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Opus Dei’s William Barr, the Trump Whisperer

Barr is “a good deal more sophisticated and intelligent” than Trump. “It is Barr who is using Trump‘s relative naivety ‘to advance an agenda that he’s long held,’” Stuart Gerson, former assistant attorney general for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice under Barr, told Andrew Feinberg, White House correspondent for Newsweek.

“Trump’s presidency, gave Barr ‘an opportunity to put himself in a position to assert his own political agenda’ and ‘shape the legal establishment to suit his own political ends,’ posited Jonatha Smit,” one of Barr’s high school classmates at New York’s Horace Mann school.

“The only thing that really makes sense to me is that Barr clearly wanted to get in on all the power and he saw Trump as someone he could manipulate and be a kind of Robespierre to a [foolish] king … in effect the most powerful person in the country by manipulating this man,” said Jimmy Lohman, a criminal defense attorney and another of Barr’s Horace Mann classmates.

Barr has never been closer to Trump. During Trump’s walk from the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church on June 1, Barr was right behind him.   Peaceful protesters had been cleared from Trump’s path through Lafayette Park by tear gas, smoke bombs and pepper balls. “White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that Barr had given the command. Barr denied it ‘though he did say he had earlier drawn up a plan that required the park to be clear.’”

Barr considers his position so secure that he contradicted Trump on Fox News without fear of being vilified. Trump had said he went to the underground White House bunker during the protests for “an inspection” rather than for his own safety. On June 8, Barr challenged the president’s account. “Things were so bad that the Secret Service recommended that the president go down to the bunker. We can’t have that in our country. And so the decision was made. We had to move the perimeter one block. And that was what we were doing,” Barr stated.

Three days later, Trump went to Dallas “to speak harshly of the protesters who have demonstrated in large numbers across the country in response to the killing [of George Floyd] and lavish praise on police and law enforcement. Attorney General William Barr, who has also taken a hard line against protesters, also attended the event.”

Barr’s position in Opus Dei

Before his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in January 2019, Barr had completed a questionnaire. On page 4, he listed a former position as “Director of the Catholic Information Center  (2014-1017).”

Opus Dei’s Catholic Information Center, located at 15th and K Street two blocks from the White House,  is “a rallying point for ultra-conservative Catholics eager for a voice in the secular halls government power” and “advances a hard-right political agenda,” according to Church and State, the magazine of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Opus Dei is an official arm of the Catholic Church. Therefore, as a religious entity, its donors are secret as well as its income or any contributions to far-right organizations. The names of Opus Dei’s members are secret unless self-disclosed. The head of Opus Dei can only be appointed by the pope.

After “helping to install Karol Wojtyla as Pope John Paul II”  (also here) he designated the group as a “personal prelature,” that is, they are under the sole jurisdiction of the pope and no other prelate. “Like a Mafia shrouded in white” is how Juan Martin Velasco, one of Spain’s leading theologians, described the prelature.

Opus Dei’s goal is power

Founded by Fr. Josemaria Escriva in 1928, Opus Dei’s roots are in fascist Spain. “Escriva’s ultra-conservative movement, which recruited many of its members from Spain’s wealthy and powerful families, flourished under Generalissimo Francisco Franco.” More than half a dozen members of Opus Dei were ministers in Franco’s government.

“The objective of the Opus Dei was to choose and to train the elite members of the Spanish dictatorship to control the essence of power.” In the 1960s, in the pro-Franco government of Admiral Carero Blanco, 12 out of its 19 ministers belonged to Opus Dei.

“Opus members enjoyed a revival in their secular power in Spain” when the centre-right People’s party took power in 1996 under Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar. “Defense, law and order and the judiciary are in the hands of Opus,”  said Juan Carlos Rodriguez, the socialist president of Extremadura region’s government in 2002.

Its website states: “Opus Dei’s mission is to spread the Christian message that every person is called to holiness and that every honest work can be sanctified.”  Non-Catholics are welcomed as “cooperators” who “assist the educational and social undertakings promoted by the Prelature.”

“Opus Dei is mostly middle- and upper-class businessmen, professionals, military personnel and government officials. Its members control a large number of banks and financial institutions,” wrote Martin A. Lee, author and activist who has written books and articles on far-right movements.

At the top: “Opus Dei is an efficient machine run to achieve worldly power,” wrote investigative reporter Penny Lernoux in her book, People of God (1989).

“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 [is] to increase its presence in civil institutions of power. [T]heir work in the public sphere breaches the church-state division that is fundamental to modern democracy,” noted Gordon Urquhart, author of The Pope’s Armada: Unlocking the Secrets of Mysterious and Powerful New Sects in the Church (1995).

“Opus Dei uses the Catholic Church for its own ends which are money and power …. Its members form a transnational elite. They seek to colonize the summits of power. They work with stealth – ‘holy discretion’ – and practice ‘divine deception,’” Robert Hutchison stated in the introduction to his book, Their Kingdom Come: Inside the Secret World of Opus Dei (1997).

Barr, an excellent fit with Opus Dei

 “Barr seems pretty much the guy he was in high school…informed by a radically right-wing … conservative strain of Catholicism,” noted Smit. “I don’t think he’s uncomfortable with the idea of a certain kind of authoritarianism being wielded towards those ends, and he sees Trump as someone who isn’t going to be circumspect about it,” Smit observed. He “suggested that Barr’s decision to offer himself to Trump was the result of the once-and-future Attorney General recognizing a kindred spirit in the 45th President,” wrote Feinberg.

“Like Smits, Lohman suggested that the 77th Attorney General was inspired to offer himself up to be the 85th Attorney General because President Trump embraced a vision of himself as all-powerful,” reported Feinberg. “I think that he just wanted to get in on it and have the power to reshape the world in his image,” Lohman continued. “And that image is some weird ass version of Catholicism, it’s almost unlimited executive power, it’s fascism.”

“There are people out there who are fascist. William Barr, in my view, is one, and I evidently picked up on that a long, long time ago,” Lohman concluded.

Other members of Opus Dei in the Trump administration that we know of

 Larry Kudlow is Trump’s director of the National Economic Council. Plutocracy is “just what American needs,”Kudlow wrote. “Putting the incredibly wealthy in charge of the U.S. government” is described as Kudlow’s great idea. Kudlow is one of the notable converts to Catholicism by Fr. John McCloskey, director of the Catholic Information Center from 1998-2002.

While Opus Dei member Mick Mulvaney  was director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, his visitors included Jeff Bell, architect of Reaganomics, and another member of Opus Dei. Bell told ProPublica that his meeting with Mulvaney, covered “religious and political matters.”

White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, “played a leading role in Trump’s Senate impeachment trial defense” During the impeachment process, “Cipollone forcefully defended Trump’s right to executive privilege.”

“Twenty-one of Cipollone’s classmates from his 1991 graduating class at the University of Chicago responded with an open letter accusing him of flouting the ‘traditions of intellectual honesty or rigor’ taught at their alma mater.”

Cipollone had worked for Barr in the Justice Department during George H.W. Bush’s administration and served on the board of directors of Catholic Information Center as did Leonard Leo.

Opus Dei’s Influence on the U.S. Judiciary

“Leonard Leo can take credit for installing four Supreme Court justices”- John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. “As executive vice president of the Federalist Society, Leo has been the quiet architect of a pivotal shift to the right throughout the federal judiciary” including “dozens of lower court federal judges across the country.”

It was Leo who prepared Trump’s “list of judges and the people that he’s put on the bench.”

“Trump has appointed and the Senate has confirmed 194 federal judges,”as of May 1, 2020.

And, like any faithful leader of Opus Dei, Leo also maintains his support for the Vatican. “Leo and his wife, Sally, were named Stewards of Saint Peter by the Papal Foundation, an honor given to those who pledge to donate $1 million or more for Vatican initiatives worldwide,” as reported by the Washington Post.


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

3 Responses

  1. Again, BC keeps the public informed of details and behind-the-scenes power plays as in this instance of Opus Dei and William Barr.
    Opus Dei prefers the darkness to do its work and shuns the public light lest it be disinfected of its corrosive lust for power.
    As long as the Roman church clings to the trappings of worldly power, the gospel continues to be compromised.
    It is a strong indictment by his classmate that Barr is a fascist.
    Of course, Barr won’t sue him as it would draw more attention to Barr’s underbelly.
    I wasn’t unaware that the pope appoints the head of Opus Dei!
    Most unusual and underscores the bedfellows the pope and OD are.
    “And Jesus wept!”

    • Once again, I am completely blown away by your intelligent and astute comments! “Corrosive lust for power” “the gospel is compromised.” Yes! You not only understand the essence of the threat of OD, but as always you say it better than I.

  2. […] Opus Dei’s William Barr, the Trump Whisperer […]

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