by the Botin family (Opus Dei), began preparing training courses” for Vatican staff. The financial giant “will have a presence that is going to mean a new leading role of Santander in the Vatican,” wrote Vatican reporter, Andrea Gagliarducci.

Pope Francis appointed Mauricio Larrain, director of a Santander Bank Group and general director of Opus Dei’s ESE Business School at the University of the Andes, as a member of the Vatican Bank’s Board of Superintendence. (See “Santander tops consumer complaints in Brazil”)

Pope Francis also appointed Peter Sutherland as one of his financial advisers. Sutherland is managing director and chairman of Goldman Sachs International, former chairman of BP Oil, “world trade tsar,” and a member of the International Advisory Board of IESE, Opus Dei’s flagship business school.

Another financial adviser appointed by this pope, George Yeo, was Singapore’s Foreign Minister and Minister of Finance, a brigadier-general in the Singapore Armed Forces and is also a member of the International Advisory Board of IESE.

When Chilean Pres. Michelle Bachelet appointed Mario Fernández Baeza, a member of Opus Dei, as Interior Minister in 2016, Monckeberg decided to update the 2003 version of her book because, although the number of Chileans who profess to be Catholic has dropped significantly, “the weight of Opus Dei continues to increase” among “the elite and wealthy families.”

Monckeberg states that the Legion of Christ, “of Mexican origin and of recent incursion in the country…competes in notoriety and in the elite social group” with Opus Dei.

Peru is another country “where Opus Dei has a strong foothold,”  noted journalist Laura Grados in her investigative series on Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, the head of Opus Dei in Peru.

“In Latin America, Opus Dei was consolidated under the protection of Pinochet in Chile, Videla in Argentina and Fujimori in Peru. In this last country, Cardinal Cipriani, a member of Opus Dei, was directly involved in the dirty business of Fujimori [president 1990 – 2000] and his lieutenant Vladimiro Montesinos, both convicted of corruption and other crimes,” wrote sociologist Marco Burgos

“In a landmark trial, Fujimori was sentenced in 2009 to 25 years in prison for killings and ‘disappearances’ committed in 1991 and 1992 … Fujimori’s intelligence advisor, Vladimiro Montesinos, three former army generals, and members of the Colina group, a government death squad, are also serving sentences ranging from 15 to 25 years for the 1991 assassination of 15 people and the ‘disappearances’ of six.”

This Christmas, Lima police “fired tear gas and clashed with thousands of protesters” demonstrating against Pres. Kuczynski’s Christmas eve pardon of Fujimori on health grounds. Protestors called for Kucynski to leave office because they saw the pardon as a reward to legislators who recently helped the president avoid impeachment. Kuczynski, a former Wall Street Banker, was accused of lying to cover up $5 million in payments received from disgraced Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht.

The Archdiocese of Lima, under Cipriani’s leadership, became an investor in the stocks of one of the most controversial mining companies which sparked the mobilization of large-scale environmental social movement in the country … Cipriani’s “personal investments are tied with one of the country’s largest construction companies,” wrote Grados.

“Cardinal Cirpriani has always sided with businesses and the government in office,” said Director of Noticias SER, Javier Torres Seoane. ‘We have never heard him defending a community that is confronting a mine or a company for pollution. His voice is not on the side of indigenous peoples or farming communities.’ [Cipriani] has a record of condemning LGBT, women and environmental activists.”

Pope Francis appointed Cipriani as a member of his Council of the Economy.

Vatican Bank president, Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, admitted in May 2016 that the bank held investments in fossil fuel companies.

Cipriani met with Pope Francis on Dec. 5 to discuss his trip to Peru. While the pope “will encounter a lively faith” in both countries, “Peru in particular maintains a staunchly Christian culture where traditional values on marriage and family issues specifically are widely upheld.”

Opus Dei is “devoted to promoting, as public policy, the Vatican’s inflexibly traditionalist approach to women, sexuality and reproductive health. Opus Dei pursues the Vatican’s agenda through the presence of its members in secular governments and institutions and through a vast array of academic, medical, and grassroots pursuits. Its constant effort to increase its presence in civil institutions of power is supported by growth in the organization as a whole. [T]heir work in the public sphere breaches the church-state division that is fundamental to modern democracy,” wrote Gordon Urquhart, author of  The Pope’s Armada: Unlocking the Secrets of Mysterious and Powerful New Sects in the Church.

When the Irish government was “under intense pressure to introduce legislation that would allow for abortions when a woman’s life is at risk” in 2013, the “secret ultra-conservative Catholic sect Opus Dei mobilized within the Irish professions to stop the republic reforming its abortion laws,” one of the country’s most prominent doctors noted. John Crown, a leading cancer specialist and member of parliament, said he believed Opus Dei was “a major player” in “trying to exercise influence on the medical profession and politicians to prevent limited abortion.”

“Opus Dei has the money and the discipline to organize PR campaigns efficiently,” wrote Damian Thompson, editorial director of the Catholic Herald.

Opus Dei “is an organization that can turn out 100,000 people in St. Peter’s Square to cheer the pope and his policies, and it has these people all over the world,” said Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Woodstock Theological Center in Washington.

In March 2016, “Lima closed two of its main avenues to accommodate tens of thousands of demonstrators in the annual March for Life protest.” A rally was held “featuring live music and guest speakers including Lima archbishop Juan Cipriani.” “The size and scale of the annual march illustrates the influence of the Catholic Church in this deeply conservative country.”

In March 2017, “1.5 million Peruvians in 26 cities protested a new national school curriculum that seeks to impose ‘gender ideology’ on students.”

“Above all, Peru will greet the pope with ‘great joy, with a lot of noise, with the streets full,’ Cipriani said, adding that the pope ‘is going to have a great time.’”

(Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America.)


20 Responses

  1. Excellent research once again! Thank you. I must say that my blood pressure goes up when people in power warn about “lefties.”



    John Alonzo Dick, PhD, STD Historical Theologian Leuven/Louvain — Belgium

    “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” T. S. Eliot


  2. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. Much appreciated. That raises my blood pressure, too!

  3. When he speaks about “lefties” Pope Francis sounds like Mr. Trump, mocking the decent hearted. Small wonder the Catholic vote got Trump elected.
    Protecting pedophile priests and their enablers all over the world is in keeping with The Pontifical Secret still enforced by Pope Francis.
    Many thanks, Ms. Clermont.

  4. “Pope Francis has referred to same-sex marriage as an “anthropological regression,” “disfiguring God’s plan for creation” that will “destroy the family.” The pope stated, “We must reaffirm the right of children to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity.”
    This never ceases to amaze me when you consider the children fathered by hetrosexual clergy left to either live a life of subterfuge within a “part time family unit” or denied a valid family unit their father refused a rescript of vows [canon 1139].

    The recent acknowledgement of the existence of the former to cover their backsides, pressured by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and it’s to their everlasting discredit they had to be forced to take these children now adults into account.


    What about the mothers who did it “the right way” ?

    Freedom from being caught up in their web of compromise.

    • Thanks for commenting and for being such a forceful voice on this issue too often ignored and the children forgotten.

  5. Thank you, Ms. Clermont, for your thorough research and expose of the ignorance, deliberate blindness, corruption, and intrigue of the Church at the highest level. I hope the powers of truth and justice will continue to chip away at this giant facade. Your reporting is amazing!

    • I appreciate your taking the time to comment and for your encouragement. Yes, there is corruption “at the highest level” which, unfortunately, permeates the entire institution.

  6. Betty Claremont is probably the only woman writer offering a consistent unique critique of Francis since he smashed on the scene. Her offerings on “Here Comes Everybody” is approaching book length. It will be an historical record that not everyone viewed Francis in the same fawning, friendly framework. BC breaks Francis’ window dressing.

    After JPII and Benedict XVI, with their heavy-handed authoritarian mode of pontificating, they were easy acts to follow. Same of anyone who follows Trump, if he doesn’t cause irreparable damage to humanity.

    BC is truly investigative beyond the papal puffery Francis has cleverly conjured a friendly face image, well aware of public perception, and plays it to the hilt. The true Francis is behind the scenes. Problem with stained glass window – colorful but clouds reality; doesn’t offer clarity, immediate transparency.

    Most journalists covering him are beholden to their employer. They will not smash the stained glass window that satisfy the faithful and friendly. Popes are handled differently, by most journalists/writers, than other political leaders.

    John Allen is arguably the most dominant commentator on Francis but he is beholden for his paycheck to the Knights of Columbus who are in league with Francis’ controlling agenda of the institutional church. BC is free of a paycheck and imminently willing to look at hard facts and presents them to the reader. Allen abounds in his interpretation of facts, skewering them in the end to a favorable tilt toward Francis. BC underscores the fact that he is more political than pastoral – ultimately. He is on the side of power rather than speaking truth to power, as in Jesus, for whom the institution is supposedly based. The model for the institution ought to be Jesus before Pilate: “For this I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth.” Since Constantine, the papacy have found the perks that come with power irresistible.

    BC keeps a fierce focus on Francis. His main challenge is the clerical sex abuse scandal which he has failed miserably to be different than his foot dragging predecessors. They are of one cloth in their reluctance to be forthcoming. In true Roman fashion, they wish the issue away with the passing of time. But this time, because the issue has been over 30 years in the public eye, they have misjudged their timing.

    Despite Francis’ tweaking about the issue of possibly remarried Catholics receiving communion under certain conditions, Francis’ papacy has been business as usual: the suppression of women, an anti-scientific understanding of human sexuality, economic reform, among issues that affect the lives of members and non-members. It utilities its clout to not lift burden off men’s shoulders as to add them.

    “You cannot serve God and mammon.” Mammon (money) even in a democratic society as ours has become the gateway to power. The temptation to money and power were the challenge to Jesus. He resisted. Popes haven’t.
    BC is the devil’s advocate where Francis friendly journalist/writers will cut him gratuitous slack.

    • Yes Emmett, and how sinister are the headlines of Pope Francis’ New Year message?
      “If you want peace, start with Mary and the crib”……..

      As to the Salesians……St John Bosco has well and truly taken a beating down under during the Melbourne Inquiry into abuse and Royal Commission.
      Law Professor Patrick Parkinson is the way to go.

    • Your comment, as always, is much appreciated. You make an incisive indictment not only of this pontificate, but of the entire system that keeps our popes “not lifting burdens” but “adding them.” “Serving mammon” indeed!

      • Yes Betty, and the recent Crux article is another example of duplicity ….”divorced people living with someone else would not dare ask for holy Communion because they know they are living in a situation of sin. It would be blasphemy”………There’s no mention of the “occasion of sin” when living as brother and sister an alternitive offered so the priest can continue in his ministry.
        I recall when now retired bishop Pat Power lived with his housemate Geraldine for many years “understanding his commitment to celibacy” , now we can’t be blamed if we have to wonder why he even had to mention the “c” word.
        Maybe to convince us red blood doesn’t run through his veins?
        Or there’s a seat with his name on it outside the confessional like many other clergy within “inclusive relastionships” and sympathetic confessors……..

    • Yes, Betty is one of the few left on the Catholic blog circuit who paints a true portrait of Francis. He seems to me to be more of an Opus Dei smog screen than a Jesuit, but that conforms to his political and ecclesiastical stances since he became a bishop. BC is truly the devil’s advocate when it comes to coverage of Francis. No matter his pious poor man visuals, Francis is still all about global power and global politics, and like JPII, carefully calculating the stances the RCC should take to maintain itself as a major player. To be honest, I would take Benedict’s closeted personal hypocrisy much easier than Francis’s hugely publicized hypocritical clerical poverty. I know lots of really wealthy people who live a simple life style because it’s easier. They would never give up their secure circumstances and personal wealth…and neither does Francis.

      • Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, colkoch. Your observation about the pope and Opus Dei was shared by a group of Latin American priests who stated at the time of Bergoglio’s election that his positions were closer to Opus Dei than the Jesuits.
        As far as “living simply,” descriptions of the papal apartment in the Apostolic Palace always said it was not especially luxurious and the papal bedroom was “Spartan.” On the other hand, Martha’s House, with modern HVAC and plumbing, was built specifically for the comfort of visiting cardinals who found the Palace to be unbearably hot in the summer.
        “Francis is still all about global power and global politics, and like JPII, carefully calculating the stances the RCC should take to maintain itself as a major player.” I have been contemplating a blog on this same subject and your comment has encouraged me to go ahead.

  7. A week later on the popes visit to Peru and Chile….I guess you’ve all caught up with the recent media hits.

  8. …Pope Francis Visits Chile and Peru: Sex Abuse, Politics and Opus Dei…….

    And here we are again and where contradictions step in….


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