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Monday, January 24


Opus Dei in Government - Update

Following on my occasional series about secretive religious organisations and their apparent ease of entry into political and public life, it was reported this weekend that Ruth Kelly, youngest ever British government minister (didn't they hear of Pitt the Younger?) and mother of 4, count 'em 4! children of school age ( Woohoo! Mother does important job- news at 11!) is a member of Opus Dei.

"The education secretary, [...], said of her involvement in the organisation: "I don't see why it should be an issue at all. I came here to do a job which is about raising standards in schools "I am in politics because I have a strong belief in the equal worth of every child," Ms Kelly said. "I have a private spiritual life and I have a faith. It is a private spiritual life and I don't think it is relevant to my job. I am here as a Catholic."

Ms Kelly has attended meetings of Opus Dei but has not revealed whether she was a member. She rejected a suggestion that her religious beliefs could affect the way she carries out her role in government in relation to sex education. "We have an established government policy on that. I came here to do a job which is about raising standards in schools," she insisted.

The Opus Dei organisation is relatively small with membership estimated by some at around 80,000 in 80 countries worldwide. It is founded on the principle that ordinary Catholics can achieve holiness in their everyday lives. Some members of the movement practise "self mortification" including fasting and flagellation as a way of reminding themselves of how Christ suffered."

Labour Party Membership rules:

1. (a) The member is the basic unit of the party. Irrespective of nationality, citizenship or of place of residence, but subject to paragraph (b) of this section, any person who -

(i) subscribes to the Party's Principles and Objects and accepts this

(ii) is not a member of another political party, and

(iii) is not a member of, or associated with, any organisation, publication or institution the objects or activities of which are declared by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Party to be injurious to the interests of the Party or inconsistent with its Principles and Objects,

is eligible for membership.

So, what does Parliament think of Opus Dei members as MP's? According to their
own Code of Conduct MP's are obliged to show:
Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.

In carrying out public business, including make public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.


Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions andactions
to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.


Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.


Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interesy.

Guy Fawkes' blog of parliamentary plots, rumours and conspiracy

"According to Rangers-supporting Scotsmen, Ruth Kelly has been confirmed as a member of Opus Dei by sources in the organisation. The Blessed One has "supernumerary" status within the Roman Catholic organisation. This means she is a lay member who contributes a significant proportion of her earnings to Opus Dei. This arguably makes her the most devout of the Roman Catholics in Blair's government - although Paul Murphy, the Northern Ireland Secretary, who is a Papal Knight of St Gregory might lay claim to that honour. The Divine Leader himself has slipped back into taking communion again from his (Catholic) family priest, despite in 1996 receiving an official written request from Cardinal Hume to desist and His Holiness the Pope in 2003 re-stating in an encyclical that only those in "full communion" with Rome should take communion. Cardinal Hume told Blair he was allowed to take communion in Tuscany where there was no Anglican church, but not in Westminster. Blair was however again spotted going into Westminster Cathedral alone in 1998 and used to take communion with his family regularly at the St Joan of Arc church in Islington. Guido understands that Father Timothy Russ, of the Immaculate Heart of Mary church in Great Missenden near Chequers, has continued to offer Blair communion. Guido is betting that after the premiership Blair will formally convert to the true faith.

Since her promotion to Education Secretary last month, The Blessed One has refused to confirm or deny that she is the first Cabinet minister to belong to Opus Dei. John Allen, Vatican correspondent of the National Catholic Reporter, says: "The fact that Opus Dei has been given a parish in Westminster and Ruth Kelly has been appointed Education Secretary are both signs of Opus Dei coming in from the cold." Opus Dei members are conservative on the major cultural issues - such as divorce, abortion and homosexuality. Guido has pointed out previously that she has somehow always managed to miss votes on these sensitive issues. All of this warms the heart of an old Catholic freedom fighter like Guido himself.

As a supernumerary and mother of four Mrs Kelly is not required to flagellate herself - unlike some celibate Opus Dei members - but is instead asked to observe a rigorous daily regime of prayer and is known to attend mass daily whenever possible. She also dresses in the house style of Opus Dei, black tailored modest feminine outfits. Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam!"

The current New Labour government is pushing faith schools as the answer to all our educational issues, and Ruth Kelly is the pointwoman for this policy. Doesn't the fact that she is such a rabid religionist, even cultist, depending on your view, who admits herself that her Catholicism informs all her daily actions, bother anyone?

An example of this go-ahead modern policy is Emanuel College, which stands apart from the education authorities ( yet receives public funding) and which is run by the evangelical businessman, Chairman of Directors/Governors Sir Peter Vardy. Emanuel College became notorious recently for telling its pupils that the Harry Potter books are satanic. This is the kind of religious crap this 'school' teaches:

"Moreover, it can now readily be shown that there exists both physical laws and a substantial body of empirical data, especially the intrinsic irreducible complexity possessed by all living organisms which are incompatible with, or else fundamentally defy, a doctrinaire naturalistic explanation. Johnson and others have fought hard academically and politically. Presently, his 'Intelligent Design (ID)' group are urging the US Government & Legislature to wake up and realise the social and moral implications of adopting unquestioningly naturalistic scientism in the classroom. It remains to be seen how successful they will be. The recent machinations of the Kansas Board of Education show clearly that there exists a powerful body of ideological proponents who are keen to retain the falsehoods inherent in the present status quo. Here in the UK the situation is regrettably worse."

I'm trying to find out what New Labour now thinks of its members
belonging to secret organisations, but the Labour Party Constitution and Rules appear no longer to be online, if they ever were... Time was, back when I was a member, that you had to declare any such membership - for example, to belong to the freemasons was anathema to the comrades, and rightly so. How can you be a party loyalist, let alone an adequate political representative of a religiously, ethnically and culturally diverse population when your primary allegiance is to a secret organisation?

There are 41,834 non-Christians in Bolton (according to Bolton's census
) and 58,789,194 non-Christians nationally. I fail to see how someone so beholden to religious dogma could possibly think that they represent those people with honesty, integrity or accountability. Imagine the outcry had she been Muslim and wore hijab- the tabloids would go crazy.

This is different. For a start, the hijab is worn openly and publicly states your religious views. You can't miss it: it's as clear as the day. Kelly's real error is not her religion but the secrecy that surrounds it, and its lack of a clear and open agenda. Freedom of religion for all: and that includes those with none. Don't try pushing evangelical catholic right-wing views in secret, do it openly and we'll have an open debate. That's what democracy is about (not that Opus Dei has a good track record in that respect, particularly in Franco's Spain).

Opus Dei itself is aware of this issue - from its own website:

"Do members tend to have a common view on political or social matters? "

"No. Opus Dei's role and aims are confined strictly to the spiritual and apostolic spheres. On any issue on which the Church has not defined a position (for example, on the vast majority of political, social and economic issues) members of Opus Dei, just like other Catholic citizens, make up their own minds with complete freedom and independence, adopting whatever views seem best to them. Opus Dei cannot, and does not, get involved, ever. "

Note the nice little get-out clause: 'On any issue on which the Church has not defined a position'. I can't think of many issues on which it hasn't. Education, for instance. A simple google brings up hundreds and hundreds of pages of catholic doctrine on just about every aspect of education, for example, 'The Presence of the Church in the University and in University Culture'-Congregation for Catholic Education (June 7, 1994), ยท 'Catholic Institutions Exist for One Reason Only: 'To Proclaim the Gospel'-John Paul II (L'Osservatore Romano, June 30, 2004) 'Spectata Fides' (On Christian Education) - Leo XIII (The Papal Encyclicals 1740-1881, November 27, 1885) 'Our Public Schools and Religion' - Curtiss, Elden Francis (The Catholic Voice, Unknown). Those are just a few represenative samples. ( More here.)

If Opus Dei and Kelly ( by extension) really believed and could prove that the outdated superstition they push is the truth, they'd be prepared to debate it openly. Kelly isn't prepared to do this: she prefers to do her deeds in the dark and to the time of writing has neither confirmed nor denied her membership. Lets shine a light; we've seen what untrammeled religiosity can do to a liberal democracy, and it's not pretty.



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