Peter Hertel, in the last of a series on Opus Dei, examines the workings of the organisation's finances
IN THE formal legal sense, the personal prelature and Escriva are rather like a poor family with numerous children. But family members, who are almost always unknown, set up companies and banks, institutes and foundations.
Felzmann reports that the English Opus Dei leaders intended to pay the contributions made to Opus Dei members, and Opus Dei would then be able to use the money for its own purposes.
Whether this system seems appropriate or inappropriate, it has to be studied if any light is to be shed on the complicated cover-ups. One must never forget that the membership of Opus Dei has two aspects, a formal and a practical.
Certainly the most important Opus-proximate foundation is the Limmat-Stiftung, which was established in Zurich, the international banking centre, in 1972. Latterly it was connected
partly in terms of staff and partly in terms of organisation with Opus-related banks and foundations directed by Opusmembers in Spain, Germany and Latin America.
Some threads of this network were revealed when the multimillionaire Opus member Jose Maria Ruiz Mateos, the leading Spanish private entrepreneur, was dispossessed by the State and was found guilty of defrauding the revenue and of major currency offences.
Meanwhile he explained that the leading Spanish Opus Dei members Cantero and Montuenga required him — a convinced member — to provide hundreds of millions of pesetas for the apostolic work of Opus Dei. He proferred copies of bank documents in evidence.
The Swiss bank of Ruiz Mateos and his multinational Rumasa concern was the Nordfinanzbank in Zurich. At the same time, its managing
director, Arthur Wiederkehr (who was partly responsible for laundering the payments through cover firms), with four Opus Dei members made up the five-man board of the Limmat Foundation. Wiederkehr and the Nordfinanzbank also had shares in the worldwide banking empire of the Italian Roberto Calvi.
Calvi was the head of the largest Italian private bank, the Banco Ambrosiano, which went spectacularly bankrupt in 1982. Not only the Banco Ambrosiano but the Vatican Bank IOR, because it was by a long way the largest minority shareholder in Ambrosiano, were declared coresponsible by the Italian bank inspectorate. Together with 88 Ambrosiano backers IOR agreed a compromise payment of $250 million, and was able to cut six million for speedy payment. Whereas these facts are verifiable, one question has remained unanswered: How could the money be obtained so quickly? The explanation is that Opus Dei financial circles also came to the rescue, but required the Holy See to assign to them the decisive influence on Vatican politics as against Communist States and third-world States. This assertion accords with statements made by the family of Calvi, who lost his life in circumstances as yet unexplained, and by the former industrialist Ruiz Mateo.
Opus Dei has rejected any claim that it participated in such affairs with the now almost stereotyped statement that it is a purely religious institution and that it is not active in economicofinancial sense. Moreover its member Ruiz Mateos falsified the It seems permissible to describe the division of the world and the individual into two closed realms—supernature and nature — as an Opus Dei ruse to stifle uncomfortable questions. But the problem goes deeper. As early as 1963 the theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar characterised this attitude as integralism, when he also called Opus Dei the "strongest integralist power complex in the Church".
Escriva's work is so strong in a church-political sense and economically too, that we are forced to live with it in the long term. Its religious gravity can be a critical challenge to all Christians: Do they allow the famous "Aggiornamento" to descend to the level of mere adaptation? Do they understand being a Christian as an inclusive everyday task? But that is not all.
The organisation is also concerned to acquire bastions of power within the Church and to reverse the new beginnings of theology in this century, especially after Vatican II. Its members try to promote Christianisation in association with power and capital and through economic manipulation.
The mobile corps has increasingly become a special instrument for the spiritual and institutional rectification of the Church, with all the negative consequences of such a procedure for the individual but also for the credibility of the Church itself.
The author wrote a book on Opus Dei, which was published in 1985.
This article is reprinted from the current issue of Concilium, published six times a year by T and T Clerk, 59 George Street, Edinburgh. Annual subscription £24.95.