Opus Dei welcomes left-wingers, too

  • September 12, 2008

It probably comes as no surprise to many Catholics that Nicole Charbonneau Barron, is running in the Montreal riding of St. Bruno-St. Hubert for the Conservatives. Charbonneau Barron is a member of Opus Dei, and the personnel prelature to the pope is generally associated with conservative, right wing politics.

Members of Opus Dei were highly placed in the governments of Generalissimo Franco in Spain and Alberto Fujimori in Peru. Opus Dei members were influential in the senior civil service when the generals were running Brazil and Argentina.

But Isabelle Saint-Maurice who runs the Opus Dei information office in Montreal protests that there's nothing right wing about the Catholic movement, whose sole aim is to help people live their faith in their daily lives. Even in Franco's Spain there were Opus Dei members who had to go into exile because of their opposition to Franco and who returned to Spain after the Generalissimo's death to found a centre-left coalition which included ex-communists, she said.

The most prominent, active left-wing politician who is a supernumary of Opus Dei is Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for Transport in Gordon Brown's Labour government in England.

Jesus Estanislao was secretary of economic planning in the government of Corazon Aquino which overthrew the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

Italian politician Paola Binetti is a numerary member of Opus Dei and was elected to the Italian senate in 2006 as a member of La Margherita (The Daisy) – a coalition which includes ex-Communists, Greens, Socialists and Christian Democrats.

Of course the list of Opus Dei politicians includes far more senior members of right wing governments and dictatorships than social democrats. But Saint-Maurice claims the only influence Opus Dei has on their members politics is to help them integrate the social teaching of the church and the values of the Gospel. Opus Dei wouldn't tell its politician members how to practice politics any more than they would tell its doctor members how to practice medicine.

"Politics is a practical way of bringing solutions to people," she observed.

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